Oxfam Research: Land Rights Act changes detrimental and will not reduce child sex abuse

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 07 Aug 2007

An Oxfam Australia-commissioned assessment on the proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 provides compelling evidence that the proposed changes have no connection with the incidence of child sexual abuse, are likely to jeopardize the effectiveness of the Government’s emergency response in the Northern Territory and are detrimental to the development of Aboriginal communities.
“I could find no evidence of the proposed measures being connected in any way to child sex abuse, and concluded that there may even be some risk of exacerbating the situation if the permit system is relaxed,” said the author of the report, Professor Jon Altman, from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University.
“It is baffling to see the apparent unwillingness to subject the proposed reforms to appropriate community consultation and parliamentary review, especially given the very significant impact that these reforms will have on the human rights, well-being and day-to-day lives of Aboriginal people,” added Prof. Altman.
The report, titled ‘“National Emergency” and Land Rights Reform: Separating fact from fiction’, also concludes that two proposed land rights reform measures – the compulsory acquisition of an undefined number of prescribed communities (Measure 5) and the partial abolition of the permit system (Measure 10) are at direct loggerheads with a number of other measures and are consequently likely to jeopardize the effectiveness of the overarching National Emergency Response. It further argues that the permit abolition is based on an ideological position rather than any factual basis, given there is no evidence of child abuse being any higher in areas where the permit system exists.
“We feel that the compulsion associated with these measures will erode property rights and the economic position of an already severely marginalised community. We are in turn recommending that a Senate Inquiry should be held so that all key stakeholders can have their views heard, and that Aboriginal communities need to give their support and backing to any proposed changes”, said James Ensor, Director of Public Policy and Outreach with Oxfam Australia.
Oxfam further proposes that the first step should be to rigorously asses the workability of the land rights amendments made in 2006 before any further reforms are introduced, and if none of the steps mentioned above are taken that the proposed amendments should be vigorously opposed and not passed by the Parliament.
“It is extremely disappointing that there are very clear, inherent inconsistencies in the overall National Emergency Response. These two measures are completely incompatible with other proposed measures, and they can only add to the underlying distrust and the perception of a ‘land grab’ by some land owners – sentiments that can eventually result in diminishing the success of the actual national emergency response and subsequent reduction of child abuse,” concluded Mr Ensor.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Jon Altman or James Ensor, please call Vedran Drakulic on 0409 960 100 or Melany Markham on 0407 515 559
Read the full report