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Houston, Jacqui --- "Recent Happenings" [2004] IndigLawB 78; (2004) 6(7) Indigenous Law Bulletin 24

Recent Happenings November 2004

compiled by Jacqui Houston

1 November

The Port Augusta Chamber of Commerce in South Australia has put forward a proposal to ban unaccompanied children from shops in the area during school hours. The Chamber of Commerce believes the ban would curb the rate of shoplifting, which they link to truancy.

5 November

The Cape York Land Council (‘CYLC’) in Queensland says that BHP Billiton made an offer of an upfront payment to traditional owners in exchange for them not accompanying BHP Billiton employees on cultural heritage surveys. BHP Billiton denies the claim. Significantly, in Queensland, Indigenous groups have a period of four months to complete negotiations before the State Government’s ‘native title protection conditions’ take over the agreement-making process.

11 November

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (‘TSRA’) have acknowledged a finding that more dugongs are being killed than is sustainable for the species’ survival and say that they will work to find a solution. The federal Minister for Fisheries has stated that an assessment of traditional harvesting will now take place under the guidance of environmental laws. TSRA have recommended that Papua New Guinea be included in any Government plan as their fishermen share a border with Torres Strait Islanders and also hunt the dugong.

11 November

The Australian Federal Police have raided the offices of the National Indigenous Times after the paper revealed via the Australian Financial Review the Federal Government’s plan to reform Indigenous welfare by introducing behaviour modification provisions to payments. Payments would be tied to school attendance and child health checks and it was also revealed that repairs to public housing would only be carried out if the resident children regularly attend school. ‘Smartcards’ were also proposed to control purchases via electronic limitations. Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Calma, expressed concern at the plan which restricts access to services for one sector of the community, as defined by race.

16 November

A motion to extend until March 2005 the Inquiry into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (‘ATSIC’) has been put to Parliament. The Senate Committee was to report by 31 October 2004.

15 November

The New Zealand Government has confirmed that it plans to push legislation through Parliament this week in order to assert Crown ownership over the foreshore and seabed not currently owned privately. The bill, which was initially planned for a final reading close to the end of 2004, would see one million acres of Maori-owned foreshore and seabed taken by the Government. The Government refused to discuss changes to the bill until after Cabinet and caucus signed off on them although it is believed that changes include a removal of the concept of ‘ancestral connection’ and detail the requirements for demonstrating existing customary title.

17 November

The Tasmanian Government has deferred debate on the Aboriginal Lands Amendment Bill 2004 after fears that the legislation to hand back land would be defeated in the Upper House. The Bill will be debated in 2005 after greater consultation to ensure community support for the return of the land.

17 November

The Australian Democrats have put forward a motion calling for an Indigenous welcome at the opening of Federal Parliament. Previously, a parliamentary committee made a recommendation for such a welcome, yet it was refused by the Government.

19 November

A parliamentary report has found that the Western Australian Premier’s decision to shut down the Swan Valley Nyungah community camp was based on misleading advice from the Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Community Development. Both Departments had alleged that they could no longer do anything to help members of the camp at Lockridge following allegations of sexual abuse and a death. The report found that no one from the Department of Community Development even visited the camp before making the statement.

22 November

The Central Australian Youth Link Up Service in Northern Territory has called on the Federal Government to expand the subsidy for a new petrol variant which is unattractive to petrol-sniffers. The youth service has proposed that the government subsidy apply to all roadhouses within 30 kilometres of communities with petrol-sniffing problems. Current prices ensure that roadhouse operators will not switch to the Opal Unleaded fuel without government assistance.

22 November

Former AFL footballer Michael Long has started a walk from Melbourne to Canberra to meet with Prime Minister John Howard and to draw attention to the need for Indigenous representation and leadership in Australia. He hopes to reach Canberra in the first days of December and to meet with Mr Howard at that time. ‘[w]e need to be back on the agenda in Australia.’

24 November

Former Supreme Court Judge David Jackson QC has advised Commissioners of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (‘ATSIC’) that they may be successful if they take their challenge to the Federal Government’s creation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (‘ATSIS’) to the High Court. The advice suggests that the creation of ATSIS to take over the administrative and funding duties of ATSIC was in breach of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 (Cth).

24 November

The Dja Dja Wurrung group in Victoria have removed their exhibition ‘Blud in the Ground’ from the Museum Victoria amid claims the museum breached the exhibition agreement and desecrated the exhibition space. The agreement has assured that no functions serving alcohol would be held in the exhibition space while it remained open. The group later learned that the museum has held a number of functions in the space over the exhibition period.

27 November

The Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission is investigating the death in custody of a 36-year-old man on Palm Island. The man was arrested on the morning of 19 November for causing a public nuisance and was later found by police in a watch-house cell. Large numbers of the Aboriginal community rioted after learning that the post-mortem examination had revealed that the man died from having had four ribs broken which ruptured his liver.

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