High Court to hear landmark case on race discrimination and “special measures”

The High Court is set to hear a landmark case on Indigenous rights to equality, non-discrimination and self-determination. The HRLC is assisting the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples to make an application to be heard as an "amicus curiae" in the High Court case of Maloney v The Queen.

According to the HRLC's Indigenous Rights Director, Ben Schokman, "This is an important case that will consider the content and meaning of 'special measures' under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The case concerns whether laws which provide that certain criminal offences apply only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland can properly be characterised as special measures for the 'advancement' of those communities."

The submissions by Congress focus on the fundamental right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be treated equally with all other Australians.

"The right of self-determination and informed consent must be of paramount consideration for decisions that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as provided for in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," said Mr Schokman.

Congress is being assisted on a pro bono basis by the HRLC, together with barristers Ron Merkel QC, Debbie Mortimer SC, Melinda Richards and Sarala Fitzgerald and leading international firm Allens.

The application by Congress will be heard by the High Court on 11 December 2012.

A copy of the submissions made by Congress is available here.

Further information about the High Court proceedings, including relevant court documents, is available at http://www.hcourt.gov.au/cases/case_b57-2012.