Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
UN rapporteur raps NT intervention -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: A United Nations official this morning condemned Australia's intervention program for
Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory saying it breaches the nation's international

Professor James Anaya is the UN's special rapporteur on indigenous people.

He visited a number of Aboriginal communities in the Territory last year and his report into
Indigenous human rights and freedoms in Australia will be released next month.

But today he released his findings on the Northern Territory intervention and he spoke about them
to Alexandra Kirk.

JAMES ANAYA: This is of central concern to Indigenous people that I talk with throughout Australia,
including Indigenous people outside of the Northern Territory. They repeatedly express their
concern about the NTER (Northern Territory Emergency Response), the stigmatising affect on it, the
way they felt in many ways demeaned them, undermined basic dignity.

There were some that I talked to that were supportive in general terms about the NTER, were not
specifically supportive of the particular provisions that have been signalled as being problematic,
but were in general supportive of the NTER. But overwhelmingly people were very negative about the
NTER. It really was striking I must say.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: To what extent do you believe the existing Northern Territory intervention breaches
Australia's international obligations?

JAMES ANAYA: Well, I point out in my report that several respects, particularly concerning income
management, the quarantining of benefits, bans on alcohol, pornography, which stigmatise and are
targeted at Indigenous communities, the compulsory leases and other specific measures that limit
Aboriginal people and certain rights and freedoms having to do with individual autonomy, self
determination, these aspects that specifically target Aboriginal communities and that limit their
rights in this way.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So pretty well the whole of the Northern Territory intervention?

JAMES ANAYA: Well, not the whole of it because certain aspects actually provide significant funding
that, for programs that assist them, that benefits them without limiting certain rights. But these
aspects in particular are limiting and are discriminatory in the way that I've identified them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And which international obligations do you think they breach?

JAMES ANAYA: Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And I like to characterise the
NT area as being not fully compatible with Australia's human rights obligations. I'm not myself
signalling international responsibility for a breach, although that might be an implication, but
I'm trying to be forward looking and saying, as the Government itself has, that certain reforms
need to be made to bring the measures in line with international human rights obligations that the
state of Australia has.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government, since your visit, has engaged in a broad consultation process. It
is pledging to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act and make a number of changes to the
intervention, for example targeting the income management, saying that that is not going to be
based on race, the alcohol restrictions will be changed to meet individual needs of communities and
that communities will be able to ask for pornography bans to be lifted if they wish.

In those circumstances, would the Northern Territory intervention, the revised form of it, conform
then with Australia's international obligations?

JAMES ANAYA: Well, first of all I think it's a very positive development for the Government to be
introducing reforms to commit to lifting the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, or in
other words reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act. These are positive steps but they're not yet

And so we need to, I need to wait to see what in the end has been accomplished. I've tried to
provide some guidance on what needs to be done but in the end it will depend on what Parliament
ultimately adopts.

I understand that there is ongoing debate about the particular proposals that the Government has
made. Some interpret those proposals differently, not so positively perhaps as you would describe
them, ah, and so we'll have to see in the end what specific reforms are made.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you think that your examination of the Northern Territory intervention has
propelled the Government into action?

JAMES ANAYA: Oh, I'm not sure but I think that there are a number of factors that have done that
and most among has been the voices of Indigenous people themselves.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: As UN specialist rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous
people, how do you regard the Northern Territory emergency intervention compared to what other
countries are doing around the rest of the world? Is it unique or is it very similar to what other
countries are doing?

JAMES ANAYA: It's quite unique. We see measures put in place to assist indigenous communities in a
number of countries, but I'm hard pressed to think of one where it's the kind of measures put in
place like this that are extreme, that impair basic freedoms, that stigmatise or at least perceived
by Indigenous people to be stigmatising upon them and that are carried out without their, without
any consultation or consent with them. And I'm talking about the original NTER, I'm not talking
about the reforms that are now being made.

So in that respect, it's quite unique and I must say striking.

ELEANOR HALL: That's professor James Anaya, the UN's special rapporteur on indigenous people. He
was speaking to Alexandra Kirk.