Chapter 6: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
6.1 Statement from the Commissioner
I have spent a lot of time this past year convincing people from all walks of
life that the challenges facing Indigenous peoples in this country are not
In my earlier Social Justice Report 2005, I had set forth a 25-year
plan to achieve health equality for Indigenous peoples within a generation. This
is a vision that is evidence-based and grounded in a human rights-based
approach. This is a vision shared by just about every peak health organisation
in the country, as well as the non-government and community sectors, and
This year I co-hosted a historic meeting of Indigenous health peak bodies,
professional associations and health experts to advance this ambition for health
equality; and phrases like ‘close the gap’ have entered the national
lexicon. Change can and does happen.
My 25-year vision is that of an optimist. My vision is for a country where
the current state of Indigenous disadvantage will be as incomprehensible to
future Australians as the ‘White Australia policy’ is to the present
generation. My optimism is, however, matched by realism.
Justice Report 2006 and Native Title Report 2006, tabled in
federal Parliament in June 2007, reveal significant problems in the way the
Australian Government is administering Indigenous affairs in the period since
the abolition of ATSIC. The development of these ‘new arrangements’
– as they have been called – has been tracked through the past four
Social Justice Reports.
I have intentionally focused the Social Justice Report 2006 on the
whole-of-government approach adopted through these new arrangements. This
approach is fundamental in determining the ability of the government to respond
to a host of issues in a holistic manner.
The report identifies critical
issues that must be addressed if we are to move forward without repeating or
exacerbating existing policy errors. And this makes this report and its
predecessors of direct relevance to the current situation in the Northern
One thing that I was immediately struck by with the announcements
of the government intervention in the Northern Territory was the similarity with
the government’s announcements in 2004 to abolish ATSIC and introduce the
The commitments made at the time were also sweeping in
their scope. What my reports have shown is that to date the government still
hasn’t been able to bed down a system that can deliver on those
What the government does in the coming months and years
could, as the Prime Minister conceives, have ‘painful consequences’
and result in ‘mistakes’. These must be minimised through
eliminating policy error.
How can this be done? By ensuring that there
is continuity between the mechanisms that will be relied upon to implement these
recent announcements and the existing service delivery model of the ‘new
arrangements’ – the so-called ‘bold experiment’ that has
come about in the place of the ATSIC era. It will also require that new policy
is based on sound evidence of what works in Indigenous communities both here and
internationally so that we can correct the shortcomings in the current policy
The Social Justice Report 2006 identifies significant
concerns that have the capacity to derail the efforts in the Northern Territory
if left unchecked. And the report highlights that these concerns – the
current, existing errors in the policy settings - are entirely
A duty of care requires the government to initiate open and
sustained engagement with Indigenous communities, other governments, Indigenous
organisations and the community sector in addressing this enormous challenge
before us all. After all, it is a challenge for everyone – we will either
succeed jointly or fail individually.
Following the Australian
Government’s announcements of the proposed measures for the Northern
Territory, I joined with my fellow Commissioners and the President of HREOC in
urging the government to adopt an approach that is consistent with
Australia’s international human rights obligations.
Overall, Australia’s human rights obligations set out a framework of
measures ranging from:
- proactive measures to prevent human rights violations from occurring in the
first place and to address the underlying factors that can contribute to
- an accountability framework including the setting of benchmarks, and
monitoring systems, to ensure that governments remain focussed on the ultimate
outcomes of policy and are able to be held accountable for their rate of
progress in addressing significant human rights breaches where they exist;
- processes for ensuring the effective participation and real engagement with
stakeholders and affected peoples in designing policy and delivering services;
- measures to respond to and address violations of rights whenever they occur.
Being the optimist that I am, I see the government’s commitment as
providing a potential pathway for the recognition of the human rights of
Indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory (NT).
Overall, the announcements
and the commitments made by the federal government for the NT raise a number of
important and complex issues. Each of these issues in some way comes back to the
capacity of the government to deliver on its commitments. And it is, of
course, the capacity of the government through the new arrangements that has
been the focus of successive Social Justice Reports.
Justice Report 2006 identifies the warning signs where the current federal
system for Indigenous affairs is not capable of addressing these core issues due
to significant policy errors.
The most significant problem with the new
arrangements identified by the report is the lack of capacity for engagement and
participation of Indigenous peoples. This manifests as a lack of connection
between the local and regional level, up to the state and national level; and as
a disconnect between the making of policy and its implementation.
greatest irony of this is that it fosters a passive system of policy development
and service delivery while at the same time government is criticising Indigenous
peoples for being passive recipients of government services.
are affected by policy have a right to be involved in its development –
that is no more than a statement of the primary rationale for democracy. And,
people who are affected by policy also have a responsibility to be involved in
These are complex matters. They need robust debate. The
need for such debate should not lead to inertia or inaction. But it should lead
to a commitment to principled engagement with Indigenous peoples so that we are
recognised as active participants and agents of change for our own futures and
for those of our children.
This is a key challenge if we are to succeed
in the Northern Territory, and in addressing the issues of violence and child
abuse in every other state in Australia. These are the challenges that I detail
in this year’s Social Justice Report and Native Title
Another important part of my role
is to work with governments, Indigenous organisations and communities and many
other groups on practical research and consultation projects.
Over the coming 12 months HREOC will:
- continue to build partnerships and identify practical steps to ‘close
the gap’ on Indigenous health inequality;
- work with Indigenous communities and organisations to provide human rights
education on issues such as customary law and family violence;
- develop options for remote Indigenous education, now and into the future, in
partnership with key groups;
- complete a second stage of research into Indigenous young people with
cognitive (brain function) disability and the links to the health, education and
juvenile justice systems;
- review the National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses;
- support an Indigenous Peoples Organisations Network to coordinate input into
United Nations activities and share information about international developments
that impact on Indigenous human rights with Indigenous peoples in Australia;
- follow up on the issues and recommendations in this year’s Social
Justice and Native Title Reports.
6.2 Monitoring and Reporting
The Social Justice Commissioner produces two reports annually on the human
rights situation faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: the
Social Justice Report and Native Title Report. These provide an
annual state-of-the-nation review of progress on Indigenous policy and human
6.2.1 Social Justice Report 2006
Under section 46C(1)(a) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission Act 1986 (Cth), the Commissioner on behalf of HREOC is required
to submit a report annually to the Attorney-General on the exercise and
enjoyment of human rights by Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders (the
Social Justice Report).
This report analyses the major changes and challenges in Indigenous affairs
over the past year. It also includes recommendations to government that promote
and protect the rights of Indigenous Australians.
The Social Justice Report 2006 was transmitted to the Attorney-General
on 5 April 2007 and tabled in Parliament on 14 June 2007. The report was
officially launched on 3 July 2007 in Sydney at an event open to the media and
the general community.
The Social Justice Report 2006 report asks: what makes good Indigenous
policy? It sets out how Indigenous peoples are able to engage with the
government on a variety of levels: from the individual and community level up to
regional, state and national levels. It analyses progress in improving the
accessibility of mainstream services to Indigenous people. It provides an
overview of the key issues for tackling family violence and child abuse in
Indigenous communities. It also reviews international developments in Indigenous
human rights over the past four years.
It is the fourth successive Social Justice Report to substantially
focus on the federal government’s policy settings for Indigenous affairs.
This report considers progress two years into the ‘new arrangements’
and builds on the analysis of the previous three reports.
The introduction to this year’s report states:
This continuity of focus... provides a vital record of the policy making
process for Indigenous affairs at the federal level... After four years..., it
is clear that there are significant problems with... Indigenous affairs at the
Primarily, this is due to an ‘implementation gap’ between the
rhetoric of government and its actual activities. Perhaps most concerning, is
that the problems with the current policy settings are well known... The
government has largely acknowledged their existence and has made extensive
commitments to address them. And yet, the problems continue and are exacerbated
year by year.
There were two major problems identified in the Social Justice Report
First, the federal government has consistently emphasised that engagement
with Indigenous peoples is a central requirement for the new arrangements to
work. But in practice, the new arrangements are essentially a top-down
imposition – with policy set centrally and unilaterally by government and
then applied to Indigenous peoples. The government’s intervention
plan in the Northern Territory is the latest example of this approach.
There has been no discernible progress in advancing mechanisms for Indigenous
people to participate at the regional level, despite it being stated government
policy for regional engagement mechanisms to exist.
The second main problem identified in the report was that while the
government was increasingly emphasising the importance of increasing access to
mainstream services for Indigenous peoples there has been little progress in
As the Commissioner states in the report:
There is no overarching framework of benchmarks and indicators for how the
government will improve access to mainstream services. Processes adopted through
the existing whole-of-government approach are also unclear. This is even the
case in urban areas where regional coordination offices have been operating
The government is moving towards mainstream service delivery with changes
to the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) and Indigenous housing,
for example, but without a clear path to ensure that these services are more
accessible. This Social Justice Report reveals significant problems with the
system as it currently operates and its transparency. As a result, I am
concerned that current changes could reduce government accountability and
further disenfranchise Indigenous people.
The report indicates that the Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) process
provided some glimmers of hope for the government. In a survey of communities
that have entered into these agreements, which was conducted for this report,
most people were generally positive about the process and voiced improvements in
their relationships with government.
However, community confidence and satisfaction in the SRA process was limited
by the short-term nature of the funding, disproportionate accountability
requirements, lack of flexibility once the agreement was signed and unrealistic
expectations of the community party of the SRA.
Many communities saw the SRA process as a way to change the relationship with
government to one that is based on addressing their needs and building their
capacity to address ongoing problems. However, many communities have been left
disappointed with the government not matching the expectations generated by the
SRA process to date.
The Social Justice Report 2006, a community guide, a
media kit and other information are available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport06/
6.2.2 Native Title Report 2006
Under section 209 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the Commissioner
is required to submit a report annually to the Attorney-General on the operation
of the Native Title Act and the effect of the Act on the exercise and enjoyment
of human rights of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders (the Native
The Native Title Report 2006 was transmitted to the Attorney-General
on 5 April 2007 and tabled in Parliament on 14 June 2007.
This year’s report continues the theme from the previous three
Native Title Reports by focusing on land tenure and economic reform on
Indigenous communal lands. It specifically focuses on the capacity of the native
title system to deliver economic benefits for Indigenous people and showcases
best practice examples of Indigenous community led development and in agreement
There is no doubt that sustainable economic development is essential for the
wellbeing of remote Indigenous communities, now and into the future. This is not
just the view of the Social Justice Commissioner; it is the view of the majority
of Indigenous people who responded to the national survey contained in the
Native Title Report 2006 to determine the aspirations and priorities of
traditional owners for their land. It is also the view of the Australian
Government whose ambitious economic reform agenda during 2005 and 2006 is
designed to stimulate economic activity on Indigenous owned land.
The survey found that although custodial responsibilities and land care were
their first priority, nearly all respondents strongly supported economic
development. It revealed that traditional owners on resource-rich land were
likely to have good governance structures in place because they had been
supported by industry and government to negotiate mining and other land-use
agreements. However, land owners on marginal land often had very limited
interaction with business and government and therefore lacked the structures and
skills to access government support. As such, some land owners are in a position
to initiate projects while others are completely locked out of the process.
The Native Title Report 2006 also examined the Australian
Government’s economic reform agenda for Indigenous land, specifically the
99-year lease scheme that aims to provide home ownership opportunities on
The Commissioner states in the report:
The problem with this scheme is that Indigenous land owners have to give
up their land rights if they want to access new homes and low interest
Ultimately the lease and home ownership initiative is more a debt creation
scheme - one which threatens our hard fought-for land rights. Unfortunately, the
majority of remote Indigenous Australians can’t currently get mortgages
because they are either unemployed, or they are recipients of benefits or
precarious income that does not support mortgage repayments.
My report does prove however, that much is possible when governments and
industry work with Indigenous people to achieve joint economic aspirations.
This very forward looking report shows that economic development can and does
happen on Indigenous land, and when the preconditions are right, Indigenous
Australians can and do achieve great things on their land.
The report contains 14 recommendations and showcases five successful case
studies that stand in stark contrast to the majority of media coverage and
public commentary that we see on Indigenous issues. The case studies document
Indigenous agreements and enterprises that support community development as well
as economic development on communal lands. Each case study was selected because
it describes a participatory model of Indigenous enterprise and economic
development that is generating benefits for the Indigenous communities
The case studies in this report are a small sample of some of the good
practices across Australia that maintain Indigenous control of the policies and
processes that affect them. They demonstrate that it is possible and desirable
to involve Indigenous people at all levels of policy development and
implementation and agreement-making. They also demonstrate that the best
outcomes for Indigenous people are achieved when policy and agreements are
informed by principles and practices that support Indigenous self determination
and ways of doing business.
The report reinforces that the preservation of Indigenous rights to land and
an emphasis on Indigenous participation in policy development should be the
central points of all future government activity to support economic development
on Indigenous land.
The Commissioner states in the report:
I am in support of economic development on communal lands. Moreover, I
support home ownership and enterprise development for Indigenous Australians who
are in a position to achieve these goals. My concerns are not with the intention
of the Australian Government policy. My concerns are with diminution of
Indigenous autonomy and active participation in achieving these
The Native Title Report 2006, chapter summaries, fact sheets and media
release are available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nt_report/ntreport06/
6.2.3 Community Guide and CD-Rom
There were 35 000 Community Guides for the Native Title Report and
Social Justice Report printed. Some 25 000 of these were distributed
through the National Indigenous Times and the Koori Mail in June 2007.
The reports, community guide, media summaries and other materials, have also
been made available on a CD-Rom.
6.3 Research and Policy
The Social Justice Commissioner advocates for the recognition of the rights
of Indigenous Australians and seeks to promote respect and understanding of
these rights among the broader Australian community.
6.3.1 Indigenous young people, cognitive
disabilities and/or mental health problems and the criminal justice
This project is in final draft stage and will be
submitted to the Attorney-General’s Department once completed.
In addition to a thorough literature review and collation of government
responses, case studies and consultations were also conducted with community
members, experts and practitioners. These focus on instances of promising
practice aimed at early intervention or diversion of Indigenous young people
from the criminal justice system. The project makes recommendations about
further areas for investigation, the need for greater awareness of, and
education on, the needs of Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities
and mental health issues, and provision of appropriate services.
6.3.2 Indigenous Community Legal Education and Human
This project commenced on 5 June 2007. It is a joint project with the
Indigenous Law and Justice Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department.
The project aim is to achieve one of the goals of the Intergovernmental Summit
on Violence and Child Abuse in Indigenous Communities of July 2006 and the COAG
Communiqué of June 2004 – the goal of implementing the National
Framework of Principles for preventing family violence and child abuse in
HREOC will coordinate and deliver training to 15 people who will be employed
by the Attorney-General’s Department as Community Legal Education Workers
in regional and remote Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. The 15 people
will have responsibility to educate remote Indigenous communities about the
relationship between Australian law, customary law and human rights.
A draft training module has been completed by HREOC and has been submitted
and approved by the Attorney-General’s Department. The training is mapped
against competency elements of the National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Course
(NILAC). The training is therefore accredited, and those completing it will have
credit towards one of the following: Certificate III NILAC, Certificate IV
NILAC, or the Diploma NILAC.
HREOC staff have met with the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services at
Darwin and Cairns to discuss the proposed training and to obtain feedback about
the way in which the Community Legal Education Workers will operate in the
context of other positions within each service.
6.3.3 Women in corrections and post-release issues
On 20-21 July 2006, the Social Justice Commissioner hosted a two-day national
workshop with approximately 70 government and non-government stakeholders
working with Indigenous women both pre- and post-release from prison. The
workshop directly implements recommendations made in the 2004 Social Justice
Report. This report identified a lack of targeted and culturally appropriate
support services for Indigenous women exiting prison, and concluded that new
approaches to develop these services are needed to reduce Indigenous
women’s over-representation in the criminal justice system.
Participants at the workshop sought to identify some of the critical gaps in
service delivery for Indigenous women exiting prison, as well as how these gaps
could be addressed. The main topic areas addressed by the workshop were housing
and access to emergency accommodation; the difficulties associated with
reconnecting with family and community after prison; the need for healing
programs to address grief and loss and trauma; and the importance of alternative
sentencing options to divert women from prison. Through discussion, the workshop
sought to identify better practice examples in each of these areas, as well as
the solutions or actions required to promote the availability of best practice
A national roundtable has been proposed as a second stage to follow up on the
workshop outcomes and recommendations.
6.4 Education and Promotion
6.4.1 Community forum at the launch of Social
Justice and Native Title Reports 2006
The Social Justice and Native Title Reports were launched at Ultimo
College (NSW TAFE) on 3 July 2007.
The launch was followed by an open community forum. This was initially
intended as an opportunity to discuss the issues covered in the reports, but as
a result of the federal government’s emergency response to child abuse in
the NT the previous week, the focus shifted. The forum provided one of the first
opportunities for a public interactive discussion with Indigenous experts about
the government’s emergency response.
The panellists included: Mick Gooda (MC and CEO of the Cooperative Research
Centre for Aboriginal Health), Tom Calma (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner), Rob Welsh (Chairperson Metro Land Council), Pat
Anderson (Co-author of the Little Children are Sacred report), Dr Mark
Wenitong (President, Australian Indigenous Doctors Assoc), Assoc Prof. Sue Green
(Nura Gili, UNSW), Marcia Ella-Duncan (Chairperson, NSW Aboriginal Child Sexual
Assault Taskforce) and Jackie Huggins (Co-Chair of Reconciliation
6.4.2 Bringing them home 10th anniversary
HREOC has undertaken a number of projects to commemorate the 10th
Anniversary of the Bringing them home report, which coincides with the
commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum.
A new page on our website (www.humanrights.gov.au/bth)
provides information about events around Australia commemorating the
10th Anniversary and an interactive timeline that details the history
of forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families. It invites
contributions for the Indigenous Law Centre (UNSW)
to mark the 10th Anniversary..
HREOC has also reviewed and updated our educational materials on the
Bringing them home report which are distributed nationally. All primary
and secondary schools have been sent a copy of the timeline poster that details
the history of forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families.
6.4.3 Indigenous health issues
In early December 2006, an open letter was published in The Australian
newspaper calling for an end to the health inequality experienced by Indigenous
Australians. The letter was co-signed by 35 organisations nationally, and builds
on the recommendation in the Social Justice Report 2005, namely
that all Australian governments commit to closing the health gap between
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within 25 years.
On 4 April 2007, Commissioner Calma participated in the launch of the
Indigenous health equality campaign alongside the National Aboriginal Community
Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Olympians Catherine Freeman and Ian
Thorpe. This event also launched the Virtual Sea of Hands for Australians for
Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) – the focus of which includes an
ability to direct targeted letters to federal and state politicians about
Indigenous health equality. In the same week, NACCHO and Oxfam also released a
report titled ‘Close the Gap’ providing an overview of
current research and evidence on the needs to close the life expectancy gap, and
containing international comparisons.
This campaign is being run as a partnership with the Social Justice
Commissioner. A program of events has been agreed, with project partners
conducting events and releasing documents in a staged and strategic manner to
build momentum and public debate on these issues. Other related activities the
Commissioner has participated in include:
- numerous speeches, including to the Future Summit in Melbourne, QCOSS, and
various conferences on policy development;
- submission of a case study and presentation at the International Symposium
on Indigenous peoples and the social determinants of health in Adelaide. The
Symposium was co-hosted by Flinders University and the Cooperative Research
Centre on Aboriginal Health, as a preparatory meeting for the World Health
Organisation’s (WHO) World Commission on Social Determinants. The case
study and presentation highlighted a rights based approach to health;
- commentary on the federal budget’s implications for Indigenous health
equality (including joint releases by project partners); and
- producing a publication: Achieving
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation
– A human rights approach.
On 2 July 2007, Commissioner Calma co-hosted a historic meeting in Sydney of
state, territory and national Indigenous peak health bodies (Aboriginal
community controlled health services and Indigenous medical professional
organisations). The first meeting of its kind, it helped to foster consensus by
a range of organisations on strategic questions about how these organisations
will work amongst themselves, as well as how they will collaborate with the
coalition of more than 40 organisations that are progressing the current
national campaign to improve Indigenous health equality within a generation.
6.5 Legislative Development
6.5.1 Local Government Reforms -
On 30 April 2007, the Local Government Reform Commission called for
suggestions on the formation of the State’s new local government
The Social Justice Commissioner provided comments on the Local Government
Reforms taking place in Queensland. These reforms will affect all local councils
with the amalgamation of the smaller, less economically viable councils with
larger councils. The Social Justice Commissioner provided comments specific only
to the 17 Aboriginal Shire Councils and the 17 Torres Strait Island
6.5.2 Draft Guidelines for the Support of Prescribed
On 17 May 2007, the Land Branch of the Department of Families, Community
Services and Indigenous Affairs invited comment on the draft ‘Guidelines
for the Support of Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBC)’.
These guidelines related specifically to amendments to the general terms and
conditions relating to Native Title Program Funding Agreements. These agreements
enable Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and Native Title Service
Providers (NTSPs) to assist PBCs with their day-to-day operations. The draft
guidelines include the following conditions:
- Funding applications and the funding assessment process;
- Funding applications and applications from NTRBs/NTSPs; and
- Applications direct from PBCs.
The Social Justice Commissioner provided 10 recommendations regarding the
6.5.3 Native Title Mediation discussion
The Social Justice Commissioner was asked to provide some initial comments on
the Exposure Draft of Best Practice Guidelines for parties and representatives
in National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) mediation. The Draft Guidelines have
been prepared in accordance with the Government’s acceptance of
recommendations put forward by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee,
relevant to the Native Title Amendment (Provisions) Bill 2006. The
recommendation provides that the Native Title Act 1993 be amended to
require parties to mediate in good faith, and a code of conduct for parties
involved in native title mediation be developed.
On 4 May 2007, Commissioner Calma met with the Attorney-General’s
Department providing comment on the initial draft guidelines. The
Attorney-General’s Department advised that a consultation process is to be
conducted in the future on the revised draft guidelines.
6.6 International activities
6.6.1 IPO Network Meeting and Public Forum on 2007
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII)
The Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations (IPO) Network is a loose
coalition of peak Indigenous organisations from around Australia which are
working on Indigenous rights at the national and international level. It is a
follow-up action in the Social Justice Report 2006 that the Commissioner
will work with the IPO Network to identify sustainable options for establishing
a national Indigenous representative body.
The Commissioner hosted a meeting of the IPO Network in Sydney to allow
delegates that had attended the 6th session of the PFII in May 2007
to report back to the Network. Initial discussions about research and
preparation for participation in the 7th session of the PFII also
commenced. The theme for the 7th session will be climate change, and
a half-day of the agenda will be devoted to Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific.
To coincide with the IPO Network meeting, the Commissioner hosted two other
meetings involving Network members. The first was a public forum to allow a
report-back by representatives of some of the Indigenous organisations which
HREOC had funded to participate in the May session of the UNPFII. The second was
a meeting for members of the IPO Network with representatives of the
Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
and the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination. This meeting provided an
opportunity to discuss the outcomes of the May PFII meeting, as well as key
developments at the international level in relation to the rights of Indigenous
6.6.2 International Law Association
From 2003-2005, HREOC entered a partnership with the International Law
Association, Australian Division (ILA) to convene a series of workshops on
international law issues affecting Indigenous peoples. The outcomes of these
workshops have been collated by the ILA for publication in their Martin Place
HREOC has co-sponsored publication of the papers, hosts the papers on the
HREOC website, and makes copies of the papers available to the public.
6.6.3 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
In June 2006, the Chairman’s text for the Draft Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DDRIP) was considered by the new United Nations
Human Rights Council. By overwhelming majority the Council adopted the
Declaration and recommended to the United Nations General Assembly that it do so
as well. It was anticipated that the Declaration would be considered for final
adoption by the General Assembly in November 2006.
However, the United Nations General Assembly decided on 28 November to delay
consideration of the Declaration for up to 12 months. The decision, made by the
Third Committee of the General Assembly on 28 November, states that the General
Assembly will ‘defer consideration and action on the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to allow time for further
consultations’. Furthermore, it also decided that the General Assembly
would ‘conclude consideration of the Declaration before the end of (the
General Assembly’s) sixty-first session’ which is in mid-September
This comes after 24 years of consensus-style negotiations on the Declaration,
including a working group of governments and Indigenous representatives for the
past 11 years.
The Social Justice Commissioner called on all governments, especially
Australia, to ensure that any further discussions on the Declaration are
conducted with the full participation of Indigenous peoples.
For further information on the decision of the General Assembly see:
In addition to the above, the Social Justice and Native Title Units also
contribute to legislative development by making written and oral submission to
Parliamentary and other Inquiries. A list of these submissions can be found in
Chapter 3 of this report, Monitoring Human Rights.
A selection of public addresses made by the Social Justice Commissioner
during 2006–07 is listed below. Speeches can also be accessed on
HREOC’s websites at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/media/speeches/social_justice/index.html
Indigenous Business, launch speech at Cairns Convention Centre, 7
Sorry Day Committee event: Stolen generations track home, speech to
Parliament House in Canberra, 21 May, 2007.
the rights of Indigenous Territorians, speech delivered at the Forum:
Securing Territorian’s Rights – Statehood and a Bill of Rights?
Charles Darwin University, Darwin, 10 May, 2007.
What makes good Indigenous Policy - Good, Better, Best - Policy Making for
Indigenous Australians, address
to the IQPC 6th annual conference - Collaborative Indigenous Policy
Development, 1 May, 2007.
economic and community development opportunities through native title and other
forms of agreement-making, speech to the National Native Title
Conference, Cairns Convention Centre, 6-8 June, 2007.
Indigenous health inequality within a generation - a call to action,
speech at media launch, Telstra Stadium in Sydney, 4 April,
law in sentencing and changes to tenure arrangements on communally owned
land, address to the Indigenous Legal Issues Forum 35th Annual
Legal Convention, 24 March, 2007.
Learned from the Scrutiny of Indigenous Affairs, address to the
Australian Public Service Commission's 2007 Government Business Conference in
Sydney, 23 February, 2007.
in Indigenous research and researchers to address Indigenous
disadvantage, speech at the Indigenous Education Advisory Council
Conference in Melbourne, 21 February, 2007.
family violence and child sexual assault in Indigenous communities – A
human rights perspective, speech at the Aboriginal Child Sexual
Assault Forum, NSW Parliament House, 5 December, 2006.
Rights and Indigenous Education ‘Success, celebration and the way
forward’, speech at the Making the Difference Conference,
Adelaide, 16 November, 2006.
in Indigenous Communities, speech at A symptom of society
International Diabetes Forum in Victoria, 13 November,
Integration of Customary Law into the Australian legal system, speech
at the Globalisation, law and justice seminar, University of Western
Australia, 27 October, 2006.
of the Western Australian Law Reform Commission Report into Aboriginal Customary
speech, Perth, 27 October, 2006.
Level Mining Field: The Path to Achieving Outcomes for Indigenous and
Non-Indigenous Stakeholders in Mining, opening statement at
Sustainable Development Conference, Sheraton Perth Hotel, WA, 26 October, 2006
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Parliamentary Briefing, opening
statement to Parliament House, Canberra, 12 October, 2006.
Integration of Customary Law into the Australian Legal System, speech
at the National Indigenous Legal Conference, NSW, 23 September,
for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law and justice agencies,
speech at the National Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (NAJAC) Colloquium,
13 September, 2006.
festival presentation, speech at Gulkala in North East Arnhem
Land, 5 August, 2006.