The Indigenous community in NSW is disadvantaged both socially and
economically when compared to the population in general. This paper identifies
a number of the factors that have contributed to the current state of
Indigenous affairs, and notes some of the strategies that have been developed
as part of an attempt to improve the situation of the Indigenous population of
Australia. It attempts to highlight the links that exist between the experience
of many Indigenous persons in a number of areas including health, education,
employment, housing, contact with the criminal justice system, the level of
violence within the community, the removal of children from their families and
an assortment of rights issues.
This paper provides an overview of Indigenous affairs as they existed on 15
April 2004, when Prime Minister Howard announced that the Coalition would
introduce legislation to abolish ATSIC following the resumption of Parliament
in May. A panel of Indigenous persons are to subsequently be appointed to have
a purely advisory relationship with the Government. At this stage, the detail
of how the abolition of ATSIC will impact many of the strategies outlined in
this paper is uncertain.
This paper does not discuss the topic of native title and land rights.
Whilst extremely important and intimately linked to the contents of this paper,
the issue of land is a large subject and will be the topic of a forthcoming
Section two (pp 5-10) gives a snapshot of the health of Indigenous
Australians, which is significantly poorer on all levels when compared to the
rest of the population. It highlights the factors that have contributed to this
generally poor health status, and the strategies that have been developed in
Section three (pp 11-18) examines the Indigenous community’s
experience of education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Information is provided on past and current education policies, in order to
facilitate an understanding of contemporary attitudes towards education. The
factors that have influenced the relatively poor educational outcomes of
Indigenous students are identified.
An overview of Indigenous employment can be found in section four (pp
19-24). Details of the Community Development and Employment Projects Scheme and
various small business initiatives are provided. Background information to the
‘stolen wages’ debate is also included.
An overview of various housing issues faced by the Indigenous community is
located in section five (pp 25-28). It provides an outline of a number
of housing programs that have been developed, as well as noting the legislative
framework of the Aboriginal Housing Office.
Section six (pp 29-41) examines the relationship between the
Indigenous community and the criminal justice system. It explores various
policing issues, the role of the courts (particularly in relation to
sentencing) and rates of imprisonment. Some of the factors that contribute to
the disproportionate contact between Indigenous Australians and the criminal
justice system are identified and discussed, whilst a number of the strategies
that have been developed in response are highlighted throughout.
Indigenous communities experience relatively high levels of family violence,
self-harm, suicide, homicide and incarceration. Section seven (pp 42-50)
discusses the level of violence experienced with particular attention given to
violence against women and children, as well as the incidence of suicide and
The Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, Bringing Them Home
, was published in 1997. It brought into the open the impact of the various
child removal policies that had operated in Australia until the 1970s as part
of a broader assimilation policy. Section eight (pp 51-59) notes
the response of various bodies, including the NSW Government, to its release.
This section discusses various child removal policies that have applied in NSW,
both past and present, and considers how their legacy continues to be felt
Section nine (pp 60-70) discusses a number of issues
associated with the rights of Indigenous Australians. A short account of the
process of reconciliation is included, as well as an overview of a sample of
the particularly relevant human rights that are enshrined in international
conventions. Various arguments for and against the concept of a treaty are
considered, with a summary of what various authors and organisations have
argued ought to be included in an agreement, should one be made.
The Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is
attached as Appendix A.