Social Justice Report 2008
- About the Report
- Cover photography
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner
- About the Social Justice Commissioner’s logo
- Note – Use of the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait
The Social Justice Report 2008, is produced by the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, in
accordance with the functions set out in section 46C(1) (a) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth).
The focus of Social Justice Report 2008 is on human rights
protections for Indigenous peoples, remote Indigenous
education, Indigenous healing and the progress on achieving
Indigenous health equality by 2030.
The report makes 15 recommendations to government for
addressing issues in these areas and one follow-up action for
the Social Justice Commissioner on a National Indigenous
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner thanks the
Australian Human Rights Commission staff, interns and consultants in producing this
report (Alison Aggarwal, Fabienne Balsamo, Kirsten Cheatham, Darren Dick, Janet
Drummond, Christopher Holland, Christina Kenny, Julia Mansour, Emilie Priday and
Naama Carlin) and others who assisted and contributed: Christine Fitzgerald, Eileen
Cummings, Ruth Micka, Abi White, Neil Gibson, Andrea Harms, Simon Keenan, Pamela
Hepburn, and everyone who contributed to consultations undertaken for the report.
This publication can be found in electronic format on the Australian Human Rights
Commission’s website at: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport08/.
You can also write to:
Social Justice Unit
Australian Human Rights Commission
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001
Design and layout: JAG Designs
Printing: Paragon Australasia Group
The cover photograph is the work of Pierre Pouliquin. The photo was taken in Canberra,
on National Sorry Day, 25 May 2008. The Commissioner is thankful to Pierre Pouliquin
for granting permission to use this photo. For other work by Pierre Pouliquin please see: www.flickr.com/photos/pierre_pouliquin/.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Bringing them home report,
issued in May 1997, was the result of an inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander children from their families. One of the report’s recommendations was for
‘a national Sorry Day (to) be celebrated each year to commemorate the history of forcible
removals and its effects’. The first national Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 – one year
after the tabling of the Bringing them home report – and has since been held annually.
The material in this publication includes views and recommendations of individual
contributing authors, which do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Human
Rights Commission or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action.
Please be aware that this publication may contain the names or images of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may now be deceased.
The position of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
was established within the Australian Human Rights Commission in 1993 to carry out
the following functions:
Report annually on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by
Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and recommend where
necessary on the action that should be taken to ensure these rights are
Promote awareness and discussion of human rights in relation to
Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
Undertake research and educational programs for the purposes of
promoting respect for, and enjoyment and exercise of, human rights by
Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
Examine and report on enactments and proposed enactments to ascertain
whether or not they recognise and protect the human rights of Aboriginal
peoples and Torres Strait Islanders
The Commissioner is also required, under Section 209 or the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth),
to report annually on the operation of the Native Title Act and its effect on the exercise
and enjoyment of human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
The right section of the design is a contemporary view of traditional
Dari or head-dress, a symbol of the Torres Strait Island people
and culture. The head-dress suggests the visionary aspect of the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
The dots placed in the Dari represent a brighter outlook for the
future provided by the Commissioner’s visions, black representing
people, green representing islands and blue representing the seas
surrounding the islands. The Goanna is a general symbol of the
The combination of these two symbols represents the coming together of two distinct
cultures through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the
support, strength and unity which it can provide through the pursuit of social justice
and human rights. It also represents an outlook for the future of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander social justice expressing the hope and expectation that one day we will
be treated with full respect and understanding.
© Leigh Harris
For information on the work of the Social Justice Commissioner please visit the
Commission website at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/index.html
Islander peoples’ and ‘Indigenous peoples’
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner recognises the
diversity of the cultures, languages, kinship structures and ways of life of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is not one cultural model that fits all Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain distinct cultural identities whether
they live in urban, regional or remote areas of Australia.
Throughout this report, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are referred to as
‘peoples’. This recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a collective,
rather than purely individual, dimension to their livelihoods.
Throughout this report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are also referred
to as ‘Indigenous peoples’.
The use of the term ‘Indigenous’ has evolved through international law. It acknowledges
a particular relationship of Aboriginal people to the territory from which they originate.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has explained the basis for
recognising this relationship as follows:
Indigenous or aboriginal peoples are so-called because they were living on their
lands before settlers came from elsewhere; they are the descendants – according
to one definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at
the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived, the new arrivals
later becoming dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other
means… (I)ndigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political
characteristics which are clearly distinct from those of the other segments of the
Throughout human history, whenever dominant neighbouring peoples have expanded
their territories or settlers from far away have acquired new lands by force, the
cultures and livelihoods – even the existence – of indigenous peoples have been
endangered. The threats to indigenous peoples’ cultures and lands, to their status
and other legal rights as distinct groups and as citizens, do not always take the same
forms as in previous times. Although some groups have been relatively successful,
in most part of the world indigenous peoples are actively seeking recognition of their
identities and ways of life.1
The Social Justice Commissioner acknowledges that there are differing usages of
the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’, ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘indigenous’ within
government policies and documents. When referring to a government document or
policy, we have maintained the government’s language to ensure consistency.