UN report damns widespread discrimination

Indigenous Australians face persistent challenges and discrimination in all aspects of their life, a United Nations committee has said in a new report.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said attempts to close the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia in the Closing the Gap Strategy introduced in 2008 had been under-resourced and only one of seven targets was on track.

“The committee is deeply concerned that Indigenous Peoples continue to experience high levels of discrimination across all socioeconomic indicators, including education, healthcare, employment and housing,” the report said.

“Among others, the committee is concerned about the low life expectancy, the low school attainment and high drop-out rates at all school levels, and the housing conditions, including overcrowding, especially those living in the Northern Territory, where the homelessness rate is nearly 15 times the national average.

“The committee is also concerned that Indigenous peoples including those living in remote areas face discrimination in access to social security benefits, notably through the mandatory income management scheme and the Community Development Program.”

It called on Australia to shift in its dealings with Indigenous people and to consult and work with them.

It said the legal status of Indigenous people was still not enshrined in Australia’s Constitution and recommended the government act on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Australia “continues to conduct its relations with Indigenous peoples in a manner not reconcilable with their right to self-determination and their right to own and control their lands and natural resources”, it said.

“The committee is also concerned that the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples as well as Indigenous peoples’ community-controlled programs and organisations are underfunded.

“The committee recommends that (Australia) accelerate its efforts to implement Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination demands, as set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including by taking steps towards extra-constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples and establishing a meaningful mechanism that enables the effective political participation of Indigenous peoples as well as entering into good faith treaty-negotiation with Indigenous peoples.”

Other recommendations included amending the Native Title Act to lower the standard of proof in land rights proceedings and to make sure the principle of free, prior and informed consent was incorporated into the Act.

Wendy Caccetta


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