Northern Territory

Aug 1, 2013

Informed consent and human rights for indigenous Australians

The Commonwealth government has a history of intervening in indigenous affairs without local consultation. ANU professor Jon Altman asks: do the Stronger Futures laws contravene human rights?

Considerable attention has been drawn recently to the bark petitions lodged by Yolngu clans from north-east Arnhem Land with the Australian Parliament in August 1963 — the theme for NAIDOC week 2013 was “We value the vision: Yirrkala bark petitions 1963“.

The bark petitions are quite rightly interpreted as a precursor for the establishment of a House of Representatives Select Committee,  specially formed to hear the grievances of Yirrkala Aboriginal people about the proposal to mine their Yolngu clan lands located within the then Arnhem Land Reserve without any consultation with them, let alone their consent.

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One thought on “Informed consent and human rights for indigenous Australians

  1. Fred Leftwich

    Another well written story from Jon Altman from the Australian national university outlining aboriginal people’s struggle to get Australian governments to respect their traditional aboriginal rights. It documents aboriginal engagement with the Australian government and how the Australian legal system strives to recognise aboriginal rights within their legal framework. Australian governments are so patronizing and assuming in thinking aboriginal people are seeking justice through their legal system. Every time an aboriginal person makes a stand, it’s a stand for our sovereignty, which we have never surrendered. Aboriginal people don’t really care about the Australian constitution or Australian law, we just want our traditional lands back. In the minds of all aboriginal people, we are still in conflict with Australian governments, whose policies for the past 200 years have kept us in third world and inter-generational poverty. Who cares what white laws think of us; we never gave up sovereignty and we want our land back.

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