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Indigenous Law Bulletin

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Editors --- "Recent Happenings" [1997] IndigLawB 103; (1997) 4(7) Indigenous Law Bulletin 18

Recent Happenings

16 August

The Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, meeting in Perth, announced that reunion programs were the most important and urgent need for Stolen Generations families. The Council rejected the suggestion by Dr Andrew Refshauge, the NSW minister, for a national apology to indigenous people for the separation policies of previous governments.

18 August

Aboriginal actor, author and activist, Mr Burnam Burnam, died from a heart attack at the age of 61.

19 August

Mr Benjamin Mowaljarlai, aged 28, was found dead in a police cell at Derby, Western Australia, shortly before midnight.

30 August

The thirty-six parliamentary nominees to the 1998 Constitutional Convention were announced. Indigenous representatives are Dr Lois O'Donoghue, Mr Gatjil Djerrkura, Mr George Mye, and Ms Nova Perris-Kneebone.

3 September

Ngarrindjeri Aborigines launched a challenge in the High Court querying the constitutional validity of legislation allowing construction of the proposed Hindmarsh Island bridge. Their special leave application argued the legislation is 'unconstitutional because it is detrimental to indigenous people.

3 September

Cape York Aborigines reached. agreement with ALCAN Aluminium to allow the development of a $200 million bauxite mine in Queensland. The agreement was reached without reference to the 'right to negotiate' process of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The agreement includes provisions for employment and financial compensation.

5 September

The Howard government introduced its Native Title Act Amendment Bill into Federal Parliament. A spokesperson from the National- Indigenous Working Group on Native Title said 'If the Bill is passed, native title will exist in name only'.

12 September

The Queensland Supreme Court dismissed an action by descendants of two Aboriginal trackers, Wannamutta and Werannalle, who had helped capture bushranger Ned Kelly. The claimants, who allege the trackers were never paid £50 reward money by the Victorian and Queensland governments, were seeking $80 million in compensation. The Court ruled the claimants had no standing under Supreme Court rules to pursue the action. The claimants will appeal the decision.

13 September

The Victorian Supreme Court quashed the coronial finding into the death of Aboriginal woman Ms Colleen Richman, and ordered the inquest reopened. Ms Richman died in 1994 after being shot by police in a confrontation at a welfare centre.

15 September

The Festival of the Dreaming, a festival of indigenous arts and culture, began in Sydney. It is the first of four arts festivals leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

17 September

The Rio Tinto mining corporation announced that development would go ahead on its $722 million iron ore project at Yandicoogina in Western Australia. Rio Tinto has secured the support of Pilbara Aborigines in return for a $60 million compensation package. Chair of the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, Mr Charlie Smith, said the development would pave the way for 'the economic advancement and independence' of these communities.

17 September

The Victorian Parliament passed a motion making a formal apology to the Aboriginal people of Victoria for past government policies which removed Aboriginal children from their families.

23 September

The Federal Government announced it had decided to restructure, rather than abolish, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The organisation, to be known as the Human Rights and Responsibilities Commission, will consist of three super portfolios. These will be indigenous social justice and general race discrimination, human rights and disability discrimination, and sex discrimination and equal opportunity.

24 September

The 1991 Australian of the Year, Mr David Mowaljarlai, died of a heart attack at around 72 years of age. His son Benjamin had died in police custody on 19 August.

26 September. the Full Court of the Northern Territory Supreme Court unanimously found that the Territory's mandatory sentencing laws were valid. The laws, which came into effect on 8 March, had resulted in the gaoling of a woman for 14 days for stealing a can of beer.

29 September

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Federal Government had suppressed a legal submission from the Australian Law Reform Commission, which said that the Native Title Act Amendment Bill is unconstitutional, and will lead to protracted litigation. The SMH revealed that the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams, had directed that the ALRC report not be submitted to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Native Title for that body's consideration.

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