Chapter 1: A cause for cautious optimism: The year in review - Social Justice Report 2011

Social Justice Report 2011

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Chapter 1: A cause for cautious optimism: The year in review

1.1 Introduction

As I reflect on the events that have taken place during the reporting period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, I see cause for optimism whilst also acknowledging there are still some areas that remain a concern. Over the last year we have reached some major milestones. For instance, we have seen the election of the two co-chairs and a board to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (National Congress), and we are also now engaged in a conversation with the Australian people about how we go about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution.

In January 2011 I was fortunate to be in Geneva when Australia underwent its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.[1] I heard 50 out of the 53 nations that spoke refer to issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I joined with Senator Kate Lundy, staff from the Australian Mission, civil society representatives and people like Les Malezer and Geoff Scott along with the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) Catherine Branson, on the floor of the room once it was over and we were all in fierce agreement about how well the process went.

I have great hope that over the years, as the UPR process develops, it will provide Aboriginal and Torrs Strait Islanders with an ongoing opportunity for international oversight of the protection of our rights and interests.

I was also present in Parliament House when the Prime Minister presented her report on progress in implementing the Closing the Gap agenda on 9 February 2011. I also heard the response from the Leader of the Opposition. They both spoke of the challenge we face in meeting the target to close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the rest of Australia by 2030. In fact the Prime Minister said she harboured doubts about whether this target could be met.

Far from being disappointed with their pronouncements, I am pleased that finally there is an acknowledgement of the scale of the challenge that faces all of us. This confirms my view expressed at the National Press Club last November when I said that fixing ‘the myriad of challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ... will require the intergenerational commitment of the whole nation’.[2]

It has always been my belief that unless we understand the magnitude of this challenge we are destined to fail. Finally these acknowledgements from the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have given real meaning to the catchphrase ‘that there is no quick fix and there is no silver bullet’.

At the moment, it seems to me most of the building blocks are in place that see us on the cusp of achieving great things for our communities in some areas. The National Congress has great potential for advancing how we advocate for ourselves. Importantly when it comes to the National Congress we have to give it the time and space to develop. It is, in my view, embarking on its journey and as I have said plenty of times, if the National Congress doesn’t serve your needs join up and agitate for change.

We also have an exciting process unfolding as the push for constitutional reform enters its next phase in the coming year. Similarly, we are about to see new developments in the Close the Gap Campaign for Health Equality.

One of the major worries that I have, when reflecting on my agenda of ‘stronger, deeper relationships’, is the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments.

In this Report I will be talking about power relationships and lateral violence. Noel Pearson has described this power relationship in the following terms:

The indigenous people will possess 90 per cent of the knowledge of issues and spend 90 per cent of their time thinking about the solutions, while the politicians and bureaucrats across the table will have 10 per cent of the knowledge and spend even less time and attention on the issues. And yet the politicians and the bureaucrats will hold 90 per cent of the power to make decisions, and the hapless indigenous people have only 10 per cent of the power. And do you think those in possession of the power at least acknowledge the absurdity of this disparity in knowledge and power?[3]

While the Australian Government has made some attempt to improve their engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there is still much work to do. The challenge for us is how to draw on each other’s strengths to change this power imbalance and build the deeper, stronger relationship of which I speak.

The key to improving these relationships and further positive milestones lies in the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration).[4] My overarching priority as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner is to advocate that the Australian Government work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to give full effect to the Declaration.

To help advance this goal I have committed to being guided by the Declaration in the performance of my statutory functions, including in the preparation of this Report and the accompanying Native Title Report 2011.

This Chapter will provide a thematic, principled analysis of the year’s major events in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, in the context of giving full effect to the Declaration. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there is often a lack of understanding about what human rights look like in practice. By providing practical examples from the year’s events we can increase the awareness and understanding about how our work contributes to the realisation of rights. Secondly, the Declaration provides clear guidance about how to achieve these rights. This will guide us as we look at the further progress needed in the areas addressed in this Chapter.

1.2 Follow up from the Social Justice Report 2010

The Social Justice Report 2010 was my first report as Social Justice Commissioner and contains the agenda for my term. I also explored the significance of constitutional reform and profiled the developments in the Fitzroy Valley to argue that community-led development projects ensure the best outcomes for addressing concerns in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.[5] I made recommendations on the implementation of the Declaration, the need for a formal response from the Attorney General on my Social Justice and Native Title Reports, constitutional reform and developments in the Fitzroy Valley.[6]

Significant research and consultation goes into the development of my reports and the recommendations that flow from them. I believe that they reflect some of the major concerns facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and should not simply sit on the shelf gathering dust. This view is shared by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples who has recommended that the reports of the Social Justice Commissioner ‘should be given greater attention in government administration to promote a higher level of accountability and sensitivity to human rights commitments’.[7]

For this reason I work with the Australian Government to monitor the implementation of the recommendations. As outlined below, it is pleasing to see that many of the recommendations I made in reference to the constitutional reform process have been taken up. However, I remain concerned that progress has been slow in implementing the other recommendations related to the developments in the Fitzroy Valley and implementation of the Declaration. While I acknowledge that these were high level, long term recommendations, it is imperative that governments start working towards these goals.

1.3 The Declaration

The Declaration is the international instrument that provides the most authoritative guidance to governments about how their binding human rights obligations apply to Indigenous peoples. This was acknowledged by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in her speech marking Australia’s formal endorsement of the Declaration – ‘Australia’s existing international obligations are mirrored in the Declaration’.[8]

The Declaration contains the ‘minimum [international] standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world’.[9] It reaffirms that Indigenous people are entitled to all human rights recognised in international law without discrimination. But it also acknowledges that, without recognising the unique and collective rights of Indigenous peoples and ensuring the protection of our cultures, we can never be truly free and equal. In one document, the Declaration catalogues all the existing human rights standards and interprets them giving full consideration to Indigenous peoples’ unique historical, cultural and social circumstances.

The Declaration is also an instrument of reconciliation. It can be used to improve relationships between Indigenous peoples and the broader community but more particularly between governments and Indigenous peoples.

In Text Box 1.1 below Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Les Malezer discusses how the Declaration is a shared vision between the Indigenous and non-indigenous world.

Text Box 1.1: Les Malezer – Statement to the United Nations General Assembly
Les Malezer was the Chair of the Global Indigenous Caucus when the Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Les had the honour of addressing the General Assembly on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of the world.
The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations marks a momentous and historic occasion for both Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations...Today’s adoption of the Declaration occurs because the United Nations and the Indigenous Peoples have found the common will to achieve this outcome. The Declaration does not represent solely the viewpoint of the United Nations, nor does it represent solely the viewpoint of the Indigenous Peoples. It is a Declaration which combines our views and interests and which sets the framework for the future. It is a tool for peace and justice, based upon mutual recognition and mutual respect.[10]

The Declaration can also be an impetus for reconciling within our communities, guiding our stronger and deeper relationships. Both this Report and the Native Title Report 2011 will explore this through the concept of lateral violence.

(a) Principled approach to the Declaration

As we know, Australia formally endorsed the Declaration on 3 April 2009. Since this happened over two years ago, progress to give full effect to the Declaration has been slow, despite the strong legal and moral arguments for the Australian Government to take concrete action.[11]

In my view there is a lack of understanding about what implementation looks like – and this is impeding action. In many ways it is easy to understand why a lack of understanding might exist.

The Declaration is drafted in international legalese – technical language that is broad enough to reflect the diversity of all the world’s Indigenous peoples and is capable of being translated into the 5 official United Nations languages. The Declaration contains 46 articles as well as 24 preambular paragraphs so it is easy to ask, where do we start? And we are only now just beginning to see a body of expert commentary on the Declaration and its content emerge.[12] However, the difficulty of this task should not prevent action. Now is the time to start serious thinking and planning to turn these fine words into action.

Rather than looking at the Declaration as 46 separate articles I am of the view that a more holistic and integrated approach is required; one that looks to use the key principles that underpin the Declaration. These are:

  • self-determination
  • participation in decision-making and free, prior and informed consent
  • non-discrimination and equality
  • respect for and protection of culture

All of these principles must be also be guided by good faith between governments and Indigenous peoples.

I believe that these principles provide a useful lens through which to look at any human rights challenge confronting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I demonstrate what such an approach could look like in Chapter 3 of this report where I talk about developing human rights based responses to lateral violence.

In the next sections of this Chapter I use these themes to examine some of the developments in the Indigenous policy space that have occurred during the reporting period.

(b) Self-determination

Self-determination is the central right of the Declaration. It is a collective right that manifests in a group of peoples.[13]

At its core self-determination is a right of choice, participation and control.[14] And the right is inherently linked to the concept of democracy – to be able to choose who governs and to participate in decision-making. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya suggests that:

the concept of self-determination of peoples is one that envisions an ideal path in the way individuals and groups form societies and their governing institutions... [P]eoples as such, including indigenous peoples with their own organic social and political fabrics, are to be full and equal participants at all levels in the construction and functioning of the governing institutions under which they live.[15]

In the sections below I review developments that are helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples take control of their lives.

(i) National Congress

It has been a big year for the National Congress, the representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For the first time in my life I was given the opportunity, along with the rest of the National Congress membership, to directly vote for our national leaders. This vote saw Jody Broun and Les Malezer declared as the first elected Co-Chairs. In June 2011 the first annual meeting of delegates was held, from which the first board was elected. Watching the National Congress mature from its formative stages into a fully operational body to give a voice to our people has been a real source of optimism.

The establishment of the National Congress has great potential to promote our rights to self-determination. It gives us an opportunity to have a meaningful say, at the national level, in the development of policies that affect us and provides a national voice to express our priorities and aspirations.

I am pleased to note that the Australian Government has signalled that it will work cooperatively with the National Congress and use it as its central point for engagement on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy issues,[16] and to this end both are working to develop:

[A] formal agreement that will set out principles for engagement and identify shared priorities. This formal agreement will uphold the principles and spirit of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and emphasise the importance of supporting empowerment of First Nation communities. The purpose of this Agreement is to build a structure that will enable successful engagement between Congress and the Government so that progress can be achieved on issues of concern to First Peoples. Initial discussions are being held this week to begin the process.[17]

I will watch with interest as the National Congress grows into the national voice for our people. But more than that, I will be working closely with the Co-Chairs, the Board and the National Congress more generally to advance the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Later in this Chapter I look at how the representative structures of the National Congress have provided an ideal vehicle to advance efforts to close the health equality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians. It is conceivable that other sectors could adopt similar models to ensure their voices are heard on the national stage.

(ii) Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia

The Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia (IHRNA)[18] is a national network of people who advocate for the promotion and support of Indigenous human rights in Australia. IHRNA is supported by a Steering Committee that includes representatives of the Commission, Oxfam Australia, the Diplomacy Training Program and members of the Alumni, and Amnesty International Australia.

Capacity building is part and parcel of exercising the right of self-determination. IHRNA is an example of a tool that can build our capacity so that we can fully engage with the realisation of our human rights and interests.

Following the launch of the IHRNA social portal and website in 2010, IHRNA has established an online presence through both the Facebook and Twitter social networks. As at September 2011, the IHRNA network is made up of 545 members and is growing strongly.

In line with initial consultancy research recommendations, Regional Forums will be conducted in order to:

  • formalise the governance structure of IHRNA
  • gauge member feedback on strategies for implementing the Declaration
  • outline human rights education relevant to Indigenous people
  • demonstrate how IHRNA members and others can use IHRNA locally as community advocates.

It is anticipated that at the time of going to print, a number of Regional Forums will have already taken place around the country, with others scheduled to follow soon after.

(c) Participation in decision-making and free prior and informed consent

The importance of the right to participate in decision-making is reflected through its consistent reference in the Declaration.[19] In Australia today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not have genuine decision-making authority and power over their lives and futures. That power and authority continues to rest in the hands of governments.[20]

To ground this in reality, it has to be understood that the relationship between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been badly damaged by the consistent imposition of policies and legislation that are not designed in partnership with our communities. It needs to be understood we are an important part of the solution to our life situations therefore, governments should support our effective participation to be the agents of our own change.

The establishment of the National Congress goes some way to developing a mechanism for engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Beyond the National Congress, it is essential that governments develop an effective framework for engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in order to generate positive relationships.

I next examine the developments in relation to the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and the Australian Government’s engagement framework and how these impact on our rights to participate in decision-making.

(i) Northern Territory Emergency Response

Background

The NTER is a series of measures announced by the Howard Government on 21 June 2007 in response to the Little Children are Sacred report.[21]

A key concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was the deeming of the NTER measures to be special measures for the purposes of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) and the suspension of the RDA in relation to the provisions of the NTER legislation and any acts done under or for the purposes of those provisions.[22] This meant that individuals had no right to bring a complaint under the RDA with respect to provisions of the legislation.

From June to August 2009 the Australian Government consulted with Aboriginal communities on ways that certain identified NTER measures could be ‘redesigned’, including lifting the suspension of the RDA. The result of this consultation was the passage of the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Act 2010 (Cth).

In the Native Title Report 2010 I discussed the redesigned measures relating to land, in particular the compulsory acquisition of five-year leases and analysed the Government’s consultation process.[23]

Most of the NTER measures were enacted for a period of five years. Many of these legislative measures are due to expire in August 2012, and funding measures are set to end on 30 June 2012.[24]

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Discussion Paper

On 22 June 2011 the Australian Government released the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory discussion paper (Stronger Futures) detailing its process for the next stage of the NTER.[25]The Government announced that its first step in this process would be for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to undertake community consultations. These consultations began on 28 June 2011 and were intended to assist the Government in directing further action in partnership with Aboriginal communities.[26]

Stronger Futures is meant to be a ‘starting point for the conversation’ and provided the framework for these consultations.[27] The paper acknowledges that Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory continue to experience unacceptable levels of disadvantage and affirms the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to address this disadvantage. The paper identifies eight priority areas of disadvantage in which the Government intends to progress action, and invites comment on how it could make improvements in these areas. These areas are:

  • school attendance and educational achievement
  • economic development and employment
  • tackling alcohol abuse
  • community safety
  • health
  • food security
  • housing
  • governance.[28]

I believe that Stronger Futures represents an important opportunity for the Australian Government to work towards resetting the relationships between the Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that were badly damaged by the introduction of the NTER. This relationship can only be repaired through a sustained commitment to respectful, meaningful and effective engagement with our people.

A number of respected Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders including Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, the Hon Malcolm Fraser, and the Hon Alistair Nicholson AO[29] raised concerns about the content of Stronger Futures and the consultation process. I share many of these concerns.

The NTER consultation processes: the need for meaningful and effective engagement

The 2011 Stronger Futures Consultations

In July 2011 I wrote to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, urging the Government, in its conduct of the Stronger Futures consultations this year, to learn from the shortcomings in the last consultation process to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can meaningfully participate in all stages of law and policy development. I also met with FaHCSIA staff to reiterate the concerns I raised with the Minister.

At the time of writing, I have received mixed anecdotal feedback regarding the consultation process.

Timeframe for consultation

I am concerned that only a six-week timeframe was allocated for the consultation. This timeframe is inadequate given the scope of the issues raised in the discussion paper. It is particularly concerning that consultations commenced only a few days after the discussion paper was released. Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APONT)[30] also suggests that the time allocated for individual consultations allowed for only superficial feedback.[31]

Attendance at consultations

APONT raised concerns that consultations in remote communities were not well-attended, or were dominated by a small number of people.[32] My staff attended two consultations. In one consultation held in a remote community, only a small number of people attended. I was advised by a number of parties including Government officials and community members that this was because of cultural business. However I understand that community members gave permission for consultation to proceed.

In any event, the Government has advised me that they would return to this community to seek feedback from a wider representation of the community. It was also suggested that facilitators would return to other communities which were not well attended. I welcome this approach.

My staff also observed a public town meeting which was also not well attended. One attendee suggested that while she knew the date and venue of the meeting, the time was not advertised. Department officials have told me that the meeting was advertised on radio, in the local newspaper and on the town noticeboard.

The Government has also suggested that many stakeholders attended ‘targeted’ meetings, such as those for legal services, health services or in specific communities. I was advised that the public meetings were held for those not covered by the targeted meetings.

Provision of information

In order to respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ right to participate in decision-making, it is critical that governments provide complete and accurate information to communities in an accessible, culturally appropriate and timely manner. While I understand the Government is working with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS), I am also of the understanding that that Stronger Futures was not translated into any Indigenous languages.[33]

APONT has also reported that at some consultations, only an abridged version of Stronger Futures was provided.[34]

Options for discussion

The Stronger Futures paper outlines eight key priorities for discussion. However there are a number of measures which appear to be excluded from discussions, including income management. Whilst significant changes have already been made to the income management scheme, it still has a disproportionate effect on Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. According to the Government’s own assertions, 94.2% of people on income management in the Northern Territory are ‘Indigenous’.[35]

APONT also noted that consultations excluded a number of significant issues which are relevant and important to Aboriginal people in remote communities, including income management and issues of customary law.[36]

These issues will continue to have a significant impact on Aboriginal communities and remain of significant concern. I encourage the Government to consider community and stakeholder viewpoints on these issues and to take advantage of consultation opportunities such as this to seek feedback on other concerns held by communities.

Next Steps

I strongly urge the Government to create opportunities for further discussions in affected communities and with stakeholders following the allocated six-week period.

Further negotiations should be held with affected peoples and their representative organisations throughout the legislative and budget development process regarding the future of the NTER once the feedback from the initial six-week period is collated and considered.

Since the commencement of the NTER there have been considerable resources allocated to reviewing and consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the measures, and what needs to be done to effectively address the issues faced by those communities in the Northern Territory.  I encourage the Government to consider all of this information in addition to the most recent consultations as they develop their legislative and budgetary responses and that the views and concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory are reflected in the resulting approach.

Finally, the Government and its agencies should then negotiate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make sure the policies and programs emerging from the legislation and budget are effectively and sustainably implemented.

I will continue to advocate for an approach to addressing disadvantage in the Northern Territory that is consistent with human rights.

(ii) Engagement strategy

Recommendation 3.5 from my Social Justice Report 2010 called on the Australian Government to:

work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop a consultation and engagement framework that is consistent with the minimum standards affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[37]

The Australian Government has developed Engaging Today, Building Tomorrow – A framework for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (Framework). The Framework has been designed to improve how Australian Public Service (APS) agencies engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on issues that affect them.[38]

The Australian Government has advised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were involved in the development of the Framework through a Reference Group. Engagement workshops were also held in regional South Australia and Queensland.[39]

More than 2 000 copies of the Framework have been distributed across APS agencies since its release in National Reconciliation Week 2011.[40]

The Framework states that it is consistent with the principles of the Declaration.[41] While this statement is commendable it remains to be seen whether compliance with the Framework by APS agencies will result in the full and active participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in decision-making. As the Australian Government has said, the Framework is not prescriptive or mandatory in its application. Instead ‘it encourages reflection on current practice across a broad range of mainstream and Indigenous business within agencies’.[42]

It is disappointing that compliance with the Framework is not mandatory. Given this, a reference within the Framework stating it is consistent with the Declaration rings hollow. When Governments have obligations to actively engage with us when making decisions that affect us, good faith is not discretionary. Without implementation across the APS the Framework has the potential to become more words we have heard before. I encourage the Government to make compliance with the Framework mandatory across the APS.

Further, to demonstrate its commitment to the Declaration I recommend that the Government develop a ‘Statement or Charter of Engagement’ to complement the Framework. This document should include the Government’s commitment to be guided by the principles of the Declaration. A commitment by the Australian Government in this regard is particularly important if the Framework does not become mandatory.

In Chapter 4 of this Report I examine how culturally secure engagements can strengthen and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. I will continue to work with the Australian Government to promote cultural security as they make efforts to improve engagement.

(d) Non-discrimination and equality

The remedial nature of the Declaration ensures that principles of non-discrimination and equality run throughout it. For example, the preambular paragraphs 3 and 4 state:

Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin, racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust,

Reaffirming that indigenous peoples, in the exercise of their rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind.

However, non-discrimination and equality does not mean everyone should be treated the same in all circumstances. Rather true equality recognises and accommodates difference.[43] This reflects the accepted human rights principle of substantive equality, where equality is not blind to differences[44] as explained in Text Box 1.2.

Text Box 1.2: Declaration of Principles on Equality
Article 2 Equal Treatment
Equal treatment, as an aspect of equality, is not equivalent to identical treatment. To realise full and effective equality it is necessary to treat people differently according to their different circumstances, to assert their equal worth and to enhance their capabilities to participate in society as equals.[45]


In exploring non-discrimination and equality, I consider the current process to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, the situation in Alice Springs, the Close the Gap campaign and the marking of 20 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

(i) Constitutional reform

In setting out an agenda of hope for my tenure as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, I identified constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a major priority, dedicating a chapter in the Social Justice Report 2010 to the issue.[46] I reiterated this priority in my speech to the National Press Club in November 2010:

I firmly believe the time is right, here and now for the Australian people to formalise at least the recognition of the special and unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our nation, in our Constitution.[47]

As it stands, the Constitution does not comply with the principles of non-discrimination and equality. Now is the time to set this right.

In the Social Justice Report 2010 I recommended a number of steps that needed to be taken in order to move towards a referendum on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I am pleased that many of these recommendations have been taken up. Text Box 1.3 documents these recommendations.

Text Box 1.3: Recommendations from the Social Justice Report 2010 relating to constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • 2.1 That all Australian political parties commit to and participate in the constitutional reform process in good faith to progress recognition of the unique place and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • 2.2 That the Australian Government place constitutional reform on the Council of Australian Governments agenda as a national priority.
  • 2.3 That the Australian Government establishes and fully resources a formal process to guide progress towards a referendum that :
    • (i) Includes a commitment to:
      • improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
      • ensure the adequate protection of human rights for all Australians
      • ensure a solid foundation upon which to build a reconciled nation.
    • (ii) Seeks to achieve and maintain bipartisan support, and has a strong focus on public education and facilitating popular ownership of the issues.
    • (iii) Includes a strategy that facilitates engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community.
  • 2.4 That the Australian Government adequately resource the provision of advice and assistance to the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians including in relation to leadership and engagement, ambassadorial outreach, and technical advice.[48]


An agreement between the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party was made in September 2010 and subsequently confirmed by the Prime Minister, committing the Australian Government to hold a referendum ‘during the 43rd Parliament or at the next election on Indigenous constitutional recognition’.[49]

To give effect to this commitment, on 23 December 2010 the Australian Government appointed the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (Panel). It is a Panel of community leaders, legal experts and members of parliament across the political spectrum who will provide advice on how best to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution (see Appendix 3 for Panel membership).

It is a welcome development that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution maintains cross party support - as I reported in my Social Justice Report 2010,[50] maintaining this support is a critical factor in achieving a successful referendum.

The Panel terms of reference (see Appendix 4) required it to ‘lead a broad national consultation and community engagement program to seek the views of a wide spectrum of the community’[51] and report to Government on ‘possible options for constitutional change to give effect to Indigenous constitutional recognition, including advice as to the level of support from Indigenous people and the broader community for each option by December 2011’.[52] The Panel’s work commenced with their first meeting held in February 2011.[53]

Four principles were set by the Panel to guide its assessment of proposals for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

  • It must contribute to a more unified and reconciled nation.
  • It must be of benefit to and accord with the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • It must be capable of being supported by an overwhelming majority of Australians from across the political and social spectrums.
  • It must be technically and legally sound.[54]

National consultations commenced in May 2011. To assist with the national conversation, in April 2011 I published Constitutional reform: Creating a nation for all of us[55] and established a constitutional reform webpage on the Commission website.[56]

From early May until the end of September 2011, the Panel held more than 200 consultation meetings in 84 communities across metropolitan, regional and remote Australia.  The Panel also received close to 3500 submissions.  The majority of people attending consultations and making submissions were supportive of constitutional recognition generally and in particular favoured the removal of Section 25.

As Ex-officio panel member, I have participated in consultations in Mutijulu, Umuwa, Alice Springs, Northern Sydney, Adelaide, Murray Bridge, Mildura, Broken Hill, Mt Gambier, Warrnambool and Darwin to hear the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

In my role as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner I have given 12 speeches on constitutional recognition during the reporting period and met with many individuals and organisations around the country.[57]

I am pleased to report that in my discussions and consultations around the country, I have sensed a mood to change our nations Constitution so as to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Commission communicated some observations to the Panel highlighting the human rights principles that should inform any process to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution. Text Box 1.4 contains the main human rights issues that the Commission identified in relation to the work of the Panel.

Text Box 1.4: The Commission’s letter to the Expert Panel
The Commission identified the main human rights issues in relation to the work of the Panel:
  • Participation in decision-making is a well-accepted principle of human rights law,[58] however there was no engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples in the development of the Constitution. It is now critical that there is full engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the consideration of options for reform.
  • Various human rights treaty committees at the United Nations have noted that the non-recognition of the pre-existing rights of Indigenous peoples has contributed to their marginalisation and ongoing discrimination. They have called for positive recognition of the place of Indigenous peoples as a measure to address this marginalisation.[59] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were excluded from discussions concerning the creation of a new nation to be situated on their ancestral lands and territories, were absent from its drafting and were excluded from the process of its adoption.[60] It is thus appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be now recognised in the Constitution as the first peoples of this land.
  • The right of all Australians to enjoy equality and not be discriminated against. The Commission sees three issues arising in this context
    • Ensuring the Constitution does not recognise and give effect to laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Therefore, section 25 should be removed. It recognises the possibility of a law of a State disqualifying all persons of a particular race from voting at elections and gives any such disqualification relevance for Commonwealth electoral purposes.
    • Ensuring the Constitution does not authorise the making of laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Laws that have overridden the protections of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) have relied on the ‘races power in section 51(xxvi). The Commission considers it appropriate for the Constitution to be amended to ensure that racially discriminatory laws cannot be enacted.
  • Ensuring that the Commonwealth Parliament is authorised to make laws to promote racial equality. While it is clearly established in international law that a prohibition of discrimination does not prevent the taking of special measures to ensure achievement of equality in fact. For clarity, it may be appropriate for any provision proscribing discrimination on racial grounds to make clear that it is not intended to prevent the taking of actions aimed at addressing disadvantage or which are aimed at the preservation of language, culture or identity.[61]


The Panel will report its findings to the Australian Government by December 2011.[62] It is my view that the Panel report should be made public as soon as practicable following its submission to Government.

Following this the constitutional reform process will enter into a new phase of awareness raising and advocacy of a ‘yes’ vote. I believe that there is a need for a campaign and community engagement team to be funded and appointed to drive forward the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s constitution. This will need to be supplemented by a fully resourced popular education strategy to engage the wider public in the debate and provide a platform for input.

I will be working with Government to ensure that the final report of the Panel is acted upon and that a process of community engagement is supported in 2012 so that we continue on our path towards this constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(ii) Alice Springs

In April 2011 I spent three days in Alice Springs, visiting the town camps and meeting with residents and organisations in the area. During this time I saw that there is still much to do to realise non-discrimination and equality for the community.

Racism was raised as an issue with me in just about every meeting I attended. Residents reported disturbing levels of racial vilification and a severe lack of trust between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

There have been some strong improvements in the conditions of the town camps, for instance, birth weights of babies in Alice Springs have improved greatly with only 7% low birth weight, almost half of the national average.[63] I have also seen new two-bedroom houses ready for tenants to move into and the overall area seems better cared for.

However, I still have concerns in light of non-discrimination and equality. Town camp residents have been without access to things that most of Australia takes for granted, like a postal service or public telephones. People should have the same standard of basic service that any other Australian would expect, regardless of where they live. I am encouraged that the Minister of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, has advocated strongly rectifying this long- standing situation and I welcome the development of better access to services for town camp residents.[64]

Given the high incidence of alcohol related harm in Alice Springs, I supported the argument for a floor price on alcohol at the price of full strength beer. Selling wine for 50 cents a standard drink is not helping anyone – Indigenous or non-Indigenous. I am pleased to see that major retailers, Woolworths and Coles have agreed to stop selling cheap wine in an effort to assist the community.[65]

There are positive changes underway in Alice Springs, thanks to strong leaders and organisations. I am also pleased to see that the Government is working with the community to support them in their endeavours. The solution to the problems in Alice Springs lies in coordinated approaches driven by the community. I will continue to monitor the situation and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Alice Springs throughout my term.

(iii) Close the Gap Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality[66]

The Close the Gap Campaign continues to be an important away of addressing non-discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by advocating for health equality.

The last year has seen some important developments. At a grass roots level, National Close the Gap Day on 24 March 2011 was a great success. Organised with great professionalism by Oxfam Australia, on behalf of the Campaign, this was the biggest and most successful in the five years it has been running with 838 events registered - 300 up from the previous year. In all, almost 120 000 people participated with 71% of these school students. The Close the Gap Campaign also held a Close the Gap Day Parliamentary Breakfast that attracted almost 30 Ministers and Members of Parliament.

The Close the Gap Campaign continues to maintain high level engagement with the Australian Government. A galvanising moment was the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Committee’s Indigenous Leadership Group on the day of her report to Parliament on the ‘Closing the Gap’ reforms,[67] 9 February 2011.

The Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee released its Shadow Report - On Australian governments’ progress towards closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Shadow Report) in February 2011.[68] Our Shadow Report notes that although significant amounts have been invested, a plan or partnership has been slow to develop. However, since February we have seen substantial progress made, and I am increasingly optimistic that by the end of my term as Commissioner we will see the plan and partnership well and truly established.

This year has also seen the restructuring of the Campaign Steering Committee. This included the resignation of Dr Tom Calma, the Campaign founder, as my Co-Chair on the Campaign Steering Committee. I take the opportunity here to pay tribute to Dr Calma, my predecessor as Social Justice Commissioner, for his tremendous contribution to the cause of health equality. He will continue as an active member of the Steering Committee. Jody Broun, Co-Chair of the National Congress was elected as the new Co-chair.

Throughout this period the Leadership Group has also been very active. This Leadership Group comprised of 14 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak bodies and other health stakeholders, including the National Congress and the Commission. This ‘group of 14’ met many times over the first half of 2011 and worked to create a Position Paper that built on the work of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee in relation to planning and partnership. This is included as Appendix 5 to this report.

A natural progression for the ‘group of 14’ was to create a partnership vehicle operating as part of the National Congress. On 15 August 2011, the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) established itself as the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak bodies. This role was recognised by the Indigenous Health Minister on 16 August and approved by the National Congress Board on 21 August 2011. The Diagram 1 illustrates the main features of the NHLF and how it operates in the National Congress structure.

Diagram 1.1: The structure of the National Health Leadership Forum

Chapter%201%20Final%20version04.jpg

The members of the NHLF are (in alphabetical order):

  • Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
  • Australian Indigenous Psychologists’ Association
  • Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses
  • Indigenous Allied Health Australia Inc.
  • Indigenous Dentists’ Association of Australia
  • The Lowitja Institute
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers’ Association
  • National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
  • National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Physiotherapists
  • Torres Strait Regional Authority.

The NHLF sits within Chamber 1 of the National Congress.

The NHLF is co-chaired by Jody Broun, a Co-chair of the National Congress, and Justin Mohamed, Chair of NACCHO. It has its own Secretariat. It will draw on the expertise of other bodies and individuals within the National Congress (and outside when necessary) by creating working groups. More broadly, it will draw on the National Congress structure to facilitate engagement and consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities in relation to health matters.

A further function of the NHLF is to lead the Close the Gap Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality. This reflects the fact that the Close the Gap Campaign’s Indigenous Leadership Group was the precursor to the NHLF.

The NHLF is leading the way in how the National Congress can work as an interface between peak bodies and government. I am excited by the potential of the NHLF to provide a strong advocacy voice in advancing health equality for our peoples. I believe it could also provide a blueprint on how the National Congress structure can operate for other sectors.

(iv) Twenty years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

On 12 April 2011 I hosted a public forum to mark the twenty years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) handed down its findings. Sadly, we are in a situation where there are now more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody today, than there were twenty years ago. We make up around a quarter of the adult prison population[69] and over half of the juvenile detention population.[70] This over representation is unacceptable and underlies the systemic discrimination that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to face.

In the context of this sad anniversary, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs released their report, Doing Time-Time for Doing, Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system.[71] I welcomed the report’s holistic analysis of the factors leading to youth involvement with the criminal justice system and support the recommendations.

I particularly welcome the report’s recommendation that justice targets be included in the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Close the Gap Strategy.[72] Dr Tom Calma, when he was Social Justice Commissioner, also made this recommendation in the Social Justice Report 2009.[73] While the current Closing the Gap initiatives in areas such as health, education and employment are welcome and will have a long-term positive effect on reducing imprisonment, targets addressing the current over-representation of young Indigenous people are crucial. I am pleased that the Attorney General has shown support for justice targets and the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General are pursuing further options.[74]

I am also pleased to see another authoritative report supporting justice reinvestment.[75] However, I am frustrated that we are yet to see any jurisdiction move towards trialling justice reinvestment.

I will continue to raise the issues around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander criminal justice issues in the hope that the next time we reflect on the RCIADIC we have more positive progress to note.

(e) Respect for and protection of culture

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples belong to the oldest continuing culture in the world. When respected and nurtured, culture is a source of strength, resilience, happiness, identity and confidence.[76]

Respect for and protection of culture and identity are a core component of the right to self-determination. Articles 11-13 of the Declaration specifically articulate how the right to culture applies to Indigenous peoples. More broadly cultural rights run throughout the Declaration, at least 17 of the 46 articles touch on culture and ‘one could find the cultural rights angle in each article of the Declaration’.[77]

In considering the importance of culture I briefly analyse issues relating to lands, territories and resources, the concern that culture is marginalised in the Indigenous policy debate and the development of the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy.

(i) Lands, territories and resources

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples relationship to lands, territories and resources is a fundamental part of our culture. Our rights to culture cannot be realised without respecting our spiritual connection to, and forms of ownerships of our country.[78]

Through my work in the native title space, particular through my annual Native Title Report, I will lobby and advocate for reforms to native title and other legal and policy regimes that impact on our rights to lands, territories and resources. I will continue to advocate for reforms that are consistent with human rights standards and provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a just and equitable platform to realise our rights to lands, territories and resources. Our rights to country cannot be exercised in a vacuum, and I like my predecessor will advocate that Indigenous land policy must be developed in conjunction with other social and economic areas of policy.[79]

I provide a full commentary on the developments in the native title system in Chapter 1 of the Native Title Report.

(ii) Culture: a gap in the policy space

I have an ongoing concern that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and cultural differences is too frequently confined to the margins of the policy development and implementation process.

The Australian Government’s Indigenous policy is driven by the COAG Closing the Gap targets and building blocks. There is currently no specific culture building block.

It is true that culture, language and identity should inform the COAG agenda through the Indigenous Engagement principle in the Service Delivery Principles scheduled to the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.[80] However, it is my concern that culture is often an afterthought in the development policy and programs. In Chapter 4 of this Report I will demonstrate the importance of creating a culturally competent bureaucracy. It is important that government policies and programs are designed in a manner that protects and promotes our culture or they will not have the maximum potential impact. However, respecting and protecting culture extends beyond a means to an end. It is a positive outcome in itself.

(iii) Indigenous Economic Development Strategy

As I have argued before in this Chapter, unless government policies and programs are designed in a manner that protects and promotes our culture they will not have the maximum potential impact. The Australian Government’s Draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (IEDS)[81] and the accompanying Indigenous Economic Development Framework and the Action Plan 2010-2012[82] is a case in point. The aim of the IEDS is to ‘increase the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians by supporting greater economic participation and self-reliance’.[83]

The Commission provided a submission on the IEDS in December 2010.[84] In this submission we argued that culture is a strength upon which policy responses should be built. At its core this means empowerment and recognition of our cultural differences. The Commission recommended that the design of the IEDS be consistent with the Declaration. By virtue of the right to self-determination Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should able to ‘freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development’[85] and to ‘determine and develop priorities and strategies’ for exercising our right to development.[86]

To ensure the IEDS reflects the ‘priorities and strategies’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to pursue our own approaches to economic development, we need to be actively involved, in the design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the IEDS.[87]

Capacity building must be a key driver for the IEDS to be successful. Importantly this requires building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and communities and also the capacity of government departments so that they can deliver on the objectives of the IEDS. This includes cultural competence to ensure policies and programs under the IEDS support the sustainability and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Effective coordination across and within departments at all levels of government is also important.[88] This is supported by the Department of Finance’s Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure. It recommended that a ‘renewed commitment should be made within the Commonwealth to a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to the delivery of programs and services to Indigenous people’.[89]

FaHCSIA has advised that it has considered the more than 100 submissions, met with identified key stakeholders to discuss the IEDS, and engaged in additional discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through the Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICC). It also advised that the final version of the IEDS will be released later this year.[90]

I am hopeful that the final version of the IEDS incorporates the feedback of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and will protect and promote our cultures. I look forward to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, governments and the private sector to facilitate greater participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in economic development.

I discuss the IEDS in further detail in Chapter 1 of the Native Title Report 2011.

1.4 Giving full effect to the Declaration

The previous section of this Chapter has outlined some recent developments in light of the main principles of the Declaration. But as we can see, we still have some way to go before we give full effect to the Declaration. Significantly, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples recommended that the Australian Government review all laws and policies for compliance with the Declaration.[91] This is a recommendation with which I strongly agree. I will now report on some of the specific actions related to the promotion of the Declaration that took place during the reporting period.

(a) Raising awareness and building capacity

To give full effect to the Declaration we need to build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, governments, and other relevant players to enable them to effectively engage with the Declaration. This requires awareness-raising and capacity building. There have been three promising developments that my office has been involved with in the last year to increase awareness and capacity of people to engage with the Declaration.

(i) The Community Guide to the Declaration

On 13 December 2010, my Office launched a set of plain language resources to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples better understand and protect their rights. The materials produced were:

  • a Community Guide to the Declaration
  • an eight page overview of the Declaration
  • a double sided poster that includes the full text of the Declaration.[92]

The Community Guide to the Declaration uses real-life examples to explain the key principles of the Declaration and describe how communities can use it to promote practical action. These materials were produced with funding from the Christensen Fund and Oxfam Australia. A DVD version of the resource will be available shortly and further funding from the Christensen Fund for an interactive website has been secured.

Since being launched, there has been high demand for the materials from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations. Funding to print additional copies of the materials has been provided by FaHCSIA.

I believe these materials are a valuable resource to our communities and organisations to familiarise themselves with the Declaration and to develop ideas on how they can use the Declaration in their day-to-day business.

Our organisations can use the Declaration to bolster their lobbying and advocacy work in whatever sector they operate in. It is by using the Declaration and by quoting relevant articles that it will become the ordinary way of ‘doing business’. A quote from Professor Mick Dodson cited in the Community Guide to the Declaration reflects this view and is outlined in Text Box 1.5.

Text Box 1.5: Using the Declaration for change
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can use the Declaration for change, Mick Dodson argues that:
I think people should use the Declaration at every opportunity. If you are writing to government quote articles of the Declaration. If you’re involved in health quote the health articles, if you are involved in native title or land rights quote the lands, territories and resources articles, if you are in education quote the articles about education and language. If you are on about political organisation talk about self-determination and our right to be autonomous and govern ourselves. For any aspect of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander life there is something in the Declaration that you can use and utilise to reinforce your arguments and what you and your mob are trying to do.[93]

The Declaration can also be applied to the governance frameworks of our organisations to assist in measuring their success in achieving the rights outlined in the Declaration. For example, to advance our rights to participate in decision-making that affects us, our representative bodies should ensure they echo the voices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples they represent. I expand on this in greater detail in Chapter 3 of this report.

I would encourage all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, organisations and communities to familiarise themselves with the Declaration and apply it to all of your work and day-to-day lives. The more informed the debate is, the more we will demystify what implementing it can look like, and the more we can provide constructive advice to governments.

(ii) Australian Public Service human rights training

The Australian Government’s Human Rights Framework recognises that human rights education – in schools, in the community and in the APS – is a critical step in improving and promoting human rights in Australia.

To support the focus on public sector human rights education, the Attorney-General launched the Public Sector Education Program on 7 September 2011. This program includes a series of human rights education materials and training on how human rights relate to the work of the public sector. Information about the Declaration is included in this education program as an important instrument that ‘informs the way governments engage with and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples’.[94] Information about the Declaration is incorporated in the introductory booklet In Our Hands: A Guide to Human Rights for Australian Public Servants.[95] This publication is available to all Australian Public Servants and was the basis of human rights workshops for over 1 000 Australian Public Servants in 2011 organised by the Attorney-General’s Department.

The Declaration is also referred to in numerous ‘Guidance Sheets’ on the rights and responsibilities contained in each of the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.[96]

These are pleasing developments; however I am concerned they do not go far enough. I reiterate my concern that the Declaration remains on the margins of the Human Rights Framework generally and this human rights training for Australian Public Servants more specifically. Considering the Declaration is the international instrument that provides the most authoritative guidance to governments as to how their binding human rights obligations apply to Indigenous peoples, it must be front and centre of any human rights and Framework and associated training.

(iii) National Human Rights Institutions

The adoption of the Declaration has provided renewed impetus for examining the ways in which National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can advance the rights of Indigenous peoples. The role of NHRIs, like the Commission, in advancing the rights of the world’s Indigenous peoples is being increasingly recognised.[97]

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya has specifically acknowledged that the office of the Social Justice Commissioner is ‘an exceptional model for advancing the recognition and protection of rights of indigenous peoples’.[98]

The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Intuitions (APF),[99] the peak body for NHRIs in our region, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)[100] have identified great interest amongst NHRIs in relation to Indigenous peoples rights and the Declaration. However there is a need for capacity development. As such there is a strong desire for technical cooperation and the development of educative tools to assist NHRIs to promote Indigenous peoples rights and the Declaration at the national level.

In response the OHCHR has partnered with APF to produce a training toolkit NHRIs to support and strengthen the work that they are doing to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Social Justice Unit, within the Commission has been engaged by the APF in July 2010 to draft the written component of these materials. It is expected that this tool kit will be published in 2012.

(b) International mechanisms addressing Indigenous human rights

At the international level today there a number of mechanisms that provide guidance to governments as they implement their human rights obligations as they relate to Indigenous peoples. These include:

  • the treaty bodies monitor the implementation of human rights treaties[101]
  • the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
  • the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • the Special Rapporteur on the right of indigenous peoples.

Incorporating the recommendations of these mechanisms into government processes is an important way in which to give full effect to the Declaration.

(c) National Action Plan for the Declaration

Giving full effect to the Declaration will require reform across the policy landscape and different levels. During the reporting period we have commenced discussions about the need for a National Action Plan for the Declaration. This is an area of work that I will be pursuing with the Australian Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the remainder of my term.

Strategic thinking has already begun around ways to give full effect for the Declaration. For example we could see:

  • legislative reform including:
    • scheduling the Declaration to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)
    • incorporating the Declaration in the definition of human rights for the purposes of the proposed Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
    • incorporating the Declaration (or the key themes outlined above) as a relevant consideration for the purpose of administrative decision-making that affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • incorporating the Declaration into the Human Rights Framework including the National Human Rights Action Plan
  • the creation of dispute resolution and redress mechanism including administrative review
  • education and awareness raising
  • changes to the policy process from design through to implementation and monitoring
  • promoting cultural competency in the bureaucracy from a systems and individual perspective
  • influence the operation of national planning, priorities and agreements including the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the COAG Targets and Building Blocks and National Partnership Agreements
  • incorporating into the reporting framework of the Overcoming Disadvantage Reports produced by the Productivity Commission.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it makes it clear that implementing the Declaration is not something that will simply happen with the stroke of a legislative pen, nor departmental policy. It requires institutional and cultural change, as well as institutional capacity building and importantly it will take time. A holistic approach is needed; a National Action Plan.

Of course, to be consistent with the Declaration, an Action Plan must be developed in conjunction with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I am currently advocating that the Australian Government enter a process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to negotiate and develop such an Action Plan to give full effect to the Declaration. This is particularly relevant because of the Australian Government’s Human Rights Framework which includes the development of a National Action Plan on Human Rights. Unfortunately, as already noted the Human Rights Framework does not explicitly acknowledge that the Declaration will guide how the Framework or Action Plan will be implemented as it impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

I encourage the Government to commit in good faith to developing a strategy in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to ensure the principles of the Declaration are given full effect.

1.5 Conclusion and Recommendations

As I stated at the beginning, I believe that despite continuing concerns we are on the cusp of great things if we are able to make good on some of the unfinished business that affects our communities.

The next big challenge is achieving constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I hope that the next year begins the formal campaign which will be a uniting moment for all Australians. To help achieve this I make a number of recommendations to facilitate the process. I also make recommendations on a number of other issues raised in this Chapter.

Recommendations: Chapter 1
Constitutional recognition
  1. That the Australian Government make the report of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians public as soon as practicable following its submission.
  2. That the Australian Government establish a campaign and appoint a community engagement team to drive forward the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution.
  3. That the Australian Government fully resource a popular education strategy to be developed and rolled out from early 2012 to:
    • engage the wider community in relation to the proposals for change and the reasons why they have been proposed
    • provide an opportunity for the Australian community to discuss and debate the options and express views on the change to be taken to a referendum.
Northern Territory Intervention
  1. The Australian Government work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Northern Territory to overcome disadvantage and identify and address other issues of concern in their communities, through the establishment of legislation, programs and policies, as necessary, which are consistent with international human rights standards.
International human rights mechanisms
  1. That the Australian Government take steps to formally respond  to, and implement, recommendations which advance the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, made by international human rights mechanisms, including:
    • treaty reporting bodies
    • the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
    • United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
    • Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Statement or Charter of Engagement
  1. That the Australia Government develop a ‘Statement or Charter of Engagement’ to complement Engaging Today, Building Tomorrow: A framework for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This document should include the Government’s commitment to be guided by the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the right to participate in decision-making, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
Implementation of the recommendations from Social Justice Reports
  1. That the Australian Government should implement outstanding recommendations from the Social Justice 2010 and provide a formal response for next year’s Report which outlines the Government’s progress against the recommendations from both the Social Justice Report 2010 and Social Justice Report 2011.
Implementation of the Declaration
  1. That the Australian Government work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop a national strategy to ensure the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are given full effect.

[1] For more information on the UPR process see: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Universal Periodic Review, http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/upr/pages/uprmain.aspx (viewed 13 October 2011).
[2] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Towards a reconciled Australia (Speech delivered at the National Press Club, Canberra, 3 November 2010). At http://humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/2010/20101103_npc.html (viewed 13 October 2011).
[3] N Pearson, ‘Indigenes still in the political wilderness’, The Australian, 7 August 2010. At http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/indigenes-still-in-the-political-wilderness/story-e6frgd0x-1225902288192 (viewed 13 October).
[4]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007). At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[5] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011). At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[6] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), pp xix-xxi. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[7] S J Anaya, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya: Addendum: Situation of indigenous peoples in Australia, Report to the Human Rights Council, 15th session, UN Doc A/HRC/15/37/Add.4 (2010), para 78.
[8] J Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Statement on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Speech delivered at Parliament House, Canberra, 3 April 2009). At http://www.jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/statements/Pages/un_declaration_03apr09.aspx (viewed 10 October 2011).
[9]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), article 43. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[10] L Malezer in Australian Human Rights Commission, The Community Guide to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2010), p 10. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/declaration_indigenous/declaration_full.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[11] For a discussion of the legal status of the Declaration, see P Joffe, ‘Canada’s Opposition to the UN Declaration: Legitimate Concerns or Ideological Bias?’ in J Hartley, P Joffe and J Preston (eds), Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope, and Action (2010) 70, pp 85–93; Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Report on the eighth session, UN Doc E/C.19/2009/14 (2009), Annex, General Comment 1, paras 6-13.
[12] See for example M Davis, ‘Indigenous Struggles in Standard-Setting: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (2008) 9 Melbourne Journal of International Law 439; C Charters and R Stavenhagen (eds), Making the Declaration Work (2009); J Hartley, P Joffe and J Preston (eds), Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Triumph, Hope, and Action (2010); International Law Association, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Committee, The Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Interim Report, Report to the Hague Conference (2010). At http://www.ila-hq.org/download.cfm/docid/9E2AEDE9-BB41-42BA-9999F0359E79F62D (viewed 10 October 2011); S Allen and A Xanthaki (eds), Reflections on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2011).
[13] See S J Anaya, ‘The Right of Indigenous Peoples to Self-Determination in the Post-Declaration Era’ in C Charters and R Stavenhagen (eds), Making the Declaration Work (2009) 184.
[14] UNESCO, ‘Conclusions and recommendations of the conferences’ in M van Walt van Praag (ed) The implementation of the right to self-determination as a contribution to conflict prevention (1999), p 19; S J Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2nd ed, 2004), ch 3.
[15] S J Anaya, ‘The right of self-determination in the post-declaration era’ in C Charters and R Stavenhagen, Making the Declaration Work: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2009) 184, p 188.
[16] J Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, N Roxon, Minister for Health and Ageing, P Garret, Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, M Arbib, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness, W Snowdon, Minister for Indigenous Health, ‘Delivering services to close the gap’, (Media Release, 9 February 2011). At http://www.jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/mediareleases/2011/Pages/jm_m_closingthegap_9february2011.aspx (viewed 10 October 2011).
[17] Statement tabled by L Malezer at the UN Human Rights Council, 18th session (21 September 2011).
[18] More information on IHRNA is available at www.ihrna.info/. For those interested in becoming an IHRNA member go to http://ihrnaustralia.ning.com/main/authorization/signUp?.
[19]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), articles 3-5, 10-12, 14, 15, 17-19, 22, 23, 26-28, 30-32, 36, 38, 40 and 41. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 10 October 2011); Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Progress Report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, Report to the Human Rights Council, 15th session, UN Doc A/HRC/15/35 (2010), paras 7-41.
[20] D Smith and J Hunt, Do They Get It? Indigenous Governance: The Research Evidence and Possibilities for a Policy Dialogue with Australian Governments (Speech delivered at the National Indigenous Policy Dialogue Conference, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 18-19 November 2010). At http://nipdc.arts.unsw.edu.au/assets/Powerpoints/Smith_Hunt.pdf (viewed 10 October 2011).
[21] P Anderson and R Wild, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle ‘Little Children are Sacred’, Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse (2007). At http://www.inquirysaac.nt.gov.au/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[22]Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007 (Cth), s 4; Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth), s 132; Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Act 2007 (Cth), ss 4, 6. The original NTER legislation also exempted the operation of the Northern Territory’s anti-discrimination laws: Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007 (Cth), s 5; Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth), s 133; Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Act 2007 (Cth), ss 5, 7. But see Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth), Notes, Table A: ‘Application, saving or transitional provisions’ (Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007 (Cth), s 4(3)).
[23] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Native Title Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), pp 80-98. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nt_report/ntreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[24] See Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth), s 6. Also see Australian Government, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (June 2011), p 4. At http://www.indigenous.gov.au/index.php/stronger-futures-in-the-northern-territory/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[25] Australian Government, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (June 2011). At http://www.indigenous.gov.au/index.php/stronger-futures-in-the-northern-territory/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[26] Prime Minister, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Crossin, ‘Deliver a better future for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory’, (Media Release, 22 June 2011). At http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/delivering-better-future-indigenous-people-northern-territory (viewed 10 October 2011).
[27] Australian Government, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (June 2011), p 9. At http://www.indigenous.gov.au/index.php/stronger-futures-in-the-northern-territory/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[28] Australian Government, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (June 2011). At http://www.indigenous.gov.au/index.php/stronger-futures-in-the-northern-territory/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[29] See for example, A Nicholson, Correspondence to J Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 27 June 2011; M Fraser, A Nicholson, I Viner, Correspondence to J Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, undated. At http://www.concernedaustralians.com.au/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[30] APONT is an alliance of the Central and Northern Land Councils, Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory.
[31] Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Response to Stronger Futures (August 2011), p 12. At http://www.nlc.org.au/html/wht_pub.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[32] Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Response to Stronger Futures (August 2011), p 13. At http://www.nlc.org.au/html/wht_pub.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[33] Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Response to Stronger Futures (August 2011), p 13. At http://www.nlc.org.au/html/wht_pub.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[34] Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Response to Stronger Futures (August 2011), p 13. At http://www.nlc.org.au/html/wht_pub.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[35] Commonwealth, Official Committee Hansard: Senate Estimates (Additional Estimates), Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee (25 February 2011), p 22 (L Hefren-Webb, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs). At http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/committee_transcript.asp?MODE=YEAR&ID=80&YEAR=2011 (viewed 10 October 2011).
[36] Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Response to Stronger Futures (August 2011), p 13. At http://www.nlc.org.au/html/wht_pub.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[37] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), p 121. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[38] Australian Government, Engaging Today, Building Tomorrow: A framework for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (2011), p 3.
[39] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs staff, Email correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner’s Office, 14 September 2011.
[40] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs staff, Email correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner’s Office, 14 September 2011.
[41] Australian Government, Engaging Today, Building Tomorrow: A framework for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (2011), p 4.
[42] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs staff, Email correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner’s Office, 14 September 2011.
[43] See United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), preambular para 2. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[44]South West Africa Case (Second Phase) [1966] ICJ Rep 6, pp 303-305.
[45] The Equality Trust, Declaration of Principles on Equality (2008). At http://www.equalrightstrust.org/endorse/index.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[46] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), chapter 2. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[47] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Towards a reconciled Australia (Speech delivered at the National Press Club, Canberra, 3 November 2010). At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/2010/20101103_npc.html (viewed 10 October 2011). Emphasis in original.
[48] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), p 65. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[49] The Australian Labour Party and the Australian Greens, The Australian Greens and The Australian Labour Party (‘The Parties) -  Agreement, p 2. At http://www.alp.org.au/federal-government/government-agreements/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[50] See M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), p 60. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[51] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Expert Panel Terms of Reference, http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/progserv/engagement/Pages/ExpertPanel.aspx (viewed 10 October 2011).
[52] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Expert Panel Terms of Reference, http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/progserv/engagement/Pages/ExpertPanel.aspx (viewed 10 October 2011).
[53] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians – Communiqué 16-17 February 2011, http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/progserv/engagement/pages/communique_expert_panel_indig_17022011.aspx, (viewed 10 October 2011).
[54] You Me Unity, A National Conversation About Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Constitutional Recognition, Discussion Paper (2011), p 16. At http://www.youmeunity.org.au/be-informed/discussion-paper (viewed 5 October 2011).
[55] M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Constitutional reform: Creating a nation for all of us, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011). At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/constitution/reform/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[56] Australian Human Rights Commission, Constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution, http://www.humanrights.gov.au/constitution/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[57] See Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Speeches on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Issues, http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/index.html (viewed 10 October).
[58] For an overview of the international human rights legal framework on the right of Indigenous peoples to participate in decisions that affect them see: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Progress report on the study of indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, Report to the Human Rights Council 15th session (2010), paras 7-41.
[59] See for example Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation 23: The rights of Indigenous peoples, Un Doc A/52/18, annex V at 122 (1997).
[60] See M Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission (2011), p 29. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport10/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[61] C Branson, President, Australian Human Rights Commission, Correspondence to the
Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 7 October 2011.
[62] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Expert Panel Terms of Reference, http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/progserv/engagement/Pages/ExpertPanel.aspx (viewed 10 October 2011).
[63] S Bell, Speech upon receiving the Menzies Medal (Speech delivered at Menzies School of Health and Research, Darwin, 16 September 2011).
[64] At the time of publication the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Indigenous Health announced a new postal service for the Alice Springs town camps. See Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Indigenous Health, 'First regular mail service to commence in Alice Springs town camp', (Media Release, 17 October 2011).
[65] P Martin, ‘Alice Springs supermarkets to curb alcohol abuse’ The Age, 24 June 2011. At www.theage.com.au/national/alice-springs-supermarkets-move-to-curb-alcohol-abuse-20110623-1ghgs.html (viewed 27 September 2011).
[66] For background information about the Campaign see T Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2005, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2005), chapter 2. See also Social Justice Reports 2008-2010, http://humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011); The Australian Human Rights Commission, Close the Gap: Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality, http://humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/health/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[67] Clarification of the terms “Close the Gap’ and ‘Closing the Gap’: “Close the Gap” was adopted as the name of the human rights based campaign for Indigenous health equality in 2006 led by the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee. The term ‘closing the gap’ entered the policy lexicon as a result of the Close the Gap Campaign’s activities and has since been used to tag many different Indigenous policy initiatives from the COAG Closing the Gap Targets to the National Partnership Agreement to Closing the Gap on Indigenous Health Outcomes to the renaming of aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the intervention) as Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory. As a general rule, any initiative with “Closing the Gap” in the title is an Australian Government initiative. It is important to note that it does not necessarily reflect the human rights based approach of the Close the Gap Campaign as set out in this report, nor does the use of the term ‘closing the gap’ in relation to these initiatives necessarily reflect an endorsement of them by the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee.
[68] Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee, Shadow Report - On Australian governments’ progress towards closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (2011). At http://humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/health/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[69] Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision,
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2011 (2011) Productivity Commission, p 4.132. At www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf.../key-indicators-2011-report.pdf (viewed 10 October 2011).
[70] Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision,
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2011 (2011) Productivity Commission, p 4.137. At www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf.../key-indicators-2011-report.pdf (viewed 10 October 2011).
[71] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Doing Time, Time for Doing- Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system (2011). At http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsia/sentencing/report.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[72] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Doing Time, Time for Doing- Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system (2011), p 40. At http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsia/sentencing/report.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[73] T Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2009, Australian Human Rights Commission (2010), p 56. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport09/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[74] Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, Communiqué Standing Committee of Attorneys-General 21-22 July 2011. At http://www.scag.gov.au/ (viewed 10 October 2011).
[75] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Doing Time, Time for Doing- Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system (2011), p 321. At http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsia/sentencing/report.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[76] The Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, National Aboriginal & Islander Children’s Day, http://www.snaicc.asn.au/news-events/dsp-default.cfm?loadref=62 (viewed 10 October 2011).
[77] E Stamatopoulou, ‘Taking Cultural Rights Seriously’ in S Allen and A Xanthaki (eds), Reflections on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2011) 387, p 392.
[78] See J Gilbert and C Doyle ‘A New Dawn over the Land: Shedding Light on Collective Ownership and Consent’ in S Allen and A Xanthaki (eds) Reflections on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2011) 289.
[79] See T Calma, Caring for Culture, Caring for Country (Speech at the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week Celebrations, 7 July 2008, Canberra). At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/2008/20080707_essentials_land_and_culture.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[80] Council of Australian Governments, National Indigenous Reform Agreement, http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_agreements/downloads/IGA_FFR_ScheduleF_National_Indigenous_Reform_Agreement_Feb_2011.doc (viewed 10 October 2011).
[81] Australian Government, Indigenous Economic Development Strategy: Draft for Consultation (2010). At http://resources.fahcsia.gov.au/IEDS/ieds_default.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[82] Australian Government, Indigenous Economic Development Strategy: Draft for Consultation (2010), p1. At http://resources.fahcsia.gov.au/IEDS/ieds_default.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[83] Australian Government, Indigenous Economic Development Strategy: Draft for Consultation (2010), p1. At http://resources.fahcsia.gov.au/IEDS/ieds_default.htm (viewed 10 October 2011).
[84] Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs: Draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (17 December 2010). At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/legal/submissions/sj_submissions/20101217_draft_Indigenous_devt.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[85]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), article 3. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 9 December 2010).
[86]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), article 23. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 9 December 2010). Also see arts 4, 20 and 31(1).
[87]United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295 (Annex), UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (2007), articles 18. At http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html (viewed 9 December 2010).
[88] See Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs: Draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (17 December 2010), p 8 At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/legal/submissions/sj_submissions/20101217_draft_Indigenous_devt.html (viewed 13 September 2011); T Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Native Title Report 2009, Australian Human Rights Commission (2010), p 59. At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nt_report/index.html (viewed 26 September 2011).
[89] Department of Finance and Deregulation, Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure (2010), p 289. At http://www.finance.gov.au/foi/disclosure-log/2011/docs/foi_10-27_strategic_review_indigenous_expenditure.pdf (viewed 10 October 2011).
[90] Native Title and Leadership Branch, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Email correspondence to Australian Human Rights Commission, 12 October 2011.
[91] S J Anaya, Report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, Addendum: Situation of indigenous peoples in Australia, Report to the Human Rights Council, 15th session, UN Doc A/HRC/15/37/Add.4 (2010), para 74.
[92] Soft copies of the Commission’s Declaration materials can be downloaded from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/declaration_indigenous/index.html and hard copies can be ordered publications@humanrights.gov.au.
[93] M Dodson in Australian Human Rights Commission, The Community Guide to the Un Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2010).p 65 At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/declaration_indigenous/index.html (viewed 10 October 2011).
[94] Attorney-General’s Department, In our hands: A guide to human rights for Australian public servants (2011), p 10. At http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Humanrightsandanti-discrimination_Humanrightsandthepublicsector_InourHandsAhumanrightsguideforAustralianpublicsector_Whatisthisguide (viewed 10 October 2011).
[95] Attorney-General’s Department, In our hands: A guide to human rights for Australian public servants (2011), p 10. At http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Humanrightsandanti-discrimination_Humanrightsandthepublicsector_InourHandsAhumanrightsguideforAustralianpublicsector_Whatisthisguide (viewed 10 October 2011).
[96] The Attorney-General’s Department, Human Rights Guidance Sheets, http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Humanrightsandanti-discrimination_Humanrightsandthepublicsector_Humanrightsguidancesheets_Humanrightsguidancesheets (viewed 10 October 2011).
[97] Human Rights Council, Human rights and indigenous peoples, 15th session, UN Doc: A/HRC/RES/15/7 (2010), para 12; United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Report on the ninth session, UN Doc E/2010/43-E/C.19/2010/15 (2010), paras 53, 93; Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Report of the 2nd Session, UN Doc A/HRC/12/32 (2009), p 5; S J Anaya, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, Report to the General Assembly, 64th session, UN Doc A/64/338 (2009), para 71.
[98] S J Anaya, Report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, Addendum: Situation of indigenous peoples in Australia, Report to the Human Rights Council, 15th session, UN Doc A/HRC/15/37/Add.4 (2010), para 74.
[99] Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, The APF’s role in promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples: Background paper, United Nations Workshop on National Human Rights Institutions and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Bangkok, Thailand (16-17 December 2009).
[100] Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Note on the outcome of the International Meeting on the Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Promoting the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, United Nations Workshop on National Human Rights Institutions and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Bangkok, Thailand (16-17 December 2009).
[101] See Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society (2008), chapter IV. At http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/CivilSociety/Pages/Handbook.aspx (viewed 11 October 2011).