Mar 07, 2005

Aboriginals of Australia: Goverment Will Ignore UN Predicts

Key Indigenous lobbyists predicted the Australian government will ignore UN concerns over abuses of Aboriginals expected to be raised in the European headquarters of the human rights watchdog
Key Indigenous lobbyists predicted the Australian government will ignore UN concerns over abuses of Aboriginals expected to be raised yesterday in the European headquarters of the human rights watchdog.

The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva is considering submissions in front of senior officials from four government departments over Sydney’s Redfern riots and the death in custody of a man on Palm Island, off north Queensland, last year.

However, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), which has called on the UN to push for full government compliance with 1991 Black Deaths in Custody recommendations, said on Monday the government was likely to blast the UN process.

ANTaR National Director David Cooper accused state and federal governments of blaming Aboriginal communities for repeated government failures and called on urgent bipartisan agreement to tackle the issues.

In 2000, the UN committee expressed concerns over the plight of Aboriginal Australians, recommending more effective training for police, programs to address social injustice and deaths in custody issues.

However, Mr Cooper said the federal government had gone backwards.

“We want the UN to do its job and assess the activities of this government,” Mr Cooper said.

“But we realise that is not going to translate into compliance and we fully expect the government is going to deflect it by criticising the UN process.

“Governments are in the business of scapegoating Indigenous communities. The states are simply taking advantage of John Howard’s hardness to escape their own failures.”

Mr Cooper criticised Labor for failing to promote former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett to its frontbench, although he acknowledged the well-known Aboriginal activist had to earn a spot.

He said the non-government organisation - formed in 1997 after a groundswell of public anger over Australian government moves to wind back native title rights - was disappointed by inaction from both political parties.

“Although Labor has made a number of statements we would like them to go further on the issue,” Mr Cooper said.

“It’s not that we are barracking for one side or the other. But if this issue remains a political football, we’re never going to advance.

Mr Cooper backed calls for a royal commission into the death on Palm Island last year of 36-year-old Mulrunji Doomadgee, whose death is the subject of an inquest this week.

He said the riots in Sydney and Palm Island signalled deep frustrations over the government’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.

The Redfern riots were sparked by the death of Thomas “TJ” Hickey, 17, who was impaled on a fence while riding his bicycle through the inner-Sydney suburb on February 14 last year.

Some locals said police were chasing him at the time but a coronial inquest found they were not and the police were not responsible for the accident.

Meanwhile, the US State Department released its latest assessment into Australia’s human rights performance on Monday, mentioning the Palm Island and Redfern riots and the abolition of ATSIC.

“The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse,” it said.

“However, there were problems in some areas. There were occasional reports that police and prison officials abused persons in custody.”


Source: Indigenous Times