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2008 Media Release: Inclusive approach is essential if NT emergency response is to continue

Commission Commission – General

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Inclusive approach is essential if NT emergency response is to continue

The federal government should immediately adopt the overarching recommendations made by the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) Review Board, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said today.

“No one wants to see children abused, families destroyed and communities ripped apart,” Commissioner Calma said.

“Efforts to improve safety for families and children in remote Indigenous communities must be done in collaboration with Aboriginal people and in a manner that treats Aboriginal people with dignity and respect – it really is that simple.

“I implore the government to take note of the Review Board’s key observation that respect for human rights is critical to building and maintaining sustainable, healthy and safe remote Indigenous communities.”

Mr Calma said he was particularly pleased the Review Board had called for the NTER to be made consistent with the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) and for the Act's protections to be re -instated immediately.  

“I also welcome the Review Board’s call for changes to other measures such as income management, land acquisition, the development of community development partnership agreements and community development plans,” Mr Calma said.

“The new relationship forged between government and Indigenous Australians in the aftermath of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations gives government exactly the climate and the motivation it needs to commit to moving beyond an emergency response and working with Indigenous communities to make lasting improvements,” he said.

“I urge the government to consider the Board’s recommendations and revisit the 10-point plan I submitted in the Social Justice Report to Parliament in March this year for guidance as to how to ensure the emergency response in the Northern Territory does not become another lost opportunity.”

The 10-point plan proposes changes to the Northern Territory intervention legislation to ensure it is consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations. The plan also provides the government with direction on how the Minister for Indigenous Affairs can take immediate action through her administrative powers to improve the intervention legislation. The detail can be found in chapter 3 of the 2007 Social Justice Report online

Media contact: Louise McDermott 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597