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Indigenous Minister dismisses Fed Govt's symb -

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Reporter: Margie Smithurst

TANYA NOLAN: In another u-turn in policy from the Howard government, the Federal Government today
announced its support for the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights.

It's not a legally binding document, but a symbolic gesture and one that Kevin Rudd can present to
the world as an indication of his commitment to human rights for Indigenous people.

Some in human rights groups say it's significant and could improve relations between Indigenous and
non-Indigenous Australians.

But an Indigenous Territory Government minister says it will go largely unnoticed by the thousands
of Indigenous people in her electorate, many of whom lack even the most basic human rights.

Margie Smithurst reports from Darwin.

(Sound of Indigenous music)

JENNY MACKLIN: Today, Australia takes another important step to make sure that the flawed policies
of the past will never be revisited. The declaration is historic and aspirational.

MAGIE SMITHURST: And, the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin could have added, there
are no legal obligations inherent in supporting it.

Associate Professor of Law at Charles Darwin University Matthew Storey explains why.

MATTHEW STOREY: They're supporting a declaration that has no international legal effect but
obviously contributes to development in international law.

International legal instruments anyway don't have any immediate effect on Australian law.

MAGIE SMITHURST: Today's endorsement is seen as an important about-face on the refusal of the
Howard government to support the declaration, which affirms the rights and equality of the world's
Indigenous people.

MATTHEW STOREY: It's a move that has political effect and I think it has significant political
effect.

What the Rudd Government is doing is saying to international community and to the Australian
community, that they support the development of Indigenous rights within the context of Australian
sovereignty.

MAGIE SMITHURST: But the Government's backing of the declaration throws the spotlight on its
Indigenous policies.

It raises the question of whether there'll now be more punch in the pressure to modify or reverse
certain controversial aspects of the intervention in the Northern Territory.

MATTHEW STOREY: The question then is, do intervention measures detract from Indigenous rights or
not.

The Rudd Government's continued to support intervention, so one presumes that they think the
intervention actually supports Indigenous rights and is consistent with their support of the
declaration.

There are many others though who might disagree with that.

MAGIE SMITHURST: But what about those directly referred to by the declaration?

Territory Government Minister Alison Anderson grew up in remote Indigenous communities in Central
Australia

Her electorate now includes those communities and covers a vast area at the base of the Northern
Territory, with about 5,000 Indigenous constituents, most of whom are dirt poor and jobless and
live far off the beaten track, far from the halls of well-meaning bureaucrats drafting
declarations.

Alison Anderson says today's announcement will raise barely an eyebrow in the communities.

ALISON ANDERSON: Absolutely nothing. Where's the basic human rights to these people?

Out in the bush my constituent, my family to get the basic education, good health, good living
standards, safety for their children, safety for women and a piece of paper in the UN or in
Canberra makes no difference to these people.

MAGIE SMITHURST: But while today's hoo-ha in Canberra may go unnoticed out in the bush, Alison
Anderson says she's seen huge positive changes on the ground from the intervention, which has come
under so much criticism for apparently undermining human rights.

ALISON ANDERSON: The fact that a household can have six or seven basic cards and have food everyday
has got to be good because it's feeding the children.

And the more I go out and I see my own family, they're vibrant, their skins are starting to shine,
they're attending school every day.

MAGIE SMITHURST: What do you hear from you communities about improvements or changes in health
since the intervention came in?

ALISON ANDERSON: Oh look, you know, just going over to one community in my electorate you know,
it's allowed the children to be checked. They've found that they've had perforated ear drums.

They've now got acoustic systems inside their school. They've now got the ear phones attached to
their teacher in the class room.

So that's all the good things that's come out of the intervention. The kids are actually learning.

All I can say is that the messages that I'm getting back are very, very positive. And 80 per cent
of people say they like it. The other 20 per cent say they don't like it

MAGIE SMITHURST: What advice would you give to Jenny Macklin for their progress with the
intervention - to carry on, to do more consulting, to change?

ALISON ANDERSON: Well look the advice I'd give to the federal minister is I think they've taken the
positive attitude of allowing the intervention to go on for three more years, and I think that's a
really, really good sign because you're not going to see the results in a year.

But you will see it in three to five years.

TANYA NOLAN: That's Northern Territory Government Minister Alison Anderson.