Archive for the 'Law' Category


Statehood and regionalisation

An issue I feel passionate about is Statehood and the possibility of designing a modern constitution for a new State.  Constitutional law was an interest during law school.  The potential we have during this important time in history is, in my view, often overlooked, and to our detriment.  With such a complex issue many Territorians are asking questions.  In one sense there is simply too much information – many questions cannot be answered because we aren’t in a point of time in our history to provide an answer.  What can follow is uncertainty masked as confusion.  Whilst this happens there is the chance for leadership and for those showing leadership to coalesce around some core principles that define us.  

Dave Richards from Alice Online kindly posted this piece about Statehood and regionalisation – a speech I recently delivered to the LGANT general meeting.  The Alice Springs News printed a modified version.  The NT News (online copy unavailable) printed a modified version over two pages in the most recent Saturday edition.

This direction builds on a previous motion passed by Council, posted here.  There are many constitutional models for devolving infrastructure decisions closer to the regions, to the bottom-up, and many constitutional models for the distribution of infrastructure resources equitably across the regions – our call is to enshrine these principles in the new constitution and discuss various models in the convention that will decide a new constitution.  More to come on this topic.


Pluralism as a policy paradigm

In social policy there are no absolutes.  Broad labels such as self-determination, mutual responsibility, etc. describe broad policies subject to an integrated and complex web of forces, powers and circumstances.  Certain labels might be ideal in theory but in practice fall short.  Some may describe in a broad sense a set of policies but in fact lack the substance for an accurate description.  An unfortunate aspect of the political market is that such circumstances lead to a postering for position rather than an articulation of policies and how they can be improved.  By its very nature politics is continually at risk of becoming an equation between different interpretations and positions rather than a collective articulation of ways forward.

An example of a convuluted term is ‘self-determination’.  The opposite is seen as ‘mainstreaming’.  Both describe the tension between the way Aboriginal identity is integrated into the broader and more dominant parts of society and the way it is protected as a distinct and seperate position.  One train of thought, put to me recently by an Aboriginal person strong in traditional culture, is that Aboriginal people exercise self-determination through retaining their identity: language, relationships, etc, and nothing else.  I am told that ‘this is self-determination’, meaning not some formal policy construct.  Contrast this with the policy label of ‘self-determination’ which was, in effect, the creation of thousands of corporate structures providing services exclusively accessed by Aboriginal people.  The two interpretations of ‘self-determination’ are quite stark. 

Continue reading ‘Pluralism as a policy paradigm’


Embedding regionalisation in the Statehood constitution

At the Full Council meeting on 28th October the following motion was passed unanimously:

That Council prepare a discussion paper for Statehood.

That the discussion paper examine, amongst other possibilities, recognition of Local Government including its powers and responsibilities and an equitable formula for the distribution of funds to be embedded in the constitution that evokes Statehood.

That this paper, if necessary, utilise funding allocated in this years budget for further analysis of population figures and mobility with a view of ascertaining an accurate formula.

That this paper consider the unique position of regions within the Territory.

That Council give impetus to the Mayor to consult with Local Government across the Territory,
particularly the regions, with a view of seeking support for the principles embodied in the paper.

Moved: John Rawnsley
Seconded: Jane Clark

This motion calls on Council to actively contribute to the direction of Statehood by promoting the
principle of regionalisation. The aim is to embed this interest in the document that evokes

Regionalisation holds two aspects.

More over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Embedding regionalisation in the Statehood constitution’


Re-instating permits in the NT

On Monday Alice Springs Town Council Committee unanimously passed the following motion:

That Council call on the Aust Gvt to reconsider re-instating the permit system on Aboriginal land on the proviso that it adopts a regional information and consultative mechanism to ascertain those communities that have a desire to remove permits.

The Centralian Advocate printed my letter on Friday:

As an urban Aboriginal person the most concerning aspect of the permit debate is the display of the race card.  A supporter of total reinstatement of permits said publicly ‘it is only non-Aboriginal people’ who favour removal.  Several Aboriginal people from communities have told me the direct opposite. 
One person told me it is not monitured so, on balance, it is unworkable.  Another said their community has significant potential in terms of eco-tourism ventures but that permits serve as a strong disincentive for tourists.  Expanding regional economies creates work opportunity.  Work opportunity is an essential pillar of effective welfare reform. 
Too often the alternative is substance misuse.  Some argue that it is substance misuse that undermines the survival of culture (a core argument in favour of retaining permits). 
We know there is opportunity to expand regional economies because of the tourist dollar, particularly the ‘spirited traveller’ and grey nomads.  We also know this because of the economic opportunities available to communities without permits (e.g. ntaria).  Town Council debated the issue because we felt it was important to give people choice rather than the single path of urban drift.
The removal of permits should not be imposed as an ideological measure across all Aboriginal communities.  Nor should total re-instatement. 
We need to move beyond the left-right ideological divide and develop new policy ideas. 
One idea is to establish a mechanism for CLC to enable Traditional Owners the right to prohibit access by individuals with a certain criminal history, or to require those dealing in art to register (with a subsequent right to issue injunctions).  Another idea is to remove permits in a community where the conditions favour removal and ensure that work (and enterprise) opportunities build wealth at the community level.  Different policy ideas need to be debated and the decision needs to come from the communities concerned. 
Playing the race card and adopting ideology ultimately does our people a disservice.
On October 15 The Australian reported the following comments of Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour:
“I know there were a number of communities in the Northern Territory that were wanting to have the permit system lifted, and wanted (Indigenous Affairs Minister) Jenny Macklin to provide a clear process in which those communities could nominate to have an open town,” Ms Scrymgour said.

“I’ve been told that communities like Papunya and Hermannsburg want their communities to be open towns. I think the federal Government needs to provide a mechanism.”


UN Declaration and the Constitution

If the UN Declaration was passed at a different time, then it would have received far wider media coverage.

While I’m not suprised that this Gvt would polarise division by overstating the impact that signing the Declaration would have, I am suprised by the extent that our Constitution is mis-interpreted. 

Continue reading ‘UN Declaration and the Constitution’


UN Declaration and Aust Gvt response

The UN General Assembly recently adopted the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

It is a non-binding document.  143 nation states voted in favour and 4 voted against: the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  11 countries abstained. 

The Declaration can be accessed here.   

My response is over the fold.

Continue reading ‘UN Declaration and Aust Gvt response’


The Larrakia case

10 years ago I decided to pursue legal studies because I believed that all people are grounded in reason, and that knowledge of the law would enable me to develop coherent, sound and persuasive arguments. 

Recently I was informed that the Larrakia peoples aspirations for leave to the High Court had been denied.

During University I was fortunate to work as a minute-taker for the Larrakia Nation.  Through this work I was able to meet many Larrakia people and their families. 

I met families who had always lived in Darwin, who knew the stories and dreamings as passed by previous generations.  I met Elders who have since passed, who used to gather food around the northern suburbs – Rapid Creek, Mindil, Nightcliff & Millner during the first part of the last century.  Casuarina was a place where families would visit for picnics travelling on dirt roads. 

Continue reading ‘The Larrakia case’

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