First Nations Policy in Contemporary Australia

You should know the history of First Nations Policy before voting this Federal election

The Northern Territory Intervention

Introduced by: The Coalition and continued by The Australian Labor Party (ALP)

Involved Governments: Howard, Rudd, and Gillard.

Years: 2007—present

Overview: The Northern Territory Intervention constituted a set of discriminatory laws in which the Howard Government banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in Indigenous communities, excluded cultural factors as a relevant  consideration in sentencing and bail decisions and compulsorily acquired leases over declared Aboriginal land, Aboriginal ‘community living areas and town camps.

The package of measures was justified  on the grounds of protecting Aboriginal children from child abuse. They relied on the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, effectively denying Indigenous Australians protections from discrimination afforded to every other Australian citizen.

Despite the absence of any data to demonstrate the benefits of these measures and a range of criticisms from various human rights organisations, the ALP chose to continue this host of discriminatory measures in the form of the “Stronger Futures in The Northern Territory Act 2012”.

The policy is emblematic of the bi-partisan support  for the destruction of Aboriginal Communities in contemporary Australia. Its psychological and social effects persist to this day.

Treaty with First Nations Peoples

ALP Stance: In the upcoming elections the ALP has given its support to a treaty.

Coalition Stance: The coalition does not support a treaty.

Record: No government from either party to date has ever entered into a treaty with First Nations peoples.

Overview: A treaty with First Nations Peoples would be significant in terms of recognising the sovereignty of First Nations, providing rights and assurances in terms of self-determination and recognising Australia’s subjugation of First Nations Peoples.Treaties have been called for since at least the 1970s.

In 1988 the ALP’s Hawke Government promised to enter into a treaty, but ultimately never delivered on this.

Closing the Gap

Introduced by : The ALP,and continued by The Coalition

Involved governments: Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turbull and Morrison.

Overview: Closing the gap refers to a series of targets established to reduce inequalities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in terms of health, life expectancy, mortality, education and employment. It makes no mention of incarceration rates despite Australia’s Indigenous population being one of the world’s most incarcerated groups. 28 per cent of Australia’s prison population is Aboriginal,  compared to 3 per cent of the population.

Beyond its failure to recognise gaps in incarceration rates, many of the targets set out in the report have not been met by ALP and Coalition governments.