Proposed legislation to extend the Federal Government’s Northern Territory Intervention measures will undermine democracy, further damage the government’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples and be ineffective in addressing Aboriginal disadvantage, says the Human Rights Law Centre. “The Stronger Futures measures are highly likely to be ineffective in achieving the Federal Government’s objective of Closing the Gap and improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples,” said Ben Schokman of the Human Rights Law Centre.
“Any measures designed to address Aboriginal disadvantage must have the participation, buy in and support of those communities. This has not been the case with these proposed laws,” said Mr Schokman. “If the government is genuinely committed to ‘stronger futures’ for Aboriginal communities, they must respect and empower those communities, not impose pre-determined solutions.”
“The measures, if enacted, are doomed to fail,” said Mr Schokman. “After five years of the Intervention, the evidence is clear, However well-intentioned, measures imposed on a community without meaningful input from that community will fail to meet targets in improving health or school attendance or reducing violence in Aboriginal communities.”
A Senate Committee which has just completed an inquiry into the Stronger Futures measures received more than 450 submissions, the majority of which – including the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Amnesty International and the Australian Council of Social Service – opposed the package of laws. The Committee also heard evidence from Aboriginal Elders in the Northern Territory about the lack of consultation and the impact that the Northern Territory Intervention has had on their communities.
In addition to being incapable of fulfilling its intended purpose, the proposed legislation is also likely to further damage the government’s relationship with Aboriginal Australians, explained Mr Schokman. “At a time when, as a nation, we are considering recognition of Aboriginal peoples in the Australian Constitution, the proposed legislation runs counter to the idea of resetting our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples.”
A copy of the Senate Committee's report is available here.
For further comment, please contact Ben Schokman on (03) 8636 4451 or 0403 622 810