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Lemezina, Zrinka; Johnson, Jane --- "Month in Review" [2009] IndigLawB 33; (2009) 7(13) Indigenous Law Bulletin 30

Month in Review

Complied by Zrinka Lemezina and Jane Johnson.

July 2009

The Productivity Commission today released the Overcoming Disadvantage Report 2009. Gary Banks, chair of the drafting committee, says that while the latest edition contains mixed results, ‘key social indicators have shown little improvement, with a deterioration occurring in areas such as criminal justice.’ PM Kevin Rudd described the Report’s findings as ‘devastating’ and said that ‘we have to redouble and treble our efforts to make an impact.’

NAIDOC Week starts today and runs until 12 July.
The Australian Crime Commission has found no evidence of organised pedophilia in NT Indigenous communities. The finding displaces one of the central claims used by the Howard Government to support its controversial measures under the NT Intervention.

WA’s Aboriginal Health Council wants the State Government to give the Commonwealth greater control over the delivery of regional health services. Darryl Kickett of the Council says that a Commonwealth, State and community partnership is necessary to create regional hubs to provide better access to primary healthcare for Aboriginal people in remote communities.

Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett announced funding for 50 Indigenous heritage projects under the Commonwealth Indigenous Heritage Program.

Brian Brew of Ceduna, SA has been ordered to pay Aboriginal woman Marjorie Strickland $12,000 in compensation for refusing to provide her accommodation at his motel in December 2007. The Equal Opportunity Tribunal also ordered Mr Brew to publish an apology in five newspapers and required both him and his staff to complete cultural awareness training.

Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, today released a 10-year draft management plan for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, indicating that ‘for visitor safety, cultural and environmental reasons’, the Uluru climb will eventually be closed. Parks Australia expects that people will be able to continue to climb for two more years while the draft plan is formalised.
The NSW Government is facing criticism for failing to proceed with necessary clean-up of asbestos in the Aboriginal community at Wallaga Lake, near Bermagui.

The Australian Institute of Criminology reports that Aboriginal youth in NSW are nearly 26 times more likely to be jailed than their non-Indigenous peers.

Professor Larissa Behrendt was announced as the 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year; Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue was a granted a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, announced approval for the Four Mile Mine, 550km north of Adelaide. Adnyamathanha elders want the Federal Government to defer the decision until an independent Aboriginal heritage investigation has been completed and argues that approval breaches the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA).

Every state school in Queensland will teach Indigenous culture under the Closing the Gap Education Strategy. Executive Director of the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute, Chris Sarra says that the initiative is a ‘seismic shift’ and ‘signals the end of low expectations for Indigenous students’.

WA Racing and Gaming Minister, Terry Waldron, today announced that the Aboriginal communities of Noonkanbah and Juwurlinji will be declared restricted areas under s 175 of the Liquor Control Act 1988 (WA). From July 25 it will be an offence to sell, supply, possess or bring liquor into either community.

NSW Police launched the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program to steer ‘at risk’ young people living in Redfern away from crime. The program incorporates a range of strategies, including early intervention, developmental crime prevention, positive relationships, support networking and behavioural workshops. It covers key areas including family violence, health and fitness, substance abuse and the effect crime has on victims.

Ronald Mitchell of Warburton, WA caught alight when police used a Taser on him after responding to reports of petrol sniffing. Mr Mitchell received third degree burns to 10% of his body and was airlifted to hospital for burns treatment.

The Victor family of Beagle Bay, Broome held a community suicide summit after three of their brothers committed suicide between 1999 and 2002. Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, Wayne Martin CJ of the WA Supreme Court, WA Coroner Alistair Hope and Acting Premier and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Kim Hames were in attendance.

Chief Justice Brian Martin of the NT Supreme Court says that a message needs to be sent to Aboriginal communities that it is unacceptable to harass children who report sexual abuse. Addressing the offender, Martin CJ said ‘you and everyone in this Aboriginal community and in other Aboriginal communities must learn to understand that the only person at fault is you and offenders like you. There is no fault attached to the child. This child did not bring shame to herself or anyone’.

Palm Island Mayor, Alf Lacey wants to see the introduction of a compulsory ‘black card’ to prove that visiting Government officials have sufficient understanding of Indigenous culture.
August 2009

The Martidja Banyjima people of Pilbara, WA are challenging BHP Billiton about leases covering their traditional land. The Mining Warden is expected to take several months to release his decision.

A discussion paper containing plans for how Australian laws can protect Indigenous heritage was released for public comment today, see <>.

NT Indigenous Policy Minister, Alison Anderson, resigned from the Labor Party due to dissatisfaction with the Government’s poor handling of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (‘SIHIP’). Notwithstanding the allocation of $672 million towards the development project, no houses have been built in Indigenous communities in two years.

The Federal Court granted an interim injunction preventing the Commonwealth Government from carrying out compulsory acquisition of town camps in Alice Springs until a full hearing at the end of August. Goldberg J held that affected communities had been denied procedural fairness and had not been given a proper opportunity to make submissions to the Minister, Jenny Macklin.

The NT Garma festival, a celebration of Yolgnu culture, begins today and continues until 11 August.

Today is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

Federal Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, today announced a National Indigenous Languages Policy, aimed at preserving and supporting the continuation of Indigenous languages.

WA Indigenous Affairs Minister, Kim Hames today announced the 12 members of the State Aboriginal Advisory Council. The Council will provide independent guidance and advice to the WA State Government on Indigenous issues.

The WA Government today withdrew its appeal against the 2006 Federal Court native title determination in favour of the Yawuru. Traditional owners and Premier Colin Barnett both welcomed the move as a step forward.

The Federal Government has told the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination that compensation payments will be made to communities that were taken over as part of the NT Intervention (backdated to 2007) and that the Racial Discrimination Act 1974 (Cth) will be reinstated.

The Federal Government today released a discussion paper on proposed amendments to the Native Title Act (Native Title Act 1993), focussing on the construction of public housing and infrastructure in Indigenous communities. The paper is available at <> .

NT Chief Minister, Paul Henderson today survived a ‘no confidence’ motion by one vote and agreed to submit the SIHIP to new supervision by a cross-party council.

UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Human Rights, Professor James Anaya, started a 12 day tour to report on remote Aboriginal communities, the legality of the NT Intervention and human rights concerns.


Jim Davidson, employed by the joint program managers of the SIHIP, Parsons Brinckerhoff, was removed from his position today. Mr Davidson was the consultant who warned that the program might deliver as few as 300 new houses to Indigenous communities and that 70% of the funds were likely to be spent on consultants’ fees, travel costs and administration.
Former Governor General, Sir William Dean, opened the official launch of the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit at the University of New South Wales. Head of the Unit, Professor Patrick Dodson, gave a speech about the importance of nation building in contemporary Australia.

The Bangarra Dance Theatre, celebrating its 20th anniversary and three Helpmann Awards, today started its national tour, Fire – A Retrospective at the Sydney Opera House.

Amendments to the NT’s Care and Protection of Children Act passed today mean that it will no longer be mandatory for health practitioners to report sexual activity in adolescents aged 14 or 15 years where their partners are no more than two years apart from them in age.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, announced that the consultation and submission period for the planned acquisition of town camps in Alice Springs has been extended until 27 October.

British auction house Sotheby’s removed from sale the busts of Tasmania’s Woureddy and Truganini, after strong protests about the depiction of these figures as the last ‘full-blood’ Aboriginal Tasmanians.

The NSW Ombudsman’s Office will investigate whether the removal of 40 Indigenous children from their families in Lightning Ridge was carried out in accordance with child protection legislation. Official figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show there are now more than 9000 Indigenous children in state care. Indigenous communities in NSW and Qld describe the current rates of removal – 4316 and 2085 respectively – as creating a ‘new Stolen Generation’.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, today announced the proposed model for a new National Indigenous Representative Body. Commissioner Calma said that the new body would perform advisory functions and would set a ‘benchmark for ethical conduct and gender equality.’

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