Indigenous Law Bulletin
Compiled by: Joanna Schulman, Celia Pitcher, Nardia Simpson, Melanie Curtin.
Mr Kevin Buzzacott commenced proceedings before Justice O’Loughlin in the Federal Court alleging that the Federal Ministers for Environment and Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill and Alexander Downer, are guilty of the crime of genocide because they did not act to classify Lake Eyre as World Heritage listed area. In separate proceedings brought in the Supreme Court of South Australia, Mr Buzzacott has claimed that Western Mining Corporation’s (‘WMCs’) managing director, Hugh Morgan, is guilty of the genocide of the Arabunna people. The Arabunna are the traditional owners of WMC’s Olympic Dam uranium mine at Roxby Downs near Lake Eyre and it is alleged that the mining operations have caused mental harm amounting to genocide. On 15 April, Justice Margaret Nyland refused to grant an injunction preventing all operations at the mine but reserved her decision on the genocide charge. On the same day, counsel for Mr Buzzacott requested that the two genocide claims to be heard together in the Federal Court. Transfer has been granted.
The AFL is considering extending its racial vilification code, established in 1995, to apply to all club personnel both on and off the field following Sam Newman’s ‘black ‘n white minstrel’ parody of Nicky Winmar the previous week on the Nine Network’s Footy Show. When Newman refused to apologise, Winmar indicated that he would lodge a complaint against him with the Race Discrimination Commissioner. The result of an AFL Tribunal mediation session on 8 April saw the Saints’ Peter Everitt apologise to Melbourne’s Scott Chisolm for racially vilifying him. Everitt imposed a four-game suspension on himself and promised to spend $20,000.00 on an Aboriginal community development project.
Jacqueline Payne became the first Indigenous person to be appointed to a judicial office in Queensland when she accepted the position of Stipendiary Magistrate from the Queensland Government.
The Aboriginal Legal Service presented a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Crime Prevention stating that 52% of Aboriginal youths were physically abused, 85% verbally abused and only one third informed of their rights while in custody. Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington reported that although Aboriginal youths comprise only 4% of the youth population, they account for 20% of juvenile court appearances, and 70% of juveniles in detention.
Sarah Bradley, Queensland’s fourth female judge, took up her position at the Cairns District Court. Ms Bradley is committed to making the courts more accessible to remote and isolated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Queensland’s Court of Appeal found that descendants of Jack Noble and Gary Owens, the two Native Mounted Police trackers who helped capture Ned Kelly in 1879, could revive their ancestors’ claim for reward money owed to them by the Queensland and Victorian Governments. The reward of 50 pounds each is now worth millions of dollars.
Figures released by the Department of Corrective Services show that NSW’s prison population has risen by 11% in the past year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reports that Australia’s national prison population has risen by 8.7% in the past year. In Victoria, the death rate for inmates at Port Philip Men’s Correctional Centre has doubled since its management was tendered to the US company Group 4.
The Victorian Government refused to make public the findings of an independent review of prison procedures at Port Phillip, Beechworth, Metropolitan Women’s Correctional Centre and Melbourne Assessment Prison. The report was commissioned after jail deaths reached a ten-year high in the year to 30 June 1998, in which period thirteen people died.
The Independent Office of the Supervising Scientist (IOSS) released its report on the Jabiluka uranium mine, produced in response to a request to the Federal Government by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The IOSS reports that the Jabiluka uranium mine does not pose any threat to the environment of Kakadu National Park, whose world-heritage status will be decided by UNESCO in June.
Indigenous artist and academic Brenda Croft commenced her five-year tenure as WA Art Gallery’s curator of Aboriginal Art.
The NSW Supreme Court commenced hearing the first NSW Stolen Generations case. Plaintiff Joy Williams is seeking compensation for psychiatric damage and economic loss from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dr Refshauge and the State Government. Ms Williams claims that the physical and mental cruelty she experienced as a result of State Governments’ policies of removing Aboriginal children from their families amount to a breach of fiduciary duty and negligence by the then Aboriginal Welfare Board.
A Commonwealth report, Equity in Higher Education, reveals that tertiary institutions have not increased their enrolment and retention of disadvantaged students despite the extra funding they have received since 1990. Disadvantaged students include those who are: disabled, Aboriginal, from non-English speaking backgrounds, poor, female and from rural and isolated areas.
The Titles Validation Bill 1998 (WA) was passed by the WA Parliament. Premier Richard Court said that his Government would try to introduce further legislation extinguishing native title in the State. (See 4(17) ILB 1999)
In San Diego, Hilary Clinton presented Mirrar women Jacqui Katona and Yvonne Margarula with a $200,000 Goldman Environmental Award for their campaign to stop the Jabiluka Uranium mine.
Beyond Myth, an exhibition of photography and video installation art by Aboriginal artists including Leah King, Destiny Deacon, Brook Andrew, Brenda Croft and Michael Riley will feature in this year’s Venice Biennale.
A NSW Justice Ministry report found that more than half the juvenile offenders on parole in 1997-1998 breached parole conditions. The report suggested that the imposition of harsher penalties and longer sentences on juvenile offenders contributed to the incidence of breach. The report also found that young Indigenous offenders were less likely than others to breach their parole conditions.
Traditional owners of the Ranger Uranium mine in Western Arnhem Land agreed to extend Energy Resources of Australia’s mining lease over the Ranger uranium mine for a further twenty-one years.
The Indigenous Land Corporation purchased 20 hectares of traditional Ngarringdjeri land on Hindmarsh Island. Title to the land will be passed to the Ngarrindjeri community.
Mining company RMG Services Pty Ltd commenced proceedings in SA’s Environment Resources and Development Court seeking $3 million in damages from the traditional owners of Lake Gardiner in the north of SA. people. The company claims that the Aboriginal Land Rights Movement and the Barngala, Biringa and Wirangu people negotiated an agreement with the company in bad faith. Under the terms of the agreement, RMG was given permission to conduct drilling operations on Lake Gardiner subject to the completion of a heritage survey. The subsequent survey found that the lake is spiritually, culturally and historically significant to Aboriginal people.