The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of Indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has released an advance copy of his Observations on the Northern Territory Emergency Response. The report follows Mr Anaya's official visit to Australia in August last year. While the Special Rapporteur acknowledges Australia's efforts to address the conditions faced by many Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, he expresses serious concerns about several problematic aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response that breach Australia’s international legal obligations.
The Special Rapporteur’s report states that the Northern Territory Emergency Response measures:
- are incompatible with Australia's human rights obligations, including the rights to non-discrimination and self-determination;
- cannot be viewed as proportional or necessary to achieve the stated objectives of the Emergency Response;
- limit the capacity of Aboriginal people to control or participate in decisions affecting them;
- have had the effect of generating or heightening racist attitudes among the public and the media against Aboriginal people;
- are not improving the lives of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory; and
- have implications for the direction of the relationship between Australian Governments and Aboriginal people.
The Special Rapporteur has chosen to devote special and urgent attention to the matter of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in advance of proposed legislation being considered by the Senate that seeks to partially reinstate the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, but expand the income management provisions to apply across the entire country.
The Special Rapporteur’s full report on his country visit will be released in the coming weeks.