For over three years we partnered with the Alyawarr and Anmatyerr communities of Utopia homelands to develop our report which highlights how specific policies on homelands in the Northern Territory undermine the rights of Aboriginal communities.
For Aboriginal People the connection to their traditional lands is of central importance to their identity and culture. Research also shows that Aboriginal people live longer on their homelands and enjoy better life outcomes.
In February 2009, Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a statement in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and spoke of her government’s efforts to “overcome decades of under-investment in services and infrastructure” in Aboriginal communities.
Our research shows that these efforts are not being directed at Aboriginal homelands.
The Federal Government transferred the responsibility of homelands to the Northern Territory Government, whose policy clearly states that there will be no new homelands in the Northern Territory.
Our recommendations highlight the need for governments at both national and territory level to show political and financial support for homelands including:
- The Australian and Northern Territory Governments recognise and fulfill the rights of Aboriginal Peoples to their traditional lands.
- The Australian and Northern Territory Governments apply the Closing the Gap policies to all Aboriginal Peoples in the Northern Territory, not only to those living in Territory Growth Towns.
- Closing the Gap funding is equitably distributed to include homelands. Criteria for funding must reflect the importance of homelands to Aboriginal Peoples and the significant backlog in housing as a result of historical under-investment.
- The Commonwealth Government must ensure that all housing on homelands meets the standards for adequate housing under international law, and that effective, equitable and non-discriminatory processes are in place to ensure the rights of Aboriginal Peoples to their traditional lands and the rights to adequate housing.
- The Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments engage with homelands communities to secure their free, prior and informed consent on all housing policy and plans for homelands given the significance of these policies for homeland communities.
- The Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments to take into account the above recommendations when re-negotiating the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding on Indigenous Housing, Accommodation and Related Services.
To find out more, read our report The land holds us: Aboriginal Peoples’ right to traditional homelands in the Northern Territory.