Indigenous Law Bulletin
T his publication has been designed specifically for use by Indigenous peoples and fulfils two main functions: firstly, to improve awareness among the Indigenous community of international human rights norms; secondly, to highlight international legal avenues and complaint mechanisms that may be used by Indigenous peoples to promote and protect their rights.
The manual is presented in an accessible format. It uses plain language and avoids UN legalese. There is information on human rights law, practical information on UN procedure and a comprehensive list of human rights bodies providing assistance domestically and internationally to Indigenous peoples seeking to participate in UN forums.
The Annexes are a particularly useful compilation of international and domestic human rights instruments and decisions of relevance to Indigenous peoples.
It is hoped that such a document will enable Indigenous peoples to exert international pressure on governments more effectively and productively, where current domestic law and policy fail to protect their rights.
F or those seriously considering human rights in relation to constitutional issues in Australia, this collection of papers is an important reference. Part I contains four chapters which consider developments in rights thought: an agenda for the future (Justice Michael Kirby AC, CMG), moral, philosophical and political problems (Alice Erh-Soon Tay, the newly appointed Chairperson of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ('HREOC')), the gender of rights as they privilege 'male life patterns' (Hilary Charlesworth) and the multi dimensional nature of human rights including 'negative ... justified demands', protective rights, positive rights and a psychological dimension which invokes choice (Charles Sampford).
Part II considers the international protection and implementation of human rights (Anne Bayefsky on the UN system and Alice Erh-Soon Tay on the Asia Pacific). An ambivalence towards the enshrining of a Bill of Rights in the constitution is apparent, as Glen Patmore notes, in debates over whether the parliamentary system or the court system is more appropriate to protect human entitlements. DFB Tucker argues that legislators need to take most of the responsibility for protecting rights because of judicial activism. Brian Galligan and Ian McAllister, in presenting the findings of surveys carried out by the Australian Rights Project in 1991-92, note that Australian people do not consider their rights are well protected and strongly support a Bill of Rights entrenched in the Constitution rather than a statute passed by parliament. Tom Round challenges arguments both for and against a Bill of Rights.
Part III considers three particular rights: proprietary rights over our own bodies (Jim Harris), gender rights and difference in terms of the universality of maleness and the need to develop the legal concept of equality (Beth Gaze) and global citizenship rights in a democracy and the dangers inherent in a grand narrative of rights (Alastair Davidson).
This volume (and previous volumes for 1995 and 1994) contains speeches, papers, statements and interventions on a variety of indigenous issues by a range of representatives at the Fourteenth Session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations ('WGIP').
The Foreword contains a summary of activities of the former Chairperson of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission ('ATSIC'), Dr Lois O'Donoghue CBE, AM who retired on 5 December 1996 and who attended and spoke at every annual meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) since 1990. Pat Turner, ATSIC's Chief Executive Officer provides a useful overview of the Fourteenth Session, outlining ATSIC's position in relation to various issues. The Overview also contains valuable information concerning the activities of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations-for example, the Board of Trustees decided in their current term to give grants to thirty-three indigenous representatives to attend WGIP (a more general forum held annually in July/August at the United Nations) and to four representatives to attend the Commission on Human Rights Working Group ('CHRWG') (see ILB this issue, page 4).
Statements include those of Francine McCarthy's concerning the evolution of standards of the rights of indigenous peoples on behalf of the Central Land Council and Joseph Elu's concerning health on behalf of the Torres Strait Islander Regional Authority. But many other indigenous Australian and Government delegation statements are also included-those by Harold Furber, Geoff Clarke, Joan Lamont, Robyn Forester (on behalf of the Australian Government delegation) and John Scott (for HREOC) for example. The volume also contains a number of useful appendices-statements on the concept of 'indigenous people', for example.
For those who wonder what happens when our representatives go overseas, reports such as this enable greater understanding of the roles which they play and the complexities of the processes in which they are involved.