Languages
Page last updated at 09:26 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 10:26 UK

UN condemns Aboriginal treatment

Prof James Anaya - 27 July 2009
Prof James Anaya is a US professor of human rights law

A senior United Nations human rights official has criticised Australia's measures to fight child abuse and alcoholism in Aboriginal communities.

Prof James Anaya said the measures were discriminatory and stigmatised indigenous people.

He spoke after a tour of Aboriginal townships prompted by complaints that the government intervention was racist.

The restrictions include rules on how welfare payments can be spent and a ban on alcohol and hard core pornography.

The intervention was launched under the conservative government of former Prime Minister John Howard, but was kept largely in place by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after he took office in 2007.

Dozens of townships in Australia's Northern Territory were taken over by the federal authorities, and the government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act to allow the controversial policy to be implemented.

These measures overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples
Prof James Anaya

Medical staff and social workers were also deployed as part of the intervention, in an attempt to combat violence and the rampant abuse of children in some Aboriginal communities.

Treaties 'broken'

Professor Anaya, the United Nations Rapporteur on Indigenous People, said there was "entrenched racism" in Australia and the ongoing intervention in the Northern Territories continued such discrimination.

"These measures overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatise already-stigmatised communities," Prof Anaya said in Australia's capital, Canberra.

Mr Anaya, an American professor of human rights law, visited Australia at the request of indigenous groups, church leaders and social justice organisations.

Aboriginal people gather in a street in Alice Springs (file image)
Alcohol and poverty have blighted many Aboriginal communities

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

After touring some of Australia's most disadvantaged communities, Prof Anaya agreed with those arguments.

"As currently configured and carried out, the emergency response is incompatible with Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - treaties to which Australia is a party - as well as incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," he said.

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

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

Shortly after taking office, Mr Rudd made a formal apology for the past wrongs caused by successive governments on the indigenous Aboriginal population.

But there is still resentment at Mr Rudd among Aboriginal Australians for not reversing the intervention, says the BBC's Sydney correspondent, Nick Bryant.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
UN envoy in Aboriginal assessment
21 Aug 09 |  Asia-Pacific
UN investigates Australia rights
17 Aug 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's Aboriginal debate
16 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Voices against racism: Australia's Aborigines
05 Sep 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Winning Australia's aboriginal vote
25 Oct 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia apology to Aborigines
13 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia takes on aboriginal violence
23 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia slammed over Aborigine rights
29 Oct 00 |  Asia-Pacific


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific