Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Rights
Our vision is a legal system free from racial inequality and discrimination and that upholds the paramount importance f dignity, equality and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ right to self-determination.
Our work is both responsive and agenda-setting, working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to identify significant and systemic human rights issues.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Rights Impact Area focuses on the following priorities:
reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all aspects of the criminal justice system including issues relating to imprisonment rates, police powers, conditions in detention and the nexus between the child protection system and over-representation;
ensuring access to basic social and economic rights in remote Indigenous communities, including in particular the rights to education and housing; and
promoting in particular, the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, children and young people in these focus areas.
In the week before the inquest into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day’s death in police custody, the Andrews Government has announced that it will abolish the offence of public drunkenness and replace it with an Aboriginal-led, public health response.
Newly obtained data shows that in one month, 403 strip searches were conducted on children at two youth prisons in NSW. Only one item – a ping pong ball – was found as a result of these strip searches.
The Queensland Government’s decision to move kids out of police watch houses “as soon as humanly possible” is welcomed, but the Human Rights Law Centre calls on the Government to publicly commit to a long-term solution so that no child is warehoused in a police watch house again.
During NAIDOC week, the Human Rights Law Centre is joining the National Peak Body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) to call on the Federal Government to commit to retaining the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP).
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) and The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Law Faculty have announced the launch of an internship program specifically for Indigenous students studying law at the university.
This week the United Nations heard a scathing statement about a discriminatory Federal Government parenting scheme that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and single mothers.
Overnight the United Nations Human Rights Council heard of the alarming rates at which Australian governments are imprisoning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
The Coroner in the inquest into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day’s death in police custody has agreed to look at whether systemic racism played a role in Ms Day’s treatment and ultimate death.
In collaboration with international NGOs, the Human Rights Law Centre has written to UN member countries to plea for the UN’s human rights mechanisms to be adequately funded.
I woke up this morning thinking of the men and women still held by the Australian Government on Manus and Nauru after six long years.
Thinking of First Nations people, LGBTIQ communities, migrant communities and others.
Tonight’s Four Corners investigation, Inside the Watch House, raises serious questions about whether the Queensland Government is breaching its own laws by warehousing children in police cells designed for adults.
The hearing in the coronial inquest into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day’s death in police custody continues today, as new data shows that at the time of Tanya Day’s death in 2017, Aboriginal women were 10 times more likely to be targeted for public drunkenness than non-Indigenous women.
The third directions hearing into the tragic death in police custody of Yorta Yorta woman, Tanya Day, will be held on Tuesday 30 April.
People in prison in Western Australia were subjected to close to 1 million strip searches over the past 5 years, a shocking report by the Independent Inspector of Custodial Services has found.
The Human Rights Law Centre will today provide a submission to a Northern Territory Parliamentary Committee supporting landmark reforms to youth justice laws, however arguing that the Government should follow through with its promise to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
On the anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, over 80 Aboriginal, health, human rights, housing, legal and women’s organisations are calling on Premier Andrews to abolish the offence of public drunkenness – a key recommendation of the Royal Commission.
The Human Rights Law Centre joined community organisations to call on the Parliament not to rush to pass more income tax cuts before the elections, and to reverse those already legislated to go to high income-earners after 2020.
The Morrison Government cannot delay scrapping its discriminatory ParentsNext program, with a Senate Inquiry finding that the program is causing “anxiety, distress and harm” for many parents, including for women escaping violence.
Aboriginal and human rights organisations today welcomed the Australian Medical Association’s call for all states and territories to raise the age when children can be held criminally responsible to at least 14 years.
Tanya Day’s family is calling on Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney General Jill Hennessy to end deaths in custody by changing the law in Victoria.
The second directions hearing in the coronial inquest into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day’s death in police custody will commence today.
The second directions hearing into the tragic death in police custody of Yorta Yorta woman, Tanya Day, will be held on Tuesday 19 March.
The Supreme Court today overturned the sentence of a 12 year old Aboriginal boy caught up by Western Australia’s draconian mandatory sentencing laws.
On International Women’s Day the UN will hear that the Australian Government is penalising single mothers with babies as young as six months through a punitive program that is making life harder for parents.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and human rights organisations have told a Senate committee inquiring into the Federal Government’s ParentsNext program that it should recommend scrapping the program. The Government’s punitive ParentsNext program is making life harder for mums with babies as young as six months.
A punitive Government parenting program is making life harder for mums with babies as young as six months, and raises questions about compliance with Australia’s sex and race discrimination laws.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released data last week that shows governments across Australia are now forcing more than 3,600 women into prisons. This marks an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year - more than double the rate of men’s, which increased by four per cent.
To mark the anniversary of the release of the Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory’s final report, the Change the Record Coalition including human rights organisations is calling on the NT Gunner Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility and get children out of harmful youth prisons.
Don Dale is ablaze almost one year since the Royal Commission recommended it be closed. While the Northern Territory Government accepted all 226 recommendations from the Royal Commission, Shahleena Musk, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the Gunner Government has been all words, yet little action.
The Human Rights Law Centre has submitted a report to the United Nations Child Rights Committee showing that Australian governments are failing to protect the rights of vulnerable children. Australia is due to front the Child Rights Committee in Geneva in February, where the Government’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be measured. The HRLC’s report, ‘Justice for Children’, will inform the assessment of Australia.
Social security is a vital safety net that most people in Australia will turn to at some point in their lives. In this context, the 2019 federal election offered two very different futures for remote communities in the Northern Territory.
We need to rethink a system that is funnelling people into harmful prisons as the default response, writes Shahleena Musk.
It's 2017 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are again fighting against the systemic denial of fair pay for work. When people talk about stolen wages — the slavery-like system that saw Aboriginal people denied any or equal pay for hard work over decades — they typically speak of the past. But the pervasive and poisonous tentacles of systemic racism in Australia are very much of the present.
How children could be left to languish in solitary confinement; how the abuses in Don Dale went unchecked for so long before journalists and advocates exposed a system rotten to its core.This Friday Australia will be provided with answers.
Governments can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to the risks associated with locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu, a 22-year-old Yamatji woman, while in WA police custody because of unpaid fines is a devastating example of how the justice system fails our women.
Mandatory sentences are not the right tool for reducing crime, writes our Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, following the misguided policy announcement from Victoria's Opposition Leader.
To achieve the Close the Gap measures, the federal and territory governments need to engage in genuine dialogue with Aboriginal people. The chronic crisis of overcrowding can only be addressed through a collaborative approach, with a view to ultimately giving control back to Aboriginal communities.
Just a day after Victoria’s highest court confirmed the government acted unlawfully in detaining children at the Barwon adult prison, the Minister has tried yet again to keep them there. The government is spending extraordinary resources defending the indefensible – jailing children in the state’s most notorious adult prison.
Brutal images of Aboriginal women and children being mistreated in custody are a defining feature of 2016. From Dylan Voller and the young detainees of Don Dale to Ms Dhu, Australians have been forced to reckon with the cruel reality of Australia's over-imprisonment crisis.
I've just returned from Barwon maximum security adult prison. I found myself squatting on the floor to talk to one of our clients – a 16-year-old child – through the trapdoor to his cell. The tight steel opening so small I could only see his anxious eyes. He is being held in solitary confinement; pacing his cell, uncertain when he will be let out. He hasn't seen the sky since Thursday.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission invited the Human Rights Law Centre to make a submission on how to end racially discriminatory laws that lead to the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls.