NACCHO Aboriginal Health @SNAICC @NationalFVPLS respond to the Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse : 14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

“Strong cultural identity, connections to family and community, and cultural care practices are non-negotiable factors in keeping our children safe.

It is imperative that, especially following such a thorough process, all of the recommendations from this report are accepted and implemented,” said Ms Williams.

The pain and injustices of the past have been acknowledged, and must now be redressed. At the same time, we must tackle current challenges to ensure our children are kept safe in family and culture.”

Sharron Williams, SNAICC Chairperson. 14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Those that shared their stories with the Royal Commission spoke not only of sexual physical and emotional abuse, but also of racism and cultural abuse. See Part 2 below

 ” The National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (National FVPLS Forum) welcomes the landmark findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The report identified the need for specific initiatives to be developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience child sexual abuse, as well as to prevent the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.”

Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor of the National FVPLS Forum.See Part 3

” We must focus our efforts on the future, but we must also ensure we properly deal with the past. Perhaps the single most important aspect of this is the redress scheme.

What happens now with redress?

The national redress scheme is behind schedule and must be finalised with sufficient funding, and government and institutional commitment.

What happens now with redress? See Part 4 Below

Part 1 Here’s What The Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse Said About Survivors

From Buzzfeed

Thousands of stories, and statistical insights, about Australians who suffered as children at the hands of sexual abusers have come to light in the 1000-plus page, 17-volume final report of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse, handed down on Friday.

The report paid tribute to the bravery of survivors for speaking out, in more than 8,000 private hearings, about what had been done to them, and the destruction and chaos it had wrought upon their lives.

“Many spoke of having their innocence stolen, their childhood lost, their education and prospective career taken from them and their personal relationships damaged,” the report said. “For many, sexual abuse is a trauma they can never escape. It can affect every aspect of their lives.”

The commissioners wrote that without the personal stories of survivors they could not have done their work.

“These stories have allowed us to understand what has happened,” the report said. “They have helped us to identify what should be done to make institutions safer for children in the future.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused. They deserve our nation’s thanks.”

The report published statistics based on the experiences, where information was available, of 6,875 survivors who testified at the commission up to May 31, 2017.

It found that the majority of survivors (64.3%) were male.

More than half said they were aged from 10 to 14 when they were first sexually abused.

Female survivors tended to be younger when they were first sexually abused than male survivors.

14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

4.3% of survivors said they had a disability at the time of the abuse.

3.1% of survivors were from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

93.8% of survivors said they were abused by a man.

83.8% of survivors said they were abused by an adult.

10.4% of survivors were in prison at the time they gave evidence to the royal commission.

The average duration of child sexual abuse in institutions was 2.2 years.

36.3% of survivors said they were abused by multiple perpetrators.

These stories were told in private sessions, with one or two commissioners present to give survivors as safe as possible an environment to share their distressing and traumatic stories.

Almost 4,000 of those stories have been published with the final report in the form of short, de-identified narratives.

One published narrative was about “Keenan”, an Aboriginal man who was abused as a child and has spent most of his adult life in prison.

He is one of the 10.4% of survivors who spoke to the commission from prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for attacking a man he thought was a paedophile.

“I’ve got a deadset hatred of sex offenders,” he told the commission. “An absolute hatred.”

Keenan told the commission that he was fostered by a “nice white family” in the mid-1980s when he was five, who he loved and who became his adoptive parents. But he felt different in the white neighbourhood as an Aboriginal child: “I was a bit worried about what people would think when my family is white and I was black.”

He started going to the local Catholic church when he was nine to learn about Holy Communion. It was here that the parish priest took an interest in him.

“He asked my parents if he could do private studies with me at the church and my parents thought, you know, the sun shined out of his arse, they thought he was the top bloke,” he said.

The priest abused Keenan when they were alone together, touching Keenan’s thigh and penis. Keenan said he didn’t want to do it, but the priest “roared” at him that no matter what he told his parents, they wouldn’t believe him.

After two more instances of abuse, Keenan tried to tell his father about what was happening, but was dismissed. “No, you’re probably looking at it the wrong way. He’s probably just mucking around with you”.

Keenan refused to go back to see the priest, and changed churches. The abuse shattered him — he lost faith in God, and felt betrayed by his father.

“The two main things I believed in the strongest weren’t there for me,” he said.

After that, Keenan decided to suppress the abuse, saying: “I’ll find a little part of my body I can fold it up into and I don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

But as with so many survivors, it dramatically changed the course of Keenan’s life. He said he became “a prick of a kid” and at 15 moved out of home with a girlfriend and lost touch with his adoptive family for years. In the ensuing years, he wound up in juvenile detention and later adult prison.

Keenan told his girlfriend about the abuse, and she was supportive. In his mid-20s, he told his mother, and she was upset he hadn’t told he earlier. His relationship with his father remained difficult.

Other than those conversations, sharing his story with the commission was the first time Keenan had spoken about the abuse in 30 years.

“Even now in court they asked if I’ve been touched as a kid I said ‘No’. ‘Cause it’s got nothing to do with them. It’s taken me a long time to talk about this. Opening up again today about it, it makes me feel like I’m a kid again. It’s bringing back a lot in my mind I’ve learnt how to put away,” he said.

“At the age I am now I’ve got to get rid of that burden that’s sitting inside me, I think that’s the thing that keeps bringing me back to jail. ‘Cause jail’s a good place to hide.”

The support services page for the Royal Commission is here.

If you or someone you know needs help contact your nearest ACCHO or , you can call 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or visit www.1800respect.org.au, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

Part 2 ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT RECOGNISES CULTURE AS A PROTECTIVE FACTOR FOR CHILDREN AND CALLS FOR HEALING FOR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

 SNAICC welcomes the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. We take this opportunity to acknowledge those who bravely shared their stories with the Royal Commission, and the barriers to disclosure that prevent many other survivors from coming forward.

The Royal Commission’s final report confirms the lived pain of past and present effects of child removal. The Royal Commission heard from many survivors who had been forcibly removed from their families as children and then sexually abused in institutions that should have kept them safe.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors who shared their stories with the Royal Commission spoke not only of sexual physical and emotional abuse, but also of racism and cultural abuse.

It is clear that child sexual abuse in institutions is not only a thing of the past; it is still a problem today.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly overrepresented in out-of-home care systems today, addressing vulnerabilities and implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations must be guaranteed as a matter of urgency.

The Royal Commission recognised the alarming over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home and called for reform of the contemporary system ensure children are safe from abuse in the future. It recognised that culture is an important protective factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The Royal Commission’s final report recognises the importance of the full and proper implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, and recommends partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and community representatives to ensure this is met.

The Royal Commission also makes important recommendations to fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches and improve support for kinship carers, including ensuring that financial support and training are equivalent to that provided to foster carers.

“It is imperative that, especially following such a thorough process, all of the recommendations from this report are accepted and implemented,” said Ms Williams.

“The pain and injustices of the past have been acknowledged, and must now be redressed. At the same time, we must tackle current challenges to ensure our children are kept safe in family and culture.”

The publication of the final report concludes an extensive and exhaustive process, spanning several years, thousands of private sessions with survivors, and close examination of traumatic personal experiences by six Commissioners, including Professor Helen Milroy, who has brought specific expertise and understanding to issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

SNAICC thanks the all those involved in the Royal Commission for their dedicated and sensitive approach to the examination of this national tragedy – one that has been unresolved for far too long.

Part 3 Greater investment into supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’ essential to preventing institutional child sexual abuse, says landmark Royal Commission report

The National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (National FVPLS Forum) welcomes the landmark findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The report identified the need for specific initiatives to be developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience child sexual abuse, as well as to prevent the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.

“The Royal Commission has acknowledged the importance of culture and developing specific initiatives to keep our children safe,” said Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor of the National FVPLS Forum.

“We work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children nationally who have experienced family violence, the Royal Commission identified that many of those have been victims of child sexual abuse.”

The National FVPLS Forum played a pivotal role in raising awareness of the Royal Commission and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their stories, receiving Federal Government funding to work in partnership with Knowmore Legal Services.

“It’s the trust and confidence that our people have in us that takes us into those communities to raise awareness and provide support. We engage and work with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally who experience ongoing trauma resulting from child sexual abuse” said Ms Braybrook. “Our people’s access to Aboriginal community controlled organisations, like FVPLSs, is essential”.

“Aboriginal community controlled organisations, like FVPLSs, are best placed to provide this support” said Ms Braybrook “Our services are holistic and culturally safe.”

“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have shared their stories, now we need greater investment in Aboriginal community controlled organisations to provide the support that our people need.”

Part 4 The royal commission’s final report has landed – now to make sure there is an adequate redress scheme

From The Conversation

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has performed its task magnificently. Its scale, complexity and quality is unprecedented. Its work is already being acknowledged internationally as a model of best practice.

As a nation, we can be proud of the commissioners and their staff. We should acclaim the courage of all survivors, including those who informed the commissioners about their experiences, and we should honour those who have not lived to see this day.

We must recognise the integrity and strength of those who advocated for the inquiry, including survivors, their families, journalists and police. We should applaud former prime minister Julia Gillard for initiating the commission, and the current federal government for ensuring it was adequately resourced.

But this is not the end. The real work begins now. Australian governments and major social institutions now have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to create lasting social change. Their responses will be monitored here, including through requirements to report on their actions, and around the world.

The royal commission’s impact

This watershed inquiry has created the conditions for a seachange in how society deals with child sexual abuse in institutions, which can flow to our treatment of sexual abuse in other settings.

Our society’s leaders can build progress from the pain of former failings. Not meeting this responsibility would surely stick as a lifelong regret for those in positions to cement change. Fulfilling this imperative can leave a legacy of which these government and institutional leaders can be proud.

Substantial progress has already been made. The commission’s earlier reports have influenced important changes to civil justice systems, criminal justice systems, organisational governance, and prevention, including situational prevention in child and youth-serving organisations.

The Child Safe Standards now promoted by the commission are substantially embedded in legislation in several states, requiring organisations to adopt comprehensive measures to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to child sexual abuse.

Civil laws have been amended in most jurisdictions to allow claims for compensation, holding individuals and organisations accountable.

In some states, new requirements to report known and suspected cases apply through special “failure to report” and “failure to protect” offences in criminal laws. They also apply through separate reportable conduct schemes that add essential independent external oversight.


Read more: Royal commission recommends sweeping reforms for Catholic Church to end child abuse


Yet much remains to be done. The reforms already made in some states must be adopted elsewhere to create national consistency.

Accountability of individuals and organisations is essential to create cultural change, and needs to be achieved through both civil systems (such as following Western Australia’s recent bill enabling lawsuits against organisations that previously could not be sued, such as the Catholic Church), and criminal systems (for example, prosecuting those who harbour offenders, and removing criminal law principles that compromise criminal prosecutions).

Other state and territory mandatory reporting laws need to be harmonised, as recommended by the commission. Many of the commission’s new 189 recommendations are rightly directed towards prevention, especially through the Child Safe Standards, including their requirements for education, codes of conduct, situational prevention, and the commitment required of organisations’ leadership.

 

The bill for the scheme remains before parliament, awaiting a committee report due in March 2018. It is yet to receive the commitment of all states, territories, and relevant organisations.

The commission recommended the scheme be operational by July 1, 2017, with an upper cap of A$200,000 and an average redress payment of $65,000. Under the bill, the scheme’s cap is $150,000, substantially below the recommendation, and even further below the average payment awarded in Ireland of more than €60,000 (about A$92,200). In Ireland, the highest payment was more than €300,000 (about A$461,000).

The Australian scheme contains three elements. First, a monetary payment as tangible recognition of the wrong suffered by a survivor. Second, access to counselling and psychological services (estimated at an average of $5,500 per person). Third, if requested, a direct personal response from the responsible institution(s), such as an apology.

Not all survivors will apply to the scheme, as many are not financially motivated. However, it is an essential part of a healing response. This has been shown internationally in Canada, Ireland and elsewhere.

Redress schemes are more flexible and speedy, with less formality and cost, and less trauma and confrontation, than conventional legal proceedings. Payments are not intended to replicate the amount that would be payable under a formal civil compensation claim, and instead are far lower.

Accordingly, institutions should recognise the lower financial commitment required to discharge their ethical obligation to participate compared with their liability in formal civil compensation amounts, especially since recent reforms to civil statutes of limitation have removed time limits and allow a claim to be commenced at any time.

Ten key aspects of the proposed Australian scheme are:

  1. People are eligible to apply to the scheme if they experienced sexual abuse in an institution while they were a child, before July 1, 2018.
  2. A lower evidentiary threshold applies, meaning that eligibility for a redress payment is assessed on whether there was “a reasonable likelihood” the person suffered institutional sexual abuse as a child.
  3. Applicants who have received redress under another scheme or compensation through a settlement or court judgment are still eligible, but prior payments by the institution will be deducted from the amount of redress.
  4. Only one application per person can be made; where a person was abused in more than one institution, provisions enable the decision-maker to determine the appropriate share of each institution.
  5. Applicants can access legal assistance to help determine whether to accept the offer of redress.
  6. A person who accepts an offer of redress must sign a deed of release, meaning the institution(s) responsible for the abuse will not be subject to other civil liability.
  7. Payments are not subject to income tax.
  8. Reviews of decisions are limited to internal review, and not to merits review or judicial review.
  9. Criminal liability of offenders is not affected.
  10. The scheme is intended to open on July 1, 2018, and operate for ten years; applications need to be made at least 12 months before the closing date of June 30, 2028.

Read more: When it comes to redress for child sexual abuse, all victims should be equal


Five further factors need to be accommodated by the scheme to ensure it functions properly and complies with the clear recommendations of the royal commission.

  1. The upper cap should be $200,000 to ensure sufficient recognition of severe cases.
  2. To ensure equal access to the scheme, legal assistance must be made available to assist people in making applications.
  3. Governments and institutions should opt in as soon as possible and commit resources to discharge their duty to participate in the scheme.
  4. Governments – federal or state – should be the funder of last resort in all cases where the institution is unable to reimburse the Commonwealth (for example, where the institution no longer exists, or lacks resources to participate).
  5. The method of determining the amount of the payment, based on the severity of the abuse, its impact, and other relevant factors, must be made available as soon as possible so it can be adequately debated.

The commission’s work contributes a historic, international legacy. The sexual abuse of children in institutions will be revealed in more nations in coming years. This will involve some of the same religious institutions in which it has been found here to be so prevalent, and so heinously concealed and facilitated. Simply due to population, countless children will be shown to be affected.

For this reason, our governments and institutions must now ensure their actions add to the royal commission’s example, and demonstrate to other countries how civilised societies should respond.

Aboriginal Health, Healing , Self Determination Reconciliation and a #Treaty : @VACCHO_CEO Jill Gallagher AO named Treaty Advancement Commissioner

 

” Having a Treaty will be a positive step for our mob. It will change the way people think about us, formally recognise what has been done to us in the past, and it will help us heal and overcome so much of this hurt, to achieve better social, emotional, health and wellbeing outcomes for our people.

I want my grandchildren, everyone’s grandchildren, and the generations to come to be happier and healthier. I want us to Close the Gap in all ways possible, and reaching a Treaty in Victoria is part of achieving this critical goal.

Jill Gallagher AO, is CEO of VACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group and now Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.

Read Jill’s Opinion piece in full Part 2 below Victorian Treaty an opportunity to heal and overcome intergenerational trauma

 ” I believe a Treaty with the Victorian Government will pave the way for a lot of the work VACCHO does around the holistic approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people.

VACCHO has this holistic approach because we know you can’t just deal with health without dealing with housing and other aspects of life. If you haven’t got a roof over your head you can’t be healthy. If you haven’t got a job, that is going to have a negative impact on your health.

If you or your family are unfairly caught up in the justice system it makes it hard to build a life.

The social determinants of health need to be addressed in a holistic way, and we advocate to Government for that. “

Aged 62, Jill Gallagher has lived long enough to have had her sense of the world shaped by some of the sorriest historical aspects of Victoria’s treatment of Aboriginal people.

As a child she accompanied her mother all over the state as she chased seasonal work picking vegetables on farms, one of few lines of employment Aboriginal people were permitted to do.

As Reported in the AGE  : Jill Gallagher has been named Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.  Photo: Jason South

And she has an early memory, painful still, of her mother being asked to leave the whites-only Warrnambool hotel.

It was Australia in the early 1960s, before Aboriginal people had been recognised in the constitution or been given the right to vote.

On Tuesday Ms Gallagher took on a job that is meant to shape a much more equal future between the state’s first people and the rest of us, when she was named Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.

It is the new, leading role in preparing to negotiate the first ever treaty between Aboriginal people and an Australian government.

“What’s happening in Victoria is history making,” Ms Gallagher says of the $28.5 million treaty process.

“It’s never happened before, for any government to actually be serious about wanting to talk to Aboriginal people about treaties.” As commissioner, Ms Gallagher will lead the task of bringing Aboriginal representatives to the negotiating table with government and ensuring everyday Aboriginal voices are heard.

“My role is not to negotiate a treaty or treaties,” she says. “My role is to establish a voice, or representative body, that government can negotiate with.”

By the time treaty negotiations commence, her work as commissioner will have been done and the role will have ceased to exist.

For now the treaty’s terms of reference is a blank sheet of paper.

Its eventual signing could involve years of negotiations between the Aboriginal community and state government.

Aspects of treaties from other nations, such as Canada or New Zealand, may be borrowed from but Ms Gallagher says she hopes Victoria’s model will “stay true to what the need is here in Victoria”. “Treaty is about righting the wrongs of the past but also having the ability to tell the truth,” Ms Gallagher says.

As head of Aboriginal health organisation VACCHO, Ms Gallagher grapples with the lingering failure to “close the gap” of disadvantage between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Victorians, who statistically live shorter lives and in poorer health than the general population.

A report last month by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria acknowledged the inter-generational damage European colonisation did to Aboriginal people, entrenching poverty, racism and disadvantage.

“I see the devastation that colonisation had on my people,” she says.

“I see how it manifests today in many ways such as overrepresentation in the justice system, overrepresentation of children in out-of-home care … So for me treaty is trying to rectify that.”

And as for non-Aboriginals uncertain about what a treaty means for them, Ms Gallagher offers this piece of reassurance: we don’t want your backyard.

Rather, it’s about creating a shared identity.

“I think it will add value to the non-Aboriginal community here in Victoria,” Ms Gallagher says.

“Treaty is about us having the ability to share our very rich, ancient culture, so all Victorians can be proud of our culture.”

Victorian Treaty an opportunity to heal and overcome intergenerational trauma

*Jill Gallagher AO, is CEO of VACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group

Originally published in Croakey

As the end of the year rapidly approaches there is a bright ray of hope on the horizon for Aboriginal people living in Victoria, in the form of Treaty.

Working towards Treaty

For almost two years we have been working as a community towards the goal of a Treaty between the First Nations people and the Victorian Government. It’s an historic process, and one that we hope will inspire and guide the rest of Australia, both at a state and national level.

I’ve been honoured to be a part of the process as Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group. Our role in this group is not to negotiate a Treaty, but to consult the Aboriginal community on what we would like to see in a representative structure.

We have consulted extensively, and continue to consult, with the Aboriginal Community Assembly meeting in recent weeks and releasing a second statement on Treaty.

Intergenerational trauma

As CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) I’ve been working for the past two decades towards improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I see a Treaty as fundamental to reaching the goal of Closing the Gap on many of our poor health outcomes as Aboriginal people.

Our mob, as we well know, has been disempowered for many, many generations and with disempowerment comes distress, and comes a lack of resilience. Our self-esteem has suffered and there have been so many social, emotional and wellbeing issues

in our community as a result of that disempowerment.

I believe if we are successful in reaching a Treaty it will make a humongous difference in the wellbeing of our people across Victoria. This is about truth telling and healing the past for a better future for Aboriginal people.

Intergenerational trauma is deeply felt in our community from myriad past practices, including the relatively recent Stolen Generations – I work with people born to parents who were stolen, many of my friends were stolen or come from families affected by the woeful policies of the past. In fact, almost 50 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians have a relative who was forcibly removed from their family through the Stolen Generations.

Even right now you just have to consider the disproportionately high number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, and the trauma they are suffering from being disconnected from their families, communities and culture. Thankfully the Victorian Government has worked with our communities to help overcome this with its new Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program.

Without doubt intergenerational trauma and a lack of empowerment and resilience leads to inevitable mental illness; we currently have 32 per cent of the Victorian Aboriginal community suffering very high psychological distress, which is three times the non-Aboriginal rate.

Social and emotional wellbeing

But while improving mental health outcomes is incredibly important to our people, it is something that cannot be done in isolation; improving social and emotional wellbeing is also important.

The Aboriginal concept of social and emotional wellbeing is an inclusive term that enables concepts of mental health to be recognised as part of a holistic and interconnected Aboriginal view of health that embraces social, emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of wellbeing.

Social and emotional wellbeing emphasises the importance of individual, family and community strengths and resilience, feelings of cultural safety and connection to culture, and the importance of realising aspirations, and experiencing satisfaction and purpose in life.

Importantly, social and emotional wellbeing is a source of resilience that can help protect against the worst impacts of stressful life events for Aboriginal people, and provide a buffer to mitigate risks of poor mental health.

Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of, and mental health outcomes for, Aboriginal people cannot be achieved by any one measure, one agency or sector, or by Aboriginal people alone. It needs to be shaped and led through Aboriginal self-determination with support from government, and that is where Treaty comes in.

A Treaty for healing

I know that many people will dismiss Treaty as a political or public relations stunt. Just look at how the Federal Government has dismissed us on Makaratta. Makarrata is a complex Yolngu word describing a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice. It’s a philosophy that helped develop and maintain lasting peace among the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land.

Reaching a Makarrata is the goal of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was agreed in May this year. It’s hurtful and disrespectful to be asked your opinion on something as important as Makarrata and then to have your ideas and solutions be dismissed.

I am glad to say the Victorian Government is, however, listening to us. I believe a Treaty with the Victorian Government will pave the way for a lot of the work VACCHO does around the holistic approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people.

VACCHO has this holistic approach because we know you can’t just deal with health without dealing with housing and other aspects of life. If you haven’t got a roof over your head you can’t be healthy. If you haven’t got a job, that is going to have a negative impact on your health. If you or your family are unfairly caught up in the justice system it makes it hard to build a life. The social determinants of health need to be addressed in a holistic way, and we advocate to Government for that.

Having a Treaty will be a positive step for our mob. It will change the way people think about us, formally recognise what has been done to us in the past, and it will help us heal and overcome so much of this hurt, to achieve better social, emotional, health and wellbeing outcomes for our people.

I want my grandchildren, everyone’s grandchildren, and the generations to come to be happier and healthier. I want us to Close the Gap in all ways possible, and reaching a Treaty in Victoria is part of achieving this critical goal.

 

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism : #UN #HRC36 told Australia must abandon racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program

Thank you Mr President,

Australia is denying access to basic rights to equality, income and work for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through a racially discriminatory social security policy.

Australia should work with Aboriginal organisations and leaders to replace this discriminatory Program with an Aboriginal-led model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development “

36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 20 September see in full part 2 below

The program discriminates on the basis of race, with around 83 per cent of people in the program being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This is a racially discriminatory program that was imposed on remote communities by the Government and it’s having devastating consequences in those communities,”

John Paterson, a CEO of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, told the Council that the Government’s program requires people looking for work in remote communities to work up to 760 hours more per year for the same basic payment as people in non-Indigenous majority urban areas.

Picture above Remote work-for-the-dole scheme ‘devastating Indigenous communities’

The Australian Government is denying access to basic rights to equality, work and income for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through its racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program.

In a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council overnight, the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT and Human Rights Law Centre urged the Council to abandon its racially discriminatory ‘Community Development Program’ and replace it with an Aboriginal-led model.

Adrianne Walters, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the program is also denying basic work rights to many people in remote communities.

“Some people are required to do work that they should be employed to do. Instead, they receive a basic social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia. People should be paid an award wage and afforded workplace rights and protections to do that work.” said Ms Walters.

The statement to the Council calls for the Federal Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development. Communities need a program that sees people employed on decent pay and conditions, to work on projects the community needs. It’s time for Government to work with us,” said Mr Paterson.

The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT has developed an alternative model for fair work and strong communities, called the Remote Development and Employment Scheme, which was launched in Canberra two weeks ago with broad community support.

“The new Scheme will see new opportunities for jobs and community development and get rid of pointless administration. Critically, the Scheme provides incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people already struggling to make ends meet,” said Mr Paterson.

The Human Rights Law Centre has endorsed the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT’s proposed model.

“Aboriginal organisations have brought a detailed policy solution to the Government’s front door. The Scheme would create jobs and strengthen communities, rather than strangling opportunities as the Government’s program is doing,” said Ms Walters.

Part 2 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Items 3 and 5

Human Rights Law Centre statement, in association with Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Australia

Thank you Mr President,

Australia is denying access to basic rights to equality, income and work for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through a racially discriminatory social security policy.

The Council has received the report of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples’ rights following her mission to Australia in 2017. This statement addresses one area of concern in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

The Australian Government’s remote ‘Community Development Program’ requires people looking for work in remote communities to work up to 760 more hours per year for the same basic social security payment as people in non-Indigenous majority urban areas.

The program discriminates on the basis of race, with around 83 per cent of people covered by the program being Indigenous.

High rates of financial penalty are leaving families without money for the basic necessities for survival.

In addition, the program denies basic work rights. People are required to do work activities that they should be employed, paid an award wage and afforded workplace rights to do. Instead, they receive a basic social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia.

The program undermines self-determination and was imposed on Aboriginal communities with very little consultation.

Australia should work with Aboriginal organisations and leaders to replace this discriminatory Program with an Aboriginal-led model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development.

Mr President,

Australia is a candidate for a seat on the Human Rights Council for 2018. We call on the Council and its members to urge Australia to respect rights to self-determination and non-discrimination, and to abandon its racially discriminatory remote social security program and replace it with an Aboriginal-led model.

Part 3 Fair work and strong communities

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT Proposal for a Remote Development and Employment Scheme

NACCHO is one of the many organisations that has endorsed this scheme

See full Story here

Download the brochure and full list of organisations endorsing

RDES-Summary_online

All Australians expect to be treated with respect and to receive a fair wage for work. But the Australian Government is denying these basic rights to people in remote communities through its remote work for the Dole program – the “Community Development Programme”.

Around 84 per cent of those subject to this program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Most people in remote communities have to do more work than people in non-remote non Indigenous majority areas for the same basic social security payment.

In some cases, up to 760 hours more per year.

There is less flexibility and people are paid far below the national minimum wage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also being penalised more because of the onerous compliance conditions.

In many cases, people are receiving a basic social security payment for work they should be employed to do.

The Government’s program is strangling genuine job opportunities in remote communities.

The Government’s remote Work for the Dole program is racially discriminatory and must be abandoned. Better outcomes will be achieved if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given the opportunity to determine their own priorities and gain greater control over their own lives.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : #Indigenous groups say work for the dole scheme racially discriminatory and “unhealthy “

“ Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APONT ), and our members have received widespread concerns about the debilitating impacts that CDP is having on its participants, their families and communities.

Financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry.

Such consistent and strong concerns expressed by those at the coalface must be taken seriously and acted upon,

Onerous and discriminatory obligations applied to remote CDP work for the dole participants mean they have to do significantly more work than those in non-remote, mainly non-Indigenous majority areas, up to 670 hours more per year.”

The chief executive of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, John Paterson, said the program was causing significant harm to communities. He said financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry (see Guardian article in full below Part 2 )

In press conference picture below

  • John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (APO NT)
  • David Ross, Director, Central Land Council (APO NT)
  • Rod Little, Co-Chair, National Congress
  • David Thompson, CEO, Jobs Australia
  • Ged Kearney, President, Australian Council of Trade Union
  • Maria Harvey, CEO, Tiwi Islands Training & Employment Board
  • Dickie Bedford, CEO, Marra Worra Worra

 

Part 1 Fair work and strong communities

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT Proposal for a Remote Development and Employment Scheme

NACCHO is one of the many organisations that has endorsed this scheme

Download the brochure and full list of organisations endorsing

RDES-Summary_online

All Australians expect to be treated with respect and to receive a fair wage for work. But the Australian Government is denying these basic rights to people in remote communities through its remote work for the Dole program – the “Community Development Programme”.

Around 84 per cent of those subject to this program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Most people in remote communities have to do more work than people in non-remote non Indigenous majority areas for the same basic social security payment.

In some cases, up to 760 hours more per year.

There is less flexibility and people are paid far below the national minimum wage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also being penalised more because of the onerous compliance conditions.

In many cases, people are receiving a basic social security payment for work they should be employed to do.

The Government’s program is strangling genuine job opportunities in remote communities.

The Government’s remote Work for the Dole program is racially discriminatory and must be abandoned. Better outcomes will be achieved if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given the opportunity to determine their own priorities and gain greater control over their own lives.

A Fair Wage for Work

There is an opportunity for the Australian government to meaningfully partner with remote communities, rather than impose a “one size fits all” model from Canberra.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development initiatives.

Remote communities need a program that sees people employed to work on projects the community needs.

And to do so with decent pay and conditions, and the right to earn more for extra effort. The current program keeps people in the welfare system and excessive penalties see people just disengage. It provides no reward for effort and does not address the need to support people into the workforce.

Remote communities need a program that encourages school leavers to move straight into employment or training.

Not one that leaves young people trapped in a welfare cycle or disengaged.

Tailored community-led approaches are needed that reflect the diverse cultural, economic and social aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the realities of the remote job market.

A Fair and Positive Scheme for waged work and strengthening communities

Five Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote service providers, have developed a new, fair and positive model for job creation and community building – the Remote Development and Employment Scheme.

The Scheme will see people placed into part time work with award wages and conditions.

People will be protected by the workplace rights so many Australians take for granted. It would reduce the role that the welfare system plays in people lives. It will see more time and money spent creating new opportunities for jobs, enterprise and community development and less on pointless administration.

The Scheme is a place-based and community-driven model.

It will establish long term collaboration across governments, employers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to increase opportunities in remote communities.

Critically, the Scheme provides incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people already struggling to comply.

Keys features of the Remote Development and Employment Scheme :

  • Establish a wages fund to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other local organisations to create 10,500 part time jobs on award wages and conditions, working on services and projects important to their communities, with the ability to “top up” these wages from other funds when extra work is done.
  • Create 1,500 paid work experience and training places for young people, supported by locally driven youth development strategies.
  • Remove the discriminatory requirement for people in remote communities who remain on social security payments to work more hours than people in non- remote areas.
  • Create Remote Job Centres, with local governance bodies, focused on long term support to help people get into work, stay in work, and progress into better jobs based on their skills and aspirations.
  • Retain activity obligations for people who can work and receive social security but aren’t in a job. Obligations will be based on their capabilities and the needs and views of communities.
  • Support people with disabilities and family responsibilities to meet their gaols and contribute to their communities in a manner appropriate to their capabilities and aspirations.
  • Maintain and improve access to government services in remote communities, including Centrelink, and help people with disabilities access the right payment through the support of Remote Job Centres.
  • Ensure the Scheme is managed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through shared learning and evidence, by establishing an independent body with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led board.

Part 2 from The Guardian

Indigenous groups say work for the dole scheme racially discriminatory

An alliance of Indigenous groups has called the government’s remote work for the dole scheme a racially discriminatory, onerous and debilitating program that is causing children to go hungry.

The community development program was introduced in 2015, aiming to reduce welfare dependency in rural and remote areas.

The scheme relies heavily on private job service providers, and places more onerous requirements on jobseekers, who are required to work or engage in related activities for 25 hours a week across 46 weeks of the year.

Its 35,000 participants, who are 83% Indigenous, earn about $11 an hour, and those who fail to meet their obligations face financial penalties.

Witnesses told a Senate inquiry on Friday that a lack of job opportunities in remote communities made it unworkable and impractical.

Participants have been left to engage in “activity for activity’s sake” with little prospect for learning new skills or gaining a job.

If they fail to comply with rigid requirements, jobseekers face financial punishment. The government issued 35,122 financial penalties in the final quarter of last year, mostly through no show no pay penalties, usually of about $53.

An Australian National University study showed Indigenous people were 27 times more likely to be penalised by a loss of income than those on a similar program in a largely white area.

On Friday the Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (Apont), an alliance of five groups, gave evidence to a Senate inquiry into the program.

One of the members, the chief executive of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, John Paterson, said the program was causing significant harm to communities. He said financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry.

“Apont and our members have received widespread concerns about the debilitating impacts that CDP is having on its participants, their families and communities. Such consistent and strong concerns expressed by those at the coalface must be taken seriously and acted upon,” Paterson said.

“Onerous and discriminatory obligations applied to remote CDP work for the dole participants mean they have to do significantly more work than those in non-remote, mainly non-Indigenous majority areas, up to 670 hours more per year.”

Apont, which was created to end the top-down approach of Indigenous policy, has proposed a new model, which focuses on increasing jobs, boosting community development, and lessening the welfare system’s intrusion into people’s lives.

“The CDP is racially discriminatory, and Apont believes it must be abandoned. In seeking this we are not just coming here armed with criticisms, but with a solution, an alternative.”

Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian council of social service (Acoss), said the significant resources being spent on the CDP – about $268m in 2015-16 – would be better directed to creating employment in rural communities.

“When the term ‘welfare dependency’ is used, it’s often understood that it’s the social security payment that’s the problem,” Goldie said.

“But … the very important task of generating local employment, real employment opportunities, that is where the significant capabilities of the commonwealth, institutionally, should be coming in behind the deep desire by Atsi [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander] leadership, and also Indigenous people locally, to drive this agenda,” she said.

That was a position backed by non-profit job service providers, represented by the chief executive of Jobs Australia, David Thompson. “There’s been nothing done, nothing of any significant note, to actually increase the stock of jobs in those communities,” he said.

The Department of Social Services was questioned about why it imposed stricter requirements on participants of the CDP.

Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy asked, “If there are less jobs in a remote and rural region and less opportunities, why would there be a higher expectation of the hours?”

The DSS’s Bronwyn Field said the government had heard significant concerns from community leaders about sit-down welfare. To resolve that, it had decided daily activities from participants would be required.

“The government, when they started consultation prior to introducing the CDP, spent a lot of time with communities. One of the clear pieces of feedback was the fact that many Indigenous community leaders were concerned about people … doing sit-down welfare,” Field said.

McCarthy responded, “So you’re saying that was a result of government consultations to have those hours – 25 in the community, and 15 in town?”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and @MHPNOnline free webinar : Reducing the mental health impact of Indigenous incarceration

NACCHO Member Alert speaker update August 30

 ” Our CEO Pat Turner and NACCHO staff would like to invite all health workers to be a part of this free webinar: Reducing the mental health impact of Indigenous incarceration on people, communities and services.
 
Developed by NACCHO and produced by Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) the webinar features Q&A with a panel of experts and will explore the key issues and the impact that incarceration has on individuals, families and communities.”

Download FLYER HERE and share /promote this free webinar

No need to travel to benefit from this free PD opportunity.
Simply register and log in to participate from your home, work or anywhere you have a computer or tablet with a high speed internet connection.
 
Register now to attend this free webinar for health practitioners on
Wednesday 13 September 2017, from 4:30pm – 5:45pm AEST.
 
NACCHO also invites all Member services to ask staff to register now to access a free Mental Health Professionals’ Network webinar for their own professional development.
 
The Indigenous interdisciplinary panel will explore and discuss ways of reducing the mental health impact of Indigenous incarceration on people, communities and services.
 
This professional development opportunity is free and the previous webinar conducted by the MHPN had 680 participants across Australia.
 
The webinar features a Q&A with a panel of experts and will explore the key issues and the impact that incarceration has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The panel will discuss strategies to enhance cultural awareness and develop responsive services for Indigenous communities affected by incarceration.

WHO’S ON THE PANEL?
 
Julie Tongs OAM : CEO Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service ACT
Dr Louis Peachy : QLD-based rural medical advisor
Dr Marshall Watson : SA-based psychiatrist
Dr Jeff Nelson : QLD-based psychologist
 
Facilitator: Dr Mary Emeleus (QLD-based general practitioner and psychotherapist).
 
Simply register and log in to participate from your home, work or anywhere you have a computer or tablet with a high speed internet connection.
Registrations close at midnight on Tuesday 12th September, 2017.
 
Please find attached a flyer about the updated webinar and it would be appreciate if you could distribute this to your local network.
 
 

Aboriginal Health and the @AusLawReform inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal peoples

 

” The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry ask the ALRC to consider laws and legal frameworks that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody.

ALRC Home page

Download this 236 page discussion paper

discussion_paper_84_compressed_no_cover

Full Terms of reference part B below

The ALRC was asked to consider a number of factors that decision makers take into account when deciding on a criminal justice response, including community safety, the availability of alternatives to incarceration, the degree of discretion available, and incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment

The Terms of Reference also direct the ALRC to consider laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and the rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Submissions close on 4 September 2017.

Make a submission

Part A Proposals and Questions

1. Structure of the Discussion Paper

1.40     The Discussion Paper is structured in parts. Following the introduction, Part 2 addresses criminal justice pathways. The ALRC has identified three key areas that influence incarceration rates: bail laws and processes, and remand; sentencing laws and legal frameworks including mandatory sentencing, short sentences and Gladue-style reports; and transition pathways from prison, parole and throughcare. These were the focus of stakeholder comments and observations in preliminary consultations.

1.41     Part 3 considers non-violent offending and alcohol regulation. It provides an overview of the detrimental effects of fine debt on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the likelihood of imprisonment in some jurisdictions. Fine debt can be tied to driver licence offending, and the ALRC asks how best to minimise licence suspension caused by fine default. Part 3 also looks at ways laws and legal frameworks can operate to decrease alcohol supply so as to minimise alcohol-related offending in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

1.42     Part 4 discusses the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. It contextualises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female offending within experiences of trauma, including isolation; family and sexual violence; and child removal. It outlines how proposals in other chapters may address the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and asks what more can be done.

1.43     Part 5 considers access to justice, and examines ways that state and territory governments and criminal justice systems can better engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to prevent offending and to provide better criminal justice responses when offending occurs. The ALRC places collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations at the centre of proposals made in this Part, and suggests accountability measures for state and territory government justice agencies and police. The remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interpreters are also discussed. Alternative approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice responses, such as those operating under the banner of ‘justice reinvestment’, are also canvassed.

2. Bail and the Remand Population

Proposal 2–1        The Bail Act 1977 (Vic) has a standalone provision that requires bail authorities to consider any ‘issues that arise due to the person’s Aboriginality’, including cultural background, ties to family and place, and cultural obligations. This consideration is in addition to any other requirements of the Bail Act.

Other state and territory bail legislation should adopt similar provisions.

As with all other bail considerations, the requirement to consider issues that arise due to the person’s Aboriginality would not supersede considerations of community safety.

Proposal 2–2        State and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to identify service gaps and develop the infrastructure required to provide culturally appropriate bail support and diversion options where needed.

3. Sentencing and Aboriginality

Question 3–1        Noting the decision in Bugmy v The Queen [2013] HCA 38, should state and territory governments legislate to expressly require courts to consider the unique systemic and background factors affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when sentencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders?

If so, should this be done as a sentencing principle, a sentencing factor, or in some other way?

Question 3–2        Where not currently legislated, should state and territory governments provide for reparation or restoration as a sentencing principle? In what ways, if any, would this make the criminal justice system more responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders?

Question 3–3        Do courts sentencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders have sufficient information available about the offender’s background, including cultural and historical factors that relate to the offender and their community?

Question 3–4        In what ways might specialist sentencing reports assist in providing relevant information to the court that would otherwise be unlikely to be submitted?

Question 3–5        How could the preparation of these reports be facilitated? For example, who should prepare them, and how should they be funded?

4. Sentencing Options

Question 4–1        Noting the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

(a)     should Commonwealth, state and territory governments review provisions that impose mandatory or presumptive sentences; and

(b)     which provisions should be prioritised for review?

Question 4–2        Should short sentences of imprisonment be abolished as a sentencing option? Are there any unintended consequences that could result?

Question 4–3        If short sentences of imprisonment were to be abolished, what should be the threshold (eg, three months; six months)?

Question 4–4        Should there be any pre-conditions for such amendments, for example: that non-custodial alternatives to prison be uniformly available throughout states and territories, including in regional and remote areas?

Proposal 4–1        State and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to ensure that community-based sentences are more readily available, particularly in regional and remote areas.

Question 4–5        Beyond increasing availability of existing community-based sentencing options, is legislative reform required to allow judicial officers greater flexibility to tailor sentences?

5. Prison Programs, Parole and Unsupervised Release

Proposal 5–1        Prison programs should be developed and made available to accused people held on remand and people serving short sentences.

Question 5–1        What are the best practice elements of programs that could respond to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples held on remand or serving short sentences of imprisonment?

Proposal 5–2        There are few prison programs for female prisoners and these may not address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners. State and territory corrective services should develop culturally appropriate programs that are readily available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners.

Question 5–2        What are the best practice elements of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners to address offending behaviour?

Proposal 5–3        A statutory regime of automatic court ordered parole should apply in all states and territories.

Question 5–3        A statutory regime of automatic court ordered parole applies in NSW, Queensland and SA. What are the best practice elements of such schemes?

Proposal 5–4        Parole revocation schemes should be amended to abolish requirements for the time spent on parole to be served again in prison if parole is revoked.

6. Fines and Driver Licences

Proposal 6–1        Fine default should not result in the imprisonment of the defaulter. State and territory governments should abolish provisions in fine enforcement statutes that provide for imprisonment in lieu of unpaid fines.

Question 6–1        Should lower level penalties be introduced, such as suspended infringement notices or written cautions?

Question 6–2        Should monetary penalties received under infringement notices be reduced or limited to a certain amount? If so, how?

Question 6–3        Should the number of infringement notices able to be issued in one transaction be limited?

Question 6–4        Should offensive language remain a criminal offence? If so, in what circumstances?

Question 6–5        Should offensive language provisions be removed from criminal infringement notice schemes, meaning that they must instead be dealt with by the court?

Question 6–6        Should state and territory governments provide alternative penalties to court ordered fines? This could include, for example, suspended fines, day fines, and/or work and development orders.

Proposal 6–2        Work and Development Orders were introduced in NSW in 2009. They enable a person who cannot pay fines due to hardship, illness, addiction, or homelessness to discharge their debt through:

  • work;
  • program attendance;
  • medical treatment;
  • counselling; or
  • education, including driving lessons.

State and territory governments should introduce work and development orders based on this model.

Question 6–7        Should fine default statutory regimes be amended to remove the enforcement measure of driver licence suspension?

Question 6–8        What mechanisms could be introduced to enable people reliant upon driver licences to be protected from suspension caused by fine default? For example, should:

(a)     recovery agencies be given discretion to skip the licence suspension step where the person in default is vulnerable, as in NSW; or

(b)     courts be given discretion regarding the disqualification, and disqualification period, of driver licences where a person was initially suspended due to fine default?

Question 6–9        Is there a need for regional driver permit schemes? If so, how should they operate?

Question 6–10      How could the delivery of driver licence programs to regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities be improved?

7. Justice Procedure Offences—Breach of Community-based Sentences

Proposal 7–1        To reduce breaches of community-based sentences by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, state and territory governments should engage with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to identify gaps and build the infrastructure required for culturally appropriate community-based sentencing options and support services.

8. Alcohol

Question 8–1        Noting the link between alcohol abuse and offending, how might state and territory governments facilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, that wish to do so, to:

(a)     develop and implement local liquor accords with liquor retailers and other stakeholders that specifically seek to minimise harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, for example through such things as minimum pricing, trading hours and range restriction;

(b)     develop plans to prevent the sale of full strength alcohol within their communities, such as the plan implemented within the Fitzroy Crossing community?

Question 8–2        In what ways do banned drinkers registers or alcohol mandatory treatment programs affect alcohol-related offending within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities? What negative impacts, if any, flow from such programs?

9. Female Offenders

Question 9–1        What reforms to laws and legal frameworks are required to strengthen diversionary options and improve criminal justice processes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female defendants and offenders?

10. Aboriginal Justice Agreements

Proposal 10–1       Where not currently operating, state and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to renew or develop Aboriginal Justice Agreements.

Question 10–1      Should the Commonwealth Government develop justice targets as part of the review of the Closing the Gap policy? If so, what should these targets encompass?

11. Access to Justice Issues

Proposal 11–1       Where needed, state and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to establish interpreter services within the criminal justice system.

Question 11–1      What reforms to laws and legal frameworks are required to strengthen diversionary options and specialist sentencing courts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Proposal 11–2       Where not already in place, state and territory governments should provide for limiting terms through special hearing processes in place of indefinite detention when a person is found unfit to stand trial.

Question 11–2      In what ways can availability and access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services be increased?

Proposal 11–3       State and territory governments should introduce a statutory custody notification service that places a duty on police to contact the Aboriginal Legal Service, or equivalent service, immediately on detaining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person.

12. Police Accountability

Question 12–1      How can police work better with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to reduce family violence?

Question 12–2      How can police officers entering into a particular Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community gain a full understanding of, and be better equipped to respond to, the needs of that community?

Question 12–3      Is there value in police publicly reporting annually on their engagement strategies, programs and outcomes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that are designed to prevent offending behaviours?

Question 12–4      Should police that are undertaking programs aimed at reducing offending behaviours in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities be required to: document programs; undertake systems and outcomes evaluations; and put succession planning in place to ensure continuity of the programs?

Question 12–5      Should police be encouraged to enter into Reconciliation Action Plans with Reconciliation Australia, where they have not already done so?

Question 12–6      Should police be required to resource and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategies, where not already in place?

13. Justice Reinvestment

Question 13–1      What laws or legal frameworks, if any, are required to facilitate justice reinvestment initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Part B The Term of reference

ALRC inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

I, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia, refer to the Australian Law Reform Commission, an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons.

It is acknowledged that while laws and legal frameworks are an important factor contributing to over‑representation, there are many other social, economic, and historic factors that also contribute. It is also acknowledged that while the rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their contact with the criminal justice system – both as offenders and as victims – significantly exceeds that of non‑Indigenous Australians, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit criminal offences.

Scope of the reference

  1. In developing its law reform recommendations, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) should have regard to:
    1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody, specifically in relation to:
      1. the nature of offences resulting in incarceration,
      2. cautioning,
      3. protective custody,
      4. arrest,
      5. remand and bail,
      6. diversion,
      7. sentencing, including mandatory sentencing, and
      8. parole, parole conditions and community reintegration.
    2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering (1)(a)(i-viii), including:
      1. community safety,
      2. availability of alternatives to incarceration,
      3. the degree of discretion available to decision-makers,
      4. incarceration as a last resort, and
      5. incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment.
    3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
    4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
    5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
    6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  2.  In conducting its Inquiry, the ALRC should have regard to existing data and research[1] in relation to:
    1. best practice laws, legal frameworks that reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration,
    2. pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the criminal justice system, including most frequent offences, relative rates of bail and diversion and progression from juvenile to adult offending,
    3. alternatives to custody in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and/or offending, including rehabilitation, therapeutic alternatives and culturally appropriate community led solutions,
    4. the impacts of incarceration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in relation to employment, housing, health, education and families, and
    5. the broader contextual factors contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration including:
      1. the characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population,
      2. the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration and inter‑generational trauma, loss of culture, poverty, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, experience of violence, including family violence, child abuse and neglect, contact with child protection and welfare systems, educational access and performance, cognitive and psychological factors, housing circumstances and employment, and
      3. the availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration.
  3. In undertaking this Inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consider other reports, inquiries and action plans including but not limited to:
    1. the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,
    2. the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (due to report 1 August 2017),
    3. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services,
    4. Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric impairment in Australia,
    5. Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Harmful Use of Alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,
    6. reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    7. the ALRC’s inquiries into Family violence and Family violence and Commonwealth laws, and​
    8. the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

  1. In conducting its inquiry the ALRC should also have regard to relevant international human rights standards and instruments.

Consultation

  1. In undertaking this inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consult with relevant stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their organisations, state and territory governments, relevant policy and research organisations, law enforcement agencies, legal assistance service providers and the broader legal profession, community service providers and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Timeframe

  1. The ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 22 December 2017.

 

Aboriginal Health #Garma2017 : #Makarrata ,canoes and the #UluruStatement @TurnbullMalcolm @billshortenmp Full Speech transcripts

 ” Djapiri said Bill and I are in the same canoe and on this issue we certainly are – but we are not alone, we are not alone in the canoe. We are in the same canoe with all of you as well and we need to steer it wisely to achieve our goal, to achieve that goal of Makarrata.

Beyond Constitutional Recognition, that work continues every day. I reflect on the Makarrata discussion of the late 70’s and 80’s. A list of demands was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1981. It called for rights to land and resources, compensation, the creation of Aboriginal schools, medical centres and an Aboriginal bank.

Despite a final agreement not being reached at the time, we have achieved some of the policies called for. The Commonwealth provided $433 million to 137 Aboriginal Medical Services across the country last financial year.

As Prime Minister I will continue to do all I can to ensure that being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian means to be successful, to achieve, to have big dreams and high hopes, and to draw strength from your identity as an Indigenous person in this great country.

That’s why, as we renegotiate the Closing the Gap targets with the various state and territory jurisdictions later this year, my Government has insisted on a strengths based approach.

Indigenous people are not a problem to be solved.

You are our fellow Australians. Your cultures are a gift to our nation.”

Selected extracts from the full Prime Minister Speech 5 August Garma see Part 2 Full Speech

Download full copy Garma 2017 PM full Speech

” Djapirri said, she told me of a dream of a canoe, paddled by the Prime Minister and myself.

That in itself is an arresting image. Two captains. But in all seriousness, we appreciated I think the power of that illusion, the power of that dream.

Here at Garma, on the lands of the Gumatj, we gather to talk about a Yolngu word. Makarrata.

It is not just now a Yolngu word – I put it to you it’s a national test.

Coming together, after a struggle.

And for the first Australians, it has been a very long struggle indeed.

– A struggle against dispossession and discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

– A struggle against violence and poverty, disease and diminished opportunity.

– A struggle for better health, for better housing, for safer communities, more jobs, for longer lives.

– A struggle against injustice and racism: from the sporting field to the courts of our land.

Above all, a struggle for a better future for their children: a struggle to be counted, to be heard, to be recognised.

At Uluru, you gave us the statement from the heart.

A call for:

– A voice enshrined in the Constitution

– A declaration to be passed by all parliaments, acknowledging the unique place of the first nations in Australian history, their culture, their connection.

And a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.

All three of these objectives speak to the long-held and legitimate aspirations of our First Australians:

– A proper acknowledgment of Aboriginal histories and the dispossession that followed upon the arrival of the Europeans

– A bigger say in the issues which affect you – no more ‘solutions’ imposed without consultation or consent

And a more lasting settlement, a new way forward, a new pathway including through treaties.

These ideas are not new – but the Uluru statement did articulate these with new clarity, a new passion, a new sense of truth and purpose “

Selected extracts The Hon Bill Shorten speech  Garma 5 August 2017 see in full Part 3 Below

Download full speech Garma 2017 PM full Speech

Part 1 Media Coverage

View NITV Media coverage

When it comes to Aboriginal constitutional reform, picture Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten sitting in a canoe – and the opposition leader thinks he’s the only one paddling.

The Labor leader has backed a referendum question on an indigenous voice to parliament, while the prime minister has failed to commit bipartisan support.

The two politicians are moving together downstream, struggling to balance the boat to achieve reconciliation, Gumatj leader Djapirri Mununggirritj has told Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land.

Mr Shorten called it an “arresting image” but said he was disappointed Mr Turnbull dismissed his end of year referendum question deadline as “very ambitious”.

“We support a declaration by all parliaments, we support a truth telling commission, we are not confronted by the notion of treaties with our first Australians,” he said.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged many Aboriginal leaders were disappointed the government didn’t give “instant fulfilment” to the Referendum Council’s recommendations.

He described the Yolgnu elder’s canoe analogy as apt, saying his cabinet will give the matter careful consideration to keep the aspiration of Makarrata, or coming together after a struggle, from capsizing.

An “all or nothing approach” to constitutional change risks rocking the boat, resulting in a failed referendum, and Mr Turnbull called for time to develop a winnable question to put to Australian voters.

“We are not alone in the canoe, we are in the canoe with all of you and we need to steer it wisely to achieve that goal of Makarrata,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said there’s still many practical questions about what shape the advisory body would take, whether it would be elected or appointed and how it would affect Aboriginal people around the country.

Specifically, he questioned what impact the voice to parliament would have on issues like child protection and justice, which are largely the legislative domain of state and territory governments.

But Mr Shorten said debate over Aboriginal recognition in the nation’s founding document has dragged on for the past decade.

“I can lead Mr Turnbull and the Liberal party to water but I can’t make them drink,” he said.

Having led the failed 1999 republic referendum campaign, Mr Turnbull warned that Australians are “constitutionally conservative”, with just eight out of 44 successful since federation.

But Mr Shorten said “Aboriginal Australians do not need a balanda [white person] lecture about the difficulty of changing the constitution”.

Mr Shorten’s proposal of a joint parliamentary committee to finalise a referendum question has been met with cynicism by indigenous leaders.

The Above AAP

 

 Part 2 PRIME MINISTER Garma SPEECH :

Ngarra buku-wurrpan bukmak nah! Nhuma’lanah.

Ngarra Prime Minister numalagu djal Ngarra yurru wanganharra’wu nhumalangu bukmak’gu marrigithirri.

Ngarra ga nhungu dharok ga manikay’ ngali djaka wanga’wu yirralka.

I acknowledge and pay respect to your country, and your elders.

As Prime Minister, I’m here to talk to you and learn from you.

I acknowledge and respect your language, your song lines, your dances, your culture, your caring for country, and your estates.

I pay my respects to the Gumatj people and traditional owners past, present and future, on whose land we are gathered.

I also acknowledge other Yolngu people, First Peoples from across the country and balanda here today including Bill Shorten, Nigel Scullion and all other Parliamentary colleagues but above all I acknowledge our Parliamentary colleagues, Indigenous Parliamentary colleagues. Truly, voices of First Australians in the Parliament. Thank you for being here today and for the wisdom you give us, you together with my dear friend Ken, so much wisdom in the Parliament.

I offer my deep respect and gratitude to the Chairman of the Yothu Yindi Foundation, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu for hosting Lucy and me with your family. It was lovely to camp here last night and the last music was beautiful, serene and like a lullaby sending us all off to our dreams. Thank you. Emily was the last singer – beautiful.  And of course we woke here to the beautiful sounds of Gulkala.

I again as I did yesterday extend our deep condolences to the family of Dr G Yunupingu at this very sad time. He brought the Yolngu language to the people of Australia and his music will be with us forever.

I’ve come here to North East Arnhem Land to learn, participate respectfully and can I thank everyone so far I’ve had the chance to talk with. I am filled with optimism about our future together as a reconciled Australia.

Last month scientists and researchers revealed new evidence that our First Australians have been here in this land for 65,000 years.

These findings show that Indigenous people were living at the Madjedbebe rock shelter in Mirarr Country, at Kakadu east of Darwin, 18,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Among the middens, rock paintings, remains, plants and ochre, was the world’s oldest-known ground-edge axe head.

These findings place Australia on centre stage in the story of human origin, including mankind’s first long-distance maritime voyage – from Southeast Asia to the Australian continent.

Our First Peoples are shown as artistically, as technologically advanced, and at the cutting edge of technology in every respect.

Importantly, they confirm what Aboriginal people have always known and we have known – that your connection, your intimate connection to the land and sea are deep, abiding, ancient, and yet modern.

This news is a point of great pride for our nation. We rejoice in it, as we celebrate your Indigenous cultures and heritage as our culture and heritage – uniquely Australian.

As Galarrwuy said yesterday as he spoke in Yolngu, he said: “I am speaking in Australian.” Sharing, what a generosity, what a love, what a bigness he showed there as he does throughout his life and his leadership.

I want to pay tribute to the work of so many of you here today, who are leading the healing in communities, building bridges between the old and new, and looking for ways to ensure families and communities are not just surviving, but thriving.

Particularly the Indigenous leaders who every day wear many hats, walk in both worlds, and yet give tirelessly for their families and their communities. You often carry a very heavy load, and we thank you.

Where western astronomers look up at the sky and look for the light, Yolngu astronomers look also deep into the dark, using the black space to uncover further information, to unravel further mysteries.

So while we are both looking at the night sky, we are often looking at different parts. And yet through mutual respect, sharing of knowledge and an openness to learning, together we can see and appreciate the whole sky.

Those same principles are guiding us toward Constitutional Recognition.

The final Referendum Council report was delivered, as you know, on the 30th of June. Bill Shorten and I were briefed by the Referendum Council two weeks ago. The report was a long time coming and I know some would like an instant fulfillment of its recommendations.

Let me say, I respect deeply the work of the Referendum Council and all of those who contributed to it, and I respect it by considering it very carefully and the Government is doing so, in the first instance with my colleagues, including Ken Wyatt the first Indigenous Australian to be a Federal Minister, and together we consider it with our Cabinet. That is our way, that is our process, that is how we give respect to serious recommendations on serious matters.

And I do look forward to working closely and in a bipartisan way with the Opposition as we have done to date.

Djapiri said Bill and I are in the same canoe and on this issue we certainly are – but we are not alone, we are not alone in the canoe. We are in the same canoe with all of you as well and we need to steer it wisely to achieve our goal, to achieve that goal of Makarrata. Thank you again Galarrwuy for that word.

We share a sense of the significance of words. I love words and language. There is a great definition. What is the difference between poetry and prose? The best definition of poetry that I have ever found is that which cannot be translated, it can only be felt.

The Referendum Council’s report as Marcia reminded us is the fourth major report since that time and it adds immensely to the depth of knowledge. It gave us the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and I congratulate all those who attended on reaching an agreement. That was no small task.

It tells us that the priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is to resolve the powerlessness and lack of self-determination experienced – not by all, but certainly by too many.

I have been discussing it with leaders, the leaders of our First Australians and will continue to do so as we develop the next steps.

But there are still many questions:

What would the practical expression of the voice look like? What would the voice look like here for the Yolngu people? What would it look like for the people of Western Sydney, who are the largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Australia?

Is our highest aspiration to have Indigenous people outside the Parliament, providing advice to the Parliament? Or is it to have as many Indigenous voices, elected, within our Parliament?

What impact would the voice have on issues like child protection and justice, where the legislation and responsibility largely rest with state and territory governments?

These are important questions that require careful consideration. But the answers are not beyond us.

And I acknowledge that Indigenous Australians want deeper engagement with government and their fellow Australians, and to be much better consulted, and represented in the political, social and economic life of this nation.

We can’t be weighed down by the past, but we can learn from it.

Australians are constitutionally conservative. The bar is surmountable, you can get over it but it is a high bar. That’s why the Constitution has often been described as a frozen document.

Now many people talk about referendums, very few have experienced leading a campaign. The 1999 campaign for a Republic – believe me, now, one of the few subjects on which I have special knowledge – the 1999 campaign for a Republic has given me a very keen insight into what it will take to win, how hard it is to win, how much harder is the road for the advocate for change than that of those who resist change. I offer this experience today in the hope that together, we can achieve a different outcome to 1999. A successful referendum.

Compulsory voting has many benefits, but one negative aspect is that those who for one reason or another are not interested in an issue or familiar with it, are much more likely to vote no – it reinforces an already conservative constitutional context.

Another critical difference today is the rise of social media, which has changed the nature of media dramatically, in a decade or two we have a media environment which is no longer curated by editors and producers – but freewheeling, viral and unconstrained.

The question posed in a referendum must have minimal opposition and be clearly understood.

A vital ingredient of success is popular ownership. After all, the Constitution does not belong to the Government, or the Parliament, or the Judges. It belongs to the people.

It is Parliament’s duty to propose changes to the Constitution but the Constitution cannot be changed by Parliament. Only the Australian people can do that.

No political deal, no cross party compromise, no leaders’ handshake can deliver constitutional change.

Bipartisanship is a necessary but far from a sufficient condition of successful constitutional reform.

To date, again as Marcia described much of the discussion has been about removing the racially discriminatory provisions in the Constitution and recognising our First Australians in our nation’s founding document.

However, the Referendum Council has told us that a voice to Parliament is the only option they advise us to put to the Australian people. We have heard this, and we will work with you to find a way forward.

Though not a new concept, the voice is relatively new to the national conversation about constitutional change.

To win, we must all work together to build a high level of interest and familiarity with the concept of a voice, and how this would be different, or the same, as iterations of the past like the National Aboriginal Conference or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

We also need to look to the experience of other countries, as we seek to develop the best model for Australia.

The historic 1967 Referendum was the most successful in our history because of its simplicity and clarity. The injustices were clearly laid out – Indigenous people were not enjoying the rights and freedoms of other citizens. The question was clearly understood – that the Commonwealth needed to have powers to make laws for Indigenous Australians. And the answer seemed obvious – vote yes to ensure the Commonwealth gave Indigenous people equal rights.

To succeed this time around, we need to develop enough detail so that the problem, the solution and therefore the question at the ballot box are simple, easily understood and overwhelmingly embraced.

One of the toughest lessons I learnt from the Referendum campaign of ‘99 was that an ‘all or nothing’ approach sometimes results in nothing. During the campaign, those who disagreed with the model that was proposed urged a “no” vote, arguing that we could all vote for a different Republic model in a few years. I warned that a “no” vote meant no republic for a very long time.

Now, regrettably, my prediction 18 years ago was correct. We must avoid a rejection at a referendum if we want to avoid setting Makarrata reconciliation back.

We recognise that the Uluru statement is powerful because it comes from an Indigenous-designed and led process. And because it comes from the heart, we must accept that it is grounded in wisdom and truth.

It is both a lament and a yearning. It is poetry.

The challenge now is to turn this poetry that speaks so eloquently of your aspiration into prose that will enable its realisation and be embraced by all Australians.

This is hard and complex work. And we need to take care of each other as we continue on this journey. We need to take care of each other in the canoe, lest we tip out of it.

Yesterday afternoon was a powerful show of humanity. As we stood together holding hands – Indigenous and non-Indigenous people – we stood together as Australians. As equals.

And we will have the best chance of success by working together. This cannot be a take it or leave it proposal. We have to come to the table and negotiate in good faith, and I am committed to working with you to find a way forward.

Galarrwuy – you gave us your fire words yesterday, thank you again. We will draw on them as we look to light the path forward for our nation.

And when considering how to do that, we are inspired by the success of the Uluru process. The statement that emerged from Uluru was designed and led by Indigenous Australians and the next steps should be too.

To go to a referendum there must be an understanding between all parties that the proposal will meet the expectations of the very people it claims it will represent.

Now we have five Aboriginal members of our Parliament. They will be vital in shaping and shepherding any legislation through the Parliament. They too are bridge builders, walking in both worlds, and their contribution to the Parliament enriches us all.

The Australian Parliament and the nation’s people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – must be engaged as we work together to find the maximum possible overlap between what Indigenous people are seeking, what the Australian community overall will embrace and what the Parliament will authorise.

I have been learning that the word Makarrata means the ‘coming together after a struggle’— Galarrwuy told us a beautiful story this morning about a Makarrata here in this country. And a Makarrata is seen as necessary, naturally, if we are to continue our path to reconciliation.

But just like the night sky, reconciliation means different things to different people. This complexity convinces me that our nation cannot be reconciled in one step, in one great leap. We will only be reconciled when we take a number of actions, both practical and symbolic.

Beyond Constitutional Recognition, that work continues every day. I reflect on the Makarrata discussion of the late 70’s and 80’s. A list of demands was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1981. It called for rights to land and resources, compensation, the creation of Aboriginal schools, medical centres and an Aboriginal bank.

Despite a final agreement not being reached at the time, we have achieved some of the policies called for. The Commonwealth provided $433 million to 137 Aboriginal Medical Services across the country last financial year. Indigenous Business Australia provides low interest loans to help Indigenous Australians secure economic opportunities including home ownership with 544 new housing loans made last year. The Aboriginal Benefits Account supports Northern Territory Land Councils and provides grants for the benefit of Aboriginal people living in the Territory.

We now spend $4.9 billion on the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

And we are empowering communities through our Indigenous Procurement policy.

I am pleased to announce today the Commonwealth has officially surpassed half a billion dollars in spending with Indigenous businesses all over Australia. I am looking forward to sharing the full two-year results in October. This is a spectacular increase from just $6.2 million being won by Indigenous businesses only a few years ago under former policies.

Since 2008 the Commonwealth has been helping improve remote housing and bring down rates of overcrowding, with $5.4 billion to build thousands of better homes over ten years.

And the land is returning to its traditional owners.

More than 2.5 million square kilometres of land, or about 34 per cent of Australia’s land mass is today recognised under Native Title. Another 24 per cent is covered by registered claims and by 2025, our ambition is to finalise all current Native Title claims.

So we are standing here on Aboriginal land – land that has been rightfully acknowledged as yours and returned to you. And we are standing here near the birthplace of the land rights movement. A movement of which the Yolngu people were at the forefront.

As a nation we’ve come a long way.

In the Northern Territory, more than 50 per cent of the land is now Aboriginal land, recognised as Aboriginal land.

Just like the land at Kenbi which, on behalf of our nation, I returned to the traditional owners, the Larrakia people last year.

Earlier this year I appointed June Oscar AO, who has been acknowledged earlier, as the first female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, who has agreed to report on the issues affecting Indigenous women and girls’ success and safety.

And all of that work contributes to a better future for our First Australians.

But there is much more to be done in not just what we do, but how we do it – as we work with our First Australians. We are doing things with our First Australians, not to them.

Now Galarrwuy – I have read and read again your essay Rom Watungu. It too is a story from the heart, of your father, of his life and when his time came, how he handed his authority to you, the embodiment of continuity, the bearer of a name that means “the rock that stands against time”

But rocks that stand against time, ancient cultures and lore, these are the strong foundations on which new achievements are built, from which new horizons can be seen – the tallest towers are built on the oldest rocks.

You, Galarrwuy, ask Australians to let Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders breathe and be free, be who you are and ask that we see your songs and languages, the land and the ceremonies as a gift.

As Prime Minister I will continue to do all I can to ensure that being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian means to be successful, to achieve, to have big dreams and high hopes, and to draw strength from your identity as an Indigenous person in this great country.

That’s why, as we renegotiate the Closing the Gap targets with the various state and territory jurisdictions later this year, my Government has insisted on a strengths based approach. Indigenous people are not a problem to be solved. You are our fellow Australians. Your cultures are a gift to our nation.

There’s so much more work to be done.

But in doing so, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and all Australians, continue to connect with pride and optimism – with mabu liyan, in Pat’s language from the Yawuru people – the wellbeing that comes with a reconciled harmony with you, our First Australians, our shared history truthfully told and a deeper understanding of the most ancient human cultures on earth, and the First Australians to whom we have so much to thank for sharing them with us.

Thank you so much.

Part 3 Opposition Leader’s Garma Speech

Good morning everybody.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, I pay my respects to elders both past and present.

I recognise that I stand on what is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.

I acknowledge the Prime Minister and his wife Lucy.

I wish to thank Gallarwuy and the Gumatj for hosting us – and on behalf of my Labor team who are here, Senator Pat Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, the Hon Linda Burney, the Hon Kyam Maher, supported also by local Members of Parliament the Hon Warren Snowden and Luke Gosling, and Territory Minister Eva Lawler.

We are very grateful to be part of this gathering.

Also Clementine my daughter asked me to thank you for letting her join in the bunggul yesterday afternoon, she loved it.

At the opening yesterday, we were privileged, all of us, to be at a powerful ceremony, where we remembered Dr G Yunupingu, a man who was born blind – but helped Australians see.

From his island, his words and his music touched the world.

But I also understand that the words of our host were about setting us a test, reminding all of us privileged to be here that there is serious business to be done.

Here at Garma, on the lands of the Gumatj, we gather to talk about a Yolngu word. Makarrata.

It is not just now a Yolngu word – I put it to you it’s a national test.

Coming together, after a struggle.

And for the first Australians, it has been a very long struggle indeed.

– A struggle against dispossession and discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

– A struggle against violence and poverty, disease and diminished opportunity.

– A struggle for better health, for better housing, for safer communities, more jobs, for longer lives.

– A struggle against injustice and racism: from the sporting field to the courts of our land.

Above all, a struggle for a better future for their children: a struggle to be counted, to be heard, to be recognised.

In 2015, the Referendum Council was created with a very clear mission.

To consult on what form Constitutional Recognition should take – how it should work.

To listen to Aboriginal people and to be guided by their aspirations.

And to finally give them a say in a document from which too long they been excluded.

Since then, thousands of the first Australians have explained to the rest us what

Recognition means – for all of us, for our children and indeed for all of our futures.

We asked for your views, we sought your counsel – and, in large numbers, it was answered.

At Uluru, you gave us the statement from the heart.

A call for:

– A voice enshrined in the Constitution

– A declaration to be passed by all parliaments, acknowledging the unique place of the first nations in Australian history, their culture, their connection.

– And a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.

All three of these objectives speak to the long-held and legitimate aspirations of our

First Australians:

– A proper acknowledgment of Aboriginal histories and the dispossession that

followed upon the arrival of the Europeans

– A bigger say in the issues which affect you – no more ‘solutions’ imposed without consultation or consent

– And a more lasting settlement, a new way forward, a new pathway including through treaties.

These ideas are not new – but the Uluru statement did articulate these with new clarity, a new passion, a new sense of truth and purpose.

And let me speak truthfully on behalf of Labor, the Opposition.

I cannot be any more clear than this: Labor supports a voice for Aboriginal people in our Constitution, we support a declaration by all parliaments, we support a truth-telling commission.

We are not confronted by the notion of treaties with our first Australians.

For us the question is not whether we do these things, the question is not if we should do these things but when and how.

The Parliament needs to be engaged.

The Parliament needs to be engaged now.

The Parliament needs to start the process of engaging with the people of Australia now.

It does not come as a surprise to me, that following upon a report of the

Referendum Council, the Parliament’s next step must be to consider this report.

And in doing so, we must carry its message from the heart of Australia into our hearts as parliamentarians. With optimism, with understanding, not with a desire to find what is wrong, but to find the desire to make these concepts work in the interests of all.

If we were all gathered here now, back in 1891 and 1894 and 1897 to write the Constitution, we would never dream of excluding Aboriginal people from the Census.

But in 1901, they did.

If we were starting the Constitution from scratch, we would not diminish the independence of Aboriginal people – with racist powers.

But in 1901, they did.

And if we were starting on an empty piece of paper, we would, without question, recognise the First Australians’ right to a genuine, empowered voice in the decisions that govern their lives.

Now as you know, we cannot unmake history. We do not get the change to start all over again – but it doesn’t mean that we are forever chained to the prejudices of the past.

The Prime Minister’s observations though are correct about the difficulties of constitutional change. But I ask also that we cannot let the failure of 1999 govern our future on this question.

Voting for a constitutional voice is our chance to bring our Constitution home, to make it better, more equal and more Australian.

A document that doesn’t just pay respect to the weight of a foreign crown, but also recognises the power and value of the world’s oldest living culture, recognises that

Aboriginal people were here first.

And of course, let us reject those who say that symbolic change is irrelevant because dealing with these questions does not mean walking away from the real problems of inequality and disadvantage.

– Talking about enshrining a voice does not reduce our determination to eradicate family violence

– It doesn’t stop us creating good local jobs, training apprentices, treating trachoma or supporting rangers on country.

– It doesn’t distract us from the crisis in out-of-home care, youth suicide or the shocking, growing number of Aboriginal people incarcerated for not much better reason than the colour of their skin.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples don’t have to choose between historical justice and real justice, you don’t have to choose between equality in society and equality in the Constitution – you have an equal right to both.

The Uluru Statement has given us a map of the way forward – and today I finally want to talk about how we follow it, how we take the next step.

Not the obstacles ahead, not the problems, real as they are.

Aboriginal Australians don’t need a balanda lecture about the difficulty of changing the Constitution, our inspiration friends, should not be the 1999 referendum, it should be the 1967 referendum.

You have lived that struggle, every day.

Let me be very clear. In my study of our history, in my experience, nothing has ever been given to Aboriginal people – everything that is obtained has been fought for, has been argued for, has been won and built by Aboriginal people.

Think of the Freedom Riders

Think of the Bark Petition, which Gallarwuy was witness to

Think of the Gurindji at Wave Hill

Eddie Mabo and his fight for justice

Nothing was ever sorted by simply waiting until someone came along said let me do it for you. It is not the way the world is organised.

Every bit of progress has been driven by pride, by persistence by that stubborn refusal to not take no for an answer when it comes to the pursuit of equality.

Now making the case for change and encouraging Australians to vote yes for a recognition, reconciliation, and truth – this is not easy.

But before we can do that we surely must agree on the referendum question that has to be the long overdue next step.

I have written to our Prime Minister, we’ve proposed a joint parliamentary committee – which they’re taking on board, having a look at – to be made up of Government, the Opposition and crossbench MPs – to work with Aboriginal leaders right across Australia.

This committee will have two key responsibilities.

One – advising the Parliament on how to set-up a Makarrata Commission and create a framework for truth-telling and agreement making, including treaties.

Two – what would a voice look like. Whilst there are many questions, none of these are insurmountable.

And three, as a matter of overdue recognition – to endeavour to finalise a referendum question in a timely fashion. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be done by the end of this year.

The issues have been traversed for a decade.

Now friends this is not a committee for the sake of a committee, it’s not another mechanism for delay. It is the necessary process of engagement of the Parliament.

But we have had ten years plus of good intentions, but it is time now perhaps, for more action.

The Parliament does have a key role to play here, in setting the question.

The Parliament could agree on the question this year if we all work together so that the people could vote not long after that.

Voting to enshrine a voice in a standalone Referendum – free from the shadow of an election, or the politics of other questions.

It may seem very hard to imagine, it may seem very hard to contemplate.

But it is possible to imagine a great day, a unifying day, a famous victory, a Makaratta for all.

As I said yesterday, we’ve heard plenty of speeches, there are many fine words… but perhaps people have a right to be impatient after ten years – indeed after 117 years.

So the test I set isn’t what we say here, in this beautiful place.

It’s what we do when we leave.

It’s the honesty of admitting that after the event, what is it that we do.

The test I set for myself is can I come here at future Garmas and look you in the eye and say I have done everything I can, because if I cannot say to you that I have done everything I that I can, then I can’t be truthful with my heart.

Yesterday Gallarwuy spoke with a tongue of fire, he told a powerful truth.

He said that for more than two centuries we had been two peoples – living side-by-side, but not united.

I think that is the challenge for politics too.

Djapirri who just spoke up before me, she’s talked about hope. There is the hope that you refer to, you have the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. We are here side-by-side, and now we need to be united, not to kick the can down the road, but united on a process that says this parliament will respect what we have heard from Aboriginal people.

Not just at Uluru, but for decades.

In 1967, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were counted. In 2017, you are being heard.

There is no reason why we can’t enshrine a voice for Aboriginal people in our Constitution.

Djapirri said, she told me of a dream of a canoe, paddled by the Prime Minister and myself. That in itself is an arresting image. Two captains. But in all seriousness, we appreciated I think the power of that illusion, the power of that dream.

My party is ready.

I think Australia is ready.

The fine words that we heard at the opening yesterday, they remind me of the fire dreaming symbol, which is in the front of the Parliament of Australia.

Fire.

That fire dreaming symbol is from central Australia but it is connected isn’t it, by the word of Djapirri yesterday.

Again, that spirit of fire it is a gift from Indigenous people to all Australians and I sincerely will endeavor to make sure that spirit of fire infuses our Parliament.

From #Mabo25 to #UluruStatement and #Treaty : Mabo Commemoration Oration : Senator Patrick Dodson

 ” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.”

Part 2

 “Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.”

Senator Patrick Dodson on June 16 delivered  this year’s 2017 ANU Mabo Commemoration Oration at University House. The Mabo Commemoration Oration was held to recognise the 25th anniversary of the Mabo ruling.

In June 1992, the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island). In acknowledging the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their land, the Court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people. This landmark decision gave rise to important native title legislation the following year and rendered terra nullius a legal fiction.

Senator Patrick Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome in Western Australia. He has dedicated his life work to being an advocate for constructive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples based on mutual respect, understanding and dialogue. He is a recipient of the Sydney International Peace prize

Image above : On display at Parliament House Canberra in a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo drew this map in the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

Full Oration

Thank you very much Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and thank you for the Welcome to Country. I too join in the appreciation of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people for their welcome to their lands.

It is a great honour for me to be here at the Australian National University tonight to deliver a speech in honour of the late Eddie Koiki Mabo.

  • Mr Mabo was a man of history.
  • He celebrated his Mer and Torres Strait Islander history.
  • He made Australian history.

So it is to history that I will turn to start my remarks.

On 26 January 1788, the British flag was raised at Botany Bay.

The land, now part of the City of Sydney, was the territorial property of the Gadigal and Bidigal people of the Eora nation. It was held and looked after by them, for countless generations.

With a cheer and a tot of rum, to the sounds of fife and drums, the colony of New South Wales was proclaimed.

Over time, other colonies were established in other parts of Australia or by separation of their territory from New South Wales.

• Queensland was one of those.

Over time, the boundaries of the Queensland colony were stretched to include offshore northern islands around 1859.

The lines on the map between Papua New Guinea and Australia included the Murray Islands, the largest of which is Murray Island or Mer.

  • In 1912, the Island of Mer was declared a Reserve under the Land Act 1910 (Qld).
  • In 1936, Eddie Mabo was born in Mer.
  • In 1982, Eddie Koiki Mabo and four other Murray Islanders commenced proceedings against the State of Queensland.

They claimed ownership of parcels of land on Mer as the holders of native title under their customary law.

This litigation, bearing the name of the man we commemorate tonight, transformed the modern Australian common law.

• The case changed our History.

• For the good. On the first floor of our Parliament, I walk past a display of foundation documents of  Australia’s law and society.

This week I watched a group of school children walk through the area on their tours of Parliament House, under a banner that reads, “Parliament is the law-making body which determines the rules of the society by which people live.”

A couple of young boys were looking at a case where a page out of an old-school notebook was on display.

In a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo had drawn the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

On the same floor, there are other important documents and paintings on display: The Yirrkala bark petition, the Barunga petition, the Kevin Rudd apology.

Each of these artefacts talks to our most significant national historical challenge.

How can we recognise and acknowledge the fact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prior ownership of this land we now call Australia?

Mr Mabo’s map and the petitions call for all of us to recognise and acknowledge the fact  of occupation.

• to re-think the received colonial settler narrative. They remind us of the exertion of force by and on behalf of the British authorities.

  • The fact is: the British did not ask permission to settle.
  • The fact is: no-one consented, no-one ceded.
  • The fact is: the judiciary and the legislature have become less generous since The Mabo ruling.
  • The fact is: we need an agreement or treaty to settle not only the ongoing legacy of terra nullius but also the legacy of its existence.

The first peoples were in this land as owners and governors of their respective countries before and when the colonists ‘arrived’ and began to gradually occupy their territories and rule over them. Today those native title holders under the Native Title Act are evidence of their descent from their ancestors and are the living testimony of their prior occupation of their lands and waters.

They and their people proclaim continuing occupation. This land was not, and is not, terra nullius.

The only thing that threatens this is the application of extinguishment written into the Native Title Act. It is more sinister than its existence as a legal mechanism, because in most cases it requires the consent of the very people that hold the Native Title.

This is neither honourable, nor generous.

This is treachery and brings shame to the Mabo name. It belittles the vision and motives of Mr Mabo and the other families who fought and won a seminal victory in the High Court.

The Chief Justice of Australia who heard the Mabo case, Justice Sir Gerard Brennan made this determination on 3rd June 1992 :

  • The common law of Australia rejects the notion that, when the Crown acquired sovereignty over territory which is now part of Australia it thereby acquired the absolute beneficial ownership of the land therein, and
  • accepts that the antecedent rights and interests in land possessed by the indigenous inhabitants of the territory survived the change in sovereignty.
  • Those antecedent rights and interests thus constitute a burden on the radical title of the Crown.

His decision in the Mabo case ruled that:

• the Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the island of Mer.

Rejecting the notion of “terra nullius”, native title was found to have survived the acquisition of sovereignty.

Of course the High Court as an instrument of our Constitution cannot rule on the issue of sovereignty.

It took ten long years to resolve the Mabo claim. It is a poignant tragedy that Koiki Mabo did not live long enough to hear the decision of the High Court.

  • To celebrate the recognition of what he knew in his heart and mind to be the truth
  • His country was in Mer.

From our viewpoint in history, we see the Case that bears his name as a major landmark, a signpost for our future. But the road is long and at times the travelling is hard going.

The Mabo decision led to an eruption of controversy and alarm, in much of mainstream Australia.

Mabo was an affront to the security provided by the lie of terra nullius.

The Commonwealth Parliament, in 1993, under the Labor Government of Paul Keating, enacted the Native Title Act.

The Act sought to build on the common law as defined in the Mabo case.The integrity around this today raises serious questions.

In my own State of Western Australia, in which more than half of the land was legally unalienated and mineral rich, the Government objected. The State Parliament in Perth passed a law to extinguish native title from the moment of colonisation and challenged the Commonwealth Act.

The High Court upheld the validity of the Native Title Act and found the Western Australian law to be invalid.

On a personal note, that decision enabled the Yawuru people to pursue our own native title interests and reclaim our country. My brother Mick and I have good reason to be forever grateful to Koiki Mabo and his pioneering vision and courage.

Another major milestone took place in 1996. The High Court in the Wik case found that Native Title and pastoral leases could co-exist.

The pastoral leases were a feature of the colonial period, trying to reign in the peacocking of the best lands by squatters.

  • There was at least some consideration by the Colonial authorities of the rights of Aboriginal people to travel over the leases.
  • Such rights themselves became caveats on the pastoral lease until gradually modified.

The Wik case was a simple matter of concurrent and co-existing rights but with the Native Title rights yielding to the leaseholder if there is a conflict. The public reaction by some sectors was ill informed and disgraceful.

So the generosity of the Court already had begun to harden somewhat in the qualification they put on the notion of “concurrent and coexistent” rights.

The Government of Prime Minister John Howard, could have used this decision as a positive step, as an opportunity for advancing reconciliation.

The Howard “Ten Point Plan” led to the 1996 amendments to the Native Title Act, and in the words of his Deputy Tim Fischer, delivered ‘bucket-loads of extinguishment’.

That legislation was in my view intended to reinstate terra nullius or to remove what Justice Brennan called the ‘burden on the radical title of the Crown’.

As a sweetener they also delivered opportunity previously denied except under a statutory land rights Act.

They opened the opportunity for Agreement Making, which unfortunately is too often structurally tied to extinguishment. Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be negotiated under the Act whereby Native Title Holders and other parties could agree on the use of Native Title lands, for mutual benefit and economic development.

Far too often, the price of that opportunity has been too high, in my view, leading to the extinguishment of Native Title, forever and a day, leaving a lingering burden on the shoulders of the native title holders.

Nevertheless, hundreds of agreements have been negotiated and signed across the nation, especially in Queensland, but also in my state of Western Australia, where an ILUA Agreement for the Noongar people, had been hailed as a major landmark, a Treaty in all but name for the people of the South West.

In the Senate this week, the validation of Indigenous Land Use Agreements has been under debate. There is a tension between law-making in the Parliament, the decisions of the Courts and the aspirations of Aboriginal people to negotiate agreements that retain their rights.

The concept of separation of powers is not always empathetic to the sense of justice held by Aboriginal people.

The Noongar agreement came unstuck with the McGlade decision. With the recent amendments in the Parliament this Agreement will go back to the process of registration, for the Noongars to settle.

At every step, the Labor Party has pushed for consultation on these Bills, through a Senate Committee, through submissions and through consultations with representatives of the Native Title Representative bodies.

At every step, we have remembered the legacy of Koiki Mabo and understand the fact that Native Title rights, now recognised in the common law, should not be changed, extinguished or modified at the whim of Government.

They do not exist as a gift of the Parliament, or an act of largesse by the Government of the day.

Native Title rights are ongoing rights, with deep roots into our common law held exclusively by Native Title holders. Amending legislation should always require the ‘free, prior and informed consent of Native Title holders.

The Native Title Act, much amended over time, has evolved in complexity and function. Koiki Mabo would probably have some difficulty understanding how his vision has become brutalised by Parliament.

The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its 2015 review, Connection to Country, has identified key areas of reform that are yet to be implemented by the Government. Indeed, we still await a formal response from the Government to its recommendations.

From my own perspective, as a native title holder, and now as a legislator, I see five key areas where the functioning of the Act requires rework, not least to better align it to the vision of Eddie Koiki Mabo. These are, in summary:

  • The need to rethink the presumption that an Agreement for alternative uses of native title land requires extinguishment of native title rights;
  • The need to rethink the decision-making process required under the Act;
  • The need to improve the fungibility for native title land without needing extinguishment or loss of communal title;
  • The need to address the rights of compensation for the loss of enjoyment, access and use of Native Title lands.
  • The need to change the onus of proof burden from native title applicants to the Crown
  • The Native Title Act can be refashioned to shift the point of balance towards the ongoing rights, interest, needs and concerns of Indigenous Australians. Doing so would restore the Act to its fundamental purpose: to recognise and protect native title, in the interests of Indigenous Australians, and our shared national future.

Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

They set out to deliberate and report back to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, through the Referendum Council, on Constitutional recognition.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

From a Parliamentary perspective, we look forward to the report on those consultations from the Referendum Council at the end of the month. Hopefully working through these issues in the Parliament, in the time ahead, will take place in the spirit of constructive optimism.

To formulate a successful referendum outcome, especially in the next year a bipartisan, indeed, cross party consensus will need to be carefully shaped.

In my personal view, Constitutional reform, a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice have never been mutually exclusive—one does not come at the expense of the others.

• Of course I support an Agreement making process

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.

It would also pick up the opportunity that was lost when the Native Title negotiations focused solely upon land tenure.

I have never held the view that Mabo was only about land tenure. In fact when my views clashed with the then negotiators I was asked to discontinue any involvement in the process and dutifully left it to those who settled the issues with Prime Minister Keating.

There was no treaty when this land was colonized. In the future a treaty will be a strong step for a mature and harmonious nation. The work of Labor Governments in our States of Victoria and South Australia show it can be done.

Of course we need a strong Indigenous voice.

For too long Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been denied a voice, excluded from decision making processes about their own lives.

Indigenous people want to reset our relationship with government.

  • We want to be heard.
  • We have been calling for this for a long time.

Working to make a Voice effective within the processes of Parliament and capable of support from the whole Australian population in a referendum is a key challenge. A challenge Labor will consider carefully.

We look forward to more information on how the idea of an entrenched Voice can become a systemic, secure and successful legislative reality.

• We need to address the systemic racism that exists in our nation’s founding document, Australia’s Constitution.

We want our past to be acknowledged and we want to be involved in decisions about our future.

The Uluru Statement called for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First nations and truth-telling about our history.

Many rejected the  idea of any ‘symbolic’ acknowledgement in what they saw as a racist document, the  Constitution.

This may well have been a statement from the heart.

It is time we acknowledged that Indigenous people were not included in the Constitutional Conventions that were held all over Australia in the lead up to Federation.

The Australian Constitution was written by people who thought Indigenous people were lesser beings; a dying race with no sense of land use and development.

  • The dynamic of racism in Australia is institutional and it is structural.
  • The foundations of racism are entrenched, persistent, in this nation’s founding  document.

The question we need to work through is not about choosing between a treaty, a voice or constitutional recognition.

The question is whether Australia is able to move forward towards reconciliation —be that in the form of a Treaty, or an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution —while the nation’s foundation document remains, in its DNA, a flawed and racist document.

I understand this because I was a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, which was tasked to report to the Government on possible options for constitutional change to give effect to indigenous constitutional recognition and to assess any legal consequence that might flow.

In 2012, the Expert Panel delivered our report , which made a series of recommendations including:

  • a statement of acknowledgment in the Constitution, relevant to the lawmaking power in indigenous affairs (new Section 51 A);
  • a modification to the wording of the Commonwealth’s lawmaking power in

Indigenous affairs (s 51 (26);

  • a constitutional prohibition on racial discrimination (new S 116A); and
  • the removal of a provision that contemplates states disqualifying people from voting based on their race (s 25).

These recommendations recognise that the Government has the power to make laws about Indigenous people, but the laws must be beneficial and give the Parliament guidance.

It would be a mistake to consider this constitutional reform as merely ‘symbolic’.

Nothing about our Constitution is symbolic. There is not even a preamble that could point us to something symbolic.

The words in the Constitution reference powers that the Parliament uses to make laws.

They are words with real power. They are words that guide the Parliament in making laws and the Courts when they judge the validity of those laws.

Changing powers in the Constitution and giving clarification around how such powers can be used is not mere symbolism, “pretty words”.

Having an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution, without amending the Constitution to remove racially entrenched ideologies, is puzzling.

It seems to assume that an Indigenous voice in the Constitution could be strong enough to challenge the entrenched structural racism which shapes the policies and laws that affect the lives of Aboriginal people without removing the racist elements of the Constitution.

We know these policies and laws. They are the policies of assimilation, of forced social and cultural change. These are the policies that continue to remove Aboriginal people from their families, country and culture.

These are the policies that have caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to  make up approximately one quarter of Australia’s prison population, despite making up  just 3 per cent of the total population.

These are the policies which have led to Indigenous Australians dying a decade earlier than non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Policies that repeatedly fail Aboriginal people.
  • Policies that Koiki Mabo challenged with his life and would do so today if he were alive.

It is no coincidence that these policies exist alongside a constitution that is the legacy of a colonial settler narrative, a narrative that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people as lesser beings and Australia as a land belonging to nobody. If we are going to clean up the mess that racism has made in Australia, in the hope that we might one day achieve reconciliation, we have to do it properly and honorably.

The report of the Referendum Council at the end of this month deserves and requires weighty consideration. If the Referendum Council’s recommendations do not get broad parliamentary support it will fail and there will be no referendum.

If there is broad support then, it requires careful consideration of a Bill and Explanatory Memorandum that can pass through this challenging and complicated parliament.

It requires a question that can be put to the Australian people that will pass the high bar of a referendum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.

Kaliya. Thank you.

 

Aboriginal Health : Second Atlas of Healthcare Variation highlights higher Aboriginal hospitalisation rates for all 18 clinical conditions

 

“The report, compiled by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, shows us that high hospitalisation rates often point to inadequate primary care in the community, leading to higher rates of potentially preventative hospitalization

The most disturbing example of this  has been the higher hospitalisation rates for all of the 18 clinical conditions surveyed experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, people living in areas of relative socioeconomic disadvantage and those living in remote areas.

 Chairman of Consumers Health Forum, Tony Lawson who is a member of the Atlas Advisory Group.

 “Additional priorities for investigation and action are hospitalisation rates for specific populations with chronic conditions and cardiovascular conditions, particularly:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
  • People living in remote areas
  • People at most socioeconomic disadvantage.

Please note

  • Features of the second Atlas include: Analysis of data by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status

DOWNLOAD Key-findings-and-recommendations

Mr Martin Bowles Secretary Dept of Health  launches the Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

A new report showing dramatic differences in treatment rates around Australia signals a pressing need for reforms to ensure equitable access to appropriate health care for all Australians, the Consumers Health Forum, says.

“A seven-fold difference in hospitalisation for heart failure and a 15-fold difference for a serious chronic respiratory disease depending on place of residence, are among many findings of substantial variations in treatment rates in Australia revealed in the Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation,” the chairman of Consumers Health Forum, Tony Lawson, said.

“While there are a variety of factors contributing to these differences,  the variation in health and treatment outcomes is, as the report states, an ‘alarm bell’ that should make us stop and investigate whether appropriate care is being delivered.

“These findings show that recommended care for chronic diseases is not always provided.  Even with the significant funding provided through Medicare to better coordinate primary care for people with chronic and complex conditions, fragmented health services contribute to suboptimal management, as the report states.

“We support the report’s recommendation for a stronger primary health system that would provide a clinical ‘home base’ for coordination of patient care and in which patients and carers are activated to develop their knowledge and confidence to manage their health with the aid of a healthcare team.

“The Atlas provides further robust reasons for federal, state and territory governments to act on the demonstrated need for a more effective primary health system that will ensure better and more cost effective care for all Australians.

“The Atlas also examined  variations in women’s health care, and its findings included a seven-fold difference in rates of hysterectomy and  21-fold  difference in rates of endometrial ablation.  The report states that rates of hysterectomy and caesarean sections in Australia are higher than reported rates in other developed nations.  These results highlight the need for continuing support and information on women’s health issues,” Mr Lawson said.

The Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation (second Atlas) paints a picture of marked variation in the use of 18 clinical areas (hospitalisations, surgical procedures and complications) across Australia.

This Atlas, the second to be released by the Commission, illuminates variation by mapping use of health care according to where people live.  As well, this Atlas identifies specific achievable actions for exploration and quality improvement.

The second Atlas includes interventions not covered in the first Atlas, such as hospitalisations for chronic diseases and caesarean section in younger women. It also builds on the findings from the first Atlas – for example, examining hysterectomy and endometrial ablation separately, and examining rates of cataract surgery using a different dataset.

Priority areas for investigation and action arising from the second Atlas include use of:

  • Hysterectomy and endometrial ablation
  • Chronic conditions (COPD, diabetes complications)
  • Knee replacement.

Additional priorities for investigation and action are hospitalisation rates for specific populations with chronic conditions and cardiovascular conditions, particularly:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
  • People living in remote areas
  • People at most socioeconomic disadvantage.

Healthcare Variation – what does it tell us

Some variation is expected and associated with need-related factors such as underlying differences in the health of specific populations, or personal preferences. However, the weight of evidence in Australia and internationally suggests that much of the variation documented in the Atlas is likely to be unwarranted. Understanding this variation is critical to improving the quality, value and appropriateness of health care.

View the second Atlas

The second Atlas, released in June 2017, examined four clinical themes: chronic disease and infection – potentially preventable hospitalisations, cardiovascular, women’s health and maternity, and surgical interventions.

Key findings and recommendations for action are available here.

View the maps and download the data using the interactive platform.

What does the Atlas measure?

The second Atlas shows rates of use of healthcare interventions (hospitalisations, surgical procedures and complications,) in geographical areas across Australia.  The rate is then age and sex standardised to allow comparisons between populations with different age and sex structures. All rates are based on the patient’s place of residence, not the location of the hospital or health service.

The second Atlas uses data from national databases to explore variation across different healthcare settings. These included the National Hospital Morbidity Database and the AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection.

Who has developed the second Atlas?

The Commission worked with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on the second Atlas.

The Commission consulted widely with the Australian government, state and territory governments, specialist medical colleges, clinicians and consumer representatives to develop the second Atlas.

Features of the second Atlas include:

  • Greater involvement of clinicians during all stages of development
  • Analysis of data by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
  • Analysis of data by patient funding status (public or private).

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Chronic disease and infection: potentially preventable hospitalisations

1.1 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
1.2 Heart failure
1.3 Cellulitis
1.4 Kidney and urinary tract infections
1.5 Diabetes complications

Chapter 2 Cardiovascular conditions

2.1 Acute myocardial infarction admissions
2.2 Atrial fibrillation

Chapter 3 Women’s health and maternity

3.1 Hysterectomy
3.2 Endometrial ablation
3.3 Cervical loop excision or cervical laser ablation
3.4 Caesarean section, ages 20 to 34 years
3.5 Third- and fourth-degree perineal tear

Chapter 4 Surgical interventions

4.1 Knee replacement
4.2 Lumbar spinal decompression
4.3 Lumbar spinal fusion
4.4 Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
4.5 Appendicectomy
4.6 Cataract surgery
Technical Supplement
About the Atlas
Glossary

Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation data set specifications are available at http://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/674758

 

Aboriginal Women’s Health : Download Report : Over imprisonment of Aboriginal women is a growing national crisis

“For too long our women have been ignored by policymakers. It is time for governments at all levels to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experiences and voices front and centre, and listen to what we have to say about the solutions.

The report highlights the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women having access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe services and supports that address the underlying causes of imprisonment,

Experiences of family violence contribute directly and indirectly to women’s offending, If we are to see women’s offending rates drop, governments must invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that work with our women to stop violence.”

Antoinette Braybrook, Co Chair of the Change the Record Coalition and Convener of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.

New report launched to address skyrocketing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s imprisonment rates

Download the report here : Aboriginal Woman OverRepresented_online

The over imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a growing national crisis that is being overlooked by all levels of government in Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record said in a new report launched today.

The imprisonment rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has skyrocketed nearly 250 per cent since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make up around 34 per cent of the female prison population but only 2 per cent of the adult female population.

The report, Overrepresented and overlooked: the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s growing over imprisonment, calls for system wide change and outlines 18 recommendations to redress racialised and gendered justice system outcomes.

Adrianne Walters, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre said,

“The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu is a devastating example of what happens when the justice system fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Ms Dhu was locked up under draconian laws that see Aboriginal women in WA disproportionately locked up for fines they cannot pay. She was treated inhumanely by police and died in their care. At a time when she most needed help, the justice system punished her.”

Annette Vickery, Deputy CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, said, “The vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in custody are mothers. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are often in custody for short periods, even a short time can cause devastating and long term upheaval – children taken into child protection, stable housing lost, employment denied.

“Governments should be doing everything they can to help women avoid prison to prevent the devastating rippling effects of women’s imprisonment on children and families,” added Ms Vickery.

The report calls for governments to move away from ‘tough on crime’ approaches in reality and rhetoric, and to focus on evidence based solutions that tackle drivers of offending and prevent women coming into contact with the justice system in the first place.

Ms Walters said, “Overzealous policing and excessive police powers, driven by tough on crime politics, see too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men fined and locked up for minor offending. Only last month, the WA Coroner recommended the removal of police arrest and detention powers for public drinking after another Aboriginal woman died in police custody.”

“Governments can act now to remove laws that disproportionately and unfairly criminalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, like fine default imprisonment laws in WA and paperless arrest laws in the NT,” added Ms Walters

Ms Walters said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are also being denied bail and options to transition away from courts and prisons to more rehabilitative alternatives. Too often this is because of a lack of housing and programs designed for their social and cultural needs, particularly in regional and remote locations.’

“Rather than enacting harsher laws and barriers to women accessing rehabilitative alternatives, governments must invest in programs that are designed for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and that tackle the root causes of offending,” said Ms Walters.

Response from contributor to the report, Vickie Roach Vickie Roach, a former prisoner turned writer and advocate said “punitive approaches don’t work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. They punish our women, their families and communities, for actions that are often the consequence of forced child removal and assimilation policies.”

“Governments should be getting rid of laws that unfairly criminalise our women. They should be trying to close prisons and focusing on alternatives that are healing. You need to respect women’s dignity, but in my experience, so often the criminal justice system just takes it away,” added Ms Roach.