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Social Justice Commissioner's reports tabled.

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Joint News Release

Attorney-General The Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs The Hon Philip Ruddock MP

20 March 2003


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner's Social Justice Report and Native Title reports were tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday.

The Federal Government acknowledges the important work of the Social Justice Commissioner in helping to draw attention to the profound levels of disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.

The Government will continue to take into account the information contained in such reports in developing policies to address Indigenous disadvantage.

The report highlights a number of positive developments. However, the Government disagrees with some aspects of the report.

The reports fail to recognise the Government's commitment, as a national priority, to reducing Indigenous disadvantage, which is an underlying cause of many problems confronting the Indigenous community.

In 2002-03, the Government committed a record $2.5 billion for Indigenous-specific programs and services, in addition to programs and services that are available to all Australians. About $1.1 billion of this is provided through ATSIC for its programs.

Further, the Government has taken the lead in implementing the Council of Australian Government's framework to advance reconciliation and has commenced a number of trials to improve the way governments interact with each other and with communities.

In an important symbolic gesture last year, the Prime Minister opened Reconciliation Place in the heart of the National Capital which recognises the importance of understanding the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and reaffirms our commitment to the cause of reconciliation as a national priority.

In the native title area, the Government believes that the Native Title Act provides a solid foundation for the recognition and protection of native title and for the resolution of native title issues.

The Act acknowledges the special connection that Indigenous people have with their land, and amendments to the Act in 1998 encourage Indigenous involvement in land management and economic development through Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs).

These amendments are starting to bear fruit, with 73 registered ILUAs and a further 23 ILUAs in the registration process, and 45 determinations of native title now finalised.

The Government stands by its commitment to focus on real issues and practical measures to help further Indigenous peoples' aspirations.

Media Contact: Jennifer Grove (Mr Williams) (02) 6277 7300/ 0407 467 870 Jeremy Chitty (Mr Ruddock) (02) 6277 7860/ 0418 971 042