Hypocrisy and the UN Rights Declaration

ON APRIL 3 the Rudd government endorsed the United Nations (UN) declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, claims that it is a major step towards “closing the gap”. In reality the declaration serves as a façade behind which the government can continue to abuse the human rights abuses of Indigenous Australians.
The Rudd government signed the UN declaration at the same time as continuing and extending the NT Intervention—a policy that requires the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975).
Barbara Shaw from Mt Nancy Town Camp points out, “The NT Intervention contravenes 25 of the 46 articles of the UN Declaration on Rights for Indigenous Peoples… Aboriginal communities remain under the control of an explicitly racist government”.
Like Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, the symbolic gesture of signing the UN declaration in no way represents a serious commitment to Aboriginal rights.
Macklin was quick to emphasise, “This declaration is not legally binding and will not affect Australian laws.”
The government shows no indication of repealing the Intervention laws, which include blanket income management, compulsory acquisition of all land and forced signing of 40-90 year land leases in exchange for basic housing.
These policies are being rolled out across Australia. Only 26 Indigenous communities across Australia have been deemed economically “viable” to receive funding for housing, conditional on 40-90 year land leases.
Furthermore, Rudd has recently supported the NT government’s attack on Indigenous language and culture, as they begin the dismantling of bilingual education. This clearly contradicts both UN declaration provisions against “forced assimilation” and rhetoric around “re-setting” the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Many people thought that the UN Declaration could provide some relief for Aboriginal communities. But those hopes have been dashed. Solutions were never going to be found in any UN resolution. Under the Howard government, Australia was a signatory to the Refugee Convention while it systematically imprisoned asylum seekers. The UN was powerless.
It is a warning for the future of the campaign against the Intervention. Minister Macklin says she is determined to find a way to make welfare quarantining conform to the Racial Discrimination Act. That would remove yet another of the UN’s concerns about the Intervention and potentially disarm many opponents. But, with our without the RDA, on the ground welfare quarantining and the Intervention would remain as racist as ever.
By Daisy Farnham


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