8 July 2012
Stronger Futures legislation passed in the Senate
Last week the Stronger Futures Bills were passed in the Senate which will allow the current NT intervention to possibly continue for another ten years and to allow an extension of the current measures in remote Northern Territory areas. Both Indigenous and human rights groups have condemned the legislation passing with Amnesty International providing that it puts Australia’s human rights record to shame.
Amnesty International spokesperson, Monica Morgan, has said that the Government have not “been able to fulfill their obligations for advancing the rights of Aboriginal peoples to be able to make a decision in their own lives.”
Aboriginal Elder, Vincent Forrester says that the situation in the community of Mutitjulu has deteriorated since the intervention was put in place and believes it will only get worse under the Stronger Futures laws.
This week celebrated the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee week. The theme of NAIDOC week 2012 is ‘Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on’ which aims to acknowledge the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and its contributors.
Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, used the opportunity to highlight the importance of acknowledging “the legitimacy of the discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” and that we should focus our efforts on securing the equal enjoyment of rights for Indigenous people.
Mr Gooda has also said that the presence of the Tent Embassy “reminds us of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s ability to unite to compaign for better outcomes, bringing concerns and the struggles for equality to the forefront of public attention and political debate.”
Indonesian president calls on Australia to release underage crew members
The Indonesian president has urged Australia to release underage crew members caught on people smuggling boats. Although Australia has recently reviewed the cases of 28 Indonesian crew members, the president expressed that he hopes, “the repatriation of the remaining underage seafarers can be accelerated” and that another 54 will be released.
The Federal Government has recently conducted case reviews of Indonesian crew members who had been prosecuted in Australia on people smuggling offenses. The review states that “Australia and Indonesia will conduct a joint public information campaign in Indonesia to prevent potential crew from being used by international people smuggling networks by helping them to understand the consequences, both in Australian and Indonesian law.”
The Indonesian government has also stated that a great effort will be made to dissuade Indonesian citizens from involving themselves in people smuggling ventures.
NSW Government abolishes specialist drug court
The NSW Government has decided to close down a special drug court that sent young offenders to counseling and rehabilitation instead of jail. The Court was set up twelve years ago in response to a recommendation by the Drug Summit.
Hilary Hannam, who formerly ran the court, has said that many young people who graduated from the program are now working productively and are good members of society. According to Ms Hannam, a number of participants have said that, “it was the drug court that literally saved their lives.”
One-third of prisoners entering jail with existing mental illness
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have found that almost one-third of prisoners that are entering jail have already been diagnosed with an existing mental disorder.
A report was collated from a previous National Health Census, it’s author Tim Beard has said that he believes that “the overall mental health of prisoners is fairly poor, particularly when they first come into custody, because they’ve either been experiencing untreated mental illness in the community or experiencing drug and alcohol problems.”
Featured image: Alice Springs, Northern Territory from Annie Myers Hill