Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Annual Report 2002 - 2003
4: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Social Justice Commissioner
- Monitoring and reporting
- Promoting awareness and discussion
of human rights issues
- International activities
- Research and educational
William Jonas AM was appointed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
Justice Commissioner in April 1999. He is also the acting Race Discrimination
Commissioner, a position held since September 1999.
Statement from the Commissioner
January 2003 marked the tenth
anniversary of the creation of the position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Social Justice Commissioner. There have been many achievements
in these 10 years, and many significant challenges which remain or which
have emerged over the period.
The position of Social Justice Commissioner was created
by the Australian Parliament at a time of great upheaval for Indigenous
people. In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
and HREOC’s National Inquiry into Racist Violence had both identified
significant human rights concerns about the treatment of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Both reports highlighted the necessity for an ongoing
independent monitoring mechanism for the human rights situation of Indigenous
peoples. The government at the time explained that the position was created
to provide an annual state-of-the-nation report and provide a national
and independent perspective on the extent of the disadvantage and the
action that needs to be taken.
Looking back on these 10 years, we can see great advances
in the level of awareness and acceptance of Indigenous issues and in recognition
of Indigenous peoples’ unique position as the first peoples of this
land. This acceptance, however, remains contested and is by no means universal.
It is also a simple statement of fact that there has
been inadequate progress in addressing Indigenous disadvantage over the
past decade and worrying signs that the situation may regress in relation
to significant issues. For example, life expectancy has begun to decline
for Indigenous people in Australia and still exists at levels comparable
to the rate for non-Indigenous Australians in the year 1900. Incarceration
rates and rates of over-representation in custody for Indigenous peoples
have increased since the Royal Commission over 10 years ago. The deteriorating
situation of contact of Indigenous women with criminal justice processes,
and the clear connections between incarceration and substance abuse, is
particularly worrying in this regard. There has also been limited improvement
in health statistics over the past decade.
These factors, and the limited progress achieved through
the constrained native title system, have led me to express major concerns
in the annual social justice and native title reports to federal Parliament.
These concerns have been heard by the Parliament, with the Senate following
up the recommendations of my Social Justice Report 2001 about
the reconciliation process by establishing an Inquiry into national progress
towards reconciliation. The terms of reference of the Inquiry include
examining the response of the Government to the recommendations of the
2000 and 2001 Social Justice Reports.
My focus over the past year has been on three main
areas: promoting an understanding of the applicability of human rights
to setting targets and benchmarks for addressing the inequality faced
by Indigenous peoples; promoting the recognition of Indigenous cultural
identity as the bedrock for progressing Indigenous issues; and assisting
in the development of Indigenous community capacity to articulate and
protect the human rights of Indigenous people.
There have been significant developments in the past
year in putting into place processes for reporting on the extent of marginalisation
faced by Indigenous peoples, and on progress in addressing it. To date,
these developments have not led to the establishment of concrete goals
and targets for government achievement on Indigenous issues. As a result,
we don’t know what the government’s vision is for what Indigenous
communities should look like in five, 10 or 20 years and of what they
consider would be an acceptable level of achievement and improvement in
The current approach is missing a critical, evaluative
component. Human rights standards are capable of addressing this deficiency
and so I have focused on promoting an understanding of the importance
of human rights obligations in this regard. I convened a workshop on benchmarking
reconciliation from a human rights perspective in October 2002 to this
end. It was a successful workshop, which illustrated the complexity and
difficulty of the issues faced. Follow up workshops on specific issues
have been planned for during the course of the coming year. I have also
been heartened by the interest of various parliamentary committees, such
as the committee inquiring into national progress towards reconciliation,
on this issue during the year.
I have also focused on approaches for recognising Indigenous
cultural identity as the bedrock for progressing Indigenous issues. This
is an issue that underlies the analysis in my Native Title Report each
year. I have also looked at this issue in the context of building Indigenous
community capacity to be self-determining and in recognising Aboriginal
Customary Law (particularly in a community development and criminal justice
I have engaged in a number of processes during the
year relating to mining and resource exploitation and the recognition
of Indigenous identity. In particular, I have promoted discussion of corporate
responsibility in the mining industry and have emphasized the point that
mining and the recognition of Indigenous human rights and identity are
not antagonistic, but should be seen as able to co-exist and form the
basis of strong partnerships. During the year I launched a series of principles
to guide resource development on Indigenous land, based on human rights
standards. The extensive interest and support for these principles has
Finally, I have focused on processes for assisting
in the development of Indigenous community capacity to articulate and
protect the human rights of Indigenous people. During the year, I completed
an ambitious training program for Indigenous workers in criminal justice
related areas. The National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses were accredited
by the Queensland Training Accreditation Council on 30 June 2002 and are
now available to be taught nationally. The courses replace the National
Indigenous Legal Studies Curriculum, previously developed by the Commission.
The courses are designed to assist Indigenous people involved in areas
as diverse as community justice panels, night patrols and community justice
initiatives, to government agencies to Indigenous legal services. The
commitment and dedication of representatives of legal services, educators,
government agencies and others to developing the courses, and the enthusiasm
for implementing them nationally leaves me optimistic that the courses
will form a valuable contribution to capacity building and skills development
for Indigenous communities.
There remains much work to be done. Indigenous peoples’
human rights continue to face grave challenges. There is also a high degree
of uncertainty about processes currently underway reviewing fundamental
aspects of the relationship of the federal Government with Indigenous
peoples (such as the review of ATSIC; the creation of the interim agency,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services; and mainstreaming of Indigenous
The coming year will see a continued focus on these
issues by my office. And it will see a continued focus on providing the
national and independent perspective on government progress and the action
that needs to be taken to fully protect Indigenous peoples’ human
rights that is so patently needed, as much as it was 10 years ago when
the Social Justice Commissioner’s position was first established.
Social Justice Report 2002
Under section 46C(1)(a) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission Act 1986 (Cth), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner is required annually to submit a report to
the Attorney-General on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights by
Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders (the Social Justice Report).
The Social Justice Report 2002 is the fourth
by Commissioner Jonas. It was transmitted to the Attorney-General on 24
December 2002, and tabled in Parliament on 19 March 2003.
The report commends the following positive developments
in Indigenous policy over the reporting year:
- the commitment of governments at all levels to partnerships
with Indigenous peoples, including through statements of commitment
to negotiate service delivery arrangements with Indigenous organisations
and commitments to negotiate justice agreements
- the commitment of the federal Government to principles
for the equitable provision of services to Indigenous peoples as part
of its response to the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report
on Indigenous funding
- recognition by governments of the central importance
of capacity building of Indigenous communities and of supporting and
developing Indigenous governance structures
- the commitment of the Council of Australian Governments
to processes for addressing Indigenous disadvantage, including: the
establishment of a framework for reporting on Indigenous disadvantage;
the formulation of action plans at the inter-governmental level in specific
areas, and; a trial in 10 communities of a whole-of-government approach
to service delivery, and
- support of the federal Government at the international
level to the effective operation of the newly-created UN Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues.
Overall, however, the report finds that the past
year has been another difficult one for Indigenous peoples:
In trying to provide a snapshot of the
status of Indigenous policy making and achievements by governments over
the past year, it is difficult to see any consistent forward trend.
There have been marginal improvements in some statistical indicators,
but deterioration in others. The policy approaches of governments are
ultimately full of inconsistencies, ad hoc developments, and commitments
that not only remain unmet but which are not adequately supported by
The report identifies two particularly worrying
trends that have been confirmed over the past year at the federal level.
The first is a continuation of the antagonistic and adversarial approach
to Indigenous policy by the federal Government:
Substantial bi-partisan support for reconciliation
and directions in Indigenous policy has been undermined by the limited
focus of the government. Those areas on which there is common ground
are relatively few – and basically relate to agreement on the
need to overcome Indigenous disadvantage – and there is even less
agreement on what are the best ways to address such issues.
The second worrying trend is the relegation of
Indigenous issues to a second tier issue for the government. While reconciliation
was a priority for the second term of the government, it does not even
rate a mention in recent announcements of the government’s strategic
long term vision for Australian society:
Indigenous issues are not treated as a
national priority, and there are no public commitments to timeframes
for achieving results in areas on which there is substantial agreement
– such as Indigenous disadvantage.
The report notes that at the state and territory
levels there is much goodwill being expressed with extensive commitments
to partnerships with Indigenous peoples. These partnerships remain works
in progress and it is unfortunate that they have not yet been accompanied
by the necessary institutional support or action.
The one true highlight of the past year, as identified
in the report, has been the demonstration through a range of processes
that Indigenous peoples are not going to sit back and wait for governments’
to solve the various problems faced in communities and are actively working
for their own solutions.
Chapter 2 – ‘Self-determination:
the freedom to live well’ – examines the core principles which
underpin the federal Government’s approach to Indigenous affairs.
Since 1998, the Government has openly rejected self-determination as the
basis of policy formulation. This chapter provides an overview of international
developments on Indigenous self-determination and compares this to the
way the Government explains its policy approach in order to identify its
limitations and considers options for reform.
Chapter 3 – ‘National
progress towards reconciliation in 2002 – an equitable partnership?’
– provides a progress report on reconciliation over the past year.
It notes developments at the inter-governmental level, the federal Government’s
responses to the documents of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
and the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the government’s
agenda for reconciliation. Ultimately it questions the basis on which
the Government seeks to engage with Indigenous peoples, and the lack of
equality in the partnerships that it seeks to enter.
Chapter 4 – ‘Measuring
Indigenous disadvantage’ – provides a detailed analysis of
current approaches to addressing Indigenous disadvantage. It draws on
significant international developments in countering poverty and economic
marginalisation, as well as international human rights standards. The
chapter also considers in-depth the framework for measuring Indigenous
disadvantage that is currently being prepared for the Council of Australian
Governments. There are some clear contrasts between the limiting framework
of practical reconciliation and the more focused and accountable approach
based on international guidance and standards.
Chapter 5 – ‘Indigenous
women and the criminal justice system – A landscape of risk’
– focuses on Indigenous women and their experiences of contact with
criminal justice processes. This chapter paints a disturbing picture of
the lack of support provided to Indigenous women in many areas of society
and its consequent impact through criminalisation. The lack of attention
to these issues by policy makers to date is a matter of great shame.
Chapter 6 – ‘International
developments in the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples’
– notes the extensive developments in the recognition of Indigenous
rights at the international level. These are considered within two main
contexts – the current review taking place within the United Nations
of all the existing mechanisms at the UN dealing with Indigenous issues;
and the International Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples,
which is now in its final two years. This review illustrates how Australia
has moved towards the most conservative end of the spectrum in addressing
The report then concludes with an appendix which summarises partnerships and agreements that have been entered into
between Indigenous peoples and state or territory Governments in recent
The report, an executive summary and media pack
for the release of the report can be accessed from the Commission’s
website at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sjreport_02/
Native Title Report 2002
section 209 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the Commissioner
is required annually to submit to the Attorney-General a report 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
The Native Title Report 2002 is the
fourth by Commissioner Jonas, and was transmitted to the Attorney-General
on 21 January 2003 and tabled in Parliament on 19 March 2003.
The report considers developments in the law
of native title as a result of the High Court decisions of Yarmirr,
Miriuwung Gajerrong, Wilson v Anderson and Yorta Yorta.
These decisions clarify the law with respect to the principles of recognition
and extinguishment of native title. The report evaluates these principles
against the human rights standards to which Australia is committed under
international law. Such an evaluation reveals fundamental shortcomings
within the native title system. Reform is necessary to ensure that the
law of native title is consistent with international law and while this
can occur through legislative amendment at the state or federal level,
other approaches, such as agreements, are discussed as providing a means
by which Indigenous rights and interests can be recognised and protected.
Chapter 1 – Recognition
of Native Title – analyses the principles elaborated in the High
Court decisions in Yarmirr, Miriuwung Gajerrong and Yorta
Yorta by which the law of native title gives recognition to traditional
owners of land. Emerging from these decisions is a concept of recognition
as not simply the law providing a vehicle for Indigenous people to enjoy
their culture and property rights, but rather one where the law becomes
a barrier to their enjoyment and protection. The recent Federal Court
decision in De Rose also demonstrates this trend towards limiting
the recognition of Indigenous relationships to land. These decisions are
inconsistent with international law, which requires a state to maintain
and protect Indigenous culture, to ensure racial equality and to ensure
the effective participation of Indigenous people in decisions that affect
Chapter 2 – Extinguishment
of Native Title – analyses the law in relation to the extinguishment
of native title as clarified in the High Court’s decisions in Miriuwung
Gajerrong and Wilson v Anderson. In those decisions the Court made it
clear that the primary source for determining the extinguishment of native
title is the Native Title Act. Native title is extinguished either completely
or partially wherever an inconsistency arises between the enjoyment of
rights to land created by the non-Indigenous legal system and the enjoyment
of rights over land created by the traditional laws and customs.
Chapter 3 – Discrimination
and Native Title – examines the way in which the High Court applies
the Racial Discrimination Act to the creation of tenures after
1975 and its effect on native title rights. The High Court made it clear
in the Miriuwung Gajerrong decision that extinguishment of native
title, whereby pre-existing Indigenous interests give way to newly created
non-Indigenous interests, is discriminatory. The report concludes that,
applying the High Court’s own analysis, the extinguishment of native
title, both under the Native Title Act and at common law, is not only
discriminatory at international law but fails to meet the standards of
equality under domestic law.
The Commonwealth has the legislative capacity
to limit the extent to which extinguishment affects Indigenous interests
in land and to ensure compliance with international and domestic standards
of equality, recognition and respect for Indigenous cultural identity
and non-discrimination. These standards can be applied to both recognition
and extinguishment of native title.
Chapter 4 – Implications
of Miriuwung Gajerrong and Wilson v Anderson – considers
the implications of the High Court decisions in Miriuwung Gajerrong and
Wilson v Anderson. These cases result in the extinguishment of native
title over a significant area of land. In New South Wales, the finding
that perpetual grazing leases completely extinguish native title will
affect 15 out of the 20 native title applications lodged in the Western
Division. In Western Australia, where eight percent of the state is held
within the conservation estate, the extinguishment of native title on
nature reserves will affect many Indigenous people. Such findings undermine
the exercise and enjoyment of culture under Article 27 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and seriously inhibit the
exercise of rights of self determination and effective participation in
relation to traditional country. The finding in these cases invites a
policy response. In consideration of these issues, the 2002 Native Title
Report offers a policy framework, supported by key human rights standards,
that may assist state Governments and Aboriginal groups in achieving a
just and appropriate resolution of this finding.
Chapter 5 – Native Title:
the way forward – proposes ways of addressing the shortcomings in
the native title system. The clarification of the principles of recognition
and extinguishment of native title by the High Court marks the end of
the developmental phase of native title law. The 2002 Native Title
Report finds that the law fails to meet the human rights standards
required at international law. It is thus appropriate that a process of
re-evaluation takes place at the political level.
From a human rights perspective there are two
factors which must direct the reform of the native title system. First,
all decisions affecting native title must be taken with the free and informed
consent of Indigenous people. This requires the establishment of a process
for the effective participation of Indigenous people as part of the broader
reform process. Where the capacity of Indigenous people to participate
is hampered, either through limited resources or limited decision-making
structures, provision must be made to address these deficiencies to enable
genuine negotiation to take place. Second, the benchmarks for reform must
be the human rights of Indigenous people.
The chief mechanism by which the Native Title
Act effects both the protection of native title and its extinguishment
is through prescribing what state and territory laws are valid and the
conditions and effect of their validity. State and territory governments
are then authorised to enact legislation which extinguishes native title
in accordance with the Native Title Act. Thus there are two legislative
tiers by which the extinguishment of native title takes place: first at
the level of Commonwealth legislation and the nature of the authority
that this legislation gives to state and territory Governments; and second
at the level of state and territory legislation and the enactment of legislation
that extinguishes native title. There is a third tier by which the extinguishment
of native title may take place – through agreements between stakeholders.
These three tiers need to be addressed in any reform process.
An executive summary, the full report and a media
pack for the release of the report can be accessed from the Commission’s
website at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/ntreport_02/index.html.
The Social Justice Commissioner is required under section
46C(1)(b) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act
1986 to promote discussion and awareness of human rights in relation
to Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders.
Benchmarking reconciliation and human rights workshop
The Commissioner convened a workshop on 28–29
November 2002 on human rights approaches to benchmarking reconciliation.
The workshop sought to apply human rights principles (relating primarily
to economic, social and cultural rights) to domestic policy formulation
in relation to addressing Indigenous disadvantage. It particularly sought
to respond to the draft framework for measuring Indigenous disadvantage
being prepared for the Council of Australian Governments by the Steering
Committee for the Review of Commonwealth State Relations.
The workshop was attended by representatives from the
Productivity Commission, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission,
Commonwealth Grants Commission, Department of Education, Science and Technology,
Centrelink, as well as academics and representatives of NGOs.
An edited version of the workshop documents were included
in the Social Justice Report 2002 (Chapter 4 – Measuring
Indigenous disadvantage). The issues paper prepared for the workshop and
report of the workshop are available from the Commission’s website
A follow-up workshop on benchmarking health and human
rights has been organized for September 2003 in partnership with the Telethon
Institute for Child Health Research in Perth.
Mining Certification Evaluation Project
The Commissioner is participating in a project coordinated
by the World Wildlife Fund, aimed at developing auditable performance
standards in relation to social and environmental aspects of mine sites.
These standards would form the basis for conducting an independent audit
of mine sites based on the notion of sustainability, human rights and
corporate responsibility. The project utilises multi-stakeholder processes
to determine whether criteria can be developed with the consensus of a
broad range of stakeholders including industry, government, unions, human
rights organisations, non-government organisations, and academics.
The recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law
The Commissioner made a submission
to the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee inquiry into the recognition
of Aboriginal Customary Law in May 2003. The submission contains:
- an overview of recent developments in Indigenous
policy which are relevant to Aboriginal Customary Law and which provide
guidance as to how Aboriginal Customary Law might appropriately be recognised
- relevant human rights principles for determining
the circumstances in which Aboriginal Customary Law should be recognised
formally or informally
- considerations for recognising Aboriginal Customary
Law in a manner that protects the rights of Aboriginal women
- the relevance of building Aboriginal community capacity
and supporting Indigenous governance mechanisms in order to recognise,
strengthen and provide support to Aboriginal Customary Law, particularly
within the context of criminal justice and family violence issues
- case studies of capacity building and recognising
Customary Law, and
- recommendations for advancing formal and informal
recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in the Northern Territory.
The submission is available from the Commission’s
website at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/customary_law/
Inquiry into national progress towards reconciliation
Recommendations 11 and 12 of the Social Justice
Report 2001 recommended that:
- the government formally respond to the annual Social
Justice Report each year in Parliament (within 15 sitting days of tabling)
- the Senate to raise a motion of inquiry into matters
raised in the annual Social Justice Report if the government does not
provide a formal response within 15 sitting days of the report’s
- the Senate to establish an inquiry into national
progress towards reconciliation in light of the Social Justice Commissioner’s
concerns about the inadequate response of the government to the Social Justice Report 2000 and to the documents of the Council
for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
On 26 August, the 15th sitting day since the Social
Justice Report 2001 was tabled in Parliament, Senator Ridgeway moved a
motion which was passed for the establishment of an Inquiry by the Senate
Legal and Constitutional References Committee Inquiry into national progress
towards reconciliation. The terms of reference for the inquiry included
examining the adequacy of the response of the government to the matters
raised in the Social Justice Report 2000 and Social Justice
Report 2001 relating to reconciliation.
On 25 November 2002, the Commissioner made a submission
to the Committee. The submission outlined a human rights framework for
reconciliation and to ensure government accountability, and a national
progress report on reconciliation.
On 4 April 2003, the Commissioner appeared before a
public hearing of the Committee in Sydney. The Committee’s report
will be tabled in the Senate in August 2003. The Commissioner’s
submission is available online from: www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/reconciliation/
Inquiry into capacity building in Indigenous communities
On 4 October 2002, the Commissioner made a submission
to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry into capacity building in Indigenous communities.
The submission outlined a human rights framework for supporting Indigenous
community capacity building and supporting Indigenous governance mechanisms.
The Commissioner appeared before the Committee at a
public hearing in Redfern on 8 April 2003. The Commissioner’s submission
is available online at: www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsia/indigenouscommunities/
Inquiry into Impediments to Resource Exploration
On 16 July, the Commissioner made a submission to the
Federal Standing Committee on Industry and Resources Inquiry into Impediments
into Resource Exploration. The Commissioner also appeared before that
Committee on 19 June.
The submission proposes that economic development and
human rights are not necessarily antagonistic and that increasingly the
market is requiring companies to adopt sustainable and responsible policies
to resource development. This means that the human rights of Indigenous
people must become an integral part of the economic development of a region,
including development of mineral resources.
Section 46C(3) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission Act 1986 states that in the performance of the Commissioner’s
functions, the Social Justice Commissioner may consult with international
organizations and agencies, particularly international Indigenous organisations.
In accordance with these provisions, Commissioner Jonas
visited Canada and New York in May 2003. The Commissioner attended the
second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
in New York in May 2003. The Commissioner made three interventions in
the forum under the themes of economic and social development, environment
and human rights. The interventions highlighted issues of human rights
significance in the Forum’s interaction with United Nations agencies
and setting out key considerations for how the forum should operate from
an Australian Indigenous perspective. Information about the permanent
forum is available at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/internat_develop.html.
Commissioner Jonas also met with Indigenous organisations
and government agencies in British Columbia, Ontario and Ottawa in May
2003 to discuss Canadian developments on issues relating to Aboriginal
community governance, Aboriginal title, treaty making processes and responding
to the impact of residential schools.
In March 2003, Commissioner Jonas represented the President
of the Commission at an international conference on Indigenous Peoples’
rights at Soochow University, Taipei and met with Indigenous organisations.
The Commissioner also met with the Hong Kong Human Rights Commission.
In December 2002, the Commissioner made a submission
to the United Nations on the review of human rights mechanisms relating
to Indigenous issues. The submission noted the under-funding of Indigenous
issues at the international level and supported the continued existence
of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. An edited
version of the submission was included as Chapter 6 in the Social
Justice Report 2002.
In November 2002, the Commissioner submitted a working
paper for consideration at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Working Paper on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The focus of the paper was the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination.
The paper is available online at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/international_docs/
An International Indigenous issues section has been
maintained as part of the Social Justice Commissioner’s website
during the past year. The website provides simple access to relevant United
Nations documents on Indigenous issues and international scrutiny of Australia’s
Indigenous affairs policies. The site is accessible at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/internat_develop.html
Under section 46C(1)(c), the Social Justice Commissioner
is required to undertake research and educational programs for the purposes
of promoting respect for, and enjoyment and exercise of, human rights
by Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders.
Principles to Guide Resource Development on Indigenous
On 30 May the Commissioner launched a joint publication
with Griffith University entitled Development and Indigenous Land:
A Human Rights Approach. The publication is a booklet comprising
principles that were developed by a forum of Indigenous people held in
Alice Springs in May 2002 concerning resource development on Indigenous
land. The principles are based on the human rights of Indigenous people.
The principles address issues such as recognition and
respect, Indigenous involvement in environmental management, cultural
heritage protection, and the need for developers to respect the integrity
of Indigenous decision-making processes. A central requirement is that
developers obtain the prior informed consent of Indigenous communities
affected by any development proposal. A copy of the principles can be
accessed from the Commissioner’s website at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/corporateresponsibility/
National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses
On 30 June 2003, the Queensland Training Recognition
Council accredited the National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses until
29 June 2008.
The National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses (NILAC)
are a series of nationally-accredited training courses which aim to provide
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the competency and
skills to work in a legal environment and to understand their human rights.They
were developed in response to Recommendation 212 of the Royal Commission
into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and are designed to meet the needs of
Indigenous peoples with an interest in criminal justice issues.
The NILAC replaces the National Indigenous Legal Studies
Curriculum, which had previously been developed by the Commission and
which was reviewed in order that it met revised national accreditation
Three qualifications can be offered to students who
enrol in institutions licensed to deliver the courses:
1. Certificate III in National Indigenous Legal
Advocacy: This provides students with competency in general office
and administrative duties in a legal environment.
2. Certificate IV in National Indigenous Legal
Advocacy: This provides students with the skills to work as Indigenous
Legal Advocates or as Field Officers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander legal services.
3. Diploma of National Indigenous Legal Advocacy: This provides students with skills in office administration and management,
and detailed knowledge of legal matters necessary to work as a Senior
Field Officer or Senior Indigenous Legal Advocate in a law-related workplace.
The courses have been developed for the vocational
training sector. They can be offered by Institutes of TAFE and Indigenous
community-controlled education organisations.
Education providers must obtain a licence from the
Commission to deliver the courses, or individual units of competency within
The NILAC training courses were developed by the Indigenous
Studies Product Development Unit of TAFE Queensland on behalf of the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Development of
the courses was funded by the Commission with assistance from the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Commission ($50 000 grant in 2002–03)
and the Australian National Training Authority ($10 000 towards a mapping
exercise in 1999).
The development of the NILAC was overseen by a Curriculum
Development Advisory Committee comprised of representatives of government,
industry, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, representatives
of anti-discrimination, equal opportunity and human rights commissions,
educators and National Indigenous Studies Curriculum course graduates.
The courses will be reviewed after 12 months in order
to make any necessary changes to the course structure and content.
Information about the courses, including course overviews,
licensing processes for intending training providers and a list of registered
trainers is available online at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nilac/
A selection of public addresses made by, or on behalf
of, Commissioner Jonas during 2002–03 are listed below and are available
online at www.humanrights.gov.au/speeches/social_justice/
Family violence in Indigenous communities –
breaking the silence?, University of New South Wales Law Journal
Forum, HREOC, Sydney, 25 July 2002.
Recognising Aboriginal sovereignty – implications
for the treaty process, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission,
National Treaty Conference, Canberra, 27 August 2002.
Native Title and the Treaty Dialogue, HREOC
and International Law Association treaty seminar, Sydney, 10 September
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in
Custody Ten Years On: The Ongoing Role of Government, Victorian Aboriginal
Justice Forum, Melbourne, 20 September 2002.
Restoring identity – achieving justice for
the stolen generations, launch of Public Interest Advocacy Centre
report, Sydney, 27 September 2002.
Launch – Black Lives Government Lies,
Brisbane, 12 February 2003
Indigenous Employment and Family Violence in Australia
– Issues and Initiatives, Soochow University Taipei, Taiwan,
5 March 2003.
Geography and Human Rights, Geography’s New
Frontiers Conference, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 March
Development and Indigenous Land: A Human Rights
Approach, launch of HREOC/Griffith University publication on corporate
responsibility, Sydney, 30 May 2003.
Social Justice The Native Title, Native Title
Representative Bodies Conference, Alice Springs, 4 June 2003.