MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE ABORIGINAL LEGAL SERVICE OF WA, 23 April 2010 MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE ABORIGINAL LEGAL SERVICE OF WA, 23 April 2010
Human Rights Decision ‘Profoundly Disappointing’ says ALSWA
The Federal Government’s failure to introduce a Human Rights Act is profoundly disappointing, according to the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA).
Speaking from New York, where he is currently attending the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a pensive Mr. Eggington said “It is particularly ironic being with representatives of the world’s most eminent human rights body, that we find our own government lacks the fortitude to uphold the rights of its own citizens” said ALSWA’s CEO.
“The very fact that ALSWA is forced to highlight human rights abuses through the United Nations, painfully demonstrates the entrenched marginalisation of Australia’s First Nations Peoples in our own land”. Mr. Eggington said that the Federal government’s refusal to embrace an appropriate rights based approach is ‘a slap in the face’ to the many organisations who contributed to the National Human Rights Consultation process.
“Numerous Indigenous stakeholders throughout Australia strongly supported a Commonwealth Human Rights Act. To then have the government fail to introduce this is disheartening to say the very least”.
ALSWA believes that such a decision undermines the Rudd Government’s assurances that they would protect the rights of this country’s most vulnerable. “In an election year I am dismayed that the Federal Government is prepared to play politics with our people’s lives”. “Human rights should be placed above campaigning and we need our federal leaders to show true leadership in this matter. What we have seen instead is a watered down ‘framework’ which rather than assuring human rights assures nothing more than another bureaucracy”.
Mr. Eggington said that although there was some merit in the Government introducing new measures to improve education about Human Rights, that Aboriginal peoples were already well aware of the issues. “Indigenous peoples have learnt the lesson first hand of what happens when human rights are either abused or withheld. We could certainly teach the government how painful and dispiriting this is if it chooses to listen. Unfortunately with this latest decision it has clearly chosen not to listen”.
ALSWA, along with other Indigenous Advocacy groups at the UN Forum is highlighting the poor track record Australian governments have in providing equal rights to its Indigenous citizens. Mr. Eggington believes that Prime Minister Rudd’s former position as a diplomat should give him reason to reflect on what damage his government’s refusal to implement a Human Rights Act is doing to Australia’s reputation on the international stage.