Contributed from Queensland
The Oxfam report released on 11 April shows that Australian governments have failed to achieve meaningful change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and calls for a drastic overhaul of all areas of Indigenous policy and interaction with government.
Ten recommendations have been put forward that would work to empower Indigenous communities in terms of land as an economic and cultural asset; re-establish a national elected representative body; change the funding system to prioritise community-run Indigenous organisations; and implement every relevant recommendation from every major report into Indigenous affairs in the past 30 years.
The report comes a week after a UN investigator released a damning preliminary report saying repeated failure to enact UN recommendations on Indigenous issues would damage Australia’s chances of securing a seat on the security council.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner Prof Tom Calma said, “Over the years, the urgent need to respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been documented in far too many reports, reviews and inquiries – by royal commissions, parliamentary committees, government agencies, human rights and equal opportunity commissions, respected United Nations bodies, and indeed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ourselves,” Calma said.
“Yet these reports are consistently ignored by successive governments, while too many of my Indigenous brothers and sisters continue to experience the reality of these failures every day in our communities. Sadly, too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still live shorter, less healthy lives with lower socioeconomic outcomes than non-Indigenous people.”
The report called for a shift in strategy from policies that are led by the bureaucracy and formed with very little Indigenous consultation, to policies led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and supported by a genuine process of consultation.
Lack of action by government contrasts with the view of most Australians that indigenous peoples have a claim for past wrongs to be addressed. This does not mean white Australians are to blame. But is does mean that the situation has to be made right before we can all move on.
The Oxfam report is timely, in a situation where the mining industry is investing a great deal to lobby for greater access to natural resources at the expense of indigenous communities.