Indigenous Law Bulletin
by Libby Gunn and Carl D’Souza
Twelve Howard government MPs, led by Local Government Minister Wilson Tuckey, provoked outrage by suggesting in a submission to the Government's ATSIC review that Indigenous people find it hard to manage public money because of their culture. Tuckey said, ‘The fundamentals of Aboriginal culture create significant difficulties for Aboriginal people to administer public monies in the fair and prudential fashion required by Australian taxpayers’. He urged a radical overhaul of how funding is distributed to Indigenous communities. Indigenous leaders said that the comments were offensive and ludicrous.
A study conducted by Monash University into remote ‘bush courts’ in the Northern Territory was presented to the Australian Institute of Criminology at a conference in Townsville. Lawyer Natalie Siegel found that there is virtually no access to interpreters in the remote courts, and that Aboriginal people are pleading guilty to crimes when innocent because they do not know what is happening to them. The ‘bush courts’ involve magistrates and lawyers traveling to very remote Aboriginal communities to deal with all cases, up to 100 in one day. Defence solicitors are given as little as five minutes with each client.
The Aboriginal Child Care Agency in Alice Springs has begun a Youth Night Patrol. The service will run from 8:00pm until 3:30am from Tuesday to Saturday. The Agency says that the youth night patrol is picking up an average of 30 children off the streets every night. The Agency's Eddie Taylor says the Patrol will help link the children and their
families with other services in the town.
ATSIC will not fund an appeal to the High Court by Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira, who was convicted of unlawful sex with his underage bride, who was promised to him under customary law. ATSIC Chairman Lionel Quartermain said that ATSIC supports customary law, however, they have a policy on domestic violence that the rights of children and women come first. Funding the appeal would contradict this policy. ATSIC has indicated that Pascoe can seek funding from other sources such as Legal Aid.
The Youth Affairs Council of WA (‘YAC’) is preparing to put its case against the WA Government's newly introduced Northbridge youth curfew to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (‘HREOC’). The YAC argue that the curfew discriminates on the basis of age and race and breaches the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The curfew started on 28 June and involves the banning from the streets of Northbridge in Perth of unsupervised under-12-year-olds after dark, and teenagers aged between 13-15 after 10pm. Youth under 18 who are misbehaving, engaging in offensive behaviour, affected by drugs or alcohol, soliciting or begging have also been targeted. Department for Community Development figures show about 84 percent, or 134 of the 159 youths apprehended, were Aboriginal. Deaths in Custody Watch Committee Executive Officer Paul Delphin said the statistics proved the policy was racist and urged parents of detained children to seek legal advice.
After pressure from local Aboriginal groups, two north Queensland creeks have been renamed. Previously Nigger Creek and North Nigger Creek, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines renamed the creeks Wondecla and North Wondecla. Heberton Council in far north Queensland has expressed the opinion that such renaming represents a ‘white-washing’ of history, and that although the original names reflect aspects of our history which are ‘unacceptable today’ the names should not have been changed.
Aboriginal artists, whose works were resold by Sotheby’s for more than $1 million in Sydney, will not receive any of the money raised. Australian law does not recognise an artist’s right to receive a royalty from the resale of their works. Senator Aden Ridgeway said the Federal Government should look at legislation for resale royalty rights.
Perth police are refusing to implement the Gallop Government's Northbridge youth curfew, claiming it has no basis in law and leaves them open to legal action.
New statistics compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare have painted a damning picture of the failure to improve Indigenous health. Indigenous females are 28 times more likely than other females to be admitted to hospital through being injured in an assault. Indigenous people live an average of 20 years less than other Australians. Indigenous males live on average to just 56 years of age and females to 63. The Aboriginal female death rate from assault is between seven and 13 times greater, depending on the age group, than for non-Aboriginal
women, while the male rate is six to 22 times higher. The report shows that Indigenous adults are less likely to consume alcohol than non-Indigenous adults. Only 42 percent reported drinking any alcohol in the week before being interviewed, compared to 62 percent in the general population. However, Aborigines who drink are far more likely to consume at hazardous levels, with 29 percent reporting risky drinking versus 17 percent of others. The report also shows that Aboriginal households' average incomes are 62 percent of other households, 43 percent of the juveniles in detention are Indigenous, and the Aboriginal diabetes rate is 11 percent compared to 3 percent for others.