Unifying Call: Crossbenchers Demand Action on Indigenous Rights

In a rare display of bipartisan unity, crossbench MPs and Senators have joined forces today to advocate for urgent action on deaths in custody and the removal of First Nations children from their families.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Minister Linda Burney, and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the crossbench has made a fervent plea for the government to advance the recommendations outlined in the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report.

Initiated by Senator Lidia Thorpe, the open letter calling for action on Indigenous deaths in custody and child removals has garnered support from a coalition of Senators and MPs. Credit: supplied.
Initiated by Senator Lidia Thorpe, the open letter calling for action on Indigenous deaths in custody and child removals has garnered support from a coalition of Senators and MPs. Credit: supplied.

The letter underscores the need for enhanced powers and funding for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Rights Commissioner to oversee the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the majority of which have remained unaddressed two decades after their issuance.

Additionally, it advocates for the newly announced National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children to oversee the implementation of the Bringing Them Home report recommendations.

Recent data revealed in the Closing the Gap report this month paints a grim picture, showing worsening rates of Indigenous suicide, incarceration, and children placed in out-of-home care.

Alarmingly, there has been no improvement in the rates of imprisonment of First Nations children. Moreover, Productivity Commission data released this year highlighted that the overall rate of deaths in custody has reached its highest point in more than a decade.

Initiated by Senator Lidia Thorpe, the letter has garnered support from a coalition of Senators and MPs, including David Pocock, Jacquie Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell, Andrew Wilkie, Kylea Tink, Zali Steggall, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel, Helen Haines, Sophie Scamps, and Allegra Spender.

Speaking on the urgency of the matter, Senator Thorpe emphasised, “Monitoring and oversight of progress on these critical reforms is a necessary step towards positive change for First Peoples on a larger scale.”

Adding to the chorus of voices demanding action, Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie MP, denounced the prolonged inaction, stating, “It is simply unconscionable that 27 years on from the release of the Bringing Them Home Report, and 33 years on from the release of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the majority of recommendations have not been implemented.”

Wilkie urged the government to enact substantial reforms to protect and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, stressing, “We should start by fully implementing the recommendations of these reports.”

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