Indigenous Law Bulletin
Compiled by Rosemary Grey and Catherine Hunter
To the devastation of the local Indigenous people, Western Australia’s Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Michelle Roberts, has given Woodside Energy the green light for a gas project on the Burrup Peninsula, the site of significant Aboriginal rock art. The Indigenous traditional owners do not share Roberts’ confidence that the agreement provides adequate protection.
At the request of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (‘TAC’), Victoria’s State Museum has returned Indigenous remains it was holding to the families, and apologised for cultural insensitivity in taking possession of the remains in the early 1900s.
The State Government of Western Australia has announced changes to its child protection system including the introduction of mandatory reporting of child sexual assault. Critics argue that the changes do not go far enough, and that mandatory reporting should include physical and psychological abuse as well as sexual abuse.
A triumph for the Githabul people in NSW, with the settlement of the largest land use agreement in New South Wales to date. The agreement gives the Githabul people joint management over 112,000 hectares of national park and state forests in the north of the State. A Githabul spokesman expressed a hope that a similar agreement could be reached with the Queensland Government.
A report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers calls for publicly-funded housing to be constructed only in built-up areas with access to services such as schools and hospitals and describes the Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (‘CHIP’) as vulnerable to mismanagement and nepotism. It backs the Federal Government’s call for private home ownership.
In response to recent high-profile investigations into deaths in custody in Queensland, the Caxton Legal Centre has recommended a new system for dealing with complaints of police violence. The current system involves complaints of police assault and deaths in custody being handled by the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (‘CMC’), the majority of whom were seconded police officers or former police officers, and in which some investigations were being undertaken by the police service. Under the proposal, investigations into police violence would be handled by a new independent body. The Beattie Government is considering the proposal.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, has said that Indigenous Australians should not be blamed for the mismanagement of the Federal Government’s Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (‘CHIP’). Mr Calma welcomed the Review of the CHIP by PricewaterhouseCoopers, but said that decades of mismanagement and neglect by governments in relation to housing was as much to blame as Indigenous organisations. Mr Calma said that changes to the system should involve policies based on sound, tested research and should result in more adequate housing for Indigenous Australians.
The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, has introduced a federal body to fast-track the transfer of traditional land to private home-ownership in the Northern Territory. The Federal Government had amended the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976 last year to allow for the transfer of land to individual home ownership. Formerly, private home ownership in the Northern Territory was only legally possible on collectively-owned Aboriginal land. However, Mr Brough said the Northern Territory Government had not established a body to enable the transfer of leases, so Mr Brough had introduced a Federal body to undertake this. The Minister’s action was possible in this case because of the Northern Territory’s status as a territory.
The Queensland Supreme Court has set 12 June as the date Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley will face court on charges of manslaughter and assault relating to the death of the Mulrunji on Palm Island in 2004.
Sydney-siders had the privilege of attending a dusk Smoking Ceremony as part of the celebrations marking the 75th Anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The moving event, directed by Stephen Page of the Bangarra Dance Theatre and cultural consultant Phillipa McDermott, celebrated the contribution of Indigenous peoples to Australian culture.
Northern Territory Chief Minister, Clare Martin, agreed to join with the Australian Medical Association (‘AMA’) in pressuring the Federal Government to provide more GPs. The agreement came in response to events earlier in the month when the AMA accused the Northern Territory Government of incompetence and complacency in its handling of health care; particularly regarding health care for the Indigenous population.
Four Indigenous men, on trial in the Brisbane District Court for their involvement in the riots which broke out on Palm Island in 2004 following the death in custody of Mulrunji, were today acquitted.
As part of a plan to address substance abuse problems in Alice Springs, the Federal Government is funding a program to replace petrol with non-sniffable Opal fuel in the town. Young people whose lives have been improved by the program shared their stories in an Indigenous youth film festival put on by the Tangentyere Council and Central Australian Youth Link Up Services.
In the District Court of South Australia, a former preacher and schoolmaster at the Finniss Springs United Aboriginal Mission received a six-year sentence for sexual abuse of a girl at the Mission in the 1950s.
After entering mediation to resolve its dispute with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (‘TAC’) over the future of the remains in the Museum’s possession earlier this month, London’s Natural History Museum has returned some of the Aboriginal remains in its possession.
Indigenous Australians continue to be overrepresented in the juvenile justice system, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Although there has been a drop of 13 per cent in the last four years, 42.3 in every 1000 Indigenous young people are under juvenile justice supervision, compared to 2.9 in every 1000 amongst non-Indigenous young people.