Indigenous Law Bulletin
Compiled by Lochie Harris.
Robert Manne, in an essay entitled ‘In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right’ (appearing in the first issue of The Australian Quarterly Essay), argues that a small group of conservative columnists dominate the debate about the Bringing Them Home Report. Manne strongly criticises the few sources that all of these columnists collectively rely on.
Research conducted by the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has found that ‘hostility to Aborigines’ is a major defining political opinion of One Nation supporters.
The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Research claimed that the number of Aboriginals in custody in New South Wales would be halved if prison terms of less than six months were abolished.
Statistics compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that the rate of removal of Aboriginal children from their homes has increased nationally by 33% since 1997, when the Bringing Them Home Report was published, compared to a 9% increase for non-Indigenous children. Indigenous children are 12 times more likely to be removed from their homes than non-Indigenous children.
The National Tertiary Education Union blamed Federal Government budgetary cuts to Abstudy for a 15% decrease in the number of Indigenous students commencing higher education last year and an 8% decrease in tertiary retention rates.
Ten years and $500 million after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its findings the Federal and State Governments have failed to implement most of the Commission’s 339 recommendations, according to ATSIC Chairman Geoff Clark. The failure to decriminalise public drunkenness in many jurisdictions is highlighted as one of the most glaring omissions.
Peter Nugent, Liberal Party member for the federal seat of Aston died, aged 63. Mr Nugent served on the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation for six years and was a tireless human rights advocate for all Australians.
An agreement between the Ngunawal Land Council and the ACT government will see traditional owners become joint managers of the 160,000 ha Namadgi National Park. The deal extinguishes all native title claims in the ACT, however Aboriginal groups not party to the agreement are continuing native title claims over parts of the ACT in the Federal Court.
West Australian Attorney-General James McGinty called for legislation incorporating traditional Aboriginal punishment into the state’s legal system. The Western Australian Law Reform Commission is expected to complete an inquiry into Aboriginal customary laws next year.
150 members of the Birri tribe in far north Queensland have negotiated an out-of-court settlement with a Queensland gold mining company before the completion of their native title claim, which is still before the Federal Court. The confidential settlement will help the Birri tribe achieve ‘independence and the chance to stand up for themselves,’ according to a spokesperson.
Peter Gunner and Lorna Cubillo lost their appeals to the full Federal Court against the decision of a single judge in the Federal Court dismissing their claim for damages arising from their removal from their families as children. The Federal Government estimates that it will have spent $116 million dealing with issues surrounding the Stolen Generations by 2006.
The Koori Mail, national Indigenous newspaper, celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The Kaurareg people were recognised by the Federal Court as the native title-holders of the Prince of Wales chain of islands in Torres Strait. Five consent determinations and three Indigenous Land Use Agreements are the outcome of five years negotiation between the native title claimants and others who have interests in their traditional lands.
The federal budget allocated $2.39 billion to Indigenous specific programs. The main focus of the programs was to improve health and reduce welfare dependence in Indigenous communities.
Uluru reopened to climbers after a ten-day closure. The popular tourist destination was closed to climbers as a mark of respect after the death of a senior traditional owner. It is against the wishes of Uluru’s traditional owners that tourists climb Uluru at all.
National Sorry Day was marked with marches and protests throughout the nation.