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MEDIA RELEASE                                                ‘concerned Australians'                                 13 March 2012




Twenty-seven leading Australians have signed a statement which focuses on the proposed Stronger Futures legislation. The statement will be delivered to the leaders of Australia's three main political parties - Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Bob Brown.

The legislation is currently before the Senate, having been passed in the Lower House by agreement between the two major parties. Former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon Ian Viner AO QC made the observation,

"Now we have the perversion of good governance and parliamentary practice by the Government which, whilst encouraging a Senate Inquiry into the proposed Stronger Futures legislation so as to inform the Parliament, passes the legislation through the House of Representatives with miniscule debate BEFORE the Senate Committee has reported the results of its Inquiry."

The Statement, prepared by the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC, former Chief Justice of the Family Court, analyses the intent of the different elements of the Bills while drawing attention to the many unsavoury elements contained in them, including ,

"the fact that it breaches the Racial Discrimination Act which the Rudd/ Gillard Government purported to reintroduce.

The fact that it is a development of the clearly racist approach of the Howard Government's NTER, and

The fact that most if not all of it is in breach of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which Australia has ratified and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people which Australia supports."

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms within the Statement lies in the Government's failure to engage Aboriginal Elders in the process at every level,

"There was no attempt to invite Aboriginal people and their Elders to share in the planning of these consultations that will affect their lives for years to come. Similarly they had no involvement in the preparation of the report and recommendations made as a result of them."

Former Prime Minister of Australia, the Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser last week referred to the Government's lack of cooperation with communities saying,

"They [Government] must remember they are not the masters of Aboriginal people, they are meant to serve the Aboriginal people and the rest of the Australian community,"

Many Australians, individuals and organisations, have expressed concern at the discriminatory and disrespectful manner in which Government has disregarded Northern Territory Elders and is attempting to impose upon them discriminatory legislation. Malcolm Fraser agreed when he spoke with Lateline regarding the legislation, saying, "If you could translate it back over 100 years, I think AO Neville, Protector from Western Australia, would be proud of this legislation. It is racist. It is paternalistic."


There has been considerable media coverage on the legislation over the past week. Below are a couple of articles from newsletters and an independent journalist.
NT Intervention Policy a Travesty - Bishop
Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese, 9 Mar 2012
Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council is adamant the Government's intention to extend its controversial Intervention Policy in the Northern Territory for a further 10 years is a "travesty." "At the heart of this travesty is a mentality that believes the opinions of Aboriginal people simply do not matter. Any notion of a right to self determination of their future by Australia's Indigenous people has been overwhelmed by an expediency that promises neither a just outcome nor a fair one," he says.
WHY THE CONTINUING GAP? - March 01, 2012
The Sisters of St Joseph continue to question the government's proposed expansion of compulsory income management, its punitive welfare policy, and the pursuit of SEAM, which purportedly aims to improve school enrolments and attendance. Speaking as a Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph right across Australia, Sr Anne Derwin expressed the disappointment that many Australians are also expressing at this time.
New Legislation does not respect Aboriginal wishes, February 29, 2012
There is considerable disquiet among Aboriginal people about the latest Bill which seeks to extend the Northern Territory Intervention for 10 years. Elders do not believe the Stronger Futures Consultation looked honestly at the evidence nor has it listened to the peoples experience of living with that Intervention. As Jenny Macklin said in her address to the parliament "The measures we introduce today reflect our evaluation-of what is working and what is not". Sadly it does not reflect what Aboriginal people are saying...
Reportage online - Stronger Futures Intervention, not so strong locals say - 5 March 2012
The Stronger Futures Intervention now involves revoking welfare payments to parents who fail to send their children to school, but locals say such strategies aren't the answer. Rosemary Hill reports. The Warlpiri people at Yuendumu have told the government they refuse to force their children to go to school while English-only teaching remains in place. One of the aims of the new federal Stronger Futures legislation is to expand the Improving School Enrolment and Attendance Through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM) to Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory.