NACCHO International health news: ACCESS to JUSTICE for Aboriginal People

Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy, the Chairperson of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) delivered a joint statement on behalf NATSILS and the Indigenous Peoples Organisation Network of Australia (IPO) in response to a Study on access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) at the Sixth Session meeting in Geneva from 8-12 July 2013.

Mr Duffy said studies such as these provide a critical point of reference and authoritative guidance for States (National Governments) in their efforts to provide for and implement their obligations concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

However, while Mr Duffy agrees that the experience of Indigenous Peoples within the criminal justice system the world over requires urgent action, he said care needs to be taken not to confine States understanding their responsibilities by limiting the expression or scope of these rights to one element or area of concern.

He further added; Access to justice for Indigenous Peoples must be about how we can use both Indigenous and Western systems of justice to ensure the greatest possible quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples’, which is highlighted at Article 5 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that affirms Indigenous Peoples right to maintain and strengthen our political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions while retaining our right to also participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Mr Duffy’s statement called on the Human Rights Council (HRC) to encourage States to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foundational document for the development of all policies concerning Indigenous Peoples, including issues related to access to justice, and that the HRC request the EMRIP extend the Study on access to justice in the promotion an protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to include a practical analysis of Articles 1 (4) and 2 (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and General Comment XXIII by the CERD as it relates to special measures and the requirement to obtain free, prior and informed consent.

Mr Duffy further added ‘it is important that States utilise informed standardised data collections that ensures a more strategic approach that provides appropriate needs based financial resources to Indigenous organisations to build their capacity to respond appropriately to Indigenous justice needs.

Mr Duffy said, ‘In Australia, the statistics provide a damning picture, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults incarcerated at 15 times the rate of non-Indigenous adults; imprisonment rate for our women has grown by 58.6% between the years 2000 to 2010; Our children are 24 times more likely to be in youth detention than non-Indigenous young people. In 2011-12, our children were subjected to child protection substantiations at a rate of 41.9 per 1000, nearly eight times that of non-Indigenous children.  They are also ten times more likely to be in out-of-home care (comprising 31% of all children in care), despite making up only 4.2% of the population of all children and young people. In addition to the rising rates, our children are increasingly being placed with non-Indigenous foster carers.

We have therefore called on the Australian government to take into consideration the significant issues highlighted in the full intervention to work collaboratively with us to facilitate the restoration and strengthening of local governance and decision-making structures to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to justice’.

For a full copy of Mr Duffy’s Intervention and/or interview enquiries please contact Amala Groom
Phone: +61 425 820 658

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