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Video clip: Australia Review - 23rd Session of Universal Periodic Review


UN condemnation of our Indigenous rights: 'Shameful"

11 Nov 2015

Australia's Indigenous rights record came under the glare of the United Nations and into view of the entire world on Monday. Amnesty Australia's Indigenous rights manager, Tammy Solonec, was in Geneva to witness and comment on the 'shameful' review. …

Criticism on Indigenous rights

Throughout the session, Indigenous rights featured heavily in the criticisms of Australia.

Countries were concerned about Indigenous health, housing, education and employment. They were concerned about high rates of violence against Indigenous women and children; and the threat of closure of Homelands communities.

There was also some misplaced praise. Countries commended Australia for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, with Australia’s UPR representative boasting of streamlining funding, without mentioning that over $500 million had been ripped from Indigenous community control in recent years.

Australia was also recognised for starting the process of Constitutional reform, despite the fact this has stalled on several occasions and that many Indigenous people themselves do not agree with the proposals in their current state.…

Australia locking up Indigenous people

But one of the issues that resonated most strongly with countries was the shameful overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and the conditions they face in detention.

Nations as diverse as Canada, Ireland, Paraguay, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland decried the soaring rates of detention of Indigenous children.

It was recommended that mandatory sentencing laws, such as WA laws around home burglaries and assaulting public officers, be abolished. Australia was urged to stop holding children as young as 10 criminally responsible, and raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 12 to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

L-R: Damian Griffis, First People's Disability Network; Les Malezer, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples; Gillian Triggs, Australian Human Rights Commission; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International Australia.

Allow UN to inspect detention places

Many states were disappointed that Australia has failed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which Australia committed to do four years ago at the last UPR.

Ratifying OPCAT is vital in Australia, where it would allow UN investigators to inspect all places of detention - including police lockups, immigration detention centres, prisons and juvenile detention centres - to ensure they comply with international standards….

Unsafe detention in NT

This is more urgent than ever, with news today that NT Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook has said the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre is not safe or secure for the young people locked up there, almost all of whom are Indigenous.

The young offenders are being relocated 1500 kilometres, far from their families and communities, to Darwin's Don Dale Detention Centre, which itself was deemed not fit for adults - let alone kids - and where there have been allegations of appalling abuse.

Disappointing government response

Despite this crisis in our criminal justice system, in Geneva, the government responses to the issue were extremely disappointing.

Australia’s claim it will address incarceration by targeting the long term drivers of violence - education, employment and economic development - is the same rhetoric we have been hearing since the current government gained power.

Australia’s pledge to directly tackle the issues through crime prevention and recidivism reduction programs also lacks a concrete strategy or funding commitment. At the UPR session Australia made no mention of justice targets, or the Justice Reinvestment framework that Amnesty and so many others many have been advocating for.

After seeing such wide ranging criticisms of Australia’s Indigenous rights record, I can only hope Australia takes on board the recommendations to face up to its responsibilities in these areas of such importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The health of our peoples and cultures depend upon it.


Australia cannot dodge questions raised by UN Human Rights Council review

10 November 2015

Australia’s key allies are amongst those overnight who have strongly criticised the Government’s record on Indigenous people’s rights and the treatment of people seeking asylum, during a review in Geneva under the umbrella of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Failures on Indigenous peoples' rights

Australia’s second Universal Periodic Review, held by 107 UN members, saw Australia criticised by such allies as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, as well as regional trading partners China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India and Indonesia.

The disadvantage and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was top of many countries’ list of criticisms. Many states called on Australia to address high rates of violence against Indigenous women and children and reduce the alarming over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

"Indigenous children in Australia are 24 times more likely to be locked up than their non-Indigenous counterparts, and the rates are getting worse. Not surprisingly there was strong criticism that Australia has failed to curb this shameful situation", said Tamara Lions, Government Relations Adviser at Amnesty International Australia, who attended the Geneva session.

A number of countries flagged that Australia’s holds 10 and 11 year old children criminally responsible, which is younger than the international standard of 12.

In the last few days I’ve met with delegations from every corner of the world, and seen over and over their dismay with Australia’s human rights record on refugees and Indigenous Peoples.

Tamara Lions, Government Relations Adviser, Amnesty Australia

New Zealand was one of many countries urging Australia to improve the health and education of Indigenous people, and the US urged Australia to better consult Indigenous people when considering closing or cutting funding to remote communities. …

Act now online

Stand with Indigenous kids in Australia
Many countries in the UPR session also urged Australia to ratify the Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture, which is a vital mechanism to ensure independent scrutiny of places of detention in Australia.

Australia committed in 2011 to ratify OPCAT, and, with numerous recent allegations of abuses in youth detention and immigration detention centres, it is urgent that Australia stop stalling and ratify OPCAT without delay.


Australia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held on 9 November. The UPR is a peer-reviewed session held every four years for all countries that are members of the UN. Read Amnesty International’s submission to the review.


Comment: How will the UN judge Australia’s Indigenous rights record?

This Monday, 9 November, Australia will be reviewed by the other 192 member states of the United Nations in its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) –a UN mechanism which assesses each nation’s human rights record every four years.

By Tammy Solonec   Source: Amnesty International

6 Nov 2015 - 1:57 PM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2015 - 4:44 PM

The UPR mechanism, sits under the umbrella of the UN Human Rights Council, covering rights and freedoms including about racial discrimination; torture; civil and political rights; economic; cultural and social rights; and the rights of women, people with disabilities and children.

In Australia’s first UPR in 2011, numerous recommendations were made by UN member states about Australia’s treatment of Indigenous Peoples, and disappointingly, many of those recommendations were either not accepted by the Australian Government or too slow a progress has been made in the last four years. ….


What will Australia’s next human rights report card look like?

Tamara Lions 6 November 2015, 11:33AM

Australia's human rights record will come under scrutiny next week at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva.

Amnesty’s Government Relations Adviser Tamara Lions explains why the UPR is so important.

So what is the UPR?

The UPR is basically a human rights report card given to each UN Member State every four years. What makes it so unique is that it’s not the UN that gives countries their report card - it is their fellow UN Member States.

The UPR was launched in 2006 by the UN General Assembly as a way to monitor the human rights records of all UN member states, including – you guessed it – Australia. The ultimate goal of the UPR is to improve human rights in every country and making life better for people around the world.

In our case, Australia will present in front of its peers at the UN in Geneva on Monday 9 November. At that meeting, every country in the world is entitled to comment on Australia's human rights record, and to make recommendations on where we can improve. Australia’s closest allies – including the United States, China, the UK and New Zealand – will all make recommendations to Australia on issues like Indigenous rights and the treatment of people seeking asylum.

How has Australia fared at previous UPRs?

Australia underwent its first UPR in January 2011 under the then-Labor Government.

Australia accepted over 95 per cent of the recommendations from the UPR, adding them to its National Human Rights Action Plan. This was promising and maybe even enough to make up for the Government’s refusal to implement a Human Rights Act in 2010, despite huge support by the public for it. However, there has been very little progress to actually implement Human Rights Action Plan over the past four years.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has reported that only 11 per cent of the accepted recommendations from the last UPR have so far been implemented. This is pretty poor and makes the case for a Human Rights Act even stronger.

What does this year’s UPR mean for Australia?

With Australia’s recent announcement of its candidacy for election to the Human Rights Council in 2018, this second review of our human rights situation comes at the perfect time.….

And what do we want to happen?

There are two issues Amnesty wants Australia’s UPR to include as a priority: our government’s treatment of both refugees and Indigenous Peoples.

Amnesty made a submission to the this year’s UPR. In it we called for Australia to reduce the incarceration of Indigenous children, who are 24 times more likely to be locked up than their non-Indigenous peers. We also recommended Australia support Indigenous Peoples to live on their ancestral homelands. …


New Zealand must speak out on Australia’s abysmal human rights record

…Amnesty International has also recommended that with the high rate of Indigenous youth in detention, Australia must accept some key recommendations around Indigenous Youth Justice including raising the age of criminal responsibility nation-wide from 10 years old to 12 years old.


UN countries line up to criticise Australia's human rights record

Three hundred recommendations put forward by 110 nations, with treatment of asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians dominating concerns…

Australian efforts to improve the rights of Indigenous people, in particular the proposal for a constitutional referendum on formal recognition, were praised by a number of countries.

But there were serious concerns raised about Indigenous health, education, housing and employment. Countries including Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Uruguay, Kenya and Paraguay flagged the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.

“While meaningful constitutional recognition is an important issue for Australia, the world recognises that we are closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians far too slowly,” Joseph said.

The Australian delegation said it welcomed a “vigorous, wide-ranging, and balanced debate on human rights” and respected the advocacy of human rights defenders.

John Reid, first assistant secretary at the Attorney General’s Department, said Australia remained “committed to protecting human rights both at home and abroad” but conceded that challenges remained, including the gap in key life indicators between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and controlling irregular migration flows….


UN review puts Australia on the spot over human rights record

November 10, 2015 4.08pm AEDT

Australia’s response to its Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council may be influenced by its bid for a seat on the council. ….

The other recurrent theme of recommendations was Indigenous peoples’ rights. Again, this featured in almost half of all submissions to the review. Recommendations relating to constitutional recognition, consultation with Indigenous communities and reducing inequality in health, education and employment were common.

In an example of reliance on information submitted by NGOs, the US expressed concern over closure of remote communities without consultation and spoke specifically of the Oombulgurri community in Western Australia.

Russia also appeared to have relied on NGO information in its critical statement. It asserted that Australia’s progress in implementing the previous UPR recommendations from 2011 had been poor, citing an implementation rate of only 10%. This figure has been provided by NGOs and the Australian Human Rights Commission in their reports.

However, in its report, the Australian government claimed to be “progressing implementation of” or to have fully or partially implemented at least 130 of its previous 137 recommendations. Russia clearly was not buying it. …


Australia gets a rigorous human rights review in Geneva

November 10, 2015

…While Australia’s efforts to improve Indigenous peoples’ rights were praised by a number of countries (especially the proposal for a constitutional referendum to recognize Indigenous peoples), there were extensive concerns on a range of issues, including the gap with non-Indigenous peoples in health, education, housing and employment.

“While meaningful Constitutional recognition is an important issue for Australia, the world recognizes that we are closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians far too slowly.”…


Questions submitted in advance of Australia’s Universal Periodic Review

November 9, 2015  Human Rights Council By Marius Smith


How does the Australian government assess the differences in life expectancy for Australian population between indigenous people and non-indigenous people? (SP)


UN Human Rights Council to review Australia’s human rights record  06 Nov 2015

Indigenous peoples’ rights

In the 2011 UPR, Australia committed to intensifying “its on-going efforts to close the gap in opportunities and life outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, especially in the areas of housing, land title, health care, education and employment.”[ix] In February 2015, the prime minister’s Close the Gap report highlighted the continued systemic disadvantage faced by indigenous Australians across all key outcomes. While there have been modest improvements to certain education and health outcomes, there was no overall improvement in indigenous reading and numeracy rates since 2008 and little progress on closing the life expectancy gap by 2031. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still live on average 10-12 years less than non-indigenous Australians, have an infant mortality rate almost two times higher, and continue to die at alarmingly high rates from treatable and preventable conditions such as diabetes and respiratory illness.

The disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people remains a critical issue for Australia. While indigenous Australians account for only 3 percent of Australia’s population, they account for 27 percent of Australia’s prison population. As a result, mandatory sentencing laws in force in a number of states and territories disproportionately affect indigenous people. At the 2011 UPR, Australia accepted that it “will continue to address over-representation of Indigenous people in prison.”[x] But some state and territory governments have ignored calls by the UN Committee against Torture to abolish harsh mandatory sentencing laws in an effort to reduce indigenous imprisonment rates.[xi]


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process that reviews the human rights record of all 193 UN Member States. It is a ‘peer’ review process, which involves countries reviewing other countries, and is held every four years. The review is conducted by the 47 countries that make up the UPR Working Group [Human Rights Council (HRC) members and the HRC President].

It is important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because:

• Australia declares to other countries everything it has done to improve human rights within our country;

• our organisations have an opportunity to inform the international community about the human rights situation in Australia;

• we can work with other countries to suggest recommendations for how our government can improve the human rights situation in Australia;

• Australia is compared to all other countries and is an opportunity to compare against ‘similar’ countries such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and European Union Member States such as the United Kingdom.


Sol Belear fuehrt die Punkte auf, warum Australien nicht qualifiziert sein sollte, einen Sitz beim Menschenrechtsrat der Vereinten Nationen zu erhalten

Australia Redefines Hypocrisy And Human Rights In Bid For UN Position

– 30 nov 15 by Sol Bellear,Chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, Australia's largest community-controlled health service

They say you have to have a thick skin to work in Australian politics. I think a lot of people underestimate just how thick.

Last week, the Australian Government was reportedly seeking a place on the United Nations Human Rights Council for two years from 2018. And this morning, the HuffPost reports Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced they were also seeking another stint on the Security Council, for 2029-30.

This sudden United Nations love fest is laced with bitter irony, on several fronts.

…. At the risk of labouring the point, I think it's pretty obvious that our recent human rights record should disqualify Australia from a position on the Human Rights Council.

But given how bad it is, what is truly staggering is our arrogance in even seeking the position in the first place. …


Australia’s bid for the UN Human Rights Council

September 30, 2015 4.23pm AEST Sarah Joseph

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced that Australia is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for the period of 2018 to 2020. The bid was originally made by the previous government, and has now been officially endorsed by this one.

… Australia has significant and well-known human rights problems, for example concerning asylum seekers, onshore and offshore detention, Indigenous people, violence against women and counter-terrorism laws. Here, I will focus on issues which have the capacity to undermine Australia’s reputation for cooperation with the UN.

One concern will be the Abbott government’s hounding of Gillian Triggs, the president of Australia’s Human Rights Commission, as those attacks do not sit well with the single resolution that Australia routinely co-sponsors before the council – that concerning the importance and independence of National Human Rights Institutions. However, it is likely that the government’s open hostility towards Triggs will soften under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Of great concern will be Australia’s attitude to its direct engagements with UN human rights bodies. We do not have a good record of implementing the findings of the UN treaty bodies, which have found Australia to be in breach of international human rights law more than 40 times.


Nach dem Leadership spill und des Wechsels des australischen Premierministers im September, haben etliche Gruppen und Organisationen Briefe an den neuen Premierminister Malcolm Turnbull geschrieben. Einen offenen Brief von NITV Journalist wurde hier veroeffentlicht:

An open letter to PM Turnbull from an Aboriginal journalist

We are months out from Australia Day, but Aboriginal Australia can feel the pain coming.

By Danny Teece-Johnson, NITV News 10 Nov 2015

It seemed to come as a big surprise to the mainstream media when Miranda Tapsell told Channel Nine’s The Verdict: “When I go to Australia Day, I don’t feel like an Australian that day, because essentially people are telling me I can’t be a part of that”.

But it didn’t come as news to Indigenous Australia.

Our mob weeps and takes to the streets in protest, while the bulk of Australia gets blind rotten drunk on terra nullius, year after year. …


Aktionen in Berlin anlaesslich des Besuches des australischen Premierministers Malcolm Turnbull bei der deutschen Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel am Freitag, den 13 November 2015

Am Freitag, den 13 November 2015 um 11:45 Uhr besucht Malcolm Turnbull Angela Merkel hier in Berlin. Die Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker organisiert eine Demo, um die Aboriginal People zu unterstützen bei ihrem Kampf für Gerechtigkeit und Selbstbestimmung und um den Premier Minister aufzufordern, einen echten Dialog mit den First Nations zu starten. Es gab dieses Jahr mehrere erfolgreiche Demo's und Aktionen in Berlin.


Video clip: DemonstrationSTPBerlinMalcolmTurnbullVisit

Published on Nov 16, 2015

On Friday 13th of November 2015, the German NGO Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and the 'Berlin Aboriginal Solidaritätnetwerk' held a vigil in Berlin. They requested the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to prioritise the dialogue with the Aboriginal Australians in his Government's policies. Malcolm Turnbull was in Berlin to meet with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Australian Prime Minister Turnbull in Berlin


“Mr. Prime Minister, please enter a dialogue with Australia’s indigenous peoples – they finally need clear rights! Treaty now!” (Press Release)

On Friday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and the “Berlin Aboriginal Solidaritätsnetzwerk” held a vigil in Berlin, requesting the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to prioritize the dialogue with the Aboriginal Australians in his government’s policies. ... “An improvement can only be achieved by a credible dialogue about the crimes of the past and by a radical new beginning in the relations between the Indigenous peoples and the majority population.”

Spokespersons of the Indigenous peoples are demanding a nationwide initiative – on as many levels of society as possible – leading to a binding contract and to clear, enforceable rights for the Aboriginal Australians. …


Australischer Premierminister Turnbull in Berlin erwartet - Einladung zur Mahnwache


„Herr Premierminister, bitte nehmen Sie den Dialog mit Australiens Ureinwohnern auf! Sie brauchen endlich klare Rechte! Treaty now!“ (Termin)

Mit einer Mahnwache wird die Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) gemeinsam mit dem „Berlin Aboriginal Solidaritätsnetzwerk“ am Freitag in Berlin an Australiens Premierminister Malcolm Turnbull appellieren, den Dialog mit den Aboriginal Australians zu einem Schwerpunkt seiner Regierungspolitik zu machen. In Schreiben an Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und die Staatsministerin im Auswärtigen Amt, Maria Böhmer, hat die GfbV bereits vor Ankunft des Staatsgastes die dringende Bitte gerichtet, sich bei ihren Gesprächen mit dem australischen Premier für die Anliegen der Ureinwohner einzusetzen und auch eine deutsche Zusammenarbeit dazu anzubieten.

„Die Aboriginal Australians wünschen sich klare Verträge mit der Mehrheitsgesellschaft. Ihre Rechte müssen eindeutig definiert werden, sonst wird den Ureinwohnern des Kontinents jegliche Selbstbestimmung verweigert und sie bleiben Mündel von Regierung und Behörden“, erklärt die GfbV. …

Malcolm Turnbull wurde am 15. September gewählt und kommt am 13. November zu seinem Antrittsbesuch bei der Bundesregierung nach Berlin. Er wird von Kanzlerin Merkel um 11.45 Uhr mit militärischen Ehren empfangen.


Turnbull, Merkel talk in Berlin

…A small group of indigenous protesters gathered outside the Chancellery, seeking better land rights.…


On the 27th of November 2015 the German NGO Society for Threatened Peoples with the support of London based Aboriginal supporters will deliver 2000+ signatures at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. Please watch this short film to find out more. A press release will follow (also in English).


Society for Threatened Peoples in Berlin calls for a treaty for Indigenous Australians at CHOGM

Published on Nov 19, 2015

There is a large gap between the Indigenous demand for justice and past and current policies of Australian Governments. A treaty is an enduring and binding agreement that recognises indigenous rights and defines how governments have to respect those rights. Within the Commonwealth of Nations Australia is the only country that does not have a treaty with its indigenous peoples.


3rd Berlin Action: Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities in Australia – 27 November

5th Global Call to Action: 27 November 2015


Uniting Church acknowledges Maḏayin Law and Gives Support for a Treaty for Arnhem Land, UCA National Assembly Proposal 65, passed by consensus 17/07/15

See Below. The Northern Regional Christian Congress, the aboriginal presbytery of the Northern Synod, passed this proposal late last month and now has carriage of the matter. Proposal 65 represents a confirmation of support for the NRCC position from the national council of the Uniting Church in Australia. The importance of the resolution is explained in the proposals rationale below.


65. YOLNGU NATIONS ASSEMBLY CALL FOR A TREATY (Northern Regional Council of Congress)

That the Assembly

notes the decision of the Northern Regional Council of Congress (NRCC) that it:

(a)  acknowledges that Arnhem Land was not conquered or occupied by foreigners in the colonial era, nor succeeded by a foreign jurisdiction through a treaty;

(b)  acknowledges that the Maḏayin system of law, that pre-existed the Australian system of law, remains the properly constituted “law of the land” in Arnhem Land;

(c)  acknowledges that it is through the Maḏayin system of law that Arnhem Land has Mägaya- peace, order, and good government;

(d)  acknowledges that the Maḏayin system of law is dhapirrk consistent in its statutes; is guarded by the Yothu Yindi separation of powers; is stewarded through our lawful authorities and government; and is revealed by the Creator to the Givers of Law – Djaŋ‟kawu and Barama Ḻany‟tjun;

(e)  acknowledges that although our Arnhem Land members are granted Australian citizenship at birth they are first subject to the Maḏayin system of law, and as such, will endeavour to fulfill the Maḏayin system of law in all its workings in Arnhem Land, unless morally irresponsible;

(f)  acknowledges that the Australian system of law now plays a secondary role in Arnhem Land towns;

(g)  will work to try and enhance collaboration between the Australian system of law and the Maḏayin system of law, within Arnhem Land;

(h)  acknowledges that if the people of Arnhem Land are to have the freedom and scope to live, think, and develop in a way that suits them they need an internationally recognisable treaty protecting this right;

(i)  supports the historical and continuing request for a treaty between the tribes of Arnhem Land and the Australian Government, that recognises inalienable tribal land ownership and the jurisdiction of the Maḏayin system of law, including its institutions, and its authorities; and

(j)  will assist advocacy attempts to achieve (h) and (i).


Arnhem Land is roughly the area designated by the former Arnhem Land Aboriginal reserve, covering the North Eastern portion of the Northern Territory, and amongst others includes the Yolngu and Bininj peoples who were strongly involved in the Methodist Overseas Mission towns of this region.

The Uniting Church has a strong ongoing relationship with the people of Arnhem Land due to its missionary history in the region, originally under the organisation of the Methodist Oversees Mission. The Uniting Church had missionary communities at South Goulburn Island, Croker Island, Millingimbi, Ramingining, Galiwinku, Gapuwiyak and Yirrkala. Today the church still has a strong affiliation with these communities, as well as Maningrida.

When the church left their missionary communities, handing them over to the control of community councils, it was supposed that this would assist the local people in achieving greater self-determination, self-management and independence. Notwithstanding the achievement of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act (1976), it is now clear that this ideal did not eventuate as successive Northern Territory and Australian Governments have eroded community control and discarded any collaboration with traditional law, institutions, customs and conventions (the Maḏayin system of law). The 2006/ 2007 Federal Government Emergency Response encapsulates this but NT government policies are also evidence of this disempowerment, including the defunding of homelands, the defunding and banning of Bilingual education, and the forced seizure of community council assets and the declaration of super shires.

The Federal Crimes Act has banned the consideration of traditional aboriginal law or custom in the judgment of crime and since 2007 police stations have been established in many more former missions to enforce Australian law.

In the meantime, and under pressures from exploitative business agents, both Federal and Northern Territory governments are moving to weaken the NT Land Rights Act.

What we are witnessing in Arnhem Land is the movement of colonisation achieved in the south a hundred and fifty years or more ago.

Among Arnhem Land people the missionary past is viewed mostly as a time of promise and hope. The Methodist Missionaries came with a general respect for culture, tried to empower indigenous people in town governance, and taught skills of the industrialised world. They are also respected for introducing Jesus to Arnhem Land, which by Gods hand enabled a revelation of the personal Creator as yet unknown. Yet another story underlies this, a strong question is developing. Were the missionaries a cavalcade of “peace” to fool Arnhem Landers into trusting foreigners? Were the missionaries responsible for opening a pathway to exploitation, as cultural supplanters with a smile?

Recognition of First Nations Peoples in the Australian constitution is important, but it is a mistake for the church to make a false divide between this issue and the ongoing and drastic needs of the North to have their sovereignty needs dealt with. Why cannot „Recognise‟ and „Treaty‟ advocacy work together? Shouldn’t the two movements inform each other in praxis?

The people of Arnhem Land need a treaty as soon as possible to protect their rights to live the life God meant for them. This is only possible with a treaty that recognises inalienable tribal land ownership and the Maḏayin system of law.

If Arnhem Land does not get this then Australia is guilty of continuing colonial expansionism, and the church is guilty of assisting this agenda. Living blood is on our hands.

This request builds on the 1988 Barunga Statement, the 1998 Miwatj Petition, and the 2008 Yirrkala Bark Petition.


Indigenous push for treaty gathers momentum

Date  November 12, 2015

... Aboriginal educational leader Chris Sarra has backed a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia, saying constitutional recognition will never deliver the substance of a treaty.

…The chairman and founder of the Stronger Smarter Institute …Dr Sarra will call on Australians to have the courage to contemplate some form of treaty in a speech at Parliament House on Friday, saying it would acknowledge, embrace and celebrate the humanity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The call reflects a growing push among Indigenous leaders to include discussion of a treaty or compact in debate on constitutional recognition.

"Obviously, matters of constitutional recognition are important, but ultimately what is required is a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia," Dr Sarra told Fairfax Media.

"Before people get spooked by the ideas of a treaty, you have to understand the essence of what a treaty is. It's a negotiated document between Indigenous Australia and non-Indigenous Australia and neither side signs up until they are satisfied that it says what is needs to say.

"I think it is worth putting a stake in the ground and being committed to that kind of outcome, even if it takes five years or 10 years or 15 years – an outcome that will finally see the humanity of Aboriginal Australia honoured in the way that it should be."

Dr Sarra's remarks on treaty were support by prominent Indigenous constitutional lawyer Megan Davis, who says the lack of resolution on constitutional reform "is animating renewed confidence in the community to push for a treaty or settlement agreement".

"It is the conventional path, well-trodden around the world, to settle the fundamental grievance at the heart of the Australian federation which is not so much the constitution but dispossession; that is to say, the land was never ceded," Professor Davis said. …


Chris Sarra's 'Delivering Beyond Indigenous Policy Rhetoric' Lecture: full text and key quotes

13 November 2015

… There are three things we can do:-

  1. Acknowledge, embrace and celebrate the humanity of Indigenous Australians;
  2. Bring us policy approaches that nurture hope and optimism rather than entrench despair;
  3. Do things with us, not to us!

…. Acknowledging, embracing and celebrating our humanity means you would find the courage to contemplate some form of a treaty, a document upon which we both agree, no matter how long or complex this task is.