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Houston, Jacqui --- "Recent Happenings May 2008" [2008] IndigLawB 25; (2008) 7(5) Indigenous Law Bulletin 28

Recent Happenings May 2008

compiled by Jacqui Houston

2 May

Ceduna woman, Kerry Colbung, has been appointed head of the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council. Ms Colbung says the Council will complement the role of the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement in South Australia (‘SA’) and will ‘provide honest, fearless and reflective representation on behalf of Aboriginal people across the State.’

2 May

The full bench of the Federal Court has upheld a 2006 ruling on native title in Broome, Western Australia (‘WA’). The State Government made the appeal against the earlier ruling, however it has welcomed today’s decision, stating that the appeal had sought clarification of principle only.

5 May

The US-based Indigenous Environment Network has joined a number of indigenous organisations protesting the United Nations’ support for carbon trading schemes as a method of addressing climate change. At the heart of current protests is the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which concluded its seventh session with a statement that the World Bank had provided ‘good examples’ of partnerships with indigenous peoples in developing strategies to deal with climate change concerns.

6 May

Barrister George Villaflor has ended confidential ‘case management’ between his client, the Ngunawal people, and the Australian Capital Territory (‘ACT’) Government because of a ‘lack of good faith’. Mr Villaflor says that the ACT Government has released vacant crown land (‘greenfields’ in the ACT) for development, in contravention of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The question of whether the Government acted within its power will now go to the Federal Court.

7 May

Ted Mullighan, the former Supreme Court judge tasked with inquiring into child sexual abuse on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, SA, has denied that a Northern Territory-style intervention would be appropriate. The report made 46 recommendations yet emphasised that such changes should be made in partnership with the APY peoples rather than imposed upon them.

12 May

Northern Territory (‘NT’) Coroner Greg Cavanah has ruled that a 12-year-old boy died in Hermannsburg in 2007 as a result of sniffing Opal – ‘unsniffable’ fuel. Coroner Cavanah recommended that the NT and Federal Governments, and fuel producer BP, no longer promote Opal as ‘harmless’. BP says that it will review promotion however states that it has always advised that Opal is a volatile substance.

13 May

The Australian Crime Commission (‘ACC’) says that its investigators have used their powers to coerce people to give evidence in child abuse matters. The powers, granted in February, gave the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Task Force the power to summon documents and force witnesses to give evidence to investigators. CEO of the ACC, Alistair Milroy, says that investigations have been carried out with cultural sensitivity.

13 May

The Queensland Government has agreed to amend the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Amendment Bill debated in Parliament today. The amendments relate to concerns by the Opposition that the Bill, as it stood, would provide an opportunity for the Government to acquire land and sell it to a third party without the land owner’s consent. In light of this change, the Bill passed.

14 May

A combined total of 24 Indigenous Land Use Agreements have been signed between the SA Government, 19 pastoralists and the Barngarla and Kokatha peoples. In what is the largest native title agreement in South Australia’s history, the agreements cover part of the Gawler Ranges region.

19 May

The New South Wales (‘NSW’) Attorney-General has announced a trial of the Care Circles scheme on the south coast. The scheme will see a care plan drafted by a magistrate of the Children’s Court in consultation with Aboriginal community members, caseworkers from the NSW Department of Community Services, and the family of the relevant child. According to Mr Hatzistergos, the ‘Care Circles program brings respected Aboriginal community members into the decision-making process to enable appropriate outcomes.’

20 May

A Regional Partnership Agreement (‘RPA’) has been signed today between the Commonwealth Government, the NT Government and the Anindilyakwa Land Council. The RPA follows a decision by Traditional Owners to grant 40-year leases over land in the communities of Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra. The leases have an option of renewal for another 40 years. As a result of the agreement, 26 new houses will be built and a construction company will be established in the region, among other activities.

22 May

Traditional Owners on Melville and Bathurst Islands in the Tiwi Islands have voted on a proposal to deny royalty payments from industry to families who fail to send their children to school at least 80 per cent of the time. Following endorsement of the proposal by the Tiwi Land Council, five schools in the region have been contacted to request their cooperation.

28 May

The Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association has expressed concerns that the standoff between the Tasmanian Government and Southern Shipping will leave its residents without food. Southern Shipping cancelled a barge delivery yesterday containing food and fuel because it says the State Government owes it $70,000. The Government states that the company has ignored contract stipulations of monthly visits by sending barges once a fortnight.

28 May

The SA Government has moved ahead with its plans to bypass the APY Lands Council by signing an agreement with the Amata community for the provision of new houses, and repairs for existing ones. The community’s land will be leased to the State Government for 50 years under the agreement. The Government will continue to negotiate with other communities on the APY Lands individually.

28 May

Research by the Aboriginal Resource and Development Service has found that the vast majority of Yolngu people do not understand common legal terms. The research found that 95 per cent did not understand the meaning of words such as bail, consent, and charge. It also found that 68 per cent of interpreters used in the community did not understand the terms either.

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