THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Bec Devitt and Eva Csik

31 March 2012

Federal and Northern Territory Governments announce increased funding to homelands

Amnesty International has for quite some time called on both the Federal and NT Governments to increase the support and services to Aboriginal peoples living on homelands. There has been a large amount of research not only showing that Aboriginal peoples wish to continue living on homelands but also that living on homelands makes for a happier and healthier life.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commissioner, Mick Gooda, has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement to commit to long term funding for NT communities but has urged the Government to reconsider the proposed Stronger Futures legislation.

Mick Gooda said that, “One of the most crucial things in improving life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NT is to listen to them, work with them and include them in developing solutions to the challenges they face.

Malcolm Fraser accuses political parties of failing to make good policy in the areas of immigration and indigenous issues

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has accused Australia’s current generation of politicians of damaging Australia’s reputation abroad and creating a sense of disillusionment and apathy among voters. In an interview with the Zone on Monday, Mr Fraser argued that the major political parties are failing to create good policy in the areas of immigration, foreign policy and Indigenous issues.

Mr Fraser feels that Australian politicians have played a large part in constructing the negative opinion of asylum seekers held by some Australians. Mr Fraser says “We have the totally toxic nature of Australian politics, the totally toxic and false view by many people of the problem of asylum seekers. This is not the fault of ordinary Australians.It’s because they have been led in that direction by politicians and political parties

It was political leaders who called these people illegals, queue jumpers

Mr Fraser also acknowledged the many services at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, which offers free services to asylum seekers such legal, health while also providing material needs such as food. Mr Fraser believes the kind of support that is offered by the ASRC should be coming from the government.

In regard to Indigenous issues, Mr Fraser feels that Indigenous people have not been treated with respect and were given insufficient time to consider government documents.

In order to address the issues concerning indigenous people Mr Fraser has said that the Australian government needs to “get aboriginal people to participate in drawing up the process and get them to participate in contributing to an outcome they can share.

Mr Fraser has raised his concern that the Australian government is not standing by it’s international obligations and many government policies are challengeable before the High Court as they are not following the Racial Discrimination Act.

Calls for independent mechanism to investigate critical incidents in police force

The National Police Accountability Network has said that police investigating themselves are inherently biased. Melbourne Solicitor, Tamar Hopkins and NSW Green MP David Shoebridge have also urged states to introduce an independent mechanism for investigating critical incidents such as the death of Brazilian student, Roberto Laudisio Curti.

Ms Hopkins has said that other countries around the world including England and New Zealand already conduct independent investigations. Professor Tim Prenzler of the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security has said, “It’s a model that we should have adopted in Australia years ago.

Commonwealth Government proceeds on radioactive dump on Aboriginal land

The Commonwealth Government has told the Federal Court that a radioactive dump on Aboriginal Land should proceed despite the land’s traditional owners being incorrectly identified. The radioactive waste law was passed by the Senate this month despite calls from environmental and Indigenous groups who say the powers it grants to the Federal Resources Minister are too broad.

Commonwealth Lawyer Dr Stephen Donaghue SC has said the law, which is awaiting the Govenor General’s approval, includes requirements that traditional owners be consulted before any final declaration is to be made.

Racism in Australian television casting

There has been criticism that Australian television is not showing a true representation of it’s ethnic diversity in Australian programs and that in fact there is discrimination against particular ethnic groups coming from casting directors.

Australian actress, Rena Owen feels that not seeing actors of various ethnic backgrounds is not only due to the casting department but rather begins with the writing and production departments, where roles actually need to written to include a wide range of people.

Andrew Jacubowicz, who is professor of Sociology at the University of Technology in Sydney has said that despite the fact that approximately one quater of Australians come from a non-English-speaking background, and about 40 per cent have at least one parent born overseas, “Australia has managed for generation after generation to avoid in much of our public culture recognising the diversity of the society that we are.

Man dies in jail after guards thought he was exaggerating

A court hearing is underway involving a 52 year old inmate that died at the Grafton Correctional Centre in June 2010.

The inmate died after an altercation with a fellow inmate and the officer in charge that evening believed the inmate was exagerating his injuries.

Racism increasing dementia rates among Aboriginal peoples

Tony Broe, from Neuroscience Australia has conducted research that shows discrimination and lack of opportunity are contributors to increased dementia rates among Aboriginal communities.

Professor Broe says “The big things that need to be done I Think are education, training, jobs and then health care.

Professor Broe has launched the Koori Dementia Care project in Coffs Harbour and there are plans to extend to La Perouse, Campbelltown and Western Sydney. He hopes the program will raise awareness about dementia in all New South Wales Aboriginal communities.

Launch of Handball for Human Rights Online

The Human Rights are Aussie Rules Project has launched its Handball for Human Rights Online. The game is part of the project which aims at teaching children and young people about human rights by “connecting fair play on the field to fair play in life.”  Handball for Human Rights encourages players to aim for human rights by spelling out RESPECT, it was developed with help of students from Migrant Information Centre, Ringwood Secondary College and Yarra Hills Secondary College.

National Coordinator of the Human Rights are Aussie Rules Project, Tanya Kovac said the game is an important tool in helping to educate children about human rights. “Human Rights are a part of everyday life-at school, at home, at work and on the sports field. Being a good sport in life means more then being the best, you also have to be the fairest.”  Handball for Human Rights is a Game for Change which involves a community of educators, gamers and advocates coming together to use digital game technology to promote social justice and human rights.

The launch of Handball for Human Rights was praised by Attorney General Nicola Roxon for engaging kids in a practical way, “this is a uniquely Australian way of teaching kids about their human rights through the great levelling medium of Aussie rules football.”

The Human Rights are Aussie Rules Project commenced in 2008 through the Eastern Community Legal Centre and is now a national education program with offices now located in Western Australia and Tasmania. More information about the project and Handball for Human Rights can be found here.

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