Indigenous leaders in Australia seek formal legal and political representation with government
- More than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander leaders met to discuss political recognition in Uluru, agreeing formal treaties were necessary beyond proposed symbolic representation in the constitution.
- The government issued an apology for historical injustices in 2008, although community leaders and activists have sought legal commitments to reparative measures beyond symbolism.
- The push is likely to face strong opposition as the Australian Constitution has only been amended eight times in 44 attempts in its 116-year- history.
“Uluru talks: Indigenous Australians reject ‘symbolic’ recognition in favour of treaty” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Australia’s Aborigines seek treaties in drive for more than symbolic change” (Reuters | May 2017)
“Why doesn’t Australia have an indigenous treaty?” (BBC News | May 2017)
The Australian Constitution
(Image Credit: Calla Wahlquist/The Guardian)
Australia’s “Stolen Generation” Speaks
For six decades across the 20th century, the Australian government pursued a ruthless policy of the forced assimilation of its indigenous population, tearing mixed-race children from their communities and creating “stolen generations” deprived of access to the culture of their aboriginal roots. The policy, similar to those pursued in Canada and the U.S., forced children into boarding schools, church missions, and adoptions to erase connections to their communities. Canadian photographer Matthew Sherwood has documented the stories of those in the Northern Territory through his photo series Generations Stolen, profiled in The New York Times.
“Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’ Tell Their Stories” (The New York Times | May 2017)
The Fight for Indigenous Equality, from Australia to Canada
As increased attention to negative outcomes in indigenous communities has pushed their governments to address racial disparities, Australian and Canadian indigenous advocates have drawn attention to the markedly similar ways in which English settler colonialism and systemic racial inequality unfolded in their countries. In both countries, indigenous peoples make up at least a quarter of the prison population, 40% of incarcerated children, and half of those in the child welfare system. Similar policies of forced family dissolution, detention, and delayed dismantlement of legal inequality have pushed advocates an ocean apart to come up with comparative solutions to the persistent indigenous/non-indigenous gap in their countries.
“‘It’s the same story’: How Australia and Canada are twinning on bad outcomes for Indigenous people” (The Guardian | April 2017)
(Image Credit: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian)
South Australia approves bill to recognize same-sex partnerships
- The South Australia Legislative Council approved a bill to establish a relationship registry for same-sex couples in the state and recognize overseas same-sex marriages, including of Australian nationals who travel to New Zealand to be married.
- The new law will allow same-sex couples to enjoy some of the partnership rights of opposite-sex couples, including recognition of next-of-kin status, and introduces protections for intersex people.
- The bill followed the death of British national David Bulmer-Rizzi on honeymoon in South Australia, which prompted international outcry after his marriage to his husband Marco went unrecognized for end-of-life decisions and on the death certificate issued.
“South Australia Has Passed A Law Recognising Same-Sex Relationships After Honeymoon Death” (BuzzFeed News)
“Marco Bulmer-Rizzi welcomes relationships register bill passing SA parliament” (ABC News)
“Premier Jay Weatherill makes apology in Parliament for past LGBTIQ discrimination” (news.com.au)
“This British Man’s Husband Died On Honeymoon But Australia Refuses To Recognise Their Marriage” (BuzzFeed News)
(Image Credit: Facebook, via BuzzFeed News)
Australia’s Refugee Hot Potato
Despite its reputation as a beacon—however imperfect—of multiculturalism in the Asia Pacific region, Australia has increasingly come under scrutiny for its asylum policies, which make it nearly impossible for refugees to find haven in the country. International outrage has grown over more than a decade as an evolving set of agreements and restrictions have made the country’s practices increasingly less transparent and, some advocates argue, more inhumane.
Rejection of refugee-carrying vessels, offshore processing, indefinite detention, poor conditions in detention centers, and questionable legal maneuverings have caused humanitarian monitors to sound the alarm, questioning Australia’s commitment to international human rights laws. The most recent development in Australia’s ever-evolving asylum-seeker drama has involved an agreement with the U.S. to take those currently held in offshore detention on the island of Nauru, but the election of Donald Trump has introduced uncertainty into a situation already defined by precarity.
“Offshore detention: Australia’s recent immigration history a ‘human rights catastrophe’” (The Guardian)
“The Nauru files: cache of 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention” (The Guardian)
“Refugees in Australia’s remote camps offered US resettlement” (AFP via Yahoo! News)
(Image Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP, via The Guardian)
Papua New Guinea court and PM say offshore refugee detention center for Australia to close
- The PNG supreme court ruled the Manus Island-based center, one of two offshore centers Australia funds, was unconstitutional, with some detainees having been held for more than 1,000 days.
- With only eight refugees having been resettled, PNG PM Peter O’Neill stated that Australia would have to make new arrangements for the 850 men who have been detained in the Manus center.
- Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton has reiterated that the government will not allow the asylum-seekers onto Australian soil.
“Manus Island detention centre to close, PNG Prime Minister says following court bombshell” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
“Manus Island detention centre to close, Papua New Guinea prime minister says” (The Guardian)
“Papua New Guinea Finds Australian Offshore Detention Center Illegal” (The New York Times)
(Image Credit: Ben Doherty/The Guardian)
Dozens of refugees held in Nauru while seeking asylum in Australia protest their detention
- Protests have continued for more than a week as some of the asylum-seekers have been detained in the open-air center Nauru runs for Australia for 1,000 days.
- The demonstrations coincided with Australian protests decrying Australia’s controversial offshore detention policy sending refugees who attempted to enter the country without authorization almost 2,800 miles away to Nauru.
- Despite reports to the contrary, Australian and Nauruan authorities argue facilities are well-maintained, have good healthcare and activities, and, except during times of protest, allow for detainees to travel into the surrounding community.
“Locked gates and erected fences contain Nauru asylum seeker protests” (The Guardian)
“Asylum seekers on Nauru determined to keep up protests” (Radio New Zealand)
“Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: via The Guardian)