Page last updated at 05:16 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 06:16 UK

UN envoy in Aboriginal assessment

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Garigal Aborigines perform a welcome ceremony Oct 08
Aborigines have a rich culture but have long been marginalised

The United Nation's special rapporteur on indigenous human rights has toured some of Australia's most disadvantaged Aboriginal communities

Professor James Anaya is investigating complaints that government measures to fight child abuse in remote settlements are racially discriminatory.

More than 70 indigenous townships in Australia's Northern Territory have been taken over by federal authorities.

The move happened more than two years ago, amid reports of widespread abuse.

Mr Anaya travelled to the heart of Australia to learn more about the unrelenting poverty that makes Aborigines by far the country's most disadvantaged people.

The United Nation's special rapporteur went to the central desert outpost of Alice Springs.

Over a dinner of kangaroo's tail, he heard how squalid living conditions were in many of the town camps that house Aboriginal families.

'Racist' law

Mr Anaya's visit was requested by indigenous groups, church leaders and social justice organisations.

His task is to investigate the government's radical intervention in dozens of troubled settlements in the Northern Territory.

Two years ago troops, medical staff and social workers were deployed in an attempt to combat violence and the rampant abuse of children in Aboriginal communities.

Racial discrimination laws were suspended to allow the controversial policy to be implemented.

Alcohol and pornography were banned and indigenous residents were forced to spend a portion of their welfare payments on essentials such as food.

Some campaigners have argued the measures violate human rights because they only target Aborigines.

Mr Anaya, an American professor of human rights law, plans to report on the major challenges faced by Australia's original inhabitants.

A recent study has found that the gap between non-indigenous Australians and their Aboriginal counterparts was growing in areas such as child abuse and domestic violence.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it was "a devastating report" on an unacceptable situation.

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