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Social Justice and Native Title Reports



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Social Justice and Native Title Reports Social Justice and Native Title Reports

ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON. DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION & MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS, RECONCILIATION & ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS THE HON. PHILIP RUDDOCK MP

The Attorney General today tabled the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner's Social Justice and Native Title Reports.

The government acknowledges the important work of the Social Justice Commissioner in helping to draw attention to the profound levels of disadvantage faced by indigenous Australians.

The government is committed to reducing indigenous disadvantage by providing a record $2.3b to indigenous specific programmes last year. The government's efforts are focussed on practical results in health, housing, education and employment.

We are beginning to make a difference to the lives of indigenous Australians. For example, Aboriginal infant mortality has been reduced by 75% and Aboriginal school retention rates have quadrupled since the 1970s. There have also been demonstrable gains in employment and housing for indigenous Australians. We are pleased that the Social Justice Report commends the government's action in relation to the number of indigenous-specific policies including the indigenous literacy and numeracy strategy, the indigenous employment strategy, the indigenous leadership program and the establishment of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

It is not unexpected that the Social Justice Report includes a number of criticisms but the government believes that these add nothing new to the debate about indigenous rights and reconciliation in Australia. The Commonwealth has responded to issues such as forcible removal policies, reconciliation, self-determination, mandatory sentencing and a Bill of Rights. Our policies are well known. We stand by those policies.

It is clear that much more needs to be done to reduce indigenous disadvantage. The government will continue its efforts to reduce indigenous disadvantage in practical ways. In November 2000 all Australian governments made a commitment to continue the process of reconciliation and to reduce indigenous disadvantage. This national commitment involves a number of measures that are

consistent with the Commissioner's Social Justice Report.

The Commonwealth has demonstrated its commitment to providing certainty to all Australians in the native title area through a spirit of co-operation. For example, we are actively promoting the use of Indigenous Land Use Agreements as a means for industry and indigenous groups to resolve native title issues without the need for costly or time-consuming litigation. Such agreements were made possible by the government's 1998 amendments to the Native Title Act 1993, which streamlined native title processes.

Media contacts: Catherine Fitzpatrick (Mr Williams) (02) 6277 7300 Steve Ingram (Mr Ruddock) (02) 6277 7860