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Social Justice Report 2004 : Media Pack

Social Justice Report 2004

Media Pack

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    Summary Sheets

    Social Justice Commissioner puts government on notice

    8 April 2005

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma has used his first Social Justice Report to put the federal Government on notice that he will be closely monitoring the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs and how they are implemented.

    Tabled in federal Parliament last Friday, the Social Justice Report 2004 outlines the challenges which lie ahead in protecting the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Australia and how the Commissioner intends to ensure these rights are observed.

    "This is a time of great uncertainty for Indigenous peoples, with significant changes underway in the federal Government's approach to Indigenous affairs and how it engages with Indigenous peoples," said Mr Calma.

    "As I discuss in detail in the report, the abolition of ATSIC and the movement to new arrangements for designing policy and delivering programs and services to Indigenous peoples raise many challenges for governments at all levels."

    The Commissioner said that the changes have the potential to impact significantly on Indigenous people and communities - by either leading to improved performance and outcomes by government, or by undermining the enjoyment of human rights by Indigenous peoples.

    "These rights will be undermined if Indigenous people are not able to effectively participate in the new arrangements by having a voice at the national level; do not have the ability to influence developments on a regional basis through the operation of culturally legitimate representative structures; or if local level engagement is selective or based on coercive measures.

    "They will also be undermined if the new arrangements are not transparent in their operation and rigorously monitored. Also, if governments do not place enough emphasis on the skills necessary to engage effectively with Indigenous communities through the establishment of appropriate recruitment, retention and training approaches across the public service and provision of adequate support for Indigenous people and communities to have appropriate governance arrangements in place," Mr Calma said.

    Mr Calma said that the changes will leave the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), and specifically the position of Social Justice Commissioner, as one of very few mechanisms remaining that are able to independently monitor the activities of governments from a national perspective. The annual Social Justice Report and Native Title Report will be vital tools in achieving this goal.

    This year's Social Justice Report focuses on two main issues - the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison, and the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs at the federal level. The report makes recommendations to government on these issues and follow-up actions planned over the coming 12-18 months.

    The report also outlines a number of issues the Social Justice Commissioner proposes to address in the coming years, including: research into issues relating to Indigenous health; Indigenous mental health; continued engagement with international processes for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples; and a focus on reconciliation.

    "I look forward to maintaining a robust dialogue with government about processes for improving the recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples' human rights. I also look forward to working with Indigenous people and communities to support them in their efforts to freely determine their political status and openly pursue their economic, social and cultural development," Commissioner Calma said.

    For further information about the Social Justice Report 2004, including executive summaries, media pack, and launches dates visit:

    Media contact: Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

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    Walking with women - addressing the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison

    8 April 2005

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said today that any approach to address the needs of Indigenous women exiting prison which assumes their needs will be met through services designed for Indigenous men, or those for women generally, will not work.

    "The lack of attention to the distinct needs of Indigenous women marginalises them and entrenches inequalities in service delivery, which can lead to intersectional discrimination," said Mr Calma.

    The Commissioner made the comments following the release of this year's Social Justice Report 2004, which contains the findings of research and an overview of programs and policies relating to Indigenous women exiting prison.

    The research and consultations conducted during 2003-04 identified what support programs are available to Indigenous women upon their release from prison. This included accommodation options, counselling and other programs which may assist in reconnecting Indigenous women with their families and communities.

    The main findings were the importance of housing and emergency accommodation options for Indigenous women when released from prison; the importance of being able to access a broad range of programs upon release, including healing; and the lack of coordination of existing government and community services.

    "Anecdotal evidence suggests that Indigenous women have difficulty in accessing support programs upon their release and are left to fend for themselves, sometimes leading them to homelessness, returning to abusive relationships or re-offending," Mr Calma said.

    "The report found that there are some ground-breaking approaches being undertaken by some state governments and the community sector which needs to be encouraged and their experiences shared with other jurisdictions.

    "However, the fact that there are only a handful of initiatives only served to highlight how much more work there is to be done."

    The Social Justice Report 2004 makes two recommendations to ensure better coordination of programs at the State and Territory level, and to share best practice at the national level. These are outlined in the report at

    Media contact: Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347