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Australia's conduct on Aborigines criticized

August 28, 2009|Associated Press

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — The Australian government breached international obligations on human and indigenous rights by imposing radical restrictions on Aborigines during a crackdown on child abuse in Outback communities, a United Nations expert said Thursday.

The U.N. special rapporteur on indigenous human rights, James Anaya, said his 12-day fact-finding tour of Australia revealed that the Aboriginal minority still suffers from "entrenched racism."

Anaya's comments came as Australia launched its latest bid to address inequality, ill health and poverty among the country's 500,000 indigenous people, issues that have dogged the country since white settlers arrived more than 200 years ago.

The government said Thursday that it would set up a national representative body this year to advise it on policies relating to Aborigines.

Despite community programs, housing and education, Aborigines remain the poorest, unhealthiest and most disadvantaged minority, with an average life span 17 years shorter than that of other Australians.

Anaya, a University of Arizona law professor, said he was particularly concerned by restrictions imposed on Aborigines in the Northern Territory in response to a 2006 government-commissioned report that found child sex abuse was rampant in remote indigenous communities.

The government suspended its own anti-discrimination law so it could ban alcohol and hard-core pornography in Aboriginal communities and restrict how Aborigines spend their welfare checks.

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