Indigenous Law Bulletin
compiled by Eugene Quah
The Commonwealth Government has withdrawn the provision in its Indigenous legal service tender scheme which would have allowed legal service providers to refuse legal assistance to Indigenous people with criminal records.
Neville Williams has lodged an appeal in the High Court challenging the rights of Wiradjuri elders to make a deal with Barrick Gold regarding the Lake Cowal gold mine in New South Wales (‘NSW’). Mr Williams is claiming that Wiradjuri elders were not authorised to make the agreement and that some elders have written affidavits that they never authorised the original native title claim, and that their previous affidavits supporting the authority of the original claimant were falsified.
Today is national Aboriginal Children’s Day, promoting the theme ‘Our Childhood, Our Chance’. To mark the day, an Aboriginal family violence kit has been launched aimed at educating families on domestic violence and sexual assault and encouraging safe family environments. The kit contains information to help parents to raise their children safely.
Federal Parliament is considering amending the Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) to prevent prisoners serving terms of three years or more from enrolling to vote. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Prisoner Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2004, if passed, will apply to offenders whose custodial sentences started before the passage of the Bill.
Victoria Park, NSW, tent embassy leader Isabelle Coe has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lord Mayor Clover Moore for the removal of the embassy. The embassy was set up in response to the death of ‘TJ’ Hickey in February 2004. The agreement was rumoured to have been made in return for meetings with key government ministers.
The Western Australia (‘WA’) Government will commence a series of educational advertisements on Aboriginal radio to inform Aboriginal people of their rights in employment, such as rates of pay, leave and sickness benefits. The program has been launched to combat the exploitation of some Indigenous workers who are made vulnerable by a lack of awareness of their rights.
Federal Police will investigate a firebomb attack on the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra. This is the third attack in the past year on the embassy, which was established in 1972. Previous attempts to obtain footage from Old Parliament House security cameras under Freedom of Information laws have been denied.
NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney has stated in response to a Coroner’s report that inconsistent recollections of the circumstances leading to ‘TJ’ Hickey’s death do not amount to lies. Senior Constable Michael Hollingsworth refrained from testifying to the inquest on the grounds that his evidence may lead to disciplinary action. The Coroner found that no adverse inferences could be drawn from the refusal.
Aboriginal groups have commemorated the anniversary of the Wave Hill protest where the Gurundji people walked off Wave Hill cattle station in 1966 in protest against poor working conditions and the loss of their traditional lands. The Northern Territory (‘NT’) Government will use today’s celebrations to hand back two parcels of land to the Kalkaringi and Daguragu people.
NT Administrator, Ted Egan, has admitted that he told Chief Justice Brian Martin that traditional marriage was a custom of cultural importance to the people of Arnhem Land. Mr Egan added that he did not discuss specific laws and therefore did not overstep the separation of powers. At the time of their meeting the Chief Justice was considering the removal of the defence of traditional marriage to charges of sex with a child under the age of 16.
A Senate submission by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has argued that the replacement of ATSIC with an Indigenous advisory board would allow the Government too much power in selecting its composition. The submission argues that a lack of adequate representation may be a breach of Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
NT Attorney-General Peter Toyne has made an historic deal with ATSIC Regional Councils to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in NT prisons. The plan will see support and follow-up assistance provided to prisoners by Aboriginal elders. Other initiatives include the involvement of Aboriginal liaison officers in legal proceedings and family violence programs for Indigenous offenders in prison.
The Maralinga Tjarutja and Pila Nguru people will today celebrate the handover of the Unnamed Conservation Park in South Australia (‘SA’), from which they were forced to move during atomic testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Aboriginal elders Hughie Windlass and Barka Bryant persuaded the British Government to fund a clean-up of the lands some years ago at a cost of $100 million.
An NT Government report has recommended that an alcohol court be established in the Territory, similar to the drug court models used elsewhere. The court would have the power to enforce drinking bans and mandatory treatment and would aim to channel expenditure of money away from alcohol by using vouchers for food, housing and other needs.
Lowitja O’Donoghue and Reverend Tim Costello have been appointed to advise the State Government on how to improve living conditions in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands of SA after the resignation of Lands Administrator Bob Collins. The advisers will focus on petrol sniffing, drug problems and suicide.
Queensland’s Kowanyama Council Chief Executive Officer Bob Sands, has expressed his concern that significant numbers of people are being charged with breaches of the town’s alcohol management plan. Mr Sands has recommended that the strategy be reviewed in light of the fact that the people charged with alcohol offences so far number a significant proportion of the community. He drew attention to the limited access to rehabilitation for people with drinking problems and the likelihood of gaol terms for repeat offenders or those unable to pay their fines.
Indigenous Affairs Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has selected people for the Federal Government’s planned Indigenous advisory council. The Federal Government has stated it will delay disclosure of the appointments because of the current election campaign.