Federal Government must amend Stronger Futures laws to protect Aboriginal rights in Northern Territory

The Federal Government's "Stronger Futures" laws - which are intended to replace the Northern Territory Emergency Response laws - breach international human rights standards and must be reconsidered and redesigned. According to Ben Schokman of the Human Rights Law Centre, the proposed legislation is incompatible with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and, in its present form, is unlikely to address the disadvantage faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In its submission to a Senate Committee inquiry into the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2011 and related Bills, the HRLC has expressed particular concern about:

  • the lack of meaningful engagement with and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who are affected by the current Northern Territory Emergency Response measures and who will be subject to the proposed Stronger Futures measures;
  • failures of the proposed Stronger Futures measures to comply with human rights obligations and principles, particularly given the lack of clear and cogent evidence to support the continuation of many of the measures; and
  • ultimately, the high likelihood that the proposed Stronger Futures measures will not be successful in fulfilling their intended purpose to address the disadvantage faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals.

The proposed legislation extends many aspects of the measures introduced in 2007 as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response and continues to raise serious human rights concerns.

While the HRLC welcomes the government’s commitment to protect children, ensure community safety and build a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there are major concerns relating to the process of development of the Stronger Futures measures, as well as the nature of the measures themselves.

Further information about the Bills and the Senate Committee’s Inquiry is available at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/strong_future_nt_11/index.htm.