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Assess theeffectiveness of the Law in Achieving Justice for Indigenous People.

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Introduction

Assess the effectiveness of the Law in Achieving Justice for Indigenous People. In relation to Australia, the term 'Indigenous peoples' refers to two distinct cultures of people who inhabited the land prior to European settlement - The Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. This population declined dramatically over the 19th and early 20th century due to the introduction of new diseases from European settlement, Government policies of dispersal and dispossession, the era of protection, assimilation and integration causing a cultural disruption and disintegration of the Indigenous peoples. In the 20th century the recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples land rights and human rights have been at the forefront of Global Issues where the International community has sought to address the issues and ratify Human Rights and Land Rights for Indigenous People as a legitimate subject to be implemented into international law and the domestic law of member states such as Australia. To evaluate the effectiveness of the law in achieving justice for Indigenous Australians we must look at the Australian Legal System, and the extent to which it addresses it's obligations to International Law in relation to Australia's Indigenous People. In evaluating the Legal System's response to Indigenous People and it's achieving of justice, an outline of the history of Indigenous Australians - before and during settlement - as well as their status in Australian society today must be made. The dispossession of their land and culture has deprived Indigenous People of economic revenue that the land would have provided if not colonised, as well as their tradition, culture, language and spirituality - of which they were almost entirely robbed. Prior to the colonisation of Australia in 1788, the indigenous peoples lived in harmony with the land - hunting what they required to survive and preserving the environment through calculated methods of harvesting. They extracted only what was necessary and provided the land with enough time to regenerate. ...read more.

Middle

With the removal of Section 127, Aboriginal people could be included in the national census, which meant they were given the same citizen rights as other Australians. It changed the Constitution, meaning that the Commonwealth, as well as the States, had the rights to make laws on Aboriginal issues. The policy of integration, which was adopted in the early 1970s, took a less arrogant stance than the assimilation policy. Integration refers to those policies that do not suggest the necessary loss of any individual's original language and customs but nevertheless, see their principal value in their utility as a means to full participation in an integrated culture. Australia's integration policy recognised the rights of Aboriginal people to maintain their traditions, culture and language, as well as choose to live in their own communities. Australia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on 30 September 1975 and implemented the Convention primarily through the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). This was an important standard set in accordance of the International Community eliminating racial discrimination which entered force in 1969. CERD obligates states to take strict measures in certain circumstances including cultural, economic and social fields, to ensure development of racial groups such as Indigenous Australians enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms in their circumstances. The recent development over the past few years was the introduction of the Racial Hatred Act on 1 October 1995. It declares civil prohibition on offensive, insulting, humiliating or intimidating behaviour based on sex. Also allowing a way in which complaints may be lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for people affected by racially offensive conduct showing the Australian Government ratified international law to achieve justice for Indigenous Australians. However, the ratification of the convention and implementation of the Racial Discrimination Act does not mean that injustice is no longer felt by Indigenous Australians. ...read more.

Conclusion

This means that it may be inadequate in addressing the issue of dispossession for Indigenous People making it ineffective to the international obligations set out by Convention 61 of the International Legal Organisation. In August 1993 after the case of Mabo - the Wik people lodged proceedings under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and in January 1996 the Federal court ruled that in the Wik case pastoral leases extinguished native title. This was taken to the high court and on the 23 December 1996, ruled Native title could survive on pastoral leases. This was considered to be a major victory to Indigenous People though the official government response to this ruling was the 10 point Wik plan, and resulting legislation, the Native Title Amendment Bill 1997 (Cth), which currently endangers Indigenous Peoples Land Rights where it's claimed by Indigenous Peoples organisations to introduce a means for the extinguishment of Native Title on pastoral leases and continuing the doctrine of Terra Nullius. This government response has attracted international criticism at a UN Geneva forum in July 1997. It was said the NativeTitle Act amendments "have the potential to seriously derogate from Australia's international obligations". This once again shows the ineffectiveness of the Australian Legal System achieving justice for Indigenous Australians by not clarifying it's stance on it's international obligations to Indigenous Australians or reflecting it's international rhetoric and signature on UN conventions by implementing some in domestic law. This inadequacy in the development of Indigenous Peoples Land Rights in Australia has been declared by the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in July 1997, and highlights the Australian government policy regarding Indigenous Peoples Land Rights and may be argued as a denial of justice for Indigenous People by the Australian legal system. Australia can be said to be ineffective in achieving justice for Indigenous People due to it's failure to recognise Indigenous Australians rights to land domestically by failing the Human Rights standards contained in international initiatives to which it is a signatory. ...read more.

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