Food for Thought 1
First Byte: What Kind of Australia?
On 7 August 2007 the SAO was in Canberra
to participate in the National Civil Society Dialogues
at Old Parliament House. The theme of the discussion
kind of Australia do we want?” Meanwhile
in the new House the Government was tabling 500 pages
of legislation to override the Racial Discrimination
Act and to change the Land Rights Act to compulsorily
acquire Aboriginal land to enact their ‘emergency
response’ to the crisis in Indigenous communities.
There was also a press conference of Elders from
the Combined Aboriginal Communities of the NT standing
in deep dignity alongside Pat Turner and others speaking
to the underlying issues that contribute to cycles of
The press conference was disrupted by Senator
Bill Heffernan who made a point of weighing in and causing
a stir. The sad, appalling result is that this is what
was reported on the local TV news. There was no
coverage of the facts and stories being told by the Aboriginal
spokespeople, no mention of the crowd of civil
society representatives from Churches and NGOs across
the country bearing witness to the travesty being played
out in front of them, and no media witnessing of the
quiet and dignified Elders in whose name we had gathered.
What kind of Australia do we have when 500 pages of massive
and complex legislation is passed in a day, with no time
for scrutiny because even the Opposition was only presented
with the Bills the day before?
What kind of Australia do we want?
One that upholds the dignity of persons or one that allows
politicians in power to ride roughshod over that dignity
without recourse? These crucial questions are
ones we must turn our hearts and minds towards in
the lead-up to the election.
Another Byte: 18 August 2007 – A different kind
of sorry day for Australia
During the Senate debate on the Emergency
Response Bill in the Northern Territory, one
of the amendments moved in the Senate was to allow
the legislation to be subject to the Racial
Discrimination Act. Senator Evans, the Opposition’s
Senate Leader, said that the amendment would go some
way to ensuring that the NT’s Aboriginal people
were not treated unfairly.
The Minister for Community Services, Senator
Nigel Scullion, acknowledged the laws were discriminatory.
His actual words were: “The laws that we’re
bringing in here are discriminatory. But they don’t
discriminate against people, they simply discriminate
in a way that treats one class of people differently
to another.” He went on to say, “If we don’t
exempt some of these areas from the Racial Discrimination
Act then they would be unlawful and they can’t
There is no question that child abuse and
neglect must be addressed in Northern Territory Aboriginal
communities and in any other Australian community where
it is occurring. However, serious questions arise for
all Australians when legislation is passed that allows
our government to discriminate to treat one class
of Australian citizens differently to another.
The legislation was passed on 18 August 2007 – A
different kind of sorry day for Australia.
ACT NOW to Refresh Indigenous Australia
Send ecards to urge our
political leaders to work with Aboriginal communities
to address the issues of child sexual abuse and neglect. Express
your concerns about the following aspects of
• The inadequate time for consultation
• The taking over of Aboriginal land with five year
• The exemption to suspend the Racial Discrimination
• The abolition of the Permit system.
Go to http://www.sao.clriq.org.au/refresh_australia/ecard.html and
send a message to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the
Opposition, the Minister and Shadow Minister for Indigenous
Affairs, the Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer, and your
own local member.
Go to Food for Thought 2
Return to Refresh Australia! main page