OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER – REMOTE COMMUNITIES

Posted on 28 November 2014

Dear Prime Minister,

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has noted that the Western Australian and South Australian governments have threatened to shut down services to small and remote townships of the Aboriginal Peoples. We bring this matter to your government for urgent attention to Australian policy regarding the rights of First Peoples.

The First Peoples of Australia had, and will always have, inherent rights to exist on and develop our lands and territories. These rights derive from the continuing and ancient title to these lands and territories, and according to our collective rights to self-determination as Peoples.

By circumstances of Australia’s colonial and post-colonial history, and particularly in the absence of a consent agreement for acquisition and distribution of the wealth from our lands, territories and resources, our Peoples hold as a very minimum the right to enjoy equal outcomes from social and economic advancements benefitting all Australians. This must be clearly understood and respected by all governments in Australia.

The WA government apparently intends to target Aboriginal Peoples on the one hand, whilst continuing to provide high standards of municipal services to non-Indigenous citizens on the other. We cannot accept the WA and SA governments have legitimate authority under Australian or international law to racially discriminate to disrupt or destroy the livelihoods, accommodations or habitat of the First Peoples of Australia.

Congress must also take into account that other States may be contemplating reduction or withdrawal of services to our Peoples in the same way as Western Australia and South Australia.

Constitutionally, the Australian Government has the highest authority in the nation in order to promote and protect the rights of the First Peoples of Australia.

It is part of the international responsibilities and it is a responsibility that should not and cannot be discarded or devolved to other levels of government.

Congress brings to your attention that your government essentially reaffirmed its obligations to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples a few months ago at the United Nations General Assembly, during the high-level plenary session known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

The national government holds ultimate responsibility to promote and respect equality and non-discrimination in the nation and, in that context, also to ensure our Peoples are correctly acknowledged as rights holders as Indigenous Peoples.

These standards to which we refer are enshrined in the human rights treaties that Australia has signed and ratified, along with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Congress requests your government immediately affirm to the states and territories that rights of the First Peoples are paramount in any fiscal arrangements to address social and economic development.

We consider it appropriate that this matter also be discussed at the next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

Congress also requests an urgent meeting with you to further discuss this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer,
Congress Co-Chairs