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Commissioner calls for overhaul of Native Title laws

Commissioner calls for overhaul of Native Title laws

A newly released report on social justice has highlighted the need to amend the Native Title Act and deliver legislative changes to improve the rights for Indigenous Australians.

A newly released report on social justice has highlighted the need to amend the Native Title Act and deliver legislative changes to improve the rights for Indigenous Australians, the social justice commissioner for Aboriginal people has announced. 

“Improvements to the native title system need to be enshrined in legislation to ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples are fully protected and not swept aside when it’s convenient,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said in the Social Justice Report 2008, released late yesterday.

“The government must take active steps to improve the whole system - tinkering at the edges won’t deliver the changes that are urgently needed.”

Commissioner Calma said the federal government should take six major steps over the next 18 months to better protect the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to progress a new agenda for Indigenous affairs. 

The report considers the impact of government activity on the exercise and enjoyment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s human rights and analyses major changes and challenges in the Native Title system over the previous year.

He welcome the federal government’s recent apology to Indigenous Australians and the recent formal endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but said it must not become complacent “and rest on our laurels”.

Commissioner Calma said a national Human Rights Act should be passed that includes specific protection of Indigenous rights.

“The Constitution should be amended to recognise Indigenous peoples in the preamble, and its discriminatory provisions should be removed and replaced with a guarantee of equal treatment and non-discrimination.”

As well as examining the challenge of climate change for Australia’s Indigenous peoples, the Native Title Report 2008 calls on the government to move decisively to make legislative and policy changes to the underlying Native Title system.


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