Indigenous Law Bulletin
compiled by Senthorun Sunil Raj, Naomi Oreb, Aileen Fu, William Wang and Jacqui Houston
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has granted $5.5 million to claimant representative bodies in the northern Pilbara region of Western Australia (‘WA’). The funds are allocated to the writing of reports to record Aboriginal links to the region. The reports will be submitted to the State Government to progress the determination of native title claims.
Dr John Boffa of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress has rejected a call by two sexual health experts for blanket treatment of sexually transmitted infections (‘STIs’) for all Indigenous people in remote Australia. The plan would see treatment for the most prevalent STIs given to all Indigenous people in areas where the STI rate is over 10 per cent of the population. Health Minister Nicola Roxon has asked her department to investigate the proposal.
The Federal Government has told the North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Legal Service that it will not renew its funding contract. The Brisbane-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service will become the ‘core service’ for Queensland. Numerous complaints have been voiced about the decision, with most concerns regarding the capacity for a Brisbane-based service to effectively meet the legal needs of Indigenous people across the vast State.
The Federal Court in Darwin has found that EDirect (trading as VIPtel Mobile) misleadingly sold mobile phones to customers in remote and rural areas that did not receive network coverage. In an action brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, EDirect was ordered to issue refunds to 152 customers and allow them to cancel their mobile phone contracts without penalty.
Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson offered their apologies to the Stolen Generation in Parliament today. Mr Rudd offered a personal apology as Prime Minister and also apologised on behalf of the Government and the Parliament. (See the text of the apology earlier in this edition.) At least six Liberal MPs and senators boycotted the apology. Parliament standing orders precluded an Indigenous representative from responding to the apologies.
Brisbane Magistrate Walter Ehrich has been criticised for releasing an Indigenous man on bail without reporting conditions, after telling the court that ‘Aborigines don’t report’. Mr Ehrich said that to put reporting conditions on the bail of an Indigenous accused is ‘set[ting] them up to fail’.
The Eringa and Wangkanguru peoples have reached an agreement with the South Australian Government to resolve their native title claim and avoid litigation. The Department for Environment and Heritage will join the claimants in coming months in seeking approval of the final agreement by the Federal Court.
WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty says that the Government is considering a report which provides a whole of government response to the shortage of Aboriginal interpreters in the legal and health systems. Mr McGinty says that addressing the dire shortage of interpreters in the State still remains a priority after his November 2006 promise to resolve the problem.
WA Coroner Alistair Hope has released the report of his inquiry into the deaths of 22 Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region. The report contains 27 recommendations including welfare income quarantining and management; a voucher system of some welfare payments; expansion of the areas covered by the current ban on takeaway full-strength alcohol in Fitzroy Crossing and a continuation of the Community Development Employment Project (‘CDEP’) scheme.
The WA Department of Corrective Services review of prisoner transport has today been tabled in Parliament. The review follows the 27 January death of an Aboriginal Elder who was being transported a considerable distance in the back of a prison van. Containing 18 recommendations, the review covers issues including roadworthiness checks on transport vehicles and facilities for monitoring cabin temperature. The roadworthiness checks will be in place by 31 May 2008 but an earlier date has been set for health assessments of prisoners prior to transport.
‘Banking for the Future’, a report on financial literacy among Indigenous Australians, has been launched today, pointing out the difficulties Indigenous people in remote communities face when banking, such as meeting identification requirements to open an account, providing proof of a permanent address and accessing services. The report forms the basis of a plan of action by four major banks, credit unions and building societies to better meet the banking needs of Indigenous people in Australia.
The Northern Territory Supreme Court has gaoled a 19-year-old man who had sex with his 13-year-old promised wife. Justice Sally Thomas sentenced the man to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended after three months.
An Indigenous Land Use Agreement has been signed in Queensland between Toowoomba City Council and the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul peoples. The agreement covers the Battle of One Tree Hill site and recognises traditional ownership whilst also covering issues such as co-management of the Tabletop Bushland Reserve and resolution of the native title claim.
The South Australian Government is lodging an appeal against the decision of the South Australian Supreme Court to award compensation to Bruce Trevorrow, one of the Stolen Generations. State Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says that the appeal will request clarification on points of law and does not seek to deny the payment of damages or interest. Neil Gillespie from the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement says that the Government should instead be formulating a compensation scheme so that claimants needn’t endure drawn-out litigation procedures.
The Federal Government has refused a call from the Law Council of Australia to reinstate the provisions which allowed for consideration of customary law in bail and sentencing matters. A spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says that the Government supported the removal of such considerations while it was in Opposition and continues to do so.