Indigenous Law Bulletin
Complied by Diane Biaggini, Joanna Kwan, Lauren Schulman, Celia Pitcher, Siobhan McDonnell, Ben Heraghty
Mr Murrandoo Yanner, ATSIC commissioner for the Qld North-West region, was declared by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron to be ineligible to hold that office under the provisions of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 (Cth). An appeal from the Minister’s decision is due for hearing in the Federal Court on March 30.
Mr Geoff Clarke (former Victorian ATSIC commissioner) was elected chair of the ATSIC board. The election of Mr Clarke was the first time an ATSIC leader has been elected by his peers. Mr Clarke stated that his major priority while in office would be “to return land to Indigenous people”.
The Queensland Government paid $7000 each to 270 former public servants in the Palm Island Aboriginal community in compensation for underpaid wages between 1975 and 1986. The payment was based on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s award in the Bligh & Ors v State of Qld test case in 1996.
A report produced by ATSIC has shown that the number of indigenous families living in overcrowded housing has fallen by 10 per cent. This improvement occurred despite an increase of 41% since 1991 in the number of families identifying themselves as Indigenous.
The Queensland government has released draft heritage legislation, designed to protect sites considered sacred or culturally significant by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ September report on corrective services shows that Western Australia experienced the greatest increase in prison population and has the highest rate of over-representation of Indigenous people in custody in Australia. Indigenous people are 21 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Western Australians
Federal Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill, initiated an inquiry to develop a regulatory scheme under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) to control access and ownership of Australia’s valuable biological resources for the developing biotechnology industry. The committee, led by SA lawyer John Voumard, comprises intellectual property and environmental lawyers and members of Indigenous and business communities, and is due to report to the Minister by 30 June 2001. Terms of reference may be found at www.environment.gov.au and Minister Hill’s office may be contacted on (02) 6277 7640.
The National Native Title Tribunal registered the Turrbal peoples’ native title claim, which includes areas in the Brisbane, Logan, Redlands and Pine River shires. They are consequently entitled to the right to negotiate and must be consulted in relation several projects occurring on claimed areas of freehold, crown, leasehold and reserve land.
The Yirrgandji and the Gimuy Yidindji people and Cairns City Council signed an Indigenous land use agreement for the city’s multi-million dollar Esplanade project. This agreement is the first of its kind under the Federal Government’s Wik native title laws.
(Courier Mail, 19 January 2000, p7)
Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue became the first Indigenous person to deliver the Australia Day address.
Aboriginal leaders warned the Federal Government it could face a discrimination lawsuit if it fails to invalidate the mandatory sentencing laws in the Northern Territory where they affect people under 18. The Commonwealth has the power to veto the territory laws, but John Howard last year ruled out Federal intervention.