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Houston, Jacqui --- "Recent Happenings January 2008" [2008] IndigLawB 9; (2008) 7(2) Indigenous Law Bulletin 28

Recent Happenings January 2008

compiled by Jacqui Houston

4 January

Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne says that Aboriginal townships on Cape York that have no prospects of economic viability and display signs of being dysfunctional should be closed down. Mr Byrne suggests forcibly closing towns, as opposed to introducing alcohol bans, and moving Aboriginal people to other established townships.

7 January

Marion Scrymgour has today become the first Aboriginal government leader in Australia’s history. With Northern Territory (‘NT’) Chief Minister Paul Henderson on two weeks’ leave, Ms Scrymgour will act as Chief Minister for this time.

9 January

The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions (‘DPP’) has refused to respond to claims by lawyer Steve Carter that he was instructed by senior staff to request alternatives to gaol sentences for nine Aboriginal males charged with the gang rape of a child. DPP Leanne Clare asserted earlier this week that her investigation panel had found that Mr Carter acted alone in requesting non-custodial penalties.

11 January

An urgent injunction obtained in the New South Wales (‘NSW’) Land and Environment Court has put a stop to development work on the north coast. The injunction alleges the developer has breached the conditions of the application, including the approval of a cultural heritage management plan. Aboriginal Elders, Susan and Douglas Anderson, first challenged the development in 2006 to protect Aboriginal middens on the site.

12 January

A Murri Court has been officially opened today in Cairns, Queensland. Via the court, the Cairns Community Justice Group will work with offenders and agencies to develop strategies for rehabilitation. Manager of the Community Justice Group, Bob Colless, said that the Murri Court is ‘labour intensive’ and aims to break ‘the cycle for a lot of … offenders.’

15 January

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has today confirmed that the Government will not renew the contracts of the National Indigenous Council (‘NIC’), which expired 31 December 2007. Ms Macklin thanked the NIC for its work under the former Federal Government but added, ‘I believe the interests of Indigenous people would be better served through a different approach’. Discussions have been initiated with a view to developing a new representative body.

15 January

After reviewing a number of loans granted by the National Australia Bank to Indigenous people in the Torres Strait, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has prompted the bank to reform its lending practices. The bank says that it will now ensure that borrowers are appropriately and sufficiently informed about loans. The higher living costs of remote Australia will be taken into account when assessing loan eligibility.

15 January

A research paper by the Western Australian Department of Water says that water in some Aboriginal communities is so high in heavy metals and toxins that it is not safe to drink. More than 50 per cent of Aboriginal communities in the State do not have their drinking water monitored.

17 January

The skull of an Aboriginal man will be returned to Tasmania by the Museum of Scotland. The Museum’s archives have held the skull for over 100 years, along with a collection of Maori remains that are to be returned to the National Museum of New Zealand.

18 January

After meeting with the NT Emergency Intervention Taskforce, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has confirmed that she is seeking departmental advice on reinstating the permit system set to be abolished next month. Journalists and contractors will however be exempt from the entry restrictions.

18 January

The Youth Link-Up Service in Alice Springs, NT, is calling for a change to school hours to address problems with late-night offending. Blair McFarland says that teenagers would be more engaged and alert if school started in the afternoon. He compared the plan to that of the Mt Theo Program in Yuendumu which found success with night school running from 6pm.

22 January

Owing to the ‘enormity’ of feuds between rival gangs in the NT community of Wadeye, Magistrate Melanie Little has refused to hold a community court in the town where five men are to face charges of violence. Community courts were due to commence in Wadeye this year but Magistrate Little is concerned that the appearance of the men may incite further violence.

22 January

Tasmania has finalised its compensation of members of the stolen generation. The scheme will compensate 106 claimants – 22 of whom are children of Aboriginal people who were removed from their families and are now deceased. Premier Paul Lennon has called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to establish a federal compensation fund: ‘Making these payments does not mean our job is done and reconciliation is complete.’

25 January

Klynton Wanganeen has been appointed to the role of Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement and will head a new Aboriginal advisory council to the South Australian (‘SA’) Government. Nominations for council members are currently being received from Aboriginal people in SA with appointments to be made by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jay Weatherill. Mr Wanganeen says that he will ensure that the voices of Aboriginal people in SA are heard.

28 January

In response to an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, United Financial Services Queensland (‘UFSQ’) has paid $98,000 to the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (‘ICAN’). UFSQ was investigated over loans it provided to Indigenous borrowers and the findings were that many borrowers’ incomes were insufficient to meet repayments. ICAN will use the funds to enhance its outreach services.

28 January

A former chairman of the Aboriginal community of Warburton in Western Australia has died after collapsing in the back of a security van. The 46-year-old man was being taken on a 915km journey to gaol in Kalgoorlie-Boulder after being arrested for alleged drink-driving.

29 January

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed that he will give a formal apology to the stolen generations during Parliament’s first sitting. The Prime Minister also confirmed once more that he will not establish a fund to compensate members of the stolen generations: ‘The intention [of the apology] is to build this bridge of respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.’

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