Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Reinstating the RDA in the Northern Territory welcomed

The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed today’s announcement by the Australian Government that it will reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) in the Northern Territory in 2010.

Race Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, said the proposal to progressively lift the suspension of the RDA and anti-discrimination laws in the Northern Territory and Queensland was essential for Australia to be able to comply with its human rights obligations and ensure that people were protected from discrimination on the basis of their race.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission has been concerned about the lack of human rights protections in the 73 prescribed communities in the Northern Territory since the RDA provisions were suspended by the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation in August 2007,” Commissioner Innes said.

“Today’s announcement that the RDA will be put back in place in the Northern Territory is a necessary step towards ensuring that improvements in these communities are both fair and sustainable.

“We also welcome the redesign of the various measures in the NTER legislation so that they comply with the RDA,” Mr Innes said.

“We particularly welcome the redesign of the income management measures to ensure they are non-discriminatory.”                               

Commissioner Innes also said that he hoped that the Commission’s recently released draft guidelines for ensuring income management measures were compliant with the RDA would be of real assistance to the government.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, also welcomed today’s news saying it sent an important message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that the government was genuine in its commitment to reset the relationship with Indigenous Australians.

“The strongest lesson we can learn from the experience of the last two years is that respectful engagement and community involvement in designing and managing solutions must be the cornerstone of any effort to strengthen and sustain improvements in these communities,” Commissioner Calma said.

“I am also pleased that the government is referring this draft legislation to a Senate Inquiry which will enable concerned individuals and organisations to thoroughly assess the legislation and identify any issues that may arise so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission stands ready to offer whatever assistance we can towards re-establishing non-discriminatory legislation and practices in these parts of the Northern Territory,” Commissioner Calma said.

Media contact:
Brinsley Marlay (for Commissioner Innes) 0430 366 529
Louise McDermott (for Commissioner Calma) 0419 258 597