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Sunday, 29 October, 2000, 20:10 GMT
Australia slammed over Aborigine rights
Aborigine man
Aborigines' life expectancy is lower than other Australians
By Red Harrison in Sydney

An international aid organisation has criticised Australia for failing to protect the basic rights of indigenous Australians.

The report, from the aid agency Oxfam, says Australia is the only country in the world with a constitution that allows racial discrimination.

It says Australia cannot hold its head high until the constitution is changed.

There should be a binding treaty embedded in the constitution, it says, to recognise aborigines' prior occupation and ownership of land, as there is in Canada, the United States and New Zealand.

Aborigines in chains
Injustice has gone on for generations, say critics
There is a strong argument, Oxfam says, for Australia to have a bill of rights to prevent governments overriding legislation which would otherwise protect aborgines.

This is a clear reference to laws in Western Australia and the Northern Territory which impose mandatory prison sentences for some offences.

Right to life

Oxfam says these laws put juveniles in prison too and could be in breach of the UN convention on children's rights.

The aborigines' right to life, it says, is under constant threat because of increasing rates of imprisonment and the high number of deaths in custody.

Overall, Oxfam says aborigines' much poorer health, inadequate nutrition, poorer education and high unemployment all contribute to a lower life expectancy than that of other Australians.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aborigines attack welfare culture
05 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australian minister sparks race row
25 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australia rejects UN racism report
28 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Reconciliation deadline dropped
10 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Lost childhood of the 'stolen generation'
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