A UN report condemned the NT intervention, saying it shows discrimination is structurally embedded in Australia ... Suggestions included negotiating a treaty with Indigenous Australians, giving them better access to legal aid and tackling laws in the Northern Territory that discriminate on the basis of race.
UN human rights body says discrimination is embedded in Australia
Aug. 28 2010 Xinhua
Greens candidate Barbara Shaw says the Federal Government continues to ignore criticism by the United Nations.
ABC RADIO (AM) AUDIO
The United Nations human rights panel has rebuked the Australian government over its treatment of Aboriginals, local media reported on Saturday.
At the release of a report from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva of Switzerland, one of the authors said discrimination has become "embedded" in the Australian way of life.
Committee member Patrick Thornberry lamented the fact that the Australian constitution lacks any entrenched protection against racial discrimination, which had led to a kind of structurally embedded discrimination in the way the Aboriginal intervention was being handled in the Northern Territory.
"That may be a certain disappointment, if I may say so, that this issue particularly to do with Aboriginal communities - it could have been handled in a more sensitive and culturally sensitive way," Thornberry told ABC Network on Saturday.
The 18-member committee of independent experts on racism told Australia to do more to integrate recent immigrants from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other Muslim countries and tackle racism against Indigenous people in Australia.
Suggestions included negotiating a treaty with Indigenous Australians, giving them better access to legal aid and tackling laws in the Northern Territory that discriminate on the basis of race.
Calls for constitution revamp to combat discrimination
Aug 28, 2010 ABC
Greens candidate Barbara Shaw says the Federal Government continues to ignore criticism by the United Nations. (ABC TV)
AUDIO: UN says racial discrimination entrenched in Australia ABC Radio - AM
A human rights commissioner says he will use a damning report into discrimination against Indigenous Australians to push for a change to the constitution.
The United Nations human rights panel released a report overnight which says discrimination has become "embedded" in the Australian way of life.
A member of the panel, Patrick Thornberry, also says the Northern Territory intervention in Indigenous communities has lead to structurally-embedded discrimination.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice commissioner Mick Gooda says he agrees with the findings.
"I wouldn't go as far to say it's a way of life, but I think it's something we have to address on a daily basis," he said.
"That's a challenge facing us as we go arguing the legal changes in the constitution, whether it's around discrimination or whether it's just about recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
Barbara Shaw, a resident of an Alice Springs town camp who ran as a Greens candidate in the recent election, is calling for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to be embedded in the Constitution.
"I actually support the declaration being embedded into the constitution and not Aboriginal people just being written into the preamble," she said.
"At the moment Aboriginal people in the constitution have got a right to vote and a right to religion and that's not enough for us.
"We are peoples of the land. We are caretakers of our land."
She says the Federal Government continues to ignore criticism by the United Nations.
"I've actually presented statements on racial discrimination and how the governments of Australia treat Aboriginal people and Indigenous people that don't come from Australia, they're shocked and amazed at how the Australian government can treat their first peoples," she said.
The Racial Discrimination Act is expected to be restored in December this year.
The UN report welcomed the Labor Government's national apology to Indigenous Australians, but said that concrete steps to increase life expectancy or improve the rate of deaths in custody had not yet been demonstrated.
The committee's recommendations were issued in a report following a regular review of Australia's compliance with an international treaty of 1969 prohibiting racism.
The report also raised concerns about the handling of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as anti-terrorism measures; discrimination against newer, mainly Muslim, ethnic communities; and assaults on foreign students.
UN anti racism panel slates Australia over Aborigines
The UN anti-racism panel expressed concern on Friday at the lingering impact of a clampdown on Aborigines in northern Australia, warning that the country faced a broader problem with "embedded" discrimination.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Australia to "fully reinstate the racial discrimination act", as it highlighted ongoing prejudice against Aborigines despite political pledges in recent years.
The committee slated the "unacceptably high level of disadvantage and social dislocation" for Aborigines in the Northern Territories.
It also raised concerns about the handling of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as anti-terrorism measures, discrimination against newer, mainly Muslim, ethnic communities and assaults on foreign students in the country.
"Our overall assessment is that there are serious government efforts to address these matters, but there are certain structural aspects -- a kind of structurally embedded discrimination -- that's difficult to uproot," said Committee member Patrick Thornberry.
The UN panel's 18 experts released their conclusions on Friday following a regular review of Australia's application of international standards in a hearing earlier this month.
"The committee expresses concern that the package of legislation under the Northern Territory Emergency Response continues to discriminate on the basis of race as well as the use of so called special measures by (Australia)," the committee's report said.
Thornberry told journalists the panel was "particularly anxious" to see the racial discrimination act fully reinstated.
Overall Australia had to step up its efforts at reconciliation with its downtrodden indigenous population, including "the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Trait Islanders as First Nations Peoples," the report added.
In 2008, ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd made a historic apology to "Stolen Generations" of Aborigines taken from their homes for assimilation with white families.
But his government continued a controversial intervention policy against social disorder in Aboriginal communities that was introduced by his predecessors in 2007 and initially enforced using troops.
During the election campaign this month, the government promised to revise the constitution and formally recognise the indigenous population for the first time, while the opposition pledged a new ministry for Aboriginal affairs.
Australia 'pretending racism isn't there'
29th August 2919 abc.net.au
VIDEO UN accuses Australia of embedded racism (7pm TV News NSW)
The Race Discrimination Commissioner says the next federal government must amend the constitution to make it impossible to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act.
The act was suspended in 2007 to roll out the Northern Territory intervention in Aboriginal communities and has yet to be fully reinstated.
A United Nations report has condemned the intervention saying it shows discrimination is structurally embedded in Australia.
Commissioner Graeme Innes says the UN committee was shocked at the Federal Government's policy in the Northern Territory.
"The actions that needed to be taken in the Northern Territory could have been done on a non-discriminatory basis," he said.
"So what the committee is recommending to Australia is not only we completely remove the suspension - which we haven't yet done - but we entrench in the constitution a provision so that never again can race discrimination law be suspended in Australia."
Mr Innes says Australia is in denial about being a racist country.
"We need to do much better in terms of having a national multicultural policy, which we haven't had for almost 15 years, which includes an anti-racism strategy," he said.
"I think the problem for Australia is that we try to pretend that racism isn't there. What we need to do is face the facts that there are elements of racism in this country and take some positive action to address it."