Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The journey towards a name change for Coutts Crossing begins.....


In November 1847 Clarence Valley grazier Thomas Coutts disgruntled by what he thought was a failure of local authority to act on his complaints, angry that his cattle herd had diminished over the space of eight years allegedly due to cattle theft and irritated at the size of his wages bill - all of which he blamed on local Aboriginal family groups living on 'his' property - decided to take action.

According to media reports at the time it soon became common knowledge that Coutts "had poisoned some aborigines" and this was eventually reported to the Commissioner of Crown Lands who, after visiting the group who had been given poisoned flour, hearing their account, arrested Thomas Coutts based on an affidavit sworn by one of his servants. 



One hundred and seventy year later on13 June 2018 The Daily Examiner reported:

Coutts Crossing could have two names and a memorial to the 23 Aboriginal people murdered by the man the town is named after, following a meeting called to discuss proposals to rename the village.

Prospects for a name change for the village have gathered pace since Daily Examiner indigenous columnist Janelle Brown’s article two weeks ago detailed how colonial settler Thomas Coutts murdered 23 Aboriginal people with arsenic-laced flour he gave as payment for work on his property at Kangaroo Creek in 1848.

Yesterday, about 40 people – indigenous and European – met at the Gurehlgam Centre in Grafton to discuss the next steps in proposing a name change for the village. The meeting did not produce formal resolutions, but the debate uncovered key areas to work on.

These included a proposal to include a traditional twin name for the village and to build a memorial in the village for the victims of the atrocity.

“I didn’t know I would get the amount of kick back from the article,” said Ms Brown, who led the meeting.

“But it’s good. It’s time to have these conversations and look at things like a name change for Coutts Crossing.

“What happened at Kangaroo Creek was a horrendous thing and not good for the Clarence Valley.

“It’s not good for a town to be named after a mass murderer.”

She said research into Gumbaynggir language revealed the original name for the area had been Daam Miirlarl, which meant a special place for yams.

However, she was reluctant to push this name as an alternative until there was further discussion among indigenous people about it.

Coutts Crossing resident Cr Greg Clancy said yesterday’s meeting was an initial step to move toward a name change.

“It’s not something that is going to happen next week,” he said.

Cr Clancy also made an apology for the deputy mayor Jason Kingsley, who was also the council’s delegate to the Aboriginal Consultative Committee. He said working through the council committee could be the best way to bring the push for a name change to the council.

Cr Clancy said the work of local historian and environmentalist John Edwards left no doubt Thomas Coutts murdered the 23 Gumbaynggir people with poisoned flour.

“In his book The History of the Coutts Crossing and Nymboida Areas, the chapter on the Kangaroo Creek massacre has all the transcripts from the court case,” he said.

“Its evidence is conclusive, but the case could not go ahead because the court at the time could not hear evidence from Aboriginal witnesses.”

The current owner of the property on which the massacre occurred, John Maxwell, had nothing positive to say about the original owner.

“What he did was cynical beyond belief,” Mr Maxwell said. “To poison 6kg of flour and give it to people, knowing they would take it home and kill a huge number more of their family, is too terrible to consider.”….

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

NSW Bar Association: “As members of the legal profession, we know indigenous Australians, proportionately, are the most incarcerated on earth. This diminishes us as a nation.”


The Australian, 29 March 2018, p.6:

As members of the legal profession, we know indigenous Australians, proportionately, are the most incarcerated on earth. This diminishes us as a nation.
Sovereignty and dispossession, recognition and representation of interests: they are different facets of the same problem. It is something that we, as lawyers, have a duty to help solve. It is because of this duty that the legal profession welcomed the government’s reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission to examine, among other issues, rates of incarceration for the indigenous.

The Pathways to Justice report of the ALRC represents a comprehensive blueprint to address the shameful over-representation of indigenous people in our prisons. Swift and decisive action is required from commonwealth, state and territory governments to ensure its recommendations are implemented.

ALRC recommendations relating to sentencing and bail regimes, the repeal of mandatory sentencing laws, an effective justice reinvestment framework, culturally appropriate community-based sentencing options, and so on, are all aimed at how substantive, not just formal, equality before the law can be achieved for indigenous people. All recommendations are supported by the NSW Bar Association as important initiatives which will contribute to addressing Aboriginal incarceration rates.

The NSW Bar is pleased the ALRC supports establishment of indigenous sentencing courts including the NSW Walama Court. The Walama Court is critical in reducing indigenous incarceration. The model involves community participation and greater supervision, resulting in reduced recidivism and increased compliance with court orders to better protect the community. It is not a “soft on crime” initiative but rather a more effective manner to supervise offenders post-sentence which would enhance rehabilitation and prevent re-offending.
At this stage the NSW government has not allocated funds to establish the Walama Court in the 2018-19 financial year, despite the fact it would have long-term economic cost savings for NSW as fewer indigenous people will be imprisoned and rates of recidivism would be reduced…..

Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Pathways to Justice–Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ALRC Report 133) Final Report, published on 28 March 2018.



Thursday, 29 March 2018

Mainstream media continues to amplify racist dog whistles in 2018


In September 2017 the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) published the new Code of Conduct for Nurses and Code of Conduct for Midwives. The codes took effect for all nurses and midwives in Australia on 1 March 2018.


The new codes for nurses and midwives can be found here.

These codes passed without much comment until far-right Senator Cory Bernardi began to bay about “political correctness” on 31 January 2018 and claim that Nurses must acknowledge white privilege and voice this acknowledgment if asked.

According to ABC Media Watch he was followed by the Murdoch media running with this blatant dog whistle, followed by Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and various radio shock jocks.

Misleading media coverage culminating in a truly appalling piece of journalism by Channel 7 which elicited this response…………..

Luke Pearson writing at @IndigenousX on 24 March 2018:


“BUT FIRST TONIGHT, THE CONTENTIOUS NEW CODE TELLING NURSES TO SAY ‘SORRY FOR BEING WHITE’ WHEN TREATING THEIR INDIGENOUS PATIENTS..

That’s how Today Tonight Adelaide began last night.
It continued:

“Now, it’s the latest in a string of politically correct changes for the health industry, but this one has led to calls for the Nursing Board boss to resign.”

It was followed by a five minute story with the new code being condemned by someone you’ve probably never heard of, Graeme Haycroft, explaining that: “According to how the code is written, the white nurse would come in and say, ‘before I deal with you, I have to acknowledge to you that I have certain privileges that you don’t have” followed by Cory Bernardi calling it divisive.

It goes on in this vein for a full five minutes before it cuts back to the presenter, who finally says, “The Nursing and Midwifery Board has told us that the code was drafted in consultation with Aboriginal groups and has been taken out of context as it’s not a requirement for health workers to declare or apologise for white privilege”.

And just to reinforce that point, the entire premise for the segment was false. There is no requirement for nurses to apologise for being white, which would be very awkward for the more the more than 1500 Indigenous nurses across Australia, and the countless others who also aren’t white to begin with. But, even for the nurses who are – THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR THEM TO APOLOGISE FOR BEING WHITE.

So, why on Earth would Today Tonight run such a story?

Why would they base a story off the demonstrably false allegations of this Graeme Haycroft person?

To answer that, it might useful to cut back to a 2005 Sydney Morning Herald story about Mr Haycroft:

“A member of the National Party and the H.R. Nicholls Society, he (Mr Haycroft) boasts that, because of a tussle he had with the Australian Workers Union 15 years ago, the union does not have a single member shearing sheep in south-western Queensland today.

Now he runs a labour hire firm with a thriving sideline in moving small-business employees off awards and collective agreements and onto the Federal Government’s preferred individual contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements.

…Mr Haycroft’s business stands out because he is targeting lower-skilled, lower-paid workers, often with poor English – the people unions say have much to fear from individual contracts.”

Cut back to 2018, and Graeme Haycroft now runs the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland, which promotes itself as an alternative to the Qld Nurses Union.

So, a man with a long history of fighting Unions, who ‘saved’ the mushroom farming business by showing businesses how to move “small-business employees off awards and collective agreements and onto the Federal Government’s preferred individual contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements.”

According to the 2005 article, “Mr Haycroft said workers had been more than happy to sign on, most with their penalty rates, holiday pay and other conditions being rolled into a flat rate.”

“However, [there is always a ‘however’], Mr Haycroft was stripped of his preferred provider status with the Office of the Employment Advocate on Thursday, after a Sydney picker, Carmen Walacz Vel Walewska, said she was sacked after she contacted the Australian Workers Union for advice on AWAs.”

With that track record, it’s hard to imagine why nurses would want to leave their current union in favour of his ‘professional association’.

It seems as though, once again, Indigenous people have become a political football and a convenient scapegoat for issues that have nothing to do with us.

Queensland has a long history of political success found through anti-Aboriginal sentiment, so what better way to undermine a Union and recruit new members to a professional association than to accuse the Union of ‘racism against white people’ and ‘political correctness gone made’ by spreading the blatantly false and misleading accusation that white nurses now have to apologise to Aboriginal people for being white?

And just like Dick Smith’s anti-immigration campaign, Blair Cottrell’s anti-African ‘community safety group’, and Prue McSween’s call for a new Stolen Generation, it seems Channel 7 is always more than happy to ignore the facts and sensationalise issues about race and racism.

There is always one more thing.

We, and others, will soon publish articles explaining what the Code of Conduct actually calls for, and explain why cultural competence and cultural safety are important (editor’s note: we did, here’s one of them), but I can’t help but be reminded of this quote from Toni Morrison:
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

So, instead of working on the very real business of ensuring best practice within the nursing industry, our Indigenous experts in this area will have to take a few days away from this important work to explain that no one is asking for white nurses to apologise for being white.
Just like we have to explain that not all Aboriginal parents abuse their children, or that we don’t want to steal white people’s backyards, or that we had (and have) science, or that Australia wasn’t Terra Nullius, or, as Malcolm Turnbull suggested last year, that acknowledging Indigenous history and addressing the issue of colonial statues and place names across Australia is not a “Stalinist exercise of trying to wipe out or obliterate or blank out parts of our history”.

So long as Australian media and politics finds value, profit and opportunity in promoting racism, there will always be one more thing.

So, I might as well clear up a few others while I’m here, and empty a few more buckets out of the endless ocean of racist misinformation.

Child abuse isn’t a ‘cultural’ thing.

Police are not scared to arrest Aboriginal people out of fear of being called racist.

We don’t get free houses.

Aboriginal people using white ochre on their faces in dance and ceremony is not the same thing as white people dressing up in blackface.

We don’t get free university.

The Voice to Parliament is not a third chamber of parliament.

We are not the problem.

Anything else?

We aren’t vampires?

We don’t shoot laser beams out of our eyes?

We aren’t secretly developing a perpetual motion machine that runs on white tears?

I’m sure I, and countless others, will undoubtedly need to keep adding to this list because, as Toni Morrison tells us, there will always be one more thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, Response to Media Watch, 23 March 2018, excerpt:

 Do nurses under the new code have to announce their ‘white privilege’ before treating indigenous patients?
It is not a requirement of the codes of conduct for nurses and midwives to announce or apologise for white privilege. Any claim that nurses and midwives need to announce or apologise for white privilege is completely untrue. The recent criticisms from Mr Haycroft are based on completely untrue statements. The requirements for nurses when working with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples are clearly outlined in section 3.1 of the code.

Are nurses encouraged to announce their ‘white privilege’ before treating indigenous patients?
No.

Is there any requirement to acknowledge or announce ‘white privilege’ before treating a patient?
No.

Can a nurse be sacked for NOT declaring or addressing their ‘white privilege’ to a patient?
No.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUSTRALIAN NURSING AND MIDWIFERY FEDERATION, AUSTRALIAN COLLEGE OF NURSING, AUSTRALIAN COLLEGE OF MIDWIVES AND CONGRESS OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER NURSES AND MIDWIVES JOINT STATEMENT, 23 March 2018:
 In response to Graeme Haycroft’s recent comments, we welcome the opportunity to provide further information on how important cultural safety is for improving health outcomes and experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

 It is clear from the 2018 Closing the Gap Report tabled by Prime Minister Turnbull in February 2018 that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples still experience poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. It is well understood these inequities are a result of the colonisation process and the many discriminatory policies to which Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians were subjected to, and the ongoing experience of discrimination today.

All healthcare leaders and health professionals have a role to play in closing the gap.
The approach the NMBA has taken for nurses and midwives (the largest workforce in the healthcare system) by setting expectations around culturally safe practice, reflects the current expectations of governments to provide a culturally safe health system. (For more information please see the COAG Health Council 4 August 2017 Communiqué).

Culturally safe and respectful practice is not a new concept. Nurses and midwives are expected to engage with all people as individuals in a culturally safe and respectful way, foster open, honest and compassionate professional relationships, and adhere to their obligations about privacy and confidentiality.

Many health services already provide cultural safety training for their staff. Cultural safety is about the person who is providing care reflecting on their own assumptions and culture in order to work in a genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Nurses and midwives have always had a responsibility to provide care that contributes to the best possible outcome for the person/woman they are caring for. They need to work in partnership with that person/woman to do so. The principle of cultural safety in the new Code of conduct for nurses and Code of conduct for midwives (the codes) provides simple, common sense guidance on how to work in a partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The codes do not require nurses or midwives to declare or apologise for white privilege.

The guidance around cultural safety in the codes sets out clearly the behaviours that are expected of nurses and midwives, and the standard of conduct that patients and their families can expect. It is vital guidance for improving health outcomes and experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The codes were developed through an evidence-based and extensive consultation process conducted over a two-year period. Their development included literature reviews to ensure they were based on the best available international and Australian evidence, as well as an analysis of complaints about the conduct of nurses and midwives to ensure they were meeting the public’s needs.

The consultation and input from the public and professions included working groups, focus groups and preliminary and public consultation. The public consultation phase included a campaign to encourage nurses and midwives to provide feedback.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian College of Nursing, the Australian College of Midwives and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives all participated in each stage of the development and consultation of the new codes. The organisations strongly support the guidance around cultural safety in the codes for nurses and midwives.

Lynette Cusack Chair Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia
Ann Kinnear CEO Australian College of Midwives (ACM)
Kylie Ward CEO Australian College of Nursing (ACN)
Janine Mohamed CEO Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
Annie Butler A/Federal Secretary Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation


Thursday, 8 March 2018

International Women's Day, 8 March 2018


A voice I am listening to on International Women's Day 2018.....

IndigenousX, 7 March 2018:

“Racism is one that all women in the women’s movement must start to come to terms with. There is no doubt in my mind that racism is expressed by women in the movement. Its roots are many and they go deep.” – Pat O’Shane

Those words were written by former magistrate, First Nations woman Pat O’Shane more than two decades ago and yet still represent an uncomfortable truth for mainstream feminism. Similar criticisms have also been made by First Nations women like Jackie Huggins, Judy Atkinson and Aileen Morton-Robinson and are revived and re-spoken by younger feminists like Larissa Behrendt, Celeste Liddle, Nayuka Gorrie and many more who continue the fight to hold mainstream feminism to account.

The roots of racism within mainstream feminism are still there, under the soil. But that’s not to say there haven’t been changes in the mainstream feminist movement. Rather than outright denial on racism and how race impacts gender, an even more damaging phenomenon has taken hold: co-option.

Intersectionality, grounded in critical race theory, is now used by many white feminists but has been watered down to a buzzword: a superficial display of “inclusiveness” whereby it is used to deflect rather than interrogate the way race impacts the lived experience of gender, class, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.  An example of this, is the way Aboriginal women are consigned to a footnote with no context in articles about domestic violence, aligning the staggering statistics with the continuing colonial portrayal of the Aboriginal ‘other’ as inherently violent.

Much like International Women’s Day, which has become a day for corporates and fancy breakfasts that few women outside of the upper and middle classes can attend – the term has been re-purposed to fit into a limited type of white feminist thought.
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time being angry at the failings of white liberal feminism, largely because it is the type of feminism that finds the loudest voice in mainstream media. Because it has this voice it has become synonymous with ‘feminism’, despite the movement itself being a broad church. I even questioned whether to continue calling myself a feminist.

I have realised that as an Aboriginal feminist, I don’t have to continue reacting to these failures. There is already a foundation built by brilliant black women which allows us to continue developing an Aboriginal feminism. And the reason this is so important is because the unique experiences of Aboriginal people, the way racism impacts our lived experiences as women, brotherboys, sistergirls and non-binary peoples, is a matter of life and death.

While the national conversation around domestic violence and sexual assault is undoubtedly important, often Aboriginal voices are bypassed altogether. An example of this was the recent Our Watch media awards, where a white male journalist was given an accolade for reporting on “the violence no one talks about”. Aboriginal women have been talking about violence for decades – the ‘silence’ is not the issue. It is that no one listens unless it is spoken in a way that bypasses the role of white Australia, and places blame right back onto Aboriginal people themselves. 

That is why arguments about Aboriginal culture being inherently violent are so appealing. There may have been instances of violence in pre-colonial Aboriginal society –   but from my perspective, if Aboriginal people were participating in the level of violence we see now in many communities, we would not have survived for tens of thousands of years, and we would not have developed a sophisticated system of land management, astronomy and science that intertwined with our spirituality.

But the cultural arguments around Aboriginal violence find an audience in a white Australia that denies its continuing role in the current circumstances affecting our people. And white feminists can often be complicit in the perpetuation of the myth, particularly when it comes to ‘saving black women and children’ from the hands of Aboriginal men. The fact is, Aboriginal communities are not inhuman – we care deeply about violence and the impact on our people, particularly our children. But the conversation has become dangerous due to the centring of white outrage and the appetite for black pathology which borders on pornographic.

Meanwhile, Aboriginal women are painted as depraved for this perceived silence. Like the colonial images that rendered Aboriginal women as uncaring ‘infanticidal cannibals’ who did not love their children, we are again caricatured as powerless and unconcerned about our children. This is the real silence: the silencing of the strong Aboriginal women all across the country who have worked day in and day out on this problem in the face of continual slander. …..

Full article can be read here.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

United Nations spokesperson calls US President Donald J Trump a racist


Rupert Colville, spokesperson for UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights:

"These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. I'm sorry, but there's no other word one can use but 'racist'.

"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes', whose entire populations are not white are therefore not welcome. 

"The positive comment on Norway makes the underlying sentiment very clear.

"Like the earlier comments made vilifying Mexicans and Muslims, the policy proposals targeting entire groups on grounds of nationality or religion, and the reluctance to clearly condemn the antisemitic and racist actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, all of these go against the universal values the world has been striving so hard to establish since World War Two and the Holocaust.

"This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side.

"It's about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and even destroy the lives of many people, and that's perhaps the single most damaging and dangerous consequence of this type of comment by a major political figure."

Monday, 20 November 2017

The depths to which xenophobia and bigotry has reduced Australia


Australia began to ignore its obligations under international law in 1992 and its determination to turn back asylum seeker boats and reduce the number of refugees accepted into this country grew apace until this is the situation in November 2017.

The New York Times, 18 November 2017:

Veteran United Nations officials said this month they had never seen a wealthy democracy go to such extremes to punish asylum seekers and push them away.

Papua New Guinea officials and local leaders, enraged at how the camp’s closure was handled, have demanded to know why Australia is not doing more to help the men.

HuffPost, 18 November 2017:

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's main medical association called on Saturday for the government to allow independent doctors and other health experts to help more than 400 asylum seekers languishing inside a recently closed detention center in Papua New Guinea.

The asylum seekers have shut themselves inside the Australian-run Manus Island Centre for the past 18 days, defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to close it in a standoff the United Nations describes as a "looming humanitarian crisis".

Australia has shut access to the center, and staff, including doctors, have left, leaving the men without sufficient food, clean water, power or medical care.

Members of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) voted unanimously on Saturday to call on the government to grant access to the center so doctors could assess the men's health, wellbeing and living conditions.

"The AMA has made many representations on this matter, both publicly and in private but, with a worsening and more dangerous situation emerging on Manus, the federal council strongly believes that urgent action and answers are needed," AMA President Michael Gannon said.

The Australian, 17 November 2017:

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has warned New Zealand it may damage its relationship with the government if it chooses to take Manus Island refugees without the approval of Australia.

Mr Dutton said New Zealand and Papua New Guinea “would have to think through” the impact it would have on their relationship with Australia if they made a unilateral agreement to resettle refugees from the offshore detention centre.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put pressure on the Turnbull government to accept its offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island. The PNG Supreme Court ruled last week the asylum-seekers and refugees were probably the responsibility of PNG, opening the door for an agreement to resettle refugees without permission from Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 2017:

As the Manus Island detention centre stand-off entered its fifth day, Mr Turnbull held talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney, where she formally extended to Mr Turnbull the offer to take in 150 people. "The offer is very genuine and remains on the table," she said.

But Mr Turnbull said Australia remained focused on the US refugee resettlement deal, which has so far resulted in 54 people being resettled. The US deal covers up to 1250 people but US President Donald Trump dislikes it and vetting is taking a long time.

"In the wake of that deal obviously we can consider other ones," Mr Turnbull said. "We thank New Zealand for making an offer – we are not taking it up at this time."

New Zealand first made its offer to Julia Gillard's government in 2013 but it has been rejected by both Labor and the Coalition. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has now called on Mr Turnbull to accept it, saying it is similar to the US deal.

Sky News, 4 November 2017:

The United Nations human rights office has called on Australia to restore food, water and health services to about 600 interned refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, which Canberra cut off three days ago.

The detainees in the Manus Island Centre have defied attempts by the governments of Australia and PNG to close the camp, saying they fear violent reprisals from the local community if they are moved to other 'transit centres'.

'We call on the Australian government ... who interned the men in the first place to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services,' UN rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing on Friday.

Australia has an obligation to do so under international human rights law and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, he said.

There was no immediate comment from Australia or its representatives in Geneva. Its government has said the camp had been ruled illegal by PNG authorities and it had committed to supply other sites for 12 months.

Colville joined the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in warning of an 'unfolding humanitarian emergency' in the centre where asylum seekers began digging wells on Thursday to try to find water as their food supplies dwindled.

The remote Manus Island centre has been a key part of Australia's disputed immigration policy under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them instead in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific.

'We repeat our overall concerns about Australian offshore processing centres which are unsustainable, inhumane and contradictory to its human rights obligations,' Colville said.

Around 500 of the men have still not had their asylum claims processed, he said.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Australian Human Rights Commission does not support expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial


Excerpts from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs Senate Inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017:

Human rights concerns
As a form of income management, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 raises a number of human rights concerns, specifically around the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination. [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission has previously reported its concerns about the cashless debit card (also known as the Healthy Welfare Card) in our submission to the Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 and in the Social Justice and Native Title reports for 2015 and 2016. 2
The Commission has particularly been concerned about the effects of these income management measures in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whom we have previously identified to be a group that are disproportionately impacted by such measures.3 As at September 2016, 75% of trial participants in Ceduna and 82% of trial participants in the East Kimberley were Indigenous.4
Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum acknowledges that trials of the cashless debit card are already underway in areas with high Indigenous populations, it proposes that future sites will give priority to locations with lower proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.5
The Commission remains concerned that the measures will continue to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just in the existing locations of the East Kimberley and Ceduna where Indigenous populations are high, but also in future locations.
This is the case because the measures proposed in the Bill target a section of the population who are receiving income support payments.
Hence, whilst the measures may not directly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their practical effect will unduly impact upon them, as government pensions and allowances are a main source of income for approximately 46.9% of this group.6
There are therefore concerns about whether the measures are inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples equality before the law.
The Commission considers that the measures are not proportionate to the benefits sought by the Bill because their purpose could be achieved through other, less restrictive means and emphasises what it considers to be the preferred features of a system of income management:
* an approach that enables participants to voluntarily opt-in, rather than an automatic quarantining model (which then relies upon individual applications for exemptions)
* an approach that utilises income management as a ‘last resort’, particularly for targeted risk areas such as child protection (that is supported by case management and support services), similar to the Family Responsibilities Commission model in Queensland
* measures that are applied for a defined period and in a manner proportionate to the context.7
The Commission does not accept the arguments in the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights that the measures justifiably limit the right to social security, privacy and non-discrimination and equality in pursuit of the objectives of Part 3D of the Act.8
As non-voluntary measures, they are applied to all income support recipients of working age in the trial areas,9 including those who do not have any issues with drugs, alcohol or gambling.
For the reasons outlined above and in the Commission’s previous submissions, the Commission does not agree with the assessment that the Bill or existing cashless debit card measures are compatible with human rights standards.10……
It is difficult to attribute the reported positive effects to the current trials as distinct from other factors such as increased support services, and other policy interventions.15 This is further exacerbated by the self-reporting nature of the report’s findings, which the evaluation itself states should be interpreted with caution and are subject to desirability bias.16
However, it is important to consider that where people have experienced modest benefits as a result of income management, when compared to its stated objectives,17 that these need to be weighed against its significant drawbacks.
The Commission does not accept that it is appropriate to extend these measures to additional sites in order to “build on these positive findings, and offer an opportunity to continue to test the card’s effectiveness in different settings and on a larger scale”.18 There is limited evidence to demonstrate that previous income management efforts have been effective and this is confirmed by the findings from the Orima report.
The Commission is therefore of the view that these measures unjustifiably impinge on the rights of trial participants, for little substantive benefit…..
Conclusion
Human rights protections are inadequately addressed in the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum and in the Statement of Compatibility. The Commission is particularly concerned about the non-voluntary nature of the measures, and the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those income support recipients who do not have drug, alcohol or gambling concerns.  [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission is of the view that income management measures which are imposed and not community-driven lack efficacy.
The Commission is of the view that less intrusive measures aimed at changing behaviour rather than limiting access to and use of income will be more effective. It is for this reason that the Commission welcomes the investment of support services into these communities, but hopes that the appropriateness and level of engagement with such services improves.19
In light of these views, the Commission does not support the expansion of these measures as outlined in the Bill.
_______________________________________________________________________
2 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, At http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=14a9925c-245c-4a2e-9bfa-eeb6c843e505&subId=403485; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 88-97, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_SJNTR_2016.pdf; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015, 55-58, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SJRNTR2015.pdf.
3 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, 5.
4 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 91-92. See also Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’ (Department of Social Services, 2017), 38, showing similar proportions as at June 2017.
5 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 4, 7. 
7 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission No 76 to Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act Bill 2009 and other Bills (10 February 2010), 26.
8 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 7-8.
9 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 3.
10 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 8. 
16 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 118.
17 Department of Social Services, Guide to Social Security Law [11.1.1.30] http://guides.dss.gov.au/guide-social-security-law/11/1/1/30
18 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 3.
19 According to the Orima report, only 19% of those surveyed indicated that they used the drug and alcohol support services provided. Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 8.