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Face The Facts - Glossary

Face the Facts 2005

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Face the Facts - Glossary


Comes from the Latin term 'ab origine' which means 'from the beginning' and refers to the original inhabitants of a particular place.

In Australia, an Aboriginal person is someone who is of Aboriginal descent, identifies as an Aboriginal person and is accepted as an Aboriginal person by the community in which he or she lives. Top


The process of absorbing or being absorbed into a group or system so that elements are the same. In Australia during the 20th Century, policies of 'assimilation' sought to make Aboriginal people and migrants the same as 'mainstream' Australian society. Top

Asylum seeker

A person who requests protection in another country from persecution and recognition of his or her status as a refugee. Top


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) has been Australia's national representative Indigenous organisation. ATSIC advised governments on Indigenous issues, advocated for Indigenous people at the local, regional, national and international levels and monitored how other government agencies provide services to their Indigenous clients. ATSIC was directed by a Board of Commissioners elected by Indigenous Regional Councils, who were in turn elected by Indigenous people across Australia.

In May 2004, the Government introduced legislation to abolish ATSIC. ATSIC ceased to exist from midnight 23 March 2005. ATSIC's functions were transferred to mainstream government agencies.Top


Until 2003, ATSIC was responsible for administering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and making individual funding decisions. From 1 July 2003, this function was transferred to a new Executive Agency, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS). ATSIC was also abolished by the Government in March 2005, and its functions transferred to mainstream government agencies.Top

Border protection

The Australian government's policy of ensuring the integrity of Australia's borders and the effective control and management of the movement of people to and from Australia.Top

Community Development Employment Projects
(CDEP) Scheme

CDEP was run by ATSIC/ATSIS to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to provide employment for their people. To take part in CDEP, members of a community choose to give up their social welfare entitlements from Centrelink. ATSIC/ATSIS offered grants to CDEP community organisations which then paid wages to participants undertaking community-managed employment activities. After the abolition of ATSIC/ATSIS, the CDEP program was transferred to the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.Top

Convention on the Rights of the Child
1989 (CROC)

The United Nations Convention which sets out the way all human rights
(including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights) should
be protected for children and young people. Australia adopted CROC in

Convention relating to the Status
of Refugees
1951 (Refugees Convention)

The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines who is
a refugee, specifies their rights and the legal obligations of member
states towards refugees. A key provision of the Convention is that refugees
must not be returned or 'refouled' to a country where they fear
persecution. The 1951 Convention was limited to protecting mainly European
refugees in the aftermath of World War II. The 1967 Protocol expanded
the scope of the Convention as the problem of displacement spread around
the world. Australia adopted the Refugees Convention in 1954 and the Protocol
in 1973. Top

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1987 (CAT)

The Convention defines 'torture' as an act perpetrated by or with the approval of government officials which is designed to inflict extreme physical and/or psychological suffering for a purpose such as extracting information. Member states must prosecute or extradite alleged torturers. Australia adopted CAT in 1989.Top


The federal Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous

Excised off-shore places

Parts of Australian territory which have been removed from Australia's
migration zone: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling)
Island as well as various other off-shore sea and resource installations.
Unauthorised arrivals who land at an excised off-shore place cannot apply
for a visa. They are taken to a 'declared country' such as Nauru or Papua
New Guinea where they are held while their application for a protection
visa is assessed. Top

Family Stream migrants

A visa category which allows people to migrate to Australia on the basis
of their relationship with a sponsor who is a close family member and
an Australian resident or citizen. Most Family Stream Migrants are the
spouses or fiance ©s of Australian residents or citizens. Top

Humanitarian Program

The part of Australia's permanent immigration program under which refugees
and other people who need humanitarian assistance can apply to come to
or stay in Australia on a permanent or long-term basis. Top


A person who moves to another country with the intention of settling permanently.Top

Immigration detention

Under the Migration Act people who are not Australian citizens and who
do not hold a valid visa must be detained. While the law applies to people
who overstay their visas and to people whose visas have been cancelled,
the biggest group in immigration detention are asylum seekers who arrived
in Australia without a valid visa.Top


According to the Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
in Independent Countries
1989 (ILO 169), Indigenous peoples are:

  • Tribal peoples in independent countries whose social, cultural and
    economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national
    community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their
    own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations;

  • Peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on
    account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the
    country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at
    the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present
    State boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain
    some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political

Self-identification as indigenous or tribal is a fundamental criterion
for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply. Australia has not adopted ILO 169. Top

International Covenant on Civil and Political
1966 (ICCPR)

This Covenant translates the civil and political rights outlined in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 into firm obligations
undertaken by member states. It covers the rights to equality before the
law and to freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, among others, prohibits
torture and slavery and restricts use of the death penalty. Australia
adopted the ICCPR in 1980. Top

Land rights

In a land rights claim, Indigenous Australians seek legal ownership of
land from Commonwealth, State or Territory governments. Land rights legislation
was adopted in several States and the Northern Territory before native
title was recognised by the common law in the Mabo Case. Top

Mabo Case

A landmark legal case in which Eddie Mabo, together with four other Meriam
people from the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait, proved they had native
title rights to their land. There were two High Court decisions in this

Mabo (No.1) (1988) invalidated Queensland legislation which sought
to remove the Murray Islanders' native title without compensation finding
that it was inconsistent with the federal Racial Discrimination Act

Mabo (No.2) (1992) rejected the doctrine of 'terra nullius' -
that Australia did not belong to anyone at the time of European settlement
- and recognised that Indigenous people who have maintained a continuing
connection with their country according to their traditions and customs
may hold native title rights over that land.Top

Migration Program

The part of Australia's permanent immigration program under which people
can apply to come to or stay in Australia permanently on the basis of
their employment skills or their family ties with a sponsor who is a permanent
resident or citizen of Australia. Top

Migration zone

The migration zone is made up of the land area of all the states and territories
of Australia and the waters of proclaimed ports within those states and
territories. The land area starts at the mean low water mark. The migration
zone does not include the territorial sea that is off the coast of the
Australian states and territories. The purpose of the migration zone is
to define the area of Australia where a non-citizen must hold a visa in
order to legally enter and remain in Australia. Anyone who enters the
migration zone, including Australian citizens, must present themselves
for immigration clearance.Top


Describes the diversity of cultures and backgrounds that make up modern
Australian society.Top


Multiculturalism is a government policy that recognises and celebrates
Australia's cultural diversity and seeks to address the challenges and
opportunities arising from it. The main principles of multiculturalism

  • Civic duty: all Australians should support the basic structures and
    principles of Australian society - our Constitution, democratic institutions
    and values - which guarantee freedom and equality and enable diversity
    to flourish.

  • Cultural respect: all Australians have the right to express their
    own culture and beliefs within the law and accept the right of others
    to do the same.

  • Social equity: all Australians are entitled to equality of treatment
    and opportunity enabling them to contribute to the social, political
    and economic life of Australia, free from discrimination on the grounds
    of race, culture, religion, language, location, gender or birthplace.

  • Productive diversity: all Australians should benefit from the significant
    cultural, social and economic dividends that arise from cultural diversity.Top

Native title

Indigenous peoples' rights to land or waters held according to their traditional laws and customs. First recognised in the common law in the Mabo Case and then implemented in legislation in the Native Title Act 1993.Top

Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC)

The Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) was established by the Commonwealth Government on 1 July 2004. On the same day, the programs and services administered by ATSIC and ATSIS were transferred to mainstream government agencies. The OIPC is part of the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and coordinates government services for Indigenous Australians.Top

'Pacific Solution' or 'Pacific Strategy'

Australia's policy of transferring unauthorised arrivals who have entered
or tried to enter Australian territorial waters to other nations in the
region such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea where their claims for refugee
protection can be processed. The policy was developed by the Federal Government
to prevent unauthorised arrivals from reaching the Australian mainland
and applying for protection. It was introduced in September 2001.Top

Permanent Protection Visa

This visa recognises refugee status and provides permanent asylum in Australia. Entitlements include immediate access to a full range of settlement services, social security benefits, family reunion and the right to leave the country and return. Refugees who apply overseas and refugees who apply while in Australia on another valid visa will be granted a Permanent Protection Visa.Top


The movement for Aboriginal Reconciliation aims to foster understanding
of the historic relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
and develop more harmonious and cooperative relations for the future.Top


The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol define a refugee as someone who:
owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his [or her] nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself [or herself] of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his [or her] former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.Top


Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), repeated identically in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR), states that self-determination is the right of all peoples to 'freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development'.Top

Skill Stream migrants

A visa category which allows people to migrate to Australia on the basis
of their occupation, education, work experience, age and English language

Special Eligibility category

A visa category that allows former residents and certain categories of
non-citizens who spent their formative years in Australia to migrate to

Special measures

A 'special measure' gives a group an extra benefit (additional to those enjoyed by the rest of the community) to help remedy a legacy of discrimination or disadvantage against that particular group. For example, Aboriginal Medical Services are a 'special measure' in recognition of the gross health disparities affecting Indigenous Australians. A 'special measure' is an exception to the general rule prohibiting racial discrimination. It is lawful if its sole purpose is to advance the equal enjoyment of human rights of a racial or ethnic group.Top

'Stolen children' or 'Stolen generations'

The popular terms describing the Indigenous children forcibly removed from their parents (without parental consent or a court order) by government authorities across Australia, starting as early as the 1870s in some places and continuing into the 1960s in some States, with the aim of assimilating them into non-Aboriginal society.Top

Terra nullius

A Latin term meaning 'not inhabited'. Australia was colonized by the British in the belief that the colony was being acquired by occupation (or settlement) of a 'terra nullius'. The High Court's Mabo decision in 1992 overturned the 'terra nullius' fiction by recognising that Indigenous property rights survived the British colonisation of Australia.Top

Temporary Protection Visa

This visa recognises refugee status but only provides temporary asylum in Australia. Entitlements do not include access to settlement services, most social security benefits, sponsorship of family members to Australia or the right to leave Australia and return. Most refugees who arrived in Australia without a valid visa can only apply for a Temporary Protection Visa.Top

Torres Strait Islander

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 defines a Torres Strait Islander as 'a descendant of an Indigenous inhabitant of the Torres Strait Islands'. The Torres Strait Islands lie between the tip of Cape York in Queensland and Papua New Guinea.Top

'Unauthorised arrivals'

The term most commonly used by DIMIA for people who arrive in Australia without a valid visa. Under the Migration Act the correct legal term is 'unlawful non-citizens'. Unlawful non-citizens must be detained until removed from Australia or granted a visa.Top

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted in the aftermath of World War II by the newly-established United Nations General Assembly, the Universal Declaration proclaimed the basic rights and freedoms to which everyone, regardless of nationality, is entitled. These include, among others, the rights to life, liberty, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to work, to education and freedom from persecution. Unlike conventions and covenants, the Universal Declaration was not originally binding. However, it is now recognised as binding on all UN members.Top

White Australia policy

A series of laws and policies implemented in Australia from 1901 until the 1970s which aimed to keep people who were not from a white European background out of the country. These laws also restricted the lives of Indigenous people and other people already in Australia who were not considered 'white'.