Date: Mon, 20 Oct 1997 20:32:22 -0500
From: Jim f Yvonne Duffield <staffy@OMEN.COM.AU>
(by way of Michael Novick <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
Subject: [WILDER-L] LL:NIWG Urgent Action Bulletin
Australian government tries to turn back the clock to the days of dispossession
Urgent Action Bulletin of the National Indigenous Working Group
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia have
only had their land rights recognised since 1992. In that year the
High Court finally overthrew the 200-year-old legal fiction of 'terra
nullius' - that Australia was an uninhabited land that belonged to
no-one when it was colonised. The 1992 decision, known as Mabo,
created for the first time the concept of 'native title'.
A 1996 decision, known as Wik, clarified what 'native title' meant.
In particular, it became clear that native title could still exist on land
covered by 'pastoral leases' - the huge sheep and cattle ranches which
cover much of outback Australia and on which many Aboriginal
people continue to live.
These two decisions, while still leaving Australia far behind many
'Third World' countries in its recognition of indigenous rights, have
been fiercely opposed by the powerful farming and mining industries.
As a result, the government is trying to undermine the legal victories
won by indigenous peoples.
The Prime Minister John Howard has proposed amendments to the
Native Title Act which will render these victories meaningless.
Crucially, the amendments will make native title worthless on
pastoral leases and leave many Aborigines unable even to claim
native title in the first place. Together these measures will leave the
huge majority of Aborigines with no meaningful rights to their land.
In a report to Parliament, the independent Australian Law Reform
Commission called the Howard proposals unconstitutional and racially
discriminatory. The government is alleged to have tried to suppress
The Aboriginal representative Mick Dodson has said, "If you take
our land, you take the ground of our culture. If you keep on taking
there will be nothing left."
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Please write a polite letter to the Australian Prime Minister, John
Please make the following points:
- The Native Title Amendment Bill is racially discriminatory,
unconstitutional and in violation of international law.
- If passed, the Bill would leave most Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people without any meaningful rights to their lands.
- The loss of their land would compound the appalling discrimination
which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples currently
experience in areas such as health, education, employment and
- Native title is the only real basis for social justice in Australia.
It must be protected and not undermined.
The NIWG, a coalition of leading Aboriginal organisations, plans to
present your letters of support at a series of high-profile events.
Please send your letter as soon as possible to:
c/o Anti-Slavery International
London SW9 9TL
Or fax it to: +44 (0)171 373 4416
Or e-mail it to: email@example.com
Thank you for your support
Look at our new Website : http://www.charitynet.org/~asi
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