This report presents the observations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, on the Northern Territory Emergency Response (“NTER”) program in Australia, in advance of reforms to the NTER that are anticipated in 2010. These observations follow an exchange of information and communications with the Government of Australia, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders, including during the visit of the Special Rapporteur to Australia between 17 and 28 August 2009, during which he visited, with the cooperation of the Government, numerous Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, including Alice Springs (as well as the Alice Springs town camps), the Bagot community in Darwin, Yuendumu, Yirrkala, Angurugu, Gamgam, and Raymangirr. The observations included in parts I–V of the report were submitted initially to the Government by a note of 2 December 2009. These parts of the report appear here with only minor changes that do not alter substantively the observations previously submitted to the Government. Part VI of the report includes a summary of the Government’s comments on the observations previously submitted, comments the Special Rapporteur received on 16 February 2010; and part VII provides final observations by the Special Rapporteur.

Some key findings:

  • Since its adoption, the NTER measures have sparked widespread criticism both domestically and internationally.
  • No consultations with Indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory were carried out prior to the adoption of the NTER.
  • The NTER program,in several key aspects limits the capacity of Indigenous individuals and communities to control or participate in decisions affecting their own lives, property and cultural development, and it does so in a way that in effect discriminates on the basis of race, thereby raising serious human rights concerns.
  • Alcohol restrictions will be continued, but the restrictions will be varied to meet the individual needs of specific communities based on careful analysis of evidence about each community’s circumstances, and implemented in consultation with the community.
  • Between 1 July 2010 and 31 December 2010, a new, targeted scheme of income management will be rolled out across the Northern Territory – in urban, regional and remote areas – as a first step in a future national roll out.
    In particular, the Government provided the Special Rapporteur with its Policy Statement: Landmark Reform to the Welfare System, Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act and Strengthening of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which sets out in some detail the content of the reforms.  income management to disadvantaged regions. The targeted categories are not based on race.
    The scheme will be targeted at: - disengaged youth who are not working or studying - long-term recipients of unemployment benefits and parenting payments - people assessed by Centrelink as requiring income management for reasons including vulnerability to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse, and - people referred for income management by child protection authorities
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