The New South Wales Young Lawyers Human Rights Committee welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to creating a new era In indigenous affairs by commencing the parliamentary year with the national apology to those members of the Stolen Generations.
In addition to, and in conjunction with that symbolic commitment, the Australian Government must implement on-the-ground measures to improve Indigenous literacy, health and to address the pressing issue of Indigenous incarceration (where currently the national indigenous imprisonment rate is 13 times higher than the non-Indigenous rate). Consideration should also be given to the establishment of a national reconciliation/truth commission.
Similar commissions established in countries such as Peru and Guatemala have proved invaluable to giving a “voice” to the indigenous victims of violence as well as advancing these nations to true reconciliation and healing. Coupled with this, a comprehensive government fund for victims and their families should be explored at a national level.
Furthermore, in the wake of the disbanding of the National Indigenous Council in January 2008 and ATSIC in 2004, it is imperative that Indigenous representation remains adequate to contribute to effective policy development. In particular, the newly-formed National Aboriginal Alliance should play a key role in reformulating the former Coalition government’s legislative package in response to the national emergency in the Northern Territory, which in its current form, is contrary to provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
NSW Young Lawyers, Human Rights Committee