UN rapporteur slams Aboriginal policies

The United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous rights says the intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory.

The United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous rights says the intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory.

James Anaya didn't pull any punches when describing the plight of Aboriginal people in Australia after a two-week visit of the country, saying there's "entrenched" racism in Australia.

Call to reinstate Racial Discrimination Act

He says the Rudd government should reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT "right away" because the intervention is discriminatory.

"It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

He also slammed Labor's policy of demanding 40-year leases over indigenous land before building new houses and said the stolen generations should be paid compensation.

The Racial Discrimination Act was suspended in the NT by the former Howard government so the intervention's more extreme measures, such as quarantining welfare payments, could be rolled out.

The Rudd government has promised to introduce legislation to reinstate the act in the Spring session of parliament, but wants to continue many of the compulsory measures.

Prof Anaya says while there's no doubt special efforts are required to combat indigenous disadvantage and abuse of women and children, the intervention's "broad sweep" goes too far and is incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations.

"Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist," the rapporteur said.

Blanket alcohol bans 'discriminatory'

Compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography were "overtly discriminatory" and further stigmatised already stigmatised communities, he said.

"People who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included. "It's inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning." The indigenous rights expert was also scathing of federal Labor's insistence that housing funds

would only flow if indigenous communities signed over their land.

"It's a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples ... aren't capable of taking care of their homes," Prof Anaya said.

"Indigenous control can be appropriate to indigenous peoples' development, to their aspirations, to indeed being in control of their lives like all others."

Call for compensation

As for compensation for indigenous people taken from their families by government agencies, the UN rapporteur was unequivocal: "There should be reparations," he said.

But it wasn't all negative news for the Rudd government. Prof Anaya praised Labor for taking "significant steps" to try and improve the human rights and living conditions of indigenous Australians.

He also congratulated the government for supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier this year and officially apologising to the stolen generations in 2008.

There was hope, he said. "I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism."

Source AAP

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