'Stronger Futures' disaster: Original leaders call for day of mourning


Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM

Sky News Wednesday June 27, 2012

Aboriginal leaders are set to declare a day of mourning when laws extending the NT Intervention in remote indigenous communities passes parliament.

The federal government's Stronger Futures draft laws are before the Senate and are expected to pass this week.

Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, who represents 8000 Yolngu people of east Arnhem Land said the laws would cause great suffering in the hearts of his people.

'Should this Stronger Futures legislation pass through the Senate and become law, it will be a day of mourning for all Aboriginal peoples,' he told AAP.

'For those of us living in the Northern Territory the anguish of the past five years of intervention has been almost unbearable.'

Dr Gondarra said many Aboriginal people had given up hope.

'We have been burying people who can no longer live with the pain and despair,' he said.

Central Australian indigenous leader Rosalie Kunoth Monks who lives in the Alyawaar community of Utopia near Alice Springs, echoed his sentiment.

'We will never accept this racist legislation that separates us from other Australians and creates its own apartheid in our country,' she said.

The duo want the government to allow Aboriginal people more control over the decision-making process in communities.

Indigenous groups and welfare campaigners have called for the vote on the legislation to be delayed until Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin subjects the draft laws to a human rights test.

Last week, the parliamentary human rights committee requested Ms Macklin provide a statement of compatibility for the Stronger Futures laws against Australia's international obligations.

The committee has confirmed on Tuesday it has not received a response from Ms Macklin.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has the power to refer the laws to the human rights committee, but a spokeswoman told AAP on Tuesday Ms Roxon had still not seen a request made by the National Congress of Australia's First People.

Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert urged Ms Macklin to respond to the committee before the vote.

'The lack of proper consultation around the laws was clearly identified as a concern during the recent senate inquiry and a review of the compatibility statement would be a good starting point to rebuild lost trust,' Senator Siewert said.

Earlier on Monday it emerged attempts to cut the sunset clause of a decade to five years was likely to fail.

Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion has previously raised concerns about the 10 year-sunset clause attached to Labor's Stronger Futures Bills.

A spokesman for Senator Scullion told AAP on Tuesday the opposition had been unable to negotiate with the government to reduce the sunset clause.

Instead, an opposition amendment to ensure the the laws are reviewed within three years rather than seven is likely to pass, he said.

Attempts to cut intervention time frame

Lisa Martin Adelaide Adversiter 26rh June 2012

Attempts to cut the extension of the Northern Territory intervention from a decade to five years appear to have failed.

Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion has previously raised concerns about the 10 year sunset clause attached to Labor's Stronger Futures Bills.

The draft laws are before the Senate and debate is expected to resume on Wednesday with a vote due later in the week.

The Stronger Futures legislation continues the Howard government's intervention program for Northern Territory indigenous communities.

A spokesman for Senator Scullion told AAP on Tuesday the opposition had been unable to negotiate with the government to reduce the sunset clause.

Instead, an opposition amendment to ensure the laws are reviewed within three years rather than seven is likely to pass, he said.

The Australians Greens have also criticised the ten-year time frame.

A spokeswoman for Senator Rachel Siewert said she would put up an amendment to cut the sunset clause by half, but the amendment was likely to be defeated.

The Stronger Futures laws include jail terms for alcohol possession, as well as a controversial program that cuts welfare payments to parents whose children do not attend school.

The measures have been widely opposed by NT Aboriginal communities, which say they were not properly consulted about the extension and that the draft laws are racist.

In May, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Pacific representative Matilda Bogner backed indigenous leaders and called on the government to subject the bills to a human rights test.

Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin faced pressure to address any potential human rights issues arising from the draft laws.

Attorney General Nicola Roxon has the power to refer the laws to the human rights committee, but a spokeswoman told AAP on Tuesday Ms Roxon still had not seen any request.

The parliamentary joint committee on human rights confirmed it had not yet received a response from Ms Macklin.