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Binjirru Regional Council opposes abolition of Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner position.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

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Binjirru Regional Council opposes abolition of Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner position


ATSIC’s Binjirru Regional Council has condemned the Federal Government’s decision to abolish the position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Meeting in Shepparton recently, the 13-member council of elected Indigenous representatives for eastern Victoria agreed that the position, currently held by Indigenous academic Dr William Jonas, should be upgraded, not abolished.

Under legislation currently before Federal Parliament, the Government will abolish the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and its five specialist commissioners, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

If the legislation is passed in its current form, a Human Rights Commission will be created, with three general commissioners charged with the primary role of education and dissemination of information.

The Chairperson of Binjirru Regional Council, Daphne Yarram, said Councillors were strongly opposed to the Government’s proposed changes.

“More than ever, Indigenous people need an independent national Commissioner to protect and monitor the enjoyment of our human rights - an expert who is across the breadth of Indigenous issues,” Ms Yarram said.

“Assigning the duties to a general position will downgrade and undermine the ability to protect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who remain the most disadvantaged group in the community.”

Ms Yarram said the Binjirru Council called on the Federal Opposition and Democrats to reject the legislation unless it was radically changed.

On other major issues discussed at its Shepparton meeting, Binjirru Regional Council:

• re-affirmed its commitment to the Coalition of Australian Governments’ (COAG) pilot project at Shepparton. Three Binjirru Regional Councillors - Paul Briggs, Graeme Briggs and Rex Atkinson - are on the Indigenous Facilitation Group representing local Indigenous people in the project, while Ms Yarram is on the Steering Committee. The project is looking to improve the co-ordination of Federal, state and local government programs and develop partnerships with the Indigenous community in the design and delivery of programs. …/2

• urged Indigenous organisations to apply for the latest round of State Government funding - totalling $650,000 - to address family violence in the Indigenous community. The contact at Aboriginal Affairs Victoria is Ms Sharon Paten on 9637 8028. Applications close on 29 August 2003;

• discussed the ATSIC separation of powers, under which the ATSIC Regional Councils and the national Board of Commissioners will no longer be able to make specific funding decisions. A new public service agency created on 1 July 2003 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services - will make funding decisions and administer ATSIC programs;

• heard a presentation from a member of the ATSIC Review Panel, Mr John Hannaford, on the panel’s Public Discussion Paper released in June 2003. The panel will receive a submission on the discussion paper from ATSIC Victoria, following a combined meeting in Melbourne on 12 August of the Binjirru and Tumbukka Regional Councils. The review panel is expected to submit a final report to the Federal Government in late September 2003.

For more information: Giuseppe Stramandinoli (Public Affairs Officer, ATSIS Victoria) 0419 508 125; Daphne Yarram is available for interviews on 0419 508 225