Meeting the Australian of the Year

Mick Dodson, a man of Aboriginal descent, was chosen by the Australian president Kevin Rudd as Australian of the Year for his legal activism in promoting the rights of Aboriginals along with Indigenous Peoples world wide as a sitting member on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Mr. Dodson gave a guest lecture for a graduate level class and the public was also invited. Mr. Dodson spoke of recent injustices suffered by the Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory in Australia, after the Australian nation-state pledged support of the recently adopted UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Earlier this year the Commonwealth (federal-level) government enacted a state of emergency in the Northern Territory (state-level) Aboriginal town-camps (community-level). The reason being for the state of emergency was high instances of sexual abuse. The Commonwealth administration barred welfare access, appropriated health care records, and acquired Aboriginal land-leases and barred any community-level development of those lands.
Commonwealth police and crime detectives and state police also moved en masse into the 43 Aboriginal communities along with Aboriginal “Agents” of the Commonwealth. Despite these drastic measures, Mr. Dodson says, in the name of the protection of women and children against abuse, not one conviction has been brought forth to court or even made against a single individual.
Mr. Dodson also discussed the fact that the Racial Discrimination Act had been entirely suspended by the legislature of the Commonwealth to remove any “inconvenient” government red tape that might slow the process and procedure of the state of emergency. Mr. Dodson also mentioned that suspending the Racial Discrimination Act in the name of emergency also blocks any appeals the Aboriginal peoples might make to prevent these paternalistic measures.
Mr. Dodson himself did not make many comparisons to other governments disparaging indigenous populations, but what came to my mind during the lecture was the Termination era of U.S. federal Indian policy during the 1950s and 60s, where federal-level protections of Indian rights were abolished for many Indian tribes around the country. Recently the Supreme Court measured Indian Reorganization Act tribes registered after the passing of the Act in 1934-36 could not in fact be considered tribes under the Act.
Mr. Dodson discussed any possible effects the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples might have in future dealings between the Commonwealth and Aboriginals. Mr. Dodson mentioned the atmosphere is slowly coming about under the implicit influence of the Declaration, but since declarations are non-binding, respect for and full recognition of the Declaration will not happen any time soon.
Hard to say if hope or despair won out after Mr. Dodson’s impressive lecture.

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