About the report and credits: Social Justice Report 2009

Social Justice Report 2009

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About the report and credits

Please be aware that this publication may contain the names or images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may now be deceased.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

The position of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner was established within the Australian Human Rights Commission in 1993 to carry out the following functions:

(1) Report annually on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and recommend where necessary on the action that should be taken to ensure these rights are observed.

(2) Promote awareness and discussion of human rights in relation to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

(3) Undertake research and educational programs for the purposes of promoting respect for, and enjoyment and exercise of, human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

(4) Examine and report on enactments and proposed enactments to ascertain whether or not they recognise and protect the human rights of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders

The Commissioner is also required, under section 209 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), to report annually on the operation of the Act and its effect on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

Office holders
  • Mr Tom Calma: 2004 – present
  • Dr William Jonas AM: 1999 – 2004
  • Ms Zita Antonios: 1998 – 1999 (Acting)
  • Mr Mick Dodson: 1993 – 1998
About the Social Justice Commissioner’s logo

Social Justice Commissioner’s logo © Leigh HarrisThe right section of the design is a contemporary view of traditional Dari or head-dress, a symbol of the Torres Strait Island people and culture.

The head-dress suggests the visionary aspect of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. The dots placed in the Dari represent a brighter outlook for the future provided by the Commissioner’s visions, black representing people, green representing islands and blue representing the seas surrounding the islands. The Goanna is a general symbol of the Aboriginal people.

The combination of these two symbols represents the coming together of two distinct cultures through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the support, strength and unity which it can provide through the pursuit of social justice and human rights. It also represents an outlook for the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice, expressing the hope and expectation that one day we will be treated with full respect and understanding. © Leigh Harris

For information on the work of the Social Justice Commissioner please visit the Commission website at: http://humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/index.html


Note – Use of the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and ‘Indigenous peoples’

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner recognises the diversity of the cultures, languages, kinship structures and ways of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is not one cultural model that fits all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain distinct cultural identities whether they live in urban, regional or remote areas of Australia.

Throughout this report, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are referred to as ‘peoples’. This recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a collective, rather than purely individual, dimension to their livelihoods.

Throughout this report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are also referred to as ‘Indigenous peoples’.

The use of the term ‘Indigenous’ has evolved through international law. It acknowledges a particular relationship of Aboriginal people to the territory from which they originate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has explained the basis for recognising this relationship as follows:

Indigenous or aboriginal peoples are so-called because they were living on their lands before settlers came from elsewhere; they are the descendants – according to one definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived, the new arrivals later becoming dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means… (I)ndigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics which are clearly distinct from those of the other segments of the national populations.

Throughout human history, whenever dominant neighbouring peoples have expanded their territories or settlers from far away have acquired new lands by force, the cultures and livelihoods – even the existence – of indigenous peoples have been endangered. The threats to indigenous peoples’ cultures and lands, to their status and other legal rights as distinct groups and as citizens, do not always take the same forms as in previous times. Although some groups have been relatively successful, in most part of the world indigenous peoples are actively seeking recognition of their identities and ways of life.1

The Social Justice Commissioner acknowledges that there are differing usages of the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’, ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘indigenous’ within government policies and documents. When referring to a government document or policy, we have maintained the government’s language to ensure consistency.

1 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, The Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Fact Sheet No.9 (Rev.1) (1997). At http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Fact Sheet9rev.1en.pdf (viewed 24 November 2009).s


Acknowledgements

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner thanks the Australian Human Rights Commission staff (Alison Aggarwal, Allyson Campbell, Fabienne Balsamo, Darren Dick, Jessica McAlary and Emilie Priday ) and interns from the Aurora Project (James Malar and Tammy Wong) for their work in producing this report. Thanks also to Greg Marks, Jon Altman, John Greatorex, the staff and Board of Lhanapuy Homelands Association and Mt Theo Outstation, Mapuru community members, Yuendumu community members, Patrick McConvell, Jane Simpson, Josephine Caffery, Steve Berry, Alex Kelly, Michael Christie, Beth Sometimes, and all those who have contributed information for this year’s report.

This publication can be found in electronic format on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/ sjreport09/.

For further information about the Australian Human Rights Commission, please visit: www.humanrights.gov.au or email paffairs@humanrights.gov.au.

You can also write to: Social Justice Unit Australian Human Rights Commission GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001

Credits

Design and layout: Jo Clark

Printing: Paragon Australasia Group

Cover Photography: Fabienne Balsamo, photographer, 2009.

The cover photograph is of woven baskets produced by women of Mapuru. Mapuru run a Cultural Tourism Project – Arnhem Weavers, which runs cultural tours and workshops for small groups of tourists who come and live in Mapuru for 1–2 weeks, and learn about weaving and other traditional activities. Mapuru is profiled in chapter four of this report, as an example of a successful economic development initiative by an Indigenous homeland.

© Australian Human Rights Commission 2009

This work is protected by copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part may be used or reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Enquiries should be addressed to Public Affairs at: paffairs@humanrights.gov.au.

Social Justice Report 2009 ISSN 1837-6428 (Print) and ISSN 1837-6436 (Online)