Indigenous Law Bulletin
compiled by Darren Avalons and Jacqui Houston
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has welcomed the third and final of a series of Senate reports into children who experienced institutional or out-of-home care. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said that ‘Forgotten Australians’ unveils ‘a deep scar in Australia’s history of dealing with its vulnerable children’. The report also makes recommendations, many of which mirror those made in the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report.
The Supreme Court of Western Australia (‘WA’) has handed down a suspended custodial sentence to an Aboriginal woman convicted of manslaughter after considering the inevitability of a tribal punishment yet to be carried out. Acknowledging that Deborah Sturt was unlikely to repeat the offence, Justice Michael Murray noted that she was remorseful and lived in fear of the forthcoming punishment which will be carried out on a relative should she not return to her home region.
Peter Lindsay, Federal Member for Herbert (which covers the Townsville region in Queensland), has announced a youth curfew plan. Mr Lindsay’s ‘12-point plan’ would also introduce on-the-spot fines to parents of children who are found to be unsupervised after dark. He also raised the idea of reducing welfare payments to people deemed to be shirking their parental responsibilities.
Mexican Anthropologist Silvia Gonzalez has asserted that skeletal evidence provides a strong indication that the original inhabitants of the Americas may have come from Australia via Japan and Polynesia. The claim has been made based upon examination of skulls found in Mexico and California which predate those discovered earlier and linked to today’s Native Americans.
Aboriginal elders from WA, Victoria and New South Wales (‘NSW’) will travel to Sweden at the end of this month to take back possession of bones removed from the Kimberley region in WA in the early 1900s. The remains will undergo testing for identification at the National Museum of Australia before being returned to their traditional lands. While scientists in the United Kingdom assert that they would lose research tools of great value to their work if they were to return remains, Sweden have agreed to return 18 boxes of bones and are the first country to make such an agreement with Australian Indigenous peoples.
Justice Tony North has called upon governments to address the funding shortfall for prescribed body corporates (‘PBCs’), Indigenous bodies in which land rights have been recognised. A requirement of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), PBCs frequently find themselves negotiating with mining companies and developers over use of traditional lands despite the absence of financial support.
The Federal Government have announced that they will appeal last month’s Federal Court ruling which overturned ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark’s suspension. The Court found that the Government had acted outside legislative provisions and in a manner that was racially discriminatory. Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway suggested that appeal funds would be better spent on Indigenous programs in need of the financial assistance.
The Indigenous Stock Exchange (‘ISX’) has been awarded the Accenture Economic Development Award and named a 2004 Tech Museum Awards Laureate by the Tech Museum of Innovation in California, United States. Chaired by Gerhardt Pearson, the ISX uses technology to link business people with those who might provide funds, skills and other support.
A collection of 461 Sorry Books, recording the thoughts of more than half a million Australians on the stolen generations, has been listed on the Australian Memory of the World Register as documents of ‘powerful historical and social significance’. Part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (‘UNESCO’) Programme to protect and promote documentary material, the Register aims to provide an insight into Australia and its history through recording milestones and significant events.
Dr Janet Hammill, an Indigenous health academic, has told the International Congress for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect that inadequate medical reporting in Aboriginal communities is manifesting itself as biological genocide with incidences of foetal alcohol syndrome and foetal marijuana syndrome going undiagnosed and/or unreported until late childhood or adolescence.
Museum Victoria has issued a threat of legal action to the Dja Dja Wurrung Native Title Group should they refuse to drop their emergency declaration which prevents two bark etchings and one ceremonial headdress from returning to the British Museum. The Dja Dja Wurrung Group have called on Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings to place a permanent declaration on the artefacts under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth).
Thousands of Native Americans have attended the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, USA. The museum is the result of extensive consultation with Native American tribes with financial support coming from tribes, USA Government and private donations and is run by Indigenous Americans.
Michael Hayden, Aboriginal Young Person of the Year, has told the National Reconciliation Forum in Kalgoorlie, WA that education is an important tool in achieving reconciliation. Mr Hayden told the forum that making Aboriginal history a part of school curricula would improve understanding of Aboriginal culture.
An Aboriginal Liaison Officer with NSW Police has told the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the riot in Redfern on 15 February 2004 that he warned Redfern Police Command of the impending violence and that he has received threats from police officers warning him not to give evidence. The officer, who is not a police officer, has been moved from the area and was not consulted for information during preparation of the Coburn Report, an internal police report into the riot.
Letty Scott, who is taking civil action against the NT Government and the four prison officers on duty the night her husband died in a Darwin cell in 1985 has been told she must pay $200,000 to have her husband’s remains exhumed for another autopsy. The cause of death was previously ruled as a suicide. Expert opinions have been provided in support of the assertion that Douglas Scott was murdered by prison officers.