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Government Reports and Commitments

Several Government reports and commitments over the last 20-30 years have had a significant impact on Indigenous Australians. Here is a brief overview of some of the most important of these, including their social and political contexts, how various government policies have been affected, and links to the original documents. 

Little Children are Sacred

Little Children are Sacred (6.7MB) is the Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse.

The Report:

  • Was commissioned by the Northern Territory government in August 2006, and was delivered to the government on the 15th of June 2007
  • Claimed that sexual abuse of children in Aboriginal communities had reached crisis levels
  • Prompted the Howard government to enact the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), a package of laws or ‘emergency measures’ commonly referred to as the Intervention

The Intervention is a highly controversial issue and continues to be hotly debated by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

More information:

Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap is the Government's formal commitment  to address Indigenous disadvantage in Australia. The Government committed to Closing the Gap in 2008. By the year 2030, this commitment seeks to: 

reduce Indigenous infant mortality
improve Indigenous life expectancy
improve Indigenous early childhood development, education, and employment outcomes

The Closing the Gap strategy emphasises intergovernmental cooperation and engagement and partnership with Indigenous communities. 

More information: 

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business is the Report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee Inquiry into Stolen Wages, commissioned on the 13th of June 2006.

This inquiry sought to:

  • identify the number of Indigenous workers whose paid labour was controlled by the government and the financial arrangements regarding their earned wages, including government controlled trust funds
  • investigate ways to amend for "the withholding, underpayment or non-payment of Indigenous wages and welfare entitlements”

Unfinished Business was published on the 7th of December 2006, recommending that Indigenous people be compensated where there is evidence of stolen wages.  

Bringing Them Home

Bringing Them Home is the Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, established in 1995. The report was delivered to the government on the 26th of May 1997. The Report:

  • formally acknowledged that “Indigenous children have been forcibly separated from their families and communities since the very first days of the European occupation of Australia”​
  • revealed the intensely damaging effects of forcible removal policies on Indigenous individuals, families and communities, including broken ties to family, community and land, diminished physical and mental health resulting from psychological, physical and sexual abuse, and loss of language and culture
  • highlighted the contemporary legacies these policies have left in their wake, in terms of the social disadvantage that continues to affect many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • made 54 recommendations outlining the course of action that Federal, State and Territory governments, churches, and communities should take in order to address the harm done to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities

One of these recommendations was carried out in 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the historic National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Read more about the Stolen Generations.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCADIC) was established in 1987 in response to growing public concern regarding the high number of Aboriginal deaths occurring in State and Territory gaols. The Royal Commission investigated all Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia between January 1980 and May 1989, including the social, legal and cultural factors and actions taken in response to the deaths. 

 

The final Report was released in April 1991, and made 339 recommendations, mainly concerning procedures for those in custody, liaison with Aboriginal groups, police education and increased access to information.

 

Governments claim they have largely implemented these recommendations, however the issue resurfaced following the death in custody of Palm Islander Cameron Doomadgee in 2004.  

More information: 


Stop & Think... Facing Realities

  • All of these reports have been released within the last 25 years, yet they relate to events and conditions dating back for generations. What do you think it says about our journey as a nation that it is only in the last three decades that we have started formally acknowledging and addressing some of these issues?
  • Has enough action resulted from these reports and commitments?

Many of the issues raised in these reports have not yet been resolved, and many of the recommendations have not been fully implemented. Whilst we can take hope from the way that we as a nation are increasingly acknowledging the injustices and brokenness that exist as a result of the policies and attitudes of the past, there is still much to be done.


Want to know more?

Watch Sharing Our Story Episode 3 to find out more about this era of our shared history.

To watch the full Sharing Our Story series, click here.

 


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