“Indigenous academic Marcia Langton has warned that the next Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner must be female if soaring rates of violence against women and children, and of indigenous children being removed from their homes, are to be addressed.
“There is an urgent need for the appointment of a woman to the position,” Professor Langton told The Australian. “The Northern Territory coroner’s report recently (into the bashing death of indigenous woman Wendy Murphy) and the soaring rates of violence against women and children, rates of removal of children from their homes, and child abuse and neglect are special areas of law, social policy and intervention and human rights denied to the victims by poor legal and police administration and practice. They demand the attention of an experienced indigenous woman.”
Professor Langton said she had offered Attorney-General George Brandis a list of potential candidates to fill the $340,000-a-year role recently vacated by Mick Gooda, and said yesterday that indigenous Perth author and human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade was a preferred option.
Candidates are being interviewed, with Professor Langton noting that former Gooda adviser Robynne Quiggin and Fitzroy Crossing leader June Oscar were also possible appointees. Administrator and artist Jody Broun is also being mentioned.
Andrea Mason, the chief executive of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, had been expected to be a strong candidate but The Australian has learned she did not apply.
There was disquiet from many quarters when Mr Gooda, a former public servant with no legal background, was appointed in 2009 over a field of quality women — including Dr McGlade — despite not initially having applied for the job.
The role, which was created in 1992 in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, has always been filled by men, although Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has temporarily added its responsibilities to her portfolio since Mr Gooda’s resignation in August to join the royal commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.
Previously, it had been held by academics Tom Calma, Bill Jonas and Mick Dodson.
Many women challenged claims by prime ministerial adviser Warren Mundine in a column in The Australian last week that they had been responsible for silence on high rates of violence against indigenous women, and that “indigenous people, progressives, feminists and the media don’t want to talk about indigenous abuse”.
Some, including Dr McGlade, pointed out the vast amount of work they had done on the topic. This included an opinion piece Dr McGlade wrote in The Australian in June in which she noted that “ignoring the plight of indigenous women and children while elevating treaties … to the top political priority during this election (campaign) seems like denial and an evasion of horrifying levels of violence”.
She noted in the same piece an address given to the UN by indigenous lawyer Josephine Cashman, a member of the PM’s Indigenous Advisory Council chaired by Mr Mundine, that Aboriginal women in some regions were the most victimised women in the world and this was “the uncomfortable truth that Australian governments need to confront honestly and urgently”.
Mr Mundine told The Australian yesterday he had “no interest” in applying for the social justice commissioner’s position, being solely concerned with “business and economic development”.
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