UN highlights Australian Government’s failure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's rights

UN highlights Australian Government’s failure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's rights

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are denied basic rights the United Nations reported overnight.

The UN's International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee examined Australia’s promotion of basic rights such as self-determination, housing, health, education and social security and found serious shortcomings. These include the lack of funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, failure to ensure free, prior and informed consent to the use of land and unequal access to proper housing, social security and health services.

Adrianne Walters, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said, “Time and time again, we see the Australian Government fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities - housing shortages, severe overcrowding and being required to work up to three times as many hours for the same amount of social security were just some of the UN’s concerns. Remote Aboriginal communities are being denied the basic conditions needed to thrive.”

The Committee expressed concern at the Australian Government’s remote community social security program, which sees Aboriginal people in remote communities working up to 760 hours more over a year than people in cities but receiving the same payment. These harsher obligations cause people in remote communities to be penalised at around 20 times the rate of those covered by the non-remote jobseeker program.

“The cultural, language and health barriers Aboriginal people in remote communities face accessing support and services are well known. It comes as no surprise that Aboriginal people in remote communities are being unfairly and disproportionately penalised and left vulnerable through this program,” added Ms Walters.

The decrease in funding to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in recent years, and funding cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations and programs was also raised as a concern.

“Australia should heed the UN’s recommendations and demonstrate its commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by properly funding community controlled organisations”, said Ms Walters.

“The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples is a vital representative voice but is forced to survive on shoestring funding. The Government must properly fund Congress if it wants to show the UN that it is serious about promoting the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” added Ms Walters.

The findings can be found here.

For further comments or queries please contact:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519