Amnesty International: Australia Violating Rights of Aboriginals

New Tang Dynasty Television | November 18, 2009 + More Articles

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Amnesty International LogoAmnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan has been in the Northern Territory, home to around 50-thousand Aboriginals, to visit several remote communities.

She said she was shocked by the conditions she saw there, and has called on the Australian government to do more.

[Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General]:
"It is pretty clear that what they are suffering from is a base violation of human rights and these violations occur on a continent of such privilege that is not merely disheartening, it is deeply disturbing. And the long-standing failure of the Australian governments to turn this tide of human tragedy, much more than condemnation, it demands much more than commitment. It demands an engagement and I would even say a new approach to this issue."

Khan also said the Australian government has made choices which have perpetuated poverty.

[Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General]:
"The moral imperative to end poverty is as convincing as the moral imperative to stop torture. Just as government policy, choices the governments make perpetuate torture, choices the governments make also perpetuate poverty and in Australia sure that is the case."

Communities living in town camps like this suffer from chronic violence, housing problems and health issues.

Indigenous Australians have an average life expectancy 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.


'Tide of human tragedy' affecting Aborigines

"[That] these violations occur on a continent of such privilege, it is not merely disheartening, it is deeply disturbing," Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan told the National Press Club.

ABC News | November 18, 2009

The Secretary-General of Amnesty International has criticised the Federal Government for its failure to lift Aboriginal people out of dire poverty.

Irene KhanIrene Kahn says she is appalled by conditions in the remote Aboriginal communities she recently visited in the Northern Territory.

She says the human rights of Aboriginal people are being violated.

"[That] these violations occur on a continent of such privilege, it is not merely disheartening, it is deeply disturbing," she told the National Press Club today.

"And the longstanding failure of Australian governments to turn this tide of human tragedy demands much more than condemnation.

"It demands much more than commitment."

She says elements of the Northern Territory intervention, like compulsory income management, rob people of their dignity.

She has urged the Government to repeal such elements.

"To be brutally frank, I see here an enormous opportunity for change, but I fear that that opportunity for change may be squandered, unless and until there is a profound shift from consultations to engagement and onto empowerment of Indigenous people."


Indigenous poverty 'outrageous:' Amnesty

AAP | Sydney Morning Herald | November 18, 2009

And the longstanding failure of Australian governments to turn this tide of human tragedy demands much more than condemnation
– Irene Kahn

The poverty experienced by many Aborigines is as morally reprehensible as torture and must be eradicated, Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan says.

In Australia for a week-long visit, Ms Khan has also called on the Rudd government to end the discriminatory measures of the Northern Territory intervention into remote indigenous communities.

They were "stigmatising and disempowering an already marginalised people", she said.

Ms Khan visited Aboriginal homeland communities in central Australia before addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

The poverty she saw northeast of Alice Springs reminded her of a third world country, she said in a statement.

"That indigenous peoples experience human rights violations on a continent of such privilege is not merely disheartening, it is morally outrageous," she said.

"The moral imperative to eradicate such poverty is no less an imperative on government than to eliminate torture."

Ms Khan, the first woman, first Asian and first Muslim to head the world's largest human rights organisation, also blasted federal Labor for continuing the former Howard government's interventionist policies.

She was particularly scathing of the compulsory quarantining of welfare payments and suggested there was a "real risk" Labor could squander an opportunity to change direction.

"The blunt force of the intervention's heavy-handed one-size-fits-all approach cannot deliver the desired results," Ms Khan said.

"The government will not secure the long-term protection of women and children unless there is an integrated human rights solution that empowers peoples and engages them to take responsibility for the solutions."

The Racial Discrimination Act was suspended in the Northern Territory to allow the intervention's more controversial measures to be introduced.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has vowed to reinstate the act and will introduce the relevant legislation into federal parliament within days.

But Ms Khan warned Labor needed to do so "in line with Australia's international obligations not to discriminate against indigenous peoples".


About Irene Khan

Irene KhanIrene Khan joined Amnesty International (AI) as Secretary General in August 2001. The first woman, first Asian and first Muslim to head the world's largest human rights organization, she has led AI through developments in the wake of September 11, confronting the backlash against human rights; broadening the work of the organization in areas of economic, social and cultural rights; and bringing a strong focus to the issue of women's human rights and violence against women.

Prior to joining AI she served with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, including as Deputy Director in the Department of International Protection, Chief of Mission in India, Senior Legal Advisor for Asia and Senior Executive Officer to the High Commissioner.

She is a recipient of the Pilkington "Women of the Year" award (2002), the John Owens Distinguished Alumni award (University of Manchester - 2003) and the City of Sydney Peace Prize (2006). She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of Manchester and was awarded honorary doctorates by Ferris University (Japan), Staffordshire University (UK), Ghent University (Belgium), the University of London, University of Manchester and the American University of Beirut. She has been voted one of the 100 Most Influential Asians in the UK.