Within a general context, discrimination law has undergone significant change in recent decades and has developed new and refined standards and expectations. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people continue to experience discrimination at an unacceptable and disproportionate rate, which is a driving factor to poor outcomes across a range of areas such as justice, health and education. Accordingly, the topic of discrimination has particular and unfortunate resonance for ATSI people.
In considering NAAJA’s clients and the authority of an Aboriginal-led board, what are the specific standards and expectations in the context of ATSI world-views? What are these specific standards and expectations in a Northern Territory context? How can these be understood and communicated effectively? How do these views accord with notions of institutionalised and systemic discrimination? How do institutions and legal frameworks respond to ATSI world-views of institutionalised and systemic discrimination? How can these interests be advanced? In this submission, these questions are fundamental to modernising anti-discrimination responses and instruments in the Northern Territory. We can learn the lessons of elsewhere and modernise our approach based solely on external influences (which are important), or we can also incorporate ATSI views to develop and modernise a Northern Territory set of standards and expectations. This focus forms the core purpose of NAAJA’s submission. We seek to provide guidance, clarity and direction as to how to incorporate ATSI views. And whilst views differ amongst ATSI people as they do for any group of people, there are some common and consistent themes expressed by groups across the Northern Territory and based on our direct experiences.
- NAAJA recommends the establishment of a Co-Commissioner or similar arrangement as an identified position for an Aboriginal person with direct experience and understanding of the Northern Territory context.
- Further key areas of focus are needed to complement the existing AntiDiscrimination Commission including matters relating to the accountability across government agencies and programs pertaining to the cultural appropriateness, security, safety and related matters.
- The Attorney-General should establish a working group, including community representatives, to develop a Human Rights Act for the Northern Territory, which includes protection of cultural rights, Aboriginal identity, and language. Removal of section 37 exemptions – irrelevant criminal record.
- The Statehood process, when it commences, should actively consider mechanisms to ensure Aboriginal input into the drafting of a new constitution and that specific space and context is provided to ensure consideration of recognising a Commissioner for Anti-Discrimination in the constitution. This includes consideration of a new constitution prescribing the term of appointment, how a Commissioner is appointed, restrictions in relation to how a Commissioner can be removed, the possibility of guaranteed resources and other aspects.