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Social Justice Report 2006: Recommendations

Social Justice Report 2006

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  • Recommendations and notes

    Recommendations

    In accordance with the
    functions set out in section 46C(1) (a) of the Human Rights and Equal
    Opportunity Commission Act 1986
    (Cth), this report includes 8
    recommendations – 3 in relation to the accessibility of mainstream
    services under the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs, 1 in relation to
    engaging with Indigenous communities under the new arrangements for Indigenous
    affairs and 4 in relation to international developments on the rights of
    indigenous peoples. The report also contains 1 follow up action that my office
    will undertake in the next 12 months in relation to options for the
    establishment of the a national Indigenous representative body. These and the
    recommendations are reproduced here and appear at the relevant part of the
    report.

    The new arrangements for Indigenous affairs –
    facilitating Indigenous access to government
    services

    Recommendation 1: Directed to Federal
    Parliament

    That there be established a regular federal parliamentary
    committee of inquiry into the progress of the new arrangements in Indigenous
    affairs and progress in achieving whole of government service delivery to
    Indigenous communities.

    This Inquiry should be conducted every two
    years. Its terms of reference should include identifying:

    • Progress in addressing existing inequalities in Indigenous peoples’
      access (both urban and remote) to mainstream services (including the adequacy of
      processes to ensure that Indigenous specific expenditure supplements mainstream expenditure rather than substitutes for this expenditure);
    • Progress in ensuring that processes are targeted so as to address existing
      need;
    • Effective, sustainable and representative mechanisms for the participation
      of Indigenous peoples at the local, regional and national levels;
    • The adequacy of performance monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the new
      arrangements, including the adequacy of data collected to evaluate progress in
      addressing Indigenous disadvantage; and
    • Whether the new arrangements are meeting the commitments made by the
      Australian Government through COAG to overcome Indigenous
      disadvantage.

    The Committee’s terms of reference should
    also require it to report on the extent to which the new arrangements in
    Indigenous affairs comply with human rights based approaches to development and
    engagement with Indigenous peoples.

    The Committee’s inquiry
    processes should be required to maximise participation by Indigenous peoples,
    including by consulting widely with Indigenous communities and
    organisations.

    Recommendation 2: Directed to the Council of Australian
    Governments, National Indigenous Council and Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous
    Affairs

    That there is acknowledgement by government of the importance
    of a human rights based approach to development in order to effectively
    implement the new arrangements and the achievement of effective and sustainable
    improvements in Indigenous living standards and well-being.

    This
    requires acknowledgement of the importance of Indigenous forms of social
    organisation on the basis of mutual respect and good faith and for supported
    processes, including through capacity building initiatives, to ensure that the
    aspirations of Indigenous peoples are able to be
    voiced.

    Recommendation 3: Directed to the Office of Indigenous Policy
    Coordination

    That, in exercise of its coordination and monitoring
    role at a whole of government level, the Office of Indigenous Policy
    Coordination:

    • Identify and promote best practice examples of improving accessibility of
      mainstream services as achieved through individual programs (such as Medicare
      and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme equivalent access arrangements) as well as
      through whole of government coordination initiatives (such as ICCs and SRAs);
      and

    Develop its proposed Indigenous urban strategy with the full
    participation of Indigenous communities and peoples in urban localities, and
    with the inclusion of explicit targets and benchmarks for improved access to
    programs.

    Addressing the fundamental flaw of the new arrangements
    for Indigenous affairs – the absence of principled engagement with
    Indigenous peoples

    Recommendation 4: Directed to the
    Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and National Indigenous
    Council

    That the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs
    acknowledge that the absence of mechanisms at the regional level for engagement
    of Indigenous peoples contradicts and undermines the purposes of the federal
    whole of government service delivery arrangements.

    Further, that the
    Ministerial Taskforce direct the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination to
    address this deficiency as an urgent priority, including by:

    • consulting with Indigenous communities and organisations as to suitable
      structures, including by considering those proposals submitted to the government
      for regional structures;
    • utilising the Expert Panels and Multiuse List of community facilitators/
      coordinators to prioritise consideration of this issue; and
    • funding interim mechanisms to coordinate Indigenous input within regions and
      with a view to developing culturally appropriate models of
      engagement.

    Further, that the National Indigenous Council
    request the OIPC to report quarterly on progress in developing regional
    engagement arrangements and the mechanisms put into place to facilitate
    Indigenous participation in this process.

    International developments
    on the rights of indigenous peoples – Closing the ‘protection
    gap’

    Recommendation 5: Directed to the Office of
    Indigenous Policy Coordination

    That the federal government identify a
    focal point to coordinate, on a whole of government basis, its Program for the
    Second Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The focal point should
    consult with Indigenous organisations in determining the activities to be
    undertaken for the Decade, in accordance with the goal, objectives and Program
    of Action for the Decade. The Government’s Program should specifically
    respond to the items identified in the Program of Action for the Second Decade,
    rather than being a general thematic response. The Program should also be
    operational within this financial year.

    Further, that the government
    allocate specific funding for the conduct of activities for the Second Decade,
    as determined through the consultations with Indigenous
    peoples.

    Recommendation 6: Directed to the Office of Indigenous Policy
    Coordination and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

    That the
    federal government specify the process for consideration of funding for
    engagement in international deliberations and identify focal points within each
    federal department or agency (for example, the relevant contact point within the
    Department of the Environment and Heritage for engagement on issues relating to
    the Convention on Biological Diversity).

    Recommendation 7: Directed
    to the Indigenous Peoples Organisations Network and Australian Council for
    International Development

    That the non-government sector, led by
    members of the Australian Council for International Development as appropriate,
    engage with Indigenous organisations and the IPO Network to build partnerships
    for the implementation of the Second International Decade (as well as
    highlighting the relevance of the Millennium Development Goals to the situation
    of Indigenous peoples in Australia).

    Recommendation 8: Directed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAid and Office of
    Indigenous Policy Coordination

    That the Department of Foreign
    Affairs, in conjunction with the Social Justice Commissioner, conduct regular
    briefings for all agency heads on developments on the rights of Indigenous
    peoples, including the right to development (including the human rights based
    approach to development), Millennium Development Goals and Second International
    Decade for the World’s Indigenous People. The Secretaries Group on
    Indigenous Affairs would be the appropriate body to receive these
    briefings.

    Further, that AusAid be invited to contribute to the
    Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs to identify lessons that can be learned
    from Australia’s international development activities for policy-making on
    Indigenous issues within Australia.

    Follow Up Action by Social Justice
    Commissioner

    The Social Justice Commissioner will work with
    Indigenous organisations and communities to identify sustainable options for
    establishing a national Indigenous representative body.

    The Commissioner
    will conduct research and consultations with non-government organisations
    domestically and internationally to establish existing models for representative
    structures that might be able to be adapted to the cultural situation of
    Indigenous Australians, as well as methods for expediting the establishment of
    such a body given the urgent and compelling need for such a representative
    body.


    Acknowledgements

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner acknowledges the work of Human
    Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission staff and consultants in producing this report (Shondelle
    Bolt, Michael Davis, Anna Dawson, Darren Dick, Janet Drummond, Vanessa Jackson, Bettina King, Greg
    Marks and Emilie Priday).

    Artist Acknowledgement

    The cover photographs are from the 40 years Freedom Day Festival held on 18 and 19 August 2006 at Kalkaringi and Daguragu. Information about the festival is included on the back cover of this report and further information can be obtained from www.freedomday.info/festival.html.

    Our thanks to the Daguragu Community Government Council and the communities of Kalkaringi and Daguragu for the permission to reproduce these images. Our thanks also to Trevor van Weeren for facilitating the copyright permissions and supply of images and text.

    Freedom Day

    About the Social Justice Commission logo

    Social Justice Commission logo

    The right section of the design is a contemporary view of traditional Dari
    or head-dress, a symbol of the Torres Strait Island people and culture. The
    head-dress suggests the visionary aspect of the Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Social Justice Commission. The dots placed in the Dari
    represent a brighter outlook for the future provided by the Commission’s
    visions, black representing people, green representing islands and blue
    representing the seas surrounding the islands. The Goanna is a general
    symbol of the Aboriginal people.

    The combination of these two symbols represents the coming together
    of two distinct cultures through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission and the support, strength and unity which it can provide
    through the pursuit of Social Justice and Human Rights. It also represents
    an outlook for the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
    Justice expressing the hope and expectation that one day we will be
    treated with full respect and understanding.
    © Leigh Harris


    Note - Use of the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and ‘Indigenous peoples’

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner recognises
    the diversity of the cultures, languages, kinship structures and ways of life of
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is not one cultural model that
    fits all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain distinct cultural identities
    whether they live in urban, regional or remote areas of Australia.

    Throughout this report, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are referred to
    as ‘peoples’. This recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a
    collective, rather than purely individual, dimension to their livelihoods.
    Throughout this report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are also
    referred to as ‘Indigenous peoples’.

    The use of the term ‘Indigenous’ has evolved through international law. It
    acknowledges a particular relationship of Aboriginal people to the territory from
    which they originate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
    has explained the basis for recognising this relationship as follows:

    Indigenous or aboriginal peoples are so-called because they were living on their
    lands before settlers came from elsewhere; they are the descendants - according
    to one definition - of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region
    at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived, the new
    arrivals later becoming dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or
    other means… (I)ndigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and
    political characteristics which are clearly distinct from those of the other segments
    of the national populations.

    Throughout human history, whenever dominant neighbouring peoples have
    expanded their territories or settlers from far away have acquired new lands by
    force, the cultures and livelihoods - even the existence - of indigenous peoples
    have been endangered. The threats to indigenous peoples’ cultures and lands, to
    their status and other legal rights as distinct groups and as citizens, do not always
    take the same forms as in previous times. Although some groups have been
    relatively successful, in most part of the world indigenous peoples are actively
    seeking recognition of their identities and ways of life.1

    The Social Justice Commissioner acknowledges that there are differing usages of
    the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’, ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘indigenous’ within
    government policies and documents. When referring to a government document
    or policy, we have maintained the government’s language to ensure consistency.


    [1] United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Fact sheet No.9 (Rev.1), The Rights
    of Indigenous Peoples, www.unhchr.ch/html/menu6/2/fs9.htm