UN anti racism panel slates Australia over Aborigines

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The UN anti-racism panel expressed concern on Friday at the lingering impact of a clampdown on Aborigines in northern Australia, warning that the country faced a broader problem with "embedded" discrimination.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Australia to "fully reinstate the racial discrimination act", as it highlighted ongoing prejudice against Aborigines despite political pledges in recent years.

The committee slated the "unacceptably high level of disadvantage and social dislocation" for Aborigines in the Northern Territories.

It also raised concerns about the handling of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as anti-terrorism measures, discrimination against newer, mainly Muslim, ethnic communities and assaults on foreign students in the country.

"Our overall assessment is that there are serious government efforts to address these matters, but there are certain structural aspects -- a kind of structurally embedded discrimination -- that's difficult to uproot," said Committee member Patrick Thornberry.

The UN panel's 18 experts released their conclusions on Friday following a regular review of Australia's application of international standards in a hearing earlier this month.

"The committee expresses concern that the package of legislation under the Northern Territory Emergency Response continues to discriminate on the basis of race as well as the use of so called special measures by (Australia)," the committee's report said.

Thornberry told journalists the panel was "particularly anxious" to see the racial discrimination act fully reinstated.

Overall Australia had to step up its efforts at reconciliation with its downtrodden indigenous population, including "the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Trait Islanders as First Nations Peoples," the report added.

In 2008, ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd made a historic apology to "Stolen Generations" of Aborigines taken from their homes for assimilation with white families.

But his government continued a controversial intervention policy against social disorder in Aboriginal communities that was introduced by his predecessors in 2007 and initially enforced using troops.

During the election campaign this month, the government promised to revise the constitution and formally recognise the indigenous population for the first time, while the opposition pledged a new ministry for Aboriginal affairs.

© 2010 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Ian posted:

    on 28th August 2010, 08:31:20 - Reply

    Few Australians were impressed with the liberal governments response to a variety of issues affecting Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory. The derailing of Aboriginal rights/civil rights however is not inconsistent with how governments both state and federal handle a range social issues, not just Aboriginal.

    For those of us who have worked with both tribal Aboriginals and urban mixed race Aboriginals, understand each group has very different needs. Sadly once again Australia faces criticism from well meaning individuals who unfortunately have little understanding of the critical factors affecting both groups and the challenges they present to a population who overwhelmingly are not born in Australia, let alone lived in the bush or outback. Not surprising they have little or no interest in the issues.

    For those that do care, the protection of this very unique race in the tribal setting watch with anguish as neither party gave more than lip service to mixed race urban Aboriginal needs and even less for tribal Aboriginals at our recent elections. The rights and protection of these amazing tribal people is long over due, but don't hold your breath.