Monday, July 09, 2007

Australia: govt to compulsorily acquire Indigenous property

From ABC Australia. The Federal Government's proposal to tackle issues affecting Aboriginal communities will involve expropriation of their land. I'm not familiar with the issue as it stands in Australia, and I'm not familiar with what Aboriginies in general think about the issue (one elder, Cathy Mills, expresses opposition in this article). However, expropriation of indigenous peoples' land should always be viewed with great suspicion.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin says she will fight the Federal Government over its plans to take over Indigenous communities to tackle child abuse.

Ms Martin says the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land and ending the permit system will not stop Indigenous child abuse.

"So while we're working broadly with the Federal Government on the important issues of health, of tackling alcohol abuse, of tackling pornography, we will not support the removal of permits," she said.

"It does not make sense, it is not supported by this Government and by Aboriginal Territorians, and we do not support the five-year leases."

Ms Martin has also called the federal takeover of Aboriginal leases for five years a half-way measure.

The NT Government says it plans to launch a legal challenge.

Ms Martin made the comments in Darwin this morning at the national launch of NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Local Aboriginal elder Cathy Mills says the land takeover will hijack Aboriginal land rights.

"I'm not a happy person today," she said.

The Northern Territory Law Society agrees that the plan to take over Aboriginal land will not help tackle child abuse.

The comments come as the Federal Government comes under increasing pressure to release more details of its intervention policy.

NT Law Society president Alison Robertson says no-one is sure exactly how the take over will work.

"The extent to which it will exist, whether its something that will eventually mean that those townships revert to Aboriginal ownership, the Prime Minister hasn't been completely clear on that," she said.

Also, the Northern Land Council (NLC) says Australia's international reputation will take a blow if the land permit system is abolished.

The NLC says there is universal opposition to the move because it polarises complex Indigenous issues.

It says unless the Howard Government starts negotiating properly with traditional owners, legal action will be taken.

NAIDOC Week will be marked by events across the country over the next week.

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