Entrenched racism in Australia – UN
By Julian Drape
August 27, 2009 06:30pm
THE intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory, and that there is “entrenched” racism in Australia, the United Nations special delegate on indigenous rights says.
James Anaya didn’t pull any punches after his two-week visit of the country.
He said the Rudd Government should reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT “right away” because the intervention was discriminatory.
“It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination,” he said.
He also said the Stolen Generations should be paid compensation.
Prof Anaya said that while there was no doubt special efforts were required to combat indigenous disadvantage and abuse of women and children, the intervention’s “broad sweep” went too far and was incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations.
“Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist,” he said.
Compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography were “overtly discriminatory” and further stigmatised already stigmatised communities.
“People who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included,” he said.
“It’s inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning.”
The indigenous rights expert was also scathing of federal Labor’s insistence that housing funds would only flow if indigenous communities signed over their land.
“It’s a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples … aren’t capable of taking care of their homes,” Prof Anaya said.
“Indigenous control can be appropriate to indigenous peoples’ development, to their aspirations, to indeed being in control of their lives like all others.”
As for compensation for indigenous people taken from their families by government agencies, the UN rapporteur was unequivocal: “There should be reparations,” he said.
But it wasn’t all negative news for the Rudd Government.
Prof Anaya praised Labor for taking “significant steps” to try and improve the human rights and living conditions of indigenous Australians.
He also congratulated the Government for supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier this year and officially apologising to the stolen generations in 2008.
There was hope, he said.
“I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism.”