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Australian Government must do better on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Rights

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 20 Oct 2017

The Government has got to listen to the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) and involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in a transparent process of reform of the discriminatory Commonwealth Development Program.

"The Commonwealth Development Program is a discriminatory program that is financially penalising Aboriginal people more harshly than those on the other work for the dole program, that is not producing the results and causing disastrous outcomes for communities, Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

“Last month APO NT launched a positive alternative to CDP. Their model would create 10,500 part time jobs to be filled by people in remote communities who currently get less than the minimum wage to do work they should be employed and paid properly to do. The APO NT model would create new jobs and enterprises, strengthen communities and get rid of pointless administration. It has incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people who are already struggling.

“I have been to the Senate Committee Hearings into the CDP and the evidence we have heard on the flow on effects the harsh financial penalties have on communities has been harrowing.

“We know that top down approaches don’t work. It’s been said again and again. The Government needs to drastically improve consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples on all issues. At Garma the Minister for Indigenous Affairs said the Government would move to a community wages approach to CDP yet we have seen no movement to reform the program.

“Australia has just been elected to the UN Human Rights Council where we pledged to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples "in both word and deed". The Declaration requires the Government to work in partnership with Aboriginal peoples and respect the right to self-determination.

“Just this week the United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned our human rights record as containing “very little to be proud of”, reporting that our “chronic non-compliance” with the Committee’s findings and recommendations is so low as to be “completely off the charts”.

“This has to be a wakeup call to the Government to start actually working with Australia’s First People and stop discriminatory programs such as CDP.”

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