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Tom Wolfe, the Parajournalist

As is the nature of his creepy totality, President Donald Trump has a habit of suffusing the obituaries of the famous and pampered. Tom Wolfe, it is said by such figures as Maggie Haberman in The New York Times, conceived of Trump as a formidable figure before Trump himself came to prominence.

The point is somewhat inaccurate: when The Bonfire of the Vanities made its debut on shelves in 1987, it had to share space with the banal exhortations of The Art of the Deal. “We catch glimpses,” suggests historian and squad leader of empire Niall Ferguson, “of Trump-like figures not in Bonfire but also in the equally engrossing, although less lauded, A Man in Full.”

As New Journalism’s primary advocate, Tom Wolfe headed the field with such experimental forces as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and Hunter S. Thompson, all dedicated to enriching supposedly factual accounts with excessive flourishes that hurried out the beige in favour of the kaleidoscopic.  One source of inspiration for Wolfe was Emil Ludvig’s biography of Napoleon. “It begins,” he recalled to fellow NJ aficionado George Plimpton in The Paris Review, “as the mother sits suckling her babe in a tent.” But formatively speaking, the Soviet grouping known as the Brothers Serapion (Eugene Zamiatin, Boris Pilnyak et al), fusing symbolism with raw historical events, encouraged a change of direction.

In a 1973 anthology of such writings gathered with fellow traveller E. W. Johnson, Wolfe identifies the novel going off in freedom land even as purple-prosed nonfiction was stealing its march. “I must confess that the retrograde state of contemporary fiction has made it far easier to make the main point of this book: that the most important literature being written in America today is in nonfiction, in the form that has been tagged, however ungracefully, the New Journalism.”

The American novelist, by the 1960s, had abandoned that “richest terrain of the novel: namely, society, the social tableau, manners and morals, the whole business of ‘the way we live now’, in Trollope’s phrase.” Such a tendency was in strident defiance of previous writers who wrote novels as social chronicles: Balzac in the context of France; Thackeray on London in the 1840s.

Wolfe’s artillery was also marshalled against old journalism itself, a concerted effort to remove objectivity’s throne and bring colour to description. While the traditional novelist had noted manners and society, the old journalist was still trapped in a refusal to accept the subtleties of the lived life. The newspaper in traditional guise, he claimed, was “very bad for one’s prose style.”  Thus spawned the parajournalist, though its ancestry, with its seductive pitfalls, was traced by Dwight Macdonald as far back as Daniel Defoe with his masterful hoax in Journal of the Plague Year.

As Michael Wood would note in a review for The New York Times, the New Journalism extracts the piece of gossip, dreariness or schmaltz, moving it “to the centre of the stage while at the corners, at the edges, vast, scaring implications about American life quietly gesture to us, not really wishing to intrude.” Fact and fiction are no longer dogmatically partitioned, blurring instead into resemblance, which is far from saying that truth is undermined. “What it is suggesting is that fiction is the only shape we can give to facts, that all shapes are fictions.”

His journalism readied weapons as words, tipped with spears of wit and derision. He took aim at dogma in architecture in From Bauhaus to Our House (1981), critical of the “colonial complex” governing the American building that had its origins in Europe as a “compound” of ideologues. He launched missiles at Modern Art in The Painted Word (1975), noting it as a racket that was distinctly non-radical. “The game is completed and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what happened.” Collectors would only ever gravitate to “highly abstract art unless it’s the only game in town” preferring more conservative “realistic art”.

Such writing was bound to miss the mark in some ways or, if it did, embed itself with mixed results.  His fabrications could be sloppy, and, unshackled by the rigours of evidence imposed by the investigative journalist, distorting in their speculation. For the sharp Dwight MacDonald, specifically referencing the The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) Wolfe was a good observer who made “no pretence at factuality but sketching with humour and poignancy urban dilemmas one recognizes as real.” In his writing lay a certain “kultur-neuroses common among adult, educated Americans today: a masochistic deference to the Young, who are by definition, new and so in”. This was also accompanied by that “guilt-feeling about class – maybe they don’t deserve their status, maybe they aren’t so cultivated”.

Hip and new, then a studied reactionary, Wolfe’s career was a paradox of idealising pop culture trends and figures while turning on mouldering art and literary movements that had run their course and deserved euthanizing. Doing so gave him a certain eye for barometric readings of contempt straddling those three most American obsessions: money, race and sex. In that, we have Trump, a monster fusion of such interests, having a “real childish side” and adorable megalomania. “The childishness” claimed Wolfe in 2016, “makes him seem honest.” To the last, a chronicler of gossip, schmaltz and those scaring implications.

A movement of the people in Australia (Part 1)

Part Thirty-six of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be seen as an interpretation and expansion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states a minimum level for how the Indigenous People’s questions should be handled. The Declaration was adopted by the U. N. General Assembly in September 2007. Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a development consultant and an international indigenous activist of Igorot ethnicity, who was chairwoman for the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples at that time, participated in the 30-year process of adopting the Declaration and the exercising of applicable international conventions. On 2 June 2014 she assumed responsibilities as the third U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

And should Indigenous Peoples have special rights?

“It is not about special right for indigenous peoples,” says Ms Tauli-Corpuz. “The declaration is an interpretation of the Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions that apply to everyone.”

There are about 5,000 different Indigenous Peoples and just as many languages. Indigenous Peoples live under very different conditions and can be both rich and poor. Many Indigenous Peoples have been divided by national borders during the colonisation era; the Sami in Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula are just one example.

The work before the U.N.’s General Assembly could adopt the Declaration was an arduous process. In 1982 a work group within the United Nations started drawing up the first guidelines. Along the way, numerous obstacles, challenges and negotiations were met. Up to the very end it was uncertain whether the Declaration would pass.

“Thanks to the suggestions from the Nordic countries, one could finally agree on changes in the original text that the majority could accept,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz points out.

The Declaration states a minimum level for how the Indigenous Peoples’ problems should be handled in different counties. It expresses 24 fundamental principles and contains 46 articles. One of the rights, and the fundamental princple itself in the Declaration, is the right to self-determination. It is formulated in Article 3. “The right to self-determination is the most violated since the colonisation era,” asserts Ms Tauli-Corpuz. Self-determination is about the right of a people themselves to decide on their political status and their social, cultural and financial development. National states can be afraid that just that article shall lead to an undermining of the territorial integrity and sovereignty. But any right to so-called “emancipation” is not what the right to self-determination is about. Self-determination for Indigenous Peoples concerns autonomy inside existing borders. Six articles deal with Indigenous Peoples’ rights to own, use and control land, territories and natural resources. And that is of course the most controversial part when it comes to the Sami in the Nordic regions. From a strict legal point of view, if Sweden were to follow the Declaration to the letter, it would mean that the Swedish Government could no longer maintain that the Sami lands belong to the State.

Eighteen articles deal with the cultural rights. The aim of “special treatment” of Indigenous Peoples and minorities is for all to have the same rights – that minority cultures shall have the same protection as that belonging to the majority culture. There are many multi-cultural nations and an enormous cultural diversity in the world, not to mention the biological diversity.

“We live in an interesting world,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz says. “And it is the Indigenous Peoples that are to a great degree the bearers and preservers of the cultural and biological diversity! In our time, when we speak of economic collapse and climate changes, it becomes obvious that the Indigenous Peoples have something valuable to contribute for a more sustainable development,” she concludes.

The Sami may not have been the very first in the world to claim the recognition of their independence – historical, cultural and political. But, when they did, they did not look back – where there was nothing but misery.

The example was set, most likely by the Sami of Finland. Not for them a feeling of nostalgia for what they were leaving behind. Invaded by ‘missionaries’ who would make it part of Sweden in 1155, surrendered by Sweden to Russia in 1809 – the Czar declaring it a semi-autonomous Grand Duchy, with himself as ‘constitutional’ monarch represented by a governor-general (sounds familiar?), modern Finland declared its independence on 6 December 1917 and became a republic in 1919.

The Finns were not paining about upsetting ‘the sovereignty of the Crown’, which so concerned the Uluru Statement from the Heart. They did not miss Alexander I ‘the Blessed’. And why should the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders miss the ultimate product of George III the Mad?

The Finns survived the successor Nicholas I, an autocrat lacking both spiritual and intellectual breadth, and remembered for his reign of repression of dissent, economic stagnation, poor administrative policies, a sprawling, corrupt bureaucracy, and frequent wars which culminated in Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War of 1853-56. By then the Indigenous Peoples of Sahul had a quite similar experience by the hand of the Englanders.

The Finns owed nothing to Alexander II, also called ‘Alexander the Liberator’. He ‘liberated’ just about everybody, except the Finns. During his bachelor days, Alexander made a state visit to England in 1838. Just a year older than the young Queen Victoria, Alexander’s approaches to her were short-lived. Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in February 1840. Alexander turned around and married Princess Marie of Hesse – keeping it all in the family.

The successor Alexander III was known as ‘The Peacemaker’, simply because during his reign Russia fought no major wars. He was highly conservative and reversed most of the ‘liberal’ reforms of his father. He was a counterpart of Victoria. The Blacks in Sahul would associate her with their massacres.

Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw the fall of the Russian Empire from being one of the foremost ‘great powers of the world’ to economic and military collapse. Due to the ‘Khodynka Tragedy’, anti-Semitic pogroms, ‘Bloody Sunday’, the violent suppression of the 1905 Revolution, the execution of political opponents and his perceived responsibility for the Russo-Japanese war, he was given the well-deserved nickname Nicholas ‘the Bloody.’ He was a weak and incompetent leader, whose decisions led to military defeats and the deaths of millions of his subjects.  Nicholas and his family were executed on the night of 16-17 July 1918.

For feebleness there are similarities between Nicholas II and the future Charles III.

Why would the Indigenous and Torres Strait Peoples of Sahul burden themselves with any form of respect for such a representative, an embodiment of  the  ‘sovereignty of the Crown’?

Light-minded, modestly ‘educated’, intrusive beyond the myth of the ‘impartiality of the  Crown’, conspirator with John Kerr as agent of the ‘the Anglo-American world of Wall Street and S.W. 1’, involved in not-so-obscure dealings with Saudi Arabian potentates – and who knows what else – Charlie would be almost a closing-of-the-ring with his nine-head-removed George III.

The Indigenous Peoples of Sahul would do well to start from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. And, of course, before that, well they should rely on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

A honourable Australia contributed to the latter, a decaying place objected to the former.

If one can be so bold as to recommend what the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders should do, it is this: prepare not a supplication but a bill of claims, each proposition based on an article of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Expectedly, no Australian Government of the Westminster-cabal would accept the content of the bill.

At that point the Indigenous and Torres Straits Islanders, at the head of a large movement representing all the people living in Australia, should turn that claim towards a declaration of independence, with a view to the promotion of a constituent assembly, charged with the drafting of a constitution and the eventual declaration of an Australian republic.

Impossible? Idealistic?

Well, consider this: Australia is quite a different place from what was put together by Englanders in 1901.

Australia has grown from a population of estimated 750,000 Indigenous People in 1778, to one of 3,765.000 non-Indigenous in 1901, to one of 23,717,421 people – of whom 649,171 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders – census night, 9 August 2016, and estimated 24,894,586 as of 7 December 2017.

At the 2016 census, 26 per cent of the Australian resident population, or 6,163,667 people, were born overseas. The distribution by place of birth is as follows: Australian resident population consists of people who were born in the following countries – and only countries with 50,000 or more are listed here:

New Zealand518,466
Mainland China509,555
South Africa162,449
Sri Lanka109,849
South Korea  98,776
Greece  93,743
Hong Kong  86,886
United States  86,125
Lebanon  78,653
Ireland  74,888
Indonesia  73,213
Netherlands  70,172
Iraq  67,352
Thailand  66,229
Pakistan  61,913
Fiji  61,469
Iran  58,112
Singapore  54,939
Nepal 54,754

Due to several waves of immigration, the European component of the population is declining as a percentage.

The Australian population hit 23,401,892 on census night.

Until the second world war, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and a majority of Australians have some British or Irish ancestry. These Australians form an ethnic group known  as Anglo-Celtic Australians – an absolutely bloody mis-nomer. For, if after Freire, and Fanon and many others, one more glorious freedom fighter should be mentioned it is Albert Camus, who left us the command: “[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.”

The number of overseas-born Australians coming from England has steadily declined over the years, while one has seen increasing arrivals from China and India, particularly since 2006. In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were: English, 36.1 per cent; Australian, 33.5 per cent; Irish, 11.0 per cent; Scottish, 9.3 per cent; Chinese, 5.6 per cent; Italian, 4.6 per cent; German, 4.5 per cent; Indian, 2.8 per cent; Greek, 1.8 per cent, and Dutch, 1.6 per cent.

At the 2016 census 47.3 per cent of people had both parents born in Australia and 34.4 per cent of people had both parents born overseas. And on this subject one should not dismiss the effect of the present ‘bleedings’ of parliamentarians, due to their dual subject-ship – citizenship in some, rare cases – and the other which will undoubtedly have developed from that mouldy, thread-bare, moth-eaten piece of paper which is the Constitution of 1901. Consider the little problem that present members of Parliament, who so often mouth about multiculturalism – of which they know little-to-nothing – may have from the ‘new reading’ of sections 42 in relation to section 44.

Now, by s. 42 “Every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution.” And the Schedule offers: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!” or “I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law.”

Section 44 (i) provides that any person who: “is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power;

… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

Every consideration about a candidate’s personal faith, political or religious, could cause some problem – perjury comes to mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, these two provisions are clashing. Queen Elisabeth II – yes, of course, also ‘Queen of Australia’ – could be regarded as a ‘foreign power’ no matter how much the soi-disant ‘Mountbatten’ (actually Battenberg, from the town of Battenberg, Hesse) (Windsors) crowd may try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, which is an effluent of the Haus Wettin, itself a lair of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings who once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

And the more one reads about Buckingham Palace’s interest in Cayman Islands and other tax haven the more one sees the alien.

Continued Friday with: A movement of people in Australia (Part 2)

Previous instalment: One last chance (Part 2)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


One last chance (Part 2)

Part Thirty-five of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

There are between 14,600 and 36,000 Sami in Sweden. Most Sami live in the north, but there are Sami all over Sweden. Today, only ten per cent of Swedish Sami earn a living from the reindeer industry, and many combine their family businesses with tourism, fishing, crafts and other trades.

Changes in grazing rights and logging territories have historically been a dispute between reindeer herders and landowners in Sweden. In 2011 the Swedish Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Sami, recognising them common law rights to a specific area of land – possibly the most important modern verdict regarding Sami issues of law.

A sameby – ‘Sami village’- is not a traditional village but a complex economical and administrative union created with the intention of keeping reindeer. It is regulated by a Swedish law called the Reindeer Husbandry Act. Members of a sameby are entitled to engage in reindeer husbandry in a particular area, including building and setting up whatever facilities they need for their reindeer, in addition to fishing and hunting rights.

Towards the end of the 19th century, many Sami permanently kept both farms and reindeer – mixed husbandry. The previous nomadic lifestyles of some, however, led the authorities to make some contentious decisions, the repercussions of which extended well into the twentieth century. The reindeer pasture law of 1928 limited reindeer ownership and membership in any Sami village to herders and their families. The new restrictions forced mixed husbandry farmers to choose between reindeer herding only or other forms of agriculture.

Today, younger generations are finding other professions, and the Sami are trying to ease the regulations so people can belong to a Sami village without having to own reindeer.

Sami is one of five national minority languages recognised by Swedish law.

The Sami’s own languages stretch across Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. Sami is divided into three main languages: Eastern Sami, Central Sami and Southern Sami. These languages are further divided into nine distinct variants.

The Central Sami language comes in two varieties: North Sami in the northernmost area, and Lule Sami around Jokkmokk, Gällivare and parts of Tysfjord in Norway.  The North Sami variety has the most speakers with an estimated 15,000-17,000 native speakers across the Sápmi region. Of that estimate, roughly 5,000-6,000 are based in Sweden. Over time, North Sami spread into areas where Lule Sami and Southern Sami are spoken as a result of governmental relocation of the Northern Sami people to these areas during the 1930s.

Southern Sami and Lule Sami are spoken on both sides of the Swedish–Norwegian border from Arjeplog-Saltfjäll in the north to Idre and Røros in the south. Southern Sami and Lule Sami are both estimated to have around 500 speakers each in Sweden.

The Sami languages are rich. There are, for instance, more than 300 different ways of saying ‘snow’ – from describing sticky snow to snow which looks like powdered sugar. Yet, despite its abundance of descriptive words, the language is genderless; for example, the personal pronoun son can mean her and him, as well as an animal or an object.

Written Sami was not linked to the Swedish alphabet until 1950. It was then also given an additional seven letters, pronounced with lisping sounds not found in Swedish. Sami became a subject at Swedish schools as late as 1962, and guidelines for the language’s orthography were not printed until 1979. These are some reasons why many older Sami today can neither read nor write their own language.

In 2000 the Sami language was recognised as an official minority language in Sweden, and the government has given the Sami parliament (Sametinget) greater influence and financial resources to preserve the Sami language.

The Compulsory School Ordinance provides that Sami pupils are entitled to be taught in their native language; however, a municipality is obliged to arrange mother-tongue teaching in Sami only if a suitable teacher is available and the pupil has a basic knowledge of Sami.

For schoolchildren up to the age of 12, there are five Sami schools in Sweden, in Karesuando, Kiruna, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Tärnaby in southern Sápmi. Sami childcare also helps maintain the Sami language and pass it on to the younger generation, and is offered in some municipalities.

In Sweden academic courses in the Sami language can be taken at Umeå and Uppsala universities. The Centre for Sami Research, CeSam, in Umeå coordinates research into Sami culture, language, history and communities, and initiates new research.

The Sami political struggle for increased influence and autonomy began in the 1950s with the establishment of Sami associations.

Sweden recognised the existence of the ‘Sami nation’ in 1989, but the I.L.O. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169 has not been adopted. In 1998 Sweden formally apologised for the wrongs committed against the Sami.

The Sameting Law (Sametingslag) set up the Swedish Sami Parliament as of 1 January 1993.  At present there are eight political parties within the Sami Parliament of Sweden (Sametinget) and the Sami are largely represented through four stakeholder organisations: the Sami Council (Samerådet), two national federations (R.S.Ä. and S.S.R.) and a youth organisation, Saminuorra. These focus on different areas of interest and might best be described as lobby organisations.

As of 1993 the Sami have elected their own parliamentary body, Sametinget, by popular vote. Its task is to safeguard, develop and coordinate all matters concerning Sami areas of interest.

Elections to the Sami Parliament are held every four years. The parliament has 31 members who gather three times a year in different locations around Sweden. The parliament also serves as a government agency with 50 civil servants. Over the years, the political parties have changed, both in policy and number. The Sami Parliament is financed by grants from the Swedish Government and has one full-time politician, the assembly chair.

Those on the Sami electoral register – open to those who speak Sami and define themselves as part of Sami society through cross-generational connections – are eligible to vote. The numbers registering to vote have increased in recent years, not least because of a growing interest in political issues among young Sami and a growing willingness among older Sami to embrace their ethnicity. (Sametinget, Giron/Kiruna,

The Sami Parliament has expressed its wish to build a Sami-influenced parliament building in Kiruna. Among the various issues, one goal unites all the political parties: greater autonomy. At present, the Parliament is empowered only to deal with matters concerning hunting and fishing, reindeer herding, compensation for damage caused by predators, and Sami language and culture.

The Sami Parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden have drawn up a joint Nordic convention to strengthen their position as a minority people and influence decisions on Sami-related matters. The convention has not yet been approved by the Nordic governments.

A government bill, Strategy for the National Minorities, proposed in 2010, has created opportunities for the Sami people to care for their culture, traditions and language by designating certain municipalities as administrative centres. Minority reform is important because it also provides financial resources to help preserve minority languages. Nineteen municipalities have been selected to protect, promote, retain and develop Sami culture, and to form consultative groups.

Since 2010, and after 14 years of negotiation, Laponiatjuottjudus, an association with Sami majority control,  governs the U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site Laponia. The reindeer-herding law will apply in the area as well.

* * * * *

There are about 2,000 Sami in Russia. In Soviet times the inhabitants of the Kola tundra were forcibly relocated to kolkhozes (collective farms) by decision the state; most Saami were settled at Lovozero: in Russian (in Northern Sami: Lujávri; in Finnish: Luujärvi), which is a  selo, rural locality, and the administrative centre of the Lovozersky District in Murmansk Oblast – region, some 164 kilometres southeast of Murmansk, the administrative centre of the Oblast.

An 1822 Statute of Administration of Non-Russians in Siberia decreed the state ownership over all the land in Siberia and then ‘granted’ possessory rights to the natives. Governance of Indigenous groups, and especially collection of taxes from them, necessitated protection of Indigenous Peoples against exploitation by traders and newcomers.

Russia has not adopted the I.L.O. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169.

The 1993 Constitution, Article 69, provides: “The Russian Federation guarantees the rights of small indigenous peoples in accordance with the generally accepted principles and standards of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.” For the first time in Russia, the rights of Indigenous minorities were established.

The Russian Federation ratified the 1966 U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Russian Parliament has adopted partial measures to implement it.

The Russian Federation acknowledges that distinct Indigenous Peoples have special rights and protections under the Constitution and federal laws and decrees. These rights are linked to the category known since Soviet times as the malochislennye narody (“small-numbered peoples”), a term which is often translated as “indigenous minorities”, and which includes Arctic peoples such as the Sami, Nenets, Evenki, and Chukchi.

In April 1999 the Russian parliament passed a law which guarantees socio-economic and cultural development to all Indigenous minorities, protecting traditional living places and acknowledging some form of limited ownership of territories which have traditionally been used for hunting, herding, fishing, and gathering activities. The law, however, does not anticipate the transfer of title to Indigenous minorities. The law does not recognise development rights, some proprietary rights including compensation for damage to the property, and limited exclusionary rights. It is not clear, however, whether protection of nature in the traditional places of inhabitation implies a right to exclude conflicting uses which are destructive to nature or whether the Indigenous minorities have the right to veto development.

The Russian Federation’s Land Code reinforces the rights of Indigenous minorities to use places they have historically inhabited and to continue traditional economic activities without being charged rent. Such lands cannot be allocated for unrelated activities, which might include oil, gas, and mineral development or tourism, without the consent of the Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, Indigenous minorities and ethnic groups are allowed to use environmentally protected lands and lands set aside as nature preserves to engage in their traditional ways of land use.

The Code of the Murmansk Oblast calls on the State organs of the Oblast to facilitate the native peoples of the Kola North, specifically naming the Sami, “in realisation of their rights for preservation and development of their native language, national culture, traditions and customs.”

Throughout the Russian North, Indigenous Peoples have suffered difficulties in exercising control over resources upon which they and their ancestors have depended for centuries. The failure to protect indigenous ways, however, stems not from inadequacy of the written law, but rather from the failure to implement existing laws. Unfortunately, violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples continue, and oil, gas and mineral development and other activities – such as mining, timber cutting, commercial fishing – and tourism which bring foreign currency to the Russian economy have prevailed over the rule of law.

Way of life and economy of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North rely upon reindeer herding, fishing, terrestrial and sea mammal hunting, and trapping. Many groups in the Russian Arctic are semi-nomadic, moving seasonally to different hunting and fishing camps. These groups depend upon different conditions of the environment at differing times of the year, rather than upon exploiting a single commodity. Throughout north-western Siberia, oil and gas development has disturbed pastureland and undermined the ability of Indigenous Peoples to continue hunting, fishing, trapping, and herding activities. Roads constructed in connection with oil and gas exploration and development destroy and degrade pastureland, ancestral burial grounds, and sacred sites and increase hunting by oil workers on the territory used by Indigenous Peoples.

In the Sami homeland on the Kola Peninsula in north-western Russia, regional authorities closed an eighty-kilometre stretch of the Ponoi River (and other rivers) to local fishing, and granted exclusive fishing rights to the Ponoi River Company, an enterprise offering catch-and-release fishing to sport fishers largely from abroad. This deprived the local Sami – otherwise protected by Article 21 of the Code of the Murmansk Oblast – of food for their families and community and of their traditional economic livelihood. Thus, closing the fishery to locals may have violated the directives given by the U.N. Human Rights Committee and disregarded the Land Code, other legislative acts, and the 1992 Presidential decree. Sami are not only forbidden to fish in the eighty-kilometre stretch leased to the Ponoi River Company but are also required by regional laws to pay for licenses to catch a limited number of fish outside the lease area. Residents of remote communities have neither the power nor the resources to demand enforcement of their rights. Here and elsewhere in the circumpolar north, the failure to apply laws for the protection of Indigenous Peoples amounts to a criminal offence of the local Indigenous populations, who otherwise could not survive without ‘poaching’ resources which should be accessible to them exclusively.

Indigenous leaders in Russia have occasionally confirmed Indigenous rights to land and resources, but to date there has been no serious or sustained discussion of Indigenous group rights to ownership of land.

On 16 November 2005 in Helsinki, a group of experts, led by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Norway Professor Carsten Smith, submitted a proposal for a Nordic Sami Convention to the annual joint meeting of the ministers responsible for Sami affairs in Finland, Norway and Sweden and the presidents of the three Sami Parliaments from the respective countries. This convention would recognise the Sami as one Indigenous People residing across national borders in all three countries. A set of minimum standards was proposed for the rights of developing the Sami language and culture and rights to land and water, livelihoods and society. The convention has not yet been ratified by all the Nordic countries.

Continued Monday with: A movement of people in Australia (Part 1)

Previous instalment: One last chance (Part 1)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Remembering ‘Big Dead Place’

The image of Antarctica in common circulation is environmental and utopian. The scientist of valour, the investigator thirsting for discovery in a litmus test environment that will give warning about current and impending variations in temperature that will affect the globe. Noble stuff indeed.

On other occasions, the continent has tickled the conspiratorial mind. Did Adolf Hitler find relief and sanctuary in such frozen climes instead of perishing in his Berlin bunker in 1945 before the Soviet onslaught? Did the Nazis establish a base that would dock extra-terrestrial aircraft? Tyle Glockner of SecureTeam10 videos certainly finds food for thought there. “The continent,” he said tritely last year, “has been shrouded in a mystery of its own for years now.”

Despite being deemed a “triumph of the global commons” where “state sovereignty has remained unrecognised” in favour of “the principles of peace and environmental protection”, another, somewhat neglected view, also exists of this glacial wonderland.

Nick Johnson was one who recorded and chronicled life working in Antarctica at McMurdo Station, doing so with a degree of wit and ruthlessness that led to his masterly compilation Bid Dead Place. But it was not an account of the dingy corridors of White Hall or the dank context of a police state apparatus. He was considering the human encrustations that had found themselves on the earth’s seventh continent, one filled with its fair share of intrepid explorer corpses.

Venturing to his website, now generally defunct in terms of links, one finds an entry by a certain Lazarus B. Danzig, described as “a manager in an unnamed department at McMurdo Station.” White collar management is examined and revealed for its absurd guiding principles, a farce in slow motion. “The average manager in Antarctica insists on indoor temperatures that would call for air conditioning were they summering at home. And, while the outside temperatures might for months remain well below zero, they will wear clothing suitable to Sub Saharan Africa or perhaps Polynesia.”

Such is the managers’ role of defiance: to resist, and deny the environment they exist in. Manual labour is shunned while “Blue Collar day outdoors provides more exercise than a month of inane managerial exertions.” And it is the role characterised by certain markers: the promotion of mediocrity; the cultivation of “marooned scavengers” who clamber up the hierarchy.

Interviews were also posted, featuring the mocking bleakness rife at McMurdo. One contractor is philosophical: “Antarctica prepared me for the War Zones, a stepping stone which made the transition to Iraq a little easier.” Another speaks about not being able to get enough disco clothes. “They are a source of infinite delight.” Then come the somewhat sinister undertone: secrecy, clandestine insinuations and a sense of menace fostered by that big daddy corporation, Raytheon.

Johnson sketches the absurd popularity of Antarctica as façade and the station as micro reality. “Today,” he writes in one account, “the international science community working in Antarctica is carrying on this proud legacy, helping us to learn more about global processes affecting Earth’s environment. Consequently, we will have the solid scientific information we need to develop sound environmental policies.”

Other tasks must also be performed. There are menial but necessary. Needs must also be met, perversions sated. Johnson was clearing the rubbish and station detritus, an unheralded garbo, personified Blue Collar grunt. “Though I am a garbageman and I spent Independence Day sorting through vomit-covered aluminium cans, the warm glow of your Midwinter’s Day greeting,” he pens in a note to US President George W. Bush in 2001, “reminded me of my contribution to learning and knowledge.”

Illusions are punctured; hope given a good dampening before a regulated world and hierarchy policed by Raytheon. He dismisses the nobility of the US mission in Antarctica, which he rightly noted as being less about altruistic engagement than geopolitical fancy. In such an environment, other projects were being pursued. NASA psychologists, for instance, take to Antarctica’s bases to examine what human behaviour might look like in a simulated lunar setting.

The manager’s response to such accounts as Johnson’s is typical: ignore, deny and repudiate. Why did he return if he detested his experiences? Why would he actually work in such a horrid environment? This is the usual deflection adopted by those who wish to accept the horrors they perpetuate, the ghastliness they foment.

On being refused a permit to work another stint at McMurdo, Johnson suffered inexorable decline. After taking his life at the end of a shot gun at his West Seattle home, barely a murmur registered across the US literary landscape.

Johnson seemed drawn to Antarctica, not so much as a doomed explorer finding El Dorado but as part of an intrepid life that took him to South Korea to teach English drive a taxi in Seattle. On the most barren of terrains, the most viciously hostile of environments, relief as a sharp observer could be found. It was then taken away from him. In refusing him return, the indifferent bureaucrat’s revenge was assured.

One last chance (Part 1)

Part Thirty-four of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

One Last Chance

Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders will have to take their chance, and look elsewhere. But where?


The Brussels-based United Nations Regional Information Centre, U.N.R.I.C. is organised into nine geographical and thematic desks and a library. The Centre works with all the European Union institutions, governments, all segments of the civil society and of course the media. U.N.R.I.C. aims to inform but also to engage Europeans in issues of global reach. A Reference Library, open to the public, maintains a collection of United Nations documents and publications in English, French and Spanish, as well as information materials available in other western European languages. The U.N.R.I.C. has a website, which is operational in 13 languages of the region: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. (United Nations Regional Information Centre).

At the Centre Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders could find plentiful information. There are over 370 million Indigenous People in some 90 countries, living in all regions of the world.

The Sami could be worthy of attention on the part of curious Indigenous People living in Australia.

The Sami, also Sámi or Saami, traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, are an Indigenous Finno-Ugric people living in the very north of Europe, in Sápmi, which stretches across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula. They are a minority in today’s Norway (between  37,890 and 60,000),  Sweden (between 14,600 and 36,000), Finland (@ 9,350), Russia (@ 1,991), and but a majority in the innermost parts of Finnmark county in Norway and in the municipality of Utsjoki in Finland. They are regarded as one people, but there are several kinds of Sami based on their patterns of settlement and how they sustain themselves. Furthermore, their rights and general situation differ considerably depending on the nation state within which they live. (The Sami of Northern Europe – one people four countries, United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe).

The first of the Sami’s political organisations was probably established in Kvænangen in 1903, on the initiative of Anders Larsen, who belonged to the Sea Sami, a group which lived mainly by fishing. Repeated attempts to ‘Norwegianise’ the Sami provided a strong incentive for organised resistance. Anders Larsen founded the first political Sami newspaper Sagai Muittalægje. The newspaper gradually became an important political influence, not least because Anders Larsen used its columns to promote the politician Isak Saba, who was subsequently elected to the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) and served there from 1906-1912. In the 1920s Per Fokstad, a teacher, was politically active, but in the interwar years there was little activity in the Sami organisations.

After the second world war activities were resumed. The oldest surviving Sami organisation in Norway is the Sami Reindeer Herders’ Association in Norway, N.R.L., which was formed in 1948 with the goal of promoting the interests of the reindeer-herding Sami. The National Association of Norwegian Sami, N.S.R., established in 1968, seeks to uphold the rights of the Sami as a people and an indigenous population and to improve their general circumstances. The Norwegian Sami Union, S.L.F., founded in 1979, aims to protect and develop the Sami language. It also safeguards the special interests of the Sami in areas where they form a clear minority.

Nordic cooperation among the Sami was initiated in 1953 at a conference in Jokkmokk, Sweden. A second conference, which took place in Karasjok in Norway three years later, voted to establish a Nordic Sami Council. This functions as a liaison body between the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Sami’s political organisations. The following organisations and organs are members of the Nordic Sami Council: from Sweden, the Swedish Sami Association S.S.R. and Same Atnam the Swedish Sami League or Alliance R.S.A., from Norway, N.R.L. and N.S.R. and from Finland, the Sami Parliament. Russian Sami will be represented in the Sami Parliament. The S.L.F. is expected to become a member of the Council.

Through the agency of the Nordic Sami Council the Sami participate in the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, W.C.I.P., which is a worldwide organisation whose aims are to encourage solidarity between Indigenous Peoples, to promote the exchange of relevant information between these peoples, and to strengthen their organisations in the various member countries. The first world conference of W.C.I.P. was held in Port Alberni, Canada in 1975, the year in which W.C.I.P. was established.

The common aims of the Sami are presented in a Nordic Sami-political programme, which was adopted in Tromsø, Norway in 1980. It sets out the following principles:

“1) We, the Sami, are one people, whose fellowship must not be divided by national boundaries.

2) We have our own history, traditions, culture and language. We have inherited from our forefathers a right to territories, water and our own economic activities.

3) We have an inalienable right to preserve and develop our own economic activities and our communities, in accordance with our own circumstances and we will together safeguard our territories, natural resources and national heritage for future generations.”

It was not the voice of a people begging freedom from a ‘sovereign Crown’, but ‘the Voice’ of a people proclaiming its freedom, determined to reach it – and on the way to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, just 27 years away.

The colours of the Sami flag, displayed since 1986: blue, red, yellow and green are those most commonly found on traditional Sami garbs. The circle derives from the sun, in red, a symbol appearing on many shaman drums. The blue half of the circle represents the moon.

The Sami have 11 flag days, one of which is 6 February, the Sami National Day. The flag and flag days belong to all Sami, regardless of which country they live in.

* * * * *

There are between 37,890 and 60,000 Sami living in Norway. Sami have their own parliament, the Samediggi, which promotes political initiatives and manages missions and laws delegated to them by national authorities. It deals specifically with matters which are perceived as being of particular concern to the Sami people. However, as with many Indigenous Peoples, the Sami in Norway have suffered a past dominated by discrimination, particularly in the practice of their religion and the use of their language. Their traditional animistic/shamanistic way of life was replaced in the eighteenth century, and today their characteristic drums can only be found in museums. Pursuant to the education laws enacted at the end of the nineteenth, the official language of   education was to be Norwegian, a policy which remained in place until the second world war.

Today, the situation is much improved, but far from ideal. The Sami experience ten times more discrimination than ethnic Norwegians according to a recent study. Furthermore, their language is severely threatened. U.N.E.S.C.O. has classified three of the Sami languages which are, or have been, spoken in Norway as extinct, two as severely threatened, and the last one as threatened.

The issue of land rights is also pressing. Norway was the first country to ratify the protection of land rights pursuant to the International Labour Organisation, I.L.O. Convention No. 169 (Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989, which entered into force on 5 September 1991) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries in 1990. However, the phrase “ownership and possession” has been interpreted narrowly, and the conclusion was reached that a “protected right to use” was also covered by the phrase. As a result of increased Sami activism, the controversial Finnmark Act of 2005 conferred upon Sami and the population in Finnmark rights to the land and water in Finnmark when about 95 per cent (about 46,000 square kilometres) of the area in the Finnmark county was transferred to the inhabitants of the county. (Sámediggi, Ávjovárgeaidnu 50, 9730 Kárášjohka,

According to international law, the Sami people in Norway are entitled to special protection and rights. The legal foundation of the Sami policy may be found in the following instruments:

1) Article 110a of the Norwegian Constitution.

2) The Sami Act (Act of 12 June 1987 No. 56) concerning the Sami Parliament (the Sámediggi) and other legal matters pertaining to the Sami). The constitutional amendment brought forward in that act provides that: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life.” This establishes a legal and political protection of the Sami language, culture and society. In addition, the “amendment implies a legal, political and moral obligation for Norwegian authorities to create an environment conducive to the Sami themselves influencing on the development of the Sami community.”

The Sami Act provides special rights for the Sami people:

1) The Sami shall have their own national Sami Parliament elected by and amongst the Sami. (Chapter 1–2).

2) The Sami people shall decide the area of activity of the Norwegian Sami Parliament.

3) The Sami and Norwegian languages have equal standing in Norway (section 15; Chapter 3 contains details with regards to the use of the Sami language).

In addition, the Sami have special rights to reindeer husbandry.

The Norwegian Sami Parliament also elects 50 per cent of the members to the board of the Finnmark Estate, which controls 95 per cent of the land in the county of Finnmark.

Norway has also received international conventions, declarations and agreements applicable to the Sami as a minority and Indigenous People, including:

1) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (1966). Article 27 protects minorities, and Indigenous Peoples, against discrimination: “In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities, shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or use their own language.”

2) The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965).

3) The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

4) The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979).

5) The I.L.O. Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (1989). The convention states that rights for the Indigenous Peoples to land and natural resources are recognised as essential to their material and cultural survival. In addition, Indigenous Peoples should be entitled to exercise control over, and manage, their own institutions, ways of life and economic development in order to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the states in which they live.

6) The Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995).

7) The Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (1992).

8) The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

In 2007 the Norwegian Parliament passed the new Reindeer Herding Act acknowledging siida as the basic institution regarding land rights, organisation, and daily herding management. The siida (in different Sami languages cearru, siida, sita, kite) is a Sami local community which has existed from time immemorial. A siida  or a “reindeer pastoralistic district” is a Sami reindeer foraging area, a group for reindeer herding and a corporation working for the economic benefit of its members.

In Norway, pastoralistic activity requires membership in a unit (driftsenhet), corresponding to a reindeer herd. The rights to conduct pastoralism are based on statute of limitations and limited to individuals of Sami descent.

Still, the Sami siida had not, until 2007, been legally acknowledged by the Norwegian state. Instead, the authorities maintained their own construction of reindeer herding districts. The siida, and its use of Sami traditional herding knowledge, have on the other hand been living alongside, and often in conflict with, official accounts and decisions. The recently achieved legal acknowledgement of siida in Norway must result in recognition of its autonomous processes of knowledge as well as recognition of its land rights.

* * * * *

There are about 9,350 Sami living in Finland. More than 60 per cent of them live outside their homelands, which means there are particular requirements for teaching, services and communication in the Sami language.

The three northernmost municipalities Utsjoki, Inari and Enontekiö and part of Sodankylä are officially considered the Sami area.

The Sami were recognised as an Indigenous People in the Finnish Constitution in 1995. Since then the Sami have a recognised legal right to maintain and develop their language and culture as well as their traditional livelihood.  In Finland, non-Sami can herd reindeer.

An Act establishing the Finnish Sami Parliament (in Finnish: Saamelaiskäräjät) was passed on 9 November 1973. (Sámediggi | The Saami Parliament, Sajos | Inari).

Since 1996 the Sami have had constitutional self-government concerning their language and culture in their homelands. According to Finnish law, the Sami are entitled to service in their own language in official matters.

Just as in Norway, land rights and language issues are the top concerns of the Sami in modern Finland. Not enough services are provided in Sami, and even those which are provided are sometimes inadequate. The Sami do not have secure land rights in Finland because 90 per cent of the Finnish Sami land belongs to the government. Finland has not yet ratified I.L.O. Convention No. 169, which makes the land rights issue more challenging to handle. (Joona, 2005, “The Political recognition and Ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 in Finland, with some comparison to Sweden and Norway”, Nordic Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 23 (3), at 306-321).

Finland has ratified the 1966 U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights although several cases have been brought before the U.N. Human Rights Committee. Of those, 36 cases involved a determination of the rights of individual Sami in Finland and Sweden. The Committee decisions clarify that Sami are members of a minority within the meaning of Article 27 and that deprivation or erosion of their rights to practice traditional activities which are an essential element of their culture do come within the scope of Article 27.

According to Martin Scheinin, a professor at the Åbo Akademi in Turku, Finland, the Sami way of life is threatened by the competing uses of land. If the government decides to cut down forests in the reindeer herding area, it destroys the pastoral areas.

In 2011 the European Council criticised Finland for handling the Sami and other minority issues poorly. The Council suggested some actions that Finland could take, firstly the ratification of the I.L.O. Convention. Other proposals include a Sami language newspaper and better Sami representation in the political decision making.

The Sami themselves fear assimilation into the Finnish population. This will affect their traditional livelihood, such as reindeer herding. Very often the Sami are treated only as a linguistic minority and not as a people. Johanna Suurpää, Finland’s Minority Ombudsman, has stated that the government does not practice a deliberate assimilation policy. The Sami are not the only ones practicing reindeer herding in Northern Finland, therefore, “there are no simple solutions that would be fair for all parties”, but the language issue, she adds, is becoming critical.

A United Nations report examining the human rights situation of Sami people in Finland, Norway and Sweden called on the Nordic states to provide Sami parliaments with more funding to help boost general knowledge of the Indigenous Arctic people, their language and their culture. (UN report calls for Sami language boost –, 18 January 2011).

Sami people have had very few representatives in Finnish national politics. In fact, as of 2007, Janne Seurujärvi, a Finnish Centre Party representative, was the first Sami ever to be elected to the Finnish Parliament.

Finland Sami have had access to Sami language instruction in some schools since the 1970s, and language rights were established in 1992. There are three Sami languages spoken in Finland: North Sami, Skolt Sami and Inari Sami. Of these languages, Inari Sami, which is spoken by about 350 persons, is the only one which is used entirely within the borders of the municipality of Inari.

Minority languages in Europe are protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which was adopted by the Council of Europe in June 1992 and came into force in 1998. It seeks to promote threatened languages as part of Europe’s cultural heritage and facilitate their use in daily life. Article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees that “the Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.” (1900-2017, English, Periodical, Journal, magazine, Galdu cala: journal of indigenous people’s rights, Trove – National Library of Australia).

Continued Friday with: One last chance (Part 2)

Previous instalment: Much law, scarce justice (Part 3)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Much law, scarce justice (Part 3)

Part Thirty-three of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

On 16 October 2017 Australia was elected, uncontestedly, to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The General Assembly elects the members which occupy the 47 seats. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms. The seats are distributed among the U.N.’s regional groups as follows: 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven for the Western European and Others Group.

And how Australia, with a record of 200+ years of mal-treatment of Indigenous People, will fare on the Council is something to behold!

The Australian Government campaigned globally for its position, promising that it will promote gender equality; good governance; freedom of expression; indigenous rights; and strong national human rights institutions.

It has also said it will advocate for the global abolition of the death penalty. In the bland offering which is traditional of ‘respectable diplomacy’, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that “Australia will bring a principled and pragmatic approach to our term on the human rights council.”

Translated into plain English the words ‘principled’ and ‘pragmatic’ clash – but this is the customary discourse of the Coalition.

How Australia’s asylum policies – particularly boat turn-backs and offshore detention – as well as its failure to address Indigenous health, education and incarceration issues, which  have attracted consistent criticism by United Nations bodies, could be regarded as principled is possible only if the correcting alternative is pragmatic.

Australia will sit with some unsavoury countries: the advancement of women’s rights is not likely to be encouraged by Saudi Arabia; the Philippines carries out with large extrajudicial killings in its ‘war on drugs’; the security forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo have a reputation for arbitrary arrest, torture and killings, as well as the persistent recruitment of child soldiers; but a sense of communion will be shared with anti-refugees Hungary, and a common anti-Russia language will be spoken with representatives of Ukraine.

Ms Emily Howie, Director of Advocacy and Research at the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne, said that Australia, compared with some other new members, would be well positioned to press for positive reforms on the human rights council. “But its cruel treatment of refugees will continue to haunt and stymie Australia’s efforts during its term. It can’t truly lead on human rights while it is blatantly breaching international law.” (Australia to be elected to powerful UN human rights council, 14 October 2017, The Guardian).

Australia was promptly excoriated before the United Nations Human Rights Committee for its “chronic non-compliance” with the Committee’s recommendations, drawing particular condemnation over the mandatory detention of children and the same-sex marriage survey.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is a United Nations body of 18 experts which meets three times a year for four-week sessions (spring session at U.N. headquarters in New York, summer and fall sessions at the U.N. Office in Geneva) to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 169 U.N. member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and any individual petitions concerning 116 States parties to the Optional Protocol.

Professor Yuval Shany, a scholar of international repute who holds the Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the  Committee’s vice-chair, said that it was “unacceptable” for Australia “routinely [to] reject” the Committee’s views, or “self-judge” international human rights treaties, telling Australia it could not “pick and choose” which laws it sought to follow and which rights it wanted to uphold.

Australia’s lack of implementation of Committee findings was “completely off the charts for the Committee,” Professor Shany said. “It’s incredible for a country that claims to have a leading role in global human rights.”

While Australia had a “generally strong record” on human rights, Professor Shany said that it had “very little to be proud of” in addressing failings identified by the Human Rights Committee and other national and international bodies.

“There seems to be a misunderstanding of the purpose of the views of the Committee – they are not an invitation to respond … they are an articulation of a specific duty to take action on Australia’s obligation under the covenant.” … “While the function of the human rights council is not as such a judicial body, the views … are characteristic of a judicial decision … [and] represent an authoritative view.” …  “While we can accept, in some cases, delay, because changes take time especially in implementing domestic legislation, it is unacceptable for a state to almost routinely fail to implement the views of the Committee and in essence challenges the expert nature of the Committee.”

The Committee made particular reference to the government’s dismissal of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report The forgotten children, which found that immigration detention centres were a “dangerous place for children” and called for a royal commission into the mandatory detention of children. (The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (2014), Australian Human Rights Commission).

The then Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismissed the report as a “blatantly partisan politicised exercise.” The Committee was especially troubled that the then Human Rights Commission chair, Professor Gillian Triggs, was asked by the Attorney-General – with an improper and unprofessional suggestion/bribe – to resign before the report was published.

Australia’s marriage equality postal survey was also criticised. A Committee member, Professor Sarah H. Cleveland, is the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights at Columbia Law School told the Australian delegation: “Human rights are not to be determined by opinion poll or a popular vote.” (‘Unacceptable’: UN committee damns Australia’s record on human rights, 19 October 2017, The Guardian).

Other issues addressed by the Committee included domestic violence, transgender rights, the sterilisation of intellectually disabled women and girls, and the impact of anti-terrorism laws on civil liberties.

The position of the Australian delegation was that the implementation of the Committee’s views would have to be an area where the Committee and the government “respectfully disagree.” Australia, the Committee was told, does not regard the views of the Committee and other treaty bodies as legally binding.

Ms Amy Frew, a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre of Melbourne, while in Geneva for the hearings, said that Committee members were clearly dismayed at Australia’s disdain for the Committee’s expertise and processes. “The condemnation shows how far we have strayed from the promises we made to uphold the civil and political rights of Australians and people in our care.”

Australia’s periodic examination by the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva, came in the same week as Australia was elected  to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop nominated as priorities for Australia’s three-year term: gender equality; good governance; freedom of expression; Indigenous rights; strong national human rights institutions; and the global abolition of the death penalty.

On 18 October 2017 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees repeated that Australia had responsibility to prevent the “looming humanitarian emergency” caused by its enforced closure of its Manus Island offshore detention centre while hundreds of men remained living there.

“Having created the present crisis, to now abandon the same acutely vulnerable human beings would be unconscionable,” said Mr Thomas Albrecht, the Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Canberra.

“Legally and morally, Australia cannot walk away from all those it has forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.” (See also: UNHCROp-ed by Thomas Albrecht, Regional Representative in Canberra, 2 October 2017).

By 15 November 2017 it had become quite clear that Australia had delivered to the LGBTI community but failed its First Peoples – once more.

Expressions of solidarity with Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders, such as that of a distinguished Professor Spencer Zifcak, who is Allan Myers Professor of Law at Australian Catholic University and the former President of Liberty Victoria, would not reach a government like that of Mr Turnbull.

This is part of what Professor Zifcak wrote:

“In August [2017], the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions lashed the Australian Government’s policy of turning back refugees at sea and in secrecy. Categorising this policy as an egregious example of the excessive use of force, the Rapporteur wrote:

‘Push-back measures’, in addition to violating the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ (returning people back to the countries from which they had fled persecution) may also amount to excessive use of force whenever officials place refugees or migrants intentionally and knowingly in circumstances where they may be killed or their lives endangered …This includes the 2013 policy of Australia … Such practices raise serious concerns that they may intentionally put lives at risk, given that security officials know, but disregard, the reality that returnees may be victims of brutal crimes when returned.

On 19 October Australia was required to subject its human rights record for examination before the U.N.’s Human Rights Committee, a committee consisting primarily of independent human rights experts from across the globe. The Committee launched straight in accusing Australia of chronic non-compliance with its international human rights treaty obligations. It singled out Australia’s refugee policies. Committee members described these as cruel, disturbing and shocking.

Just a day before the Committee met, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees sounded the alarm over the Australian Government’s intention to close the Manus Island Detention Centre and the means by which it was to be effected: “A lack of proper planning for the closure of existing facilities, insufficient consultation with the Manus community, and the absence of long-term solutions … has increased the already critical risk of instability and harm. Having created the present crisis, to now abandon the same acutely vulnerable human beings would be unconscionable. Legally and morally Australia cannot walk away from all those it has forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The UNHCR encourages the Government of Australia to prevent the looming humanitarian emergency.”

That statement came even before the Minister, Peter Dutton, decided that the best means of effecting the closure of the Manus Island detention camp was to deprive those justifiably concerned about their safety in the wider P.N.G. community of food, water and power.

In its fifth report on Australia, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, savaged asylum policy. It declared its alarm at the Government’s punitive approach to asylum seekers arriving by boat. It expressed deep concern about the policy of mandatory offshore detention. This detention, it observed, had continued despite informed reports of the harsh conditions that prevailed in the island detention centres, including for children. “These conditions included acute isolation, overcrowding, limited access to basic services like health care and education, sexual abuse by service providers, acts of intimidation, taunting and provocation, and frequent acts of serious self-harm. The Committee recommended a halt to offshore processing, the complete closure of the island detention facilities and the repatriation to Australia of those found to have been entitled to refugee status.”

And, should there be more nonsensical talk about the ‘commonality in the Anglo-sphere’, this is what Professor Zifcak presented:

“It is not just UN bodies that have been critical. Several European countries, Canada and New Zealand have each issued sharp criticisms. In early October, the former Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Joe Clark, described Australia’s offshore detention regime as ‘horrendous’. The Canadian Centre for Global Pluralism shamed Australia for its inhumane policies, toxic rhetoric and the threat its policies represented to an inclusive society.

It’s not just refugee policy that has become the subject of intense international concern. For example, the UN Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee recently criticised our country’s policies towards our indigenous peoples severely. While congratulating the Government in this context for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, the National Framework for Protecting Children and the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women, the expert committee deplored the pervasiveness and persistence of indigenous people’s disadvantage.

It expressed its concern as to inadequate consultation with indigenous peoples in relation to the policies and programs that affect them. It criticised significant funding cuts to indigenous health and education programs and to non-governmental organisations established to alleviate indigenous economic and social disadvantage. It noted the legal difficulties confronting indigenous people when making land claims under the Native Title Act. It recommended that indigenous peoples be accorded constitutional recognition and that the Uluru statement be given serious consideration. So much for that. [Emphasis added].

The Committee urged the Government to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy; to ensure that the principle of free, prior and informed consent be embedded in legislation affecting aboriginal rights and entitlements; and to promote and apply the principles enshrined in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

As to the fulfilment of Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the U.N. Human Rights Committee has expressed its acute frustration that its recommendations have been routinely ignored. said Professor Zifcak.

And the learned writer listed a few failures:

“So, for example, Australia has given insufficient consideration to the necessity to protect fundamental human rights when drafting counter-terrorism legislation. It has not legislated comprehensively to protect the right to equality and non-discrimination. It has not enacted legislation to outlaw hate speech. It has done nothing to redress the alarmingly high rates of indigenous incarceration. It has been reticent in dealing with brutality in youth detention facilities. Australia remains alone among Western countries in having neither a constitutional nor statutory Bill of Rights. [Emphasis added].

It would have been good if we could have greeted Australia’s ascension to membership of the UN Human Rights Council with a measure of optimism as to its future contribution to the protection of civil and political rights internationally. Instead, we shall have to hope that during its term Australia’s government will become more sensitised to and educated about the necessity to observe international human rights norms than its current heedlessness at home so clearly undermines.” (Spencer Zifcak, Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council – despite international condemnation, 6 November 2017, John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations).

Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders will have to take their chance, and look elsewhere. But where?

Continued Monday with: One last chance (Part 1)

Previous instalment: Much law, scarce justice (Part 2)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Kalgoorlie mum begins hunger strike in protest of the Indue Ltd Cashless Debit Card roll out

By The Say NO Seven

Diane Savill, a 60 year old diabetic mother with severe lung problems and her husband of twenty six years Vic, are long-term residents of Kalgoorlie WA, the third location of the LNP’s Indue LTD Cashless Debit Card roll out.

Both Diane and her husband are receiving the Disability Support Pension and have been trying to get an exemption from the card trial for the last 5 weeks, but to no avail.

On top of chronic diabetic concerns, Diane’s lungs were damaged after a bout of swine flu which has been increasingly debilitating. Vic has a broken back and is unable to read or to write given severe dyslexia. Vic also gets confused with numbers, he is unable to use mobile phones, eftpos, ATMs and computers and this means he is going to be unable to use the Indue Card in his daily life and will become totally dependent on his wife for every transaction, incapable of self-managing with dignity.

Quite literally, Vic will have no financial or personal independence if he remains on the Indue Card and he will be unable to officially authorise his wife to use his card on his behalf owing to a clause in the Indue terms and conditions [13.1 No Joint Access, p24 Indue LTD Terms and Conditions] which forbids card holders from allowing anyone access to their card, pin number or online portal.

Diane is not Vic’s registered carer and is not physically able herself to become such, nor is she his Centrelink payment nominee, and so attempts to apply for exemption have been rejected. As she noted on her page this week, “It’s not his fault he’s got a busted back, dyslexia and brain damage from a brain tumour.

The roll out of the Indue Cashless Debit Card program in their region has caused significant stress for them both and has also created friction within their marriage over concerns for independance, privacy, and ongoing care needs. Diane and Vic have only recently sold their house and were planning to move to a location outside of the trial zone. If they remain on the card, aside from all other complications, they will be the only members of that community compelled to publicly use an Indue Cashless Debit Card.

Diane’s distress has increased over the past few weeks as she has struggled to find a satisfactory route through the exemption process and she has found herself increasingly depressed. This distress has peaked since the 14-day activation time period limit given to her by the Department of Human Services, was reached just yesterday.

Unable to find the answers or support needed for herself and her husband, Diane has chosen over the past five weeks to actively protest against the card on the street and has participated in events held at the office of Rick Wilson MP and in front of Centrelink in Kalgoorlie. In desperation at the impending crisis her family now faces and with her refusal to activate the Indue Card and submit herself and her family to even more distress and loss of autonomy, Diane has chosen to take what she feels is an inevitable next step.

Like most forced Indue Card trial participants, neither Diane or Vic drink to excess, use non-prescribed drugs or gamble, and both have worked and paid taxes most of their adult lives. They have been responsible non-violent citizens and active community members. With their child now grown, they had hoped the expected move would offer some hope for peace and security in their lives.

Diane has telephoned CDC hotlines and visited CDC offices over these past few weeks in attempts to be heard and have their family’s concerns taken seriously, only to be ‘brushed off’ and to find local area staff had not even read the Terms and Conditions of card use themselves, so could not answer her questions.

Diane also visited a local area counseling service to discuss her emotional concerns in hopes of finding relief and support. Instead, she reports she was pressured into stopping her protests by the clinician on duty, who insisted to her that Diane herself was responsible for the embarrassment and shame that ‘other clients’ had been experiencing and reporting to her. At this point, Diane declared that she had enough and made an impassioned plea from her Facebook page that the right to protest and to speak out where the only rights she had left.

Frustrated and confounded by the lack of awareness for people living with disabilities she has faced, Diane has since made a decision to protest in the only way she does feel she has left to her, that is, to begin a hunger strike. Diane takes this action with the hope of calling attention to her family’s plight and to the acute distress being experienced not just by her family, but by increasing numbers of people whose lives have been turned upside down having been forced to accept third party income management for no just cause and without their consent in order to continue to receive their lawful Social Security Entitlements.

In Diane’s own words – “I will not say yes and activate that card – I would rather starve.”

Diane begins her hunger strike today, 10/5/2018, in Kalgoorlie Western Australia.

We have been assured, that all that can be done, has been done to ensure Dianes safety and proximity to support, and that Diane is aware of the risks and consequences that her actions may incur.

While we cannot condone actions that may lead to personal injury, we are compelled to support Diane and Vic as members of our extended community and we cannot deny Diane herself, her human right to protest their treatment by the Department of Human Services.

We call upon Minister Dan Tehan to immediately intervene and examine Diane and Vic’s case and to investigate the roll out process currently underway within the Goldfields Region as a matter of urgency, to ensure no other families or individuals are in similar distress unseen and unheard.

This article was originally published on

Revisiting ‘Love Serenade’

Australian life can seem defiantly absorbed, the defiance induced by insularity and isolation. The characters that inhabit the continent are mere specks of life before the enormity that is its nature, one bound, at any point in time, to swallow them up.

Those in the city are thereby invested with a certain transcendental life, the big smoke adventure energetic and lusty. In a place like Sunray on the Murray River, the town of Shirley Barrett’s 1996 Love Serenade, a person from a larger city famed in radio descends from Olympus, which is, in truth, merely the Queensland town of Brisbane. Two sisters, Dimity (Miranda Otto) and older sibling Vicky-Ann (Rebecca Frith) perform roles of catching the subject in question.

Is thrice divorced disc jockey Ken Sherry (George Shetsov) an exemplar of the other world? Hardly; there is not much to recommend him, a fairly nonplussed, passive character who plays the Barry White set (Love Serenade, Never Never Gonna Give You Up) and Van McCoy’s The Hustle in a hut that counts as a radio station.

The sisters think otherwise. His visitation might well be extra-terrestrial, or one induced by hallucinogenic import. Brisbane hardly counts as plumed exotic, but being “odd” or “strange” is entirely relative. The fantastic realisations, notably by the young Dimity, are striking. Gills appear on the lover she craves; a huge Marlin on Sherry’s wall starts moving, and in her preoccupied mind, she knows that he does not like fish. But to the few characters who matter in this production, all outside Sunray is peculiar.

The film projects two aspects of the same problem. There is the instinct to be predictable, dull, safe. Then there is the instinct to grow, to find things anew, to taste fruit newly available. To do so has its inherent dangers, the Promethean fire that may singe you, if not kill you altogether.  Indeed, innocence, on being ruined, demands vengeance and its share of shallow retribution, something Sherry duly discovers.

The sisters plot, conspire and engage to be rid of the music aquatic hybrid who has bedded both of them. But the he cannot, and will not be silent. The exemplar, dead or alive, lives in water, in a fashion. He might just as well have lived in space.

The film uses space to convey the lonely idyll of heat and dusty isolation, the routine that is interrupted by a person of flesh and blood needs. The wide street and faded Chinese restaurant, itself an isolated relic of discontent, conveys the solitary mightiness of the environment. There is total engulfing emptiness, with the exception of a few shots where people seem to have suddenly appeared, hidden hands otherwise lost in wilderness. All are inconsequential to the roles played by Sherry, Vicky-Ann, Dimity and the fabulously sinister proprietor of the Chinese restaurant.

The oppressiveness of friendliness is also clear: the need to incessantly feed the radio personality to win favour; the simpleton compassion, the base need, the elemental desire. This is the primary approach of Vicki-Ann, though it is something that her younger sister also partakes in.

Finding himself between the sisters, Sherry plays to a traditional role of bonking with arid detachment, enjoying flesh without possession or commitment. Eerily, Sherry’s character has a connection through Perspex – or at least some medium that disassociates his emotion. He pursues his catch, if only because the catch is so willing to be caught. Dry and impassive, his calm remarks are almost hypnotic: “Take off your dress.” His encounters are devoid of the erotic spell.

There are delightful observations of resentment. The suspicion eventually comes in. Sherry the outsider keeps insisting on black bean sauce.  He refuses to partake in the seafood, and certainly not the prawns. This tendency sparks suspicion, and it hardly matters that Sherry emulates aquatic tendencies. (Barrett claimed to have had “no respectable answer for that” other than to be inspired by a streak of magical realism, much of it with the cement and mortar of Cortázar).

There are certain scenes shot as if in tribute. Even more striking than Hispanic magical realism in Love Serenade is the allusion to the flying fantasy of Emir Kusturica, whose films such as Podzemlje (Underground) are filled with rich distortions and plays of historical record and fantastic scenery. Vicky-Ann, dolled up in wedding dress under some mistaken impression Sherry wishes to wed, floats like a Kusturica dream figure through the town on being rejected. Such themes of float and flight can also be found at points in Arizona Dream.  Given that Underground won the Palme d’Or in Cannes the year before Barrett won the Caméra d’Or at the same festival, the question of influence might well be asked.

Such a film would never be made today, when social media outrage counts for formed, if not uninformed activism, and where the threshold of offense is so low it has founded catacombs and build graveyards to expression. But Barrett’s work is delightfully estranging, glassily so, a true minor classic worthy of its experiment.

Much law, scarce justice (Part 2)

Part Thirty-two of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

To be sure that there is no doubt about the intellectual infamy of terra nullius, the Declaration makes clear that:

“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired. 3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.” (Art. 26)

As to the preservation of Indigenous traditional laws, Art. 27 provides that “States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.”

There is an explicit provision for reparation, in Art. 28, whereby “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent. 2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”

Against the vandalism which followed the occupation, Art. 29 guarantees that “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for Indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. 3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of Indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.”

And the following article commands that:

“1. Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned. 2. States shall undertake effective consultations with the Indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.”

Indigenous peoples will “1.  … have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. 2. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.” (Art. 31)

“Article 32 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.”

Art. 33 provides that “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.”

And, by Art. 34, “Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.”

“Article 35 Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities.”

Most importantly, “1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders. 2. States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure the implementation of this right. (Art. 1 and 2)

Equally important is Art. 37, whereby, “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. 2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”

Finally, by

“Article 38 States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.”,

pursuant to Article 39 “Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial and technical assistance from States and through international cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this Declaration,” and by the operation of Art. 40

“Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights.”

“Article 41 The Declaration charges the organs and specialised agencies of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organisations to contribute to the full realisation of the provisions through the mobilisation, inter alia, of financial cooperation and technical assistance – the ways and means of ensuring participation of Indigenous peoples on issues affecting them to be established.

Article 42 The United Nations, its bodies, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and specialised agencies, including at the country level, and States are to promote respect for and full application of the provisions and to follow up the effectiveness of the Declaration.”

The rights recognised by the Declaration constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world. (Art. 43) and such rights and freedoms recognised herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals. (Art. 44)

By Article 45 Nothing in the Declaration may be construed as diminishing or extinguishing the rights that Indigenous peoples have or may acquire in the future.

Finally, by Art. 46, nothing in the Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorising or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States. In the exercise of the rights enunciated in the Declaration, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all shall be respected. The exercise of the rights set forth in the Declaration shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law and in accordance with international human rights obligations. Any such limitations shall be non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society. The provisions set forth in the Declaration shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith. (Art. 46, 1, 2 and 3).

Just about every single article of the Declaration clashes with the theory and practice of the Commonwealth and every State of Australia for the past two hundred and twenty-nine years! No Indigenous person who reads the articles of the Declaration could be satisfied with the moving cris de coeur of Noel Pearson: “Breaking the heart”, The Saturday Paper, 28 October-3 November 2017, at 14 and/or the unforgiving, razor-like criticism by Megan Davis: “In bad faith”, The Saturday Paper, 4-10 November 2017, at 7.

Talking that way to Englanders such as those who represent the Westminster System Australian-style is a total waste of time.

But there is something, quite a lot actually, which can be said. It comes from what is known as the International Bill of Human Rights, which is made up of:

1) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

2) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

3) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), with the

4) the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and

5) the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Australia agreed to be bound by the I.C.C.P.R. on 13 August 1980, subject to certain reservations. The Covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of February 2017, the Covenant had 169 parties and six more signatories without ratification.  Article 2(2) of the I.C.C.P.R. requires Australia to take all necessary legislative and other measures to give effect to the rights in the Convention.

The I.C.C.P.R. has two Optional Protocols. An optional protocol supplements the original convention with additional obligations.

On 25 September 1991 Australia agreed to be bound by the First Optional Protocol to the I.C.C.P.R. This means that the United Nations Human Rights Committee can hear complaints from individuals who allege that the Australian Government has violated their rights under the I.C.C.P.R. However, the findings of the Human Rights Committee are not enforceable.

On 2 October 1990 Australia agreed to be bound by the Second Optional Protocol to the I.C.C.P.R. The purpose of this protocol is for States to eliminate the death penalty.

Economic, social and cultural rights include the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to fair wages and the right to safe working conditions.

Article 2(1) of the I.C.E.S.C.R. requires States to take steps, including legislative measures, to achieve the ‘progressive realisation’ of I.C.E.S.C.R. rights. This requires that States only demonstrate in good faith the fulfillment of the rights over time within their capacities. For example, it is assumed that where States have inadequate resources to ensure free education is provided, they will work towards achieving this goal.

The United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights monitors compliance with the I.C.E.S.C.R. and provides guidance on how countries should interpret the I.C.E.S.C.R.

An increasing number of countries, across all continents and legal systems, have incorporated judicial review of economic, social and cultural rights. These include Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, South Africa, Finland, France, India, Latvia, Mauritius, Nigeria, and most countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

On 10 December 1975 Australia agreed to be bound by the I.C.E.S.C.R. The I.C.E.S.C.R. does not, however, form part of Australia’s domestic law. The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 gives the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner specific statutory functions in relating to protecting and promoting the human rights of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. In the performance of these functions the Social Justice Commissioner must have regard to a number of international declarations and conventions, including the I.C.E.S.C.R. (Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 s. 46C(1) and s. 46C(4)(a).) (Human Rights Explained: Fact sheet 7:Australia and Human Rights Treaties).

Australia is also a party to other major human rights instruments, including:

1) the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

2) the Convention on the Political Rights of Women

3) the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination

4) the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women

5) the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment

6) the Convention on the Rights of the Child

7) the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

8) the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

9) the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

10) the Slavery Convention of 1926

11) the Supplementary Convention on Slavery

12) the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

There are problems, of course. To begin with, Australia does not generally agree to be bound by a human rights treaty unless it is satisfied that its domestic laws comply with the terms of the treaty.

While Australia has agreed to be bound by these major international human rights treaties, they do not form part of Australia’s domestic law unless the treaties have been specifically incorporated into Australian law through legislation. Some provisions of a treaty may however already exist in national legislation. For instance, many of the provisions contained in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities are mirrored in Australian law through the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

This principle reflects the fact that agreeing to be bound by a treaty is the responsibility of the Executive in the exercise of its prerogative power, whereas law making is the responsibility of the Parliament.

Section 51(xxix) of the Australian Constitution, the ‘external affairs’ power, gives the Commonwealth Parliament the power to enact legislation which implements the terms of those international agreements to which Australia is a party.

A long presentation was necessary, if for no other reason, to show that the most solemn proclamations have been available for seventy years, comes 2018.

During that time – three generations – Australian governments have been ‘Liberals’ in anti-workers Coalitions, or Neo-liberal – except of course the two tormented Whitlam Governments.

Words of liberation have been recited on occasions by people who were more interested in the echo of their voice than in the voice of the people. On one side is the process of liberation of the world, meaning by that something wider than ‘the Anglo-sphere’, more human than ‘the free world’ – as defined by the crude interests of Wall Street and S.W.1 which seem to be the only worthy consideration on the other side.

On one side are the Vietnam-lies by Menzies, perhaps better remembered for his rhetoric about ‘the forgotten people’ and the Iraq-lies by Howard with his pedestrian ‘comfortable and relaxed’ exhortation; on the other the fire-in-the-belly of those liberating declarations – from the Universal of 1948 to the ‘No-more-like-before’ of 2007. And, incidentally, Howard lied yet again, in extremis, offering some form of “lasting recognition in our constitution of the first Australians” (Howard’s speech, delivered at Brisbane, Qld, 12 November 2007) having sent an Australian delegate to vote against the Declaration on 13 September 2007!

The voice of ‘reasonableness’ was heard once again recently. The other ‘Voice’ – the one of the Uluru Statement, expressed in lyric cris de coeur by Noel Pearson and lashing precision by Megan Davis (there are others, of course: “Coalition contempt for our first peoples”, The (Melbourne) Age, 5 November 2017, at 34) – will not be silenced if ‘the wretched of the Earth’ take their chance.

In the process they could draw comfort from Professor Patience’s view of the issues and of the state of the joint. And the joint is occupied by characters usually very comfortable and relaxed, sporty types (don’t you know?), always ready to compete for the World Doormat Cup.

“It is surely ironic – noted Patience – that soon after Australia secured a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council the Turnbull government rejected a proposal for an advisory body that could help address the appalling Indigenous human rights record of successive governments in this country. Turnbull’s limp excuse for rejecting the idea was that it would not win the necessary support it would need at a referendum to provide the appropriate constitutional framework for the advisory body.”

This is not the sole problem, but a fundamental one. It comes with others.

“Politics in contemporary Australia displays ever-congealing levels of moral backwardness. In addition to our cruelty to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, we have pig-ignorant vested interests blocking the need for a coherent national energy policy, the reactionary stupidity of the same-sex marriage postal survey, mindless support for tax-payers to underwrite the monster Adani coal mine, persistent ideological obsessions with neo-liberal economic policies confecting the worst social inequality ever, indifference to the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, and a foreign policy framed by Australia being “joined at the hip” with the United States.

But the over-riding moral backwardness of contemporary Australian politics is glaringly evident in the country’s failure first to understand, and then to sensitively and effectively address this country’s disastrous human rights record on Indigenous affairs.”

“The on-going treatment of Indigenous Australia by white Australia is a deep evil in the heart of this country’s politics. The one measure against which Australia should be – and is – being judged regionally and internationally is the way we so callously disregard the human right of First Australians.”

“The Turnbull government’s rejection of this historically unprecedented proposal is evidence of its moral backwardness. Turnbull should have seized on this idea and made it a signal policy defining his prime ministership.”

“This country urgently needs to come to grips with the human rights issues affecting our Indigenous peoples.”

And in one last savaging sentence Patience concluded:

“It’s time for this country to awake in fright from its moral backwardness. And the first thing we need to act on is fully restoring the human rights of every Indigenous Australian, forever.” (Allan Patience, Is Australia a morally backward society?, 30 October 2017, John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations).

Continued Friday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 3)

Previous instalment: Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Part Thirty-one of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Much law, scarce justice

On the frontispiece of the foundation building of the University of Queensland there is sculpted a maxim. It reads: Juris præcepta sunt hæc: honeste vivere, neminem laedere, suum cuique tribuere.

It comes from the Corpus Iuris CivilisBody of Civil Law, (Institutes, Book 1, title 1). The Corpus is a compendium of Roman law, issued between 529 and 534 c.e. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It forms the ultimate basis of the civil law of most European jurisdictions.

The maxim means: “These are the precepts of the Law: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give to each one that which belongs to her/him.”

Not many students may ask about it, most likely many teachers could not help, even fewer local as well as national politicians would care about the meaning. It is there, incongruous and most likely un-noticed.

Englanders would not know what to do with it, although they crave the ‘distinctive’ yet meaningless appellation from Oxford: Doctor of Civil Law – or the equivalent from Cambridge.

Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander People, the oldest civilisation on Earth, have no need for such ‘masks’, To place their position before the entire world they have their chart.

On 13 September 2007 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 144 members voted in favour, 4 voted against: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and there were 11 abstentions:  Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine.

The Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It also “emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.” It “prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples”, and it “promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.” The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside Indigenous Peoples to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralisation. According to Article 31, there is a major emphasis that the Indigenous Peoples will be able to protect their cultural heritage and other aspects of their culture and tradition, which is extremely important in preserving their heritage.

The Declaration is structured as a United Nations resolution, with 23 preambular clauses and 46 articles. Articles 1 to 40 concern particular individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples; many of them include state obligations to protect or fulfil those rights. Article 31 concerns the right to protect cultural heritage as well as manifestations of their cultures including human and genetic resources.

Articles 41 and 42 concern the role of the United Nations. Articles 43 to 45 indicate that the rights in the Declaration apply without distinction to Indigenous men and women, and that the rights in the Declaration are “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” and do not in any way limit greater rights. Article 46 discusses the Declaration’s consistency with other internationally agreed goals, and the framework for interpreting the rights declared within it.

The opening and Article 2 of the Declaration provide that “indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples,” guaranteeing them the right of existence, of living free of discrimination, and entitling them as peoples to self-determination under international law.

In Art. 1 the Declaration proclaims that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.”

Interestingly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the common effort of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, Q.C. K.St.J., commonly referred to in Australia as Bert Evatt, and often as ‘Doc’ Evatt. The distinguished jurist was President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1948 to 1949.

Art. 2 guarantees that “Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.”

Art. 3 recognises the Indigenous Peoples’ “right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

In the exercise of that right, Indigenous Peoples “have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.” (Art. 4)

Furthermore, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.” (Art.5)

Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality. (Art. 6)

Further, “Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person. … the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.” (Art. 7.1)

By the Declaration, “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.” And the “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; (b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources; (c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights; (d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration; (e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.” (Art. 8)

Article 9 provides that “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.”

Most importantly, according to Art. 10, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

Furthermore, by “Article 11 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.” And “2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.”

Indigenous Peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains. 2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned. (Art. 12 1 and 2)

“Article 13 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.”

By Art.14, “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning. 2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination. 3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.”

“Article 15 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information. 2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.

Article 16 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.

Article 17 1. Indigenous individuals and peoples have the right to enjoy fully all rights established under applicable international and domestic labour law. 2. States shall in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples take specific measures to protect indigenous children from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, taking into account their special vulnerability and the importance of education for their empowerment. 3. Indigenous individuals have the right not to be subjected to any discriminatory conditions of labour and, inter alia, employment or salary.”’

There is room for a defence of the proposed, and so ignominiously rejected, ‘Voice to Parliament’ in the following

“Article 18 Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision- making institutions.

Article 19 States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

In furtherance of their politico-social aspirations, Arts. 20 and 21 provide that

“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities. 2. Indigenous peoples deprived of their means of subsistence and development are entitled to just and fair redress.

Article 21 1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security. 2. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.”

Particular attention shall be paid to “the rights and special needs of Indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of the Declaration. 2. States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.” (Art. 22 1 and 2)

By Art. 23 “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.”

“Article 24 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services. 2. Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.”

Pursuant to Art. 25, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”

Continued Monday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 2)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Sugar Demons, Sweet Lobbies and Taxes

It came across on the ABC’s Four Corners as something of a junkie’s confession: I am an addict, and I know. The conservative MP for the Australian federal seat of Dawson, George Christensen, was not mincing words so much as spouting them in crude confessional form. Regulating the sugar industry by means of a levy or tax ignored personal responsibility.

“I think that a lot of the issue with obesity has got to come back to telling people that they are personally responsible for the choices they make.” He was a “fat bloke” who had made regrettable health decisions. He had to accept the consequences of those food choices that found their way down his “gob”.

Christensen is not merely a representative of a federal seat, but representative of a country that has found its way to physical hugeness. Australia has become one of the fattest nations on the planet, rippling with health worries. Sixty per cent of its populace is overweight or obese. By 2025, the figure will be 80 percent. It is such figures that have officials and those preoccupied with health policy irate and alarmed.

Christensen’s individualist acceptance is standard form for industries that have found certain costs and regulations unnecessary and damaging to the purse strings. No changes of behaviour, goes the argument, will be induced by such a sugar levy. But the sweet lobby in Canberra has moneyed depth and financial dogmatism to pursue this variation of free will gone wrong. “Big industry knows,” observes former ACT health minister Michael Moore, “that if you’re going to have influence then you’re going to have to talk to members [of parliament].”

Australia’s representatives, notably those in designated “sugar seats”, have been taking note of the food and beverages lobby for some time. Where there is a sugar industry, there are votes to be had, beasts to be propitiated. The Beverages Council’s Annual Report in 2016 strikes a certain note of pride in spending a “vast amount of resources” in fighting proponents of a sugar tax, notably those in the major political parties.

What matters here is the global profile of the sugar industry, one sustained by the same tactical profile as the tobacco lobby. Tactics of minimisation and distortion, packaged by a covering of legitimacy regarding research and health effects, dominate the sugar lobbyist’s agenda.

Such research has a long and compromised history in the annals of nutrition. Along with various co-authors, Christin Kearns published in JAMA Internal Medicine a jaw dropping 2016 study using documents of the Sugar Research Foundation. The investigation showed how some five decades of research on nutrition and heart disease was aggressively cooked by the sugar industry.

“Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings,” concluded the authors, “suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD (coronary heart disease).”

That’s what you get when dolling out some $50,000 in modern money terms to scientists, even in the academically rigorous environs of Harvard University. With appropriate findings cobbled, the result was a skewed and influential publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug 1967). No conflict of interest with the sugar industry was published, but the brief exonerating sugar as a major risk factor in CHD was advanced.

Marion Nestle of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies in NYU did go softly on the scientists who had conducted the research in the 1960s. “Whether they did this deliberately, unconsciously, or because they genuinely believed saturated fat to be the great threat is unknown.” That said, “science is not supposed to work this way. The documents make this review seem more about public relations than science.”

Prior to that, sugar barons were already keen to exploit a deceptive nutritional claim by a simple strategy of avoidance. The link between sugar-rich diets and heart disease would be overlooked in favour of the chosen enemies of dietary fat and cholesterol. Americans keen on reducing fat in their diets, and consequential cholesterol formation, could still be encouraged to consume sugar.

As the SRF president in 1954 claimed in a speech to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists, “If the carbohydrate industries were to capture this 20 percent of the calories in the US diet (the difference between the 40 percent which fat has and the 20 percent which it ought to have) and if sugar maintained its present share of the carbohydrate market, this change would  mean an increase in the per capita consumption of sugar more than a third with a tremendous improvement in general health.”

Specific companies in the sugar business remain the big boys and girls of obfuscation in the world of nutrition science. In league with them are members of the nutrition fraternity such as exercise scientist Steven N. Blair, who find it reluctant on the padding of appropriate industry sponsorship to libel sugar and its role in causing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Strong patrons, in short, make for poor, or at the very least questionable research. In 2015, The New York Times found that Coca-Cola, the single dominant producer of sugary beverages, supplied millions in terms of funding to researchers to identify (or not, as the case was) links between sugar consumption and obesity. The focus there was to get more exercise and get over a near clinical obsession on the part of Americans to be weight-conscious.

Coca-Cola, ever mindful of sustaining its appeal, has adopted the similar health and exercise offensive in other markets. In 2016, it was revealed that $1.7 million was expended by the company on fitness groups and academics in Australia alone.  Professor Tim Olds of the University of South Australia saw no problems in pocketing $400,000 from the company for an international study on obesity. “I think, frankly,” he sneered, “this is old-style superannuated chardonnay socialism.”

Those from the food industry continue to draw miffed distinctions between the effects of sugar, and the impacts of other behaviours. “There’s no safe level of smoking,” claimed Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council, “and so we refute any sort of comparison between what’s happening with reducing the prevalence of smoking with reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.” No nanny-state will do for Parker – not even a health conscious one. The sugar demons still have the upper hand.

Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Part Thirty of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

On 29 May 2017, during an A.B.C. Q&A programme marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, Cape York Partnership founder Noel Pearson outlined some of the problems Indigenous People in Australia continue to face, including high incarceration rates.

Mr Pearson said: “We’ve made progress in the last 50 years but some of the profound indicators of our problems – children alienated from parents, the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth, and youths in great numbers in detention – obviously speak to a structural problem.” [Emphasis added].

Is that right?

Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that the Indigenous incarceration rate in 1991 was 14.4 per cent. It was 27.4 per cent in 2015. It was even higher during 2016: 28 per cent.

Indigenous People still amount to 3 per cent of the population in Australia.

Last year, for every 100,000 Indigenous People, 2,253 were in prison – an increase from 1,232 in 1991. For every 100,000 non-Indigenous People, 146 were in prison – an increase from 102 in 1991. This makes an Indigenous adult 15.4 times more likely to be in prison than a non-Indigenous person.

But there are a number of limitations with prison data collections.

To begin with, official prison measurements are point-in-time: they reflect the number of prisoners on a certain day in any given year – mainly as at 30 June. They do not represent the through-flow of prisoners across a year. Indigenous People are more likely to receive shorter sentences, and more likely to cycle in and out of prison. So it is likely that the over-representation of Indigenous People in prisons over the course of the year is greater than the official statistics suggest.

Professor Stuart Kinner, a Griffith University expert on criminal justice, found that the annual ‘flow’ of Indigenous People through Australian prisons significantly exceeds the daily number.

Before the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report in 1991, there were few statistics on numbers of Indigenous women in custody. Data now permit a more nuanced understanding of the prison demographic. The Royal Commission also made a special point about the inadequate information in relation to juvenile prisoners at the time.

Among prisoners, Indigenous children and Indigenous women are currently the most over-represented compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Still, it is not easy to compare changes across all demographics.

One of the factors affecting the higher proportion of Indigenous in Australian prisons is the way juvenile offenders are treated by the justice system. 59 per cent of people in juvenile detentions are Indigenous. And Indigenous children are 26 times more likely to be in juvenile detention than non-Indigenous children.

A blanket understanding of increases in prison rates does not reflect the prisoners who are sentenced and those on remand. 27 per cent of Indigenous People in custody in 2015 were on remand – either un-sentenced, un-convicted or awaiting trial.  The media time spent in remand in 2015 was 2.7 months. And between 2014 and 2015 the rate of prisoners overall in remand was 21 per cent – the highest rise in a decade. The rate of sentenced prisoners rose just 3 per cent for the same period.

Statistics can vary depending on the agency collecting them and the methodologies employed, leading to small discrepancies whether one examines the statistics of the corrections system, Australian Bureau of Statistics or other research bodies. (Data gaps mean Indigenous incarceration rates may be even worse than we thought, Thalia Anthony, The Conversation, 27 July 2016).

When asked for sources to support his statement, a spokesperson for Mr Pearson referred to data from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and said that the U.S. has the highest rate of imprisonment – in number and by percentage of population.

In the United States the African-American people are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population: 2,207 per 100,000.

Indigenous People in Australia are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population: 2,346 per 100,000.

Therefore, the statement that Indigenous People in Australia are the most incarcerated people in the world is true.

Of course, it depends on what one means by ‘people’, which is a complex term to define and will mean different things to different audiences.

For the purposes of the consulted FactCheck, one was confined to checking Mr Pearson’s statement on Indigenous People incarceration rates with the best available data on national incarceration rates in other countries.

Indigenous People incarceration rates in Australia were also checked against the rate at which Indigenous populations are imprisoned in other countries, as well as the rate for African-Americans.

One can compare rates of incarceration in countries around the world using the World Prison Brief, an international database hosted by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birbeck, University of London. It reports the number of adults incarcerated per 100,000 of the total population in 223 jurisdictions.

Mr. Pearson’s spokesperson was accurate to say that the United States had the highest overall rate of imprisonment in 2010, but things have changed since then.

The World Prison Brief now names Seychelles as the country with the highest adult imprisonment rate. That is based on data from 2014, which showed Seychelles had an imprisonment rate of 799 adults per 100,000 people.

The United States is currently in second place, having reported 666 adult prisoners per 100,000 people in 2015.

As a total population – including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons – Australia currently ranks 93rd on the World Prison Brief list, with an imprisonment rate of 162 adults per 100,000 of the total population in 2016.

But, as Mr Pearson highlighted on Q&A, one obtains a very different result when one looks at the incarceration rate for Indigenous people in Australia.

The World Prison Brief does not report the adult imprisonment rate for Indigenous People as a subset of the Australian population. But it is possible to calculate an estimate to compare to the international figures, using Australian Bureau of Statistics data and population estimates.

In 2015 the Indigenous population in Australia was approximately 729,000 people. In that year there were 9,885 Indigenous adult prisoners. That is an imprisonment rate of roughly 1,356 adults per 100,000 of the total Indigenous population.

Therefore, Mr Pearson’s statement that Indigenous people in Australia are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct if considering Indigenous incarceration rates alongside incarceration rates in countries listed by the World Prison Brief.

But how does Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compare with those of other Indigenous and marginalised communities around the world?

Data on Indigenous imprisonment rates are not consistently measured or reported in many countries. Thus it is difficult to gauge how Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compares with Indigenous People or marginalised groups internationally.

Credible data are available for a number of groups in several countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

And the following figures are reported per 100,000 of the adult population, not the total population as used by the World Prison Brief.

Starting with the United States, a spokesperson for Mr Pearson’s accurately quoted U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics which showed African-Americans were the most imprisoned racial group in the U.S. in 2010, with an adult imprisonment rate of 2,207 per 100,000 African-American adults. In the same year, Indigenous People in Australia were imprisoned at a higher rate: 2,303 per 100,000 Indigenous adults.

In 2015 the adult imprisonment rate of Indigenous People in Australia was still higher than that of African-Americans. In that year 1,745 per 100,000 African-American adults were incarcerated, compared to 2,253 per 100,000 Indigenous adults in Australia. (By 2016 the incarceration rate of Indigenous People in Australia had risen another 4 per cent to 2,346 adult prisoners per 100,000 adults).

The imprisonment rate for Indigenous Americans in the U.S. in 2010 was 895 per 100,000 Indigenous adults in America. The imprisonment rate for Canada’s Indigenous People in 2010-11 was estimated to be 1,400 per 100,000 Aboriginal Canadian adults.

One may calculate the imprisonment rate for New Zealand’s Māori using statistics from the Department of Corrections and Stats New Zealand. In 2015 the Māori adult imprisonment rate was approximately 1,063 per 100,000 Māori adults.

To conclude: Indigenous People in Australia were imprisoned at higher rates than Indigenous people in the U.S. in 2010, in Canada in 2010-11 and in New Zealand in 2015, and at higher rate than African-Americans in 2015.

Mr Pearson’s statement that Indigenous people in Australia are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct. based on the best available international data. (FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous Australians the most incarcerated people on Earth?, Thalia Anthony and Eileen Baldry, The Conversation, 6 June 2017).

* * * * *

Almost one year since the findings of the Inquest by State Coroner Ms Ros Fogliani in the case of Ms Dhu’s death were delivered, not much has happened in Western Australia to change the condition of Indigenous People in trouble with the majesty of the law.

In a statement, W.A.’s Attorney-General, the Hon. John Quigley said that the State Government was working to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous People in gaol, with the incarceration figures amongst the highest in the country.

“Western Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rates are scandalous … the McGowan Labor Government does not shy away from this problem.” he said.

He also said that he would be introducing “a package of amendments to the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (W.A.), the effect of which will be to reduce the number of people imprisoned for fine default alone. …  “I have examined the approach taken in other jurisdictions in relation to jailing for fines and I will be in a position to bring forward a reform package to Cabinet before the end of the year.”

The Attorney General also said that “the McGowan Labor Government has committed to introducing the Custody Notification Service.” (Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Miss Dhu inquest, Sarah Collard, A.B.C., 30 September 2017).

Less than a month after, a Nyoongar 35-year-old woman was arrested for fines totalling $ 3,900 after a standard-practice background check was carried out when the police was called to her Joondalup home.

The mother of the woman said that she had called the police because her daughter wanted to speak to officers about “certain things.”  “They took her to Joondalup police station … from there they transferred her to Melaleuca women’s prison,” she said.

The woman was sentenced to two weeks in gaol but was worried for her young children, her mother said. “She has got five children … she doesn’t want to be made homeless,” she said.

In a statement, the Western Australia Police said that officers had no discretion when carrying out court orders. “They are lawful orders to WA Police officers to take into custody the person named on the warrant and there is not capacity for those officers to ignore or defer that order,” the statement said.

Police also said that the officers had ensured that the woman and her family were treated reasonably and had “considered the welfare of all persons.”

“In this particular matter, a review has been conducted and WA Police is satisfied that both the woman and her family were afforded all reasonable care,” a spokesperson said.

“The officers who handled this matter conducted themselves in accordance with policy and met the standards required when dealing with these difficult situations.” (Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Mis Dhu inquest).

The family is closely related to Clinton Pryor, who walked from Perth to Canberra to raise awareness of the plights of Indigenous People.(!)

At mid-October 2017 a 23-year-old Indigenous woman in Western Australia disclosed that she was being threatened with gaol over unpaid fines, under the same laws that saw 22-year-old Yamatji woman Ms. Dhu die in police custody in 2014. The pregnant single mother told NITV that she was being harassed by police over $4,123.45 in unpaid fines, claiming that police had been “banging on my back door with their torches” late at night, threatening to gaol her for six days if she does not pay at least $1,000 of her debt and causing her to fear authorities would take away her young son. (Heavily pregnant single mother threatened with jail over unpaid fines, Madeline Hayman-Reber, NITV, 17 October 2017).

Continued Friday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 4)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Incremental Destruction: Armando Iannucci’s ‘The Death of Stalin’

The literature on his blood-soaked rule has reached Babel Tower proportions. Joseph Stalin, who presided over a state transformed and tormented, has been a difficult subject to portray. His period of rule, its cruelty stupendous and murderous, has turned on the creative juices of writers, graphic novelists, and screen writers over the years. The degrees of success have varied.

One particularly troubling subject is that of laughter in a totalitarian state. How might it figure in the context of a regime so remorseless in its elimination of enemies actual and perceived? Despots and tyrants, after all, tend to find the subject troubling, humour being the classic weapon of the oppressed.

For novelist Martin Amis, one had to see Stalin’s period and its terror as something tantamount to black farce. The Bolshevik revolution, unlike the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, was premised on radical experimentation, ostensibly to improve. Hitler’s band of fanatics, by way of contrast, “spat in the face of the Enlightenment”, to quote the words of Orlando Figes.

The basis for Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is itself comically absurd, and, in turn, based on the graphic novel La Mort de Staline by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. The focus here is on the circumstances surrounding the generalissimo’s death and the struggle over a suitable successor. In a collective of jackals, a good degree of plotting and jostling is bound to take place.

The very issue of how Stalin died has produced an avalanche of speculation and opinion. The poisoning thesis, for one, finds expression in such works as Stalin’s Last Crime – The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors (2003).

Iannucci, in that regard, puts his finger on a moment of divine absurdity. Few doctors would have wished to treat such a man, given the good chance that bungling or misdiagnosis would end in death. Stalin’s own campaign against the medical profession, those “assassins in white coats”, to use the lines from Pravda, left Moscow empty of supposedly competent staff, a tricky situation given the leader’s imperilled state.

Having suffered a stroke, the henchmen from the Central Committee busy themselves with the next move. For one thing, Stalin is not dead at that point, albeit undignified having lost control of his bodily functions.

First on the scene is the NKVD’s wily chief and notorious sadist, Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale), followed by the terrified Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) who is slated to succeed him. Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) then appears, having hastily put on a suit over his pyjamas, followed by Kaganovich (Dermot Crowley), Mikoyan (Paul Whitehouse) and Bulganin (Paul Chahidi).

Plots and sub-plots are hatched, initially triggered by peripatetic sessions in the woods of the dictator’s dacha. Stalin’s daughter Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) is approached, her favours courted. Bishops, the great antithetical force of communism, are invited by Beria to preside at the funeral – an act of conciliation. A mild ease up on some executions are ordered, and even the release of some political prisoners.

All of this takes place as the power play encrusts the film. Eventually, Beria loses ground and is outmanoeuvred by the scheming Khrushchev, ably assisted by General Zhukov (Jeremy Isaacs). “I fooked Germany,” spurts the embodiment of the Red Army. “I think I can take a flesh lump in a fookin’ waistcoat.” It’s a close thing: the lump, after all, was supremely malicious and canny, and Beale is disconcertingly good in conveying that dark eminence.

Stalin’s rule, according to that long standing student of Soviet history Sheila Fitzpatrick, was incremental, tinged by “sadism: the defeated hung twisting the wind for a long time, begging for clemency and reinstatement … until they ended up as total outcasts if not gibbering wrecks.”

The gibbering is certainly captured with tart sharpness (Malenkov concedes to not remembering “who’s alive and who isn’t”), and it persists within a system that is corrupted by its own paranoid musings. Treason must be defined by more treason, by more fictional evidence, by an absence of proof that is built up as unimpeachable truth. Behind Iannucci’s work is the sense that the joke just might kill you.

The sense of the faux pas and the misstep is omnipresent. Molotov (Michael Palin) finds himself constantly having to justify the punishment afforded his wife, who becomes a pawn of Beria’s plotting (behold, your wife is alive, and she has returned). But the regime’s hemlock is hard to avoid, the sort of conspiracy potion that means that each revelation must be cautioned against, prepared for.

Throughout, murder is routine, executions standard. People are summoned from their beds in their pyjamas and here, the absurdist element reaches suitable heights when a conductor is urgently called to re-do a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, originally unrecorded. As he is sped off, a flurry of activity shows men and women being taken away to their demise by the NKVD, who relish their work.

What is so refreshing about Iannucci’s take here is his abandonment of that cringe worthy convention: making Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians and their whole miscellany of Slavic cognates speak English in tormented accents. Keep it in the tongue of its representative actors – The Death of Stalin might just as well be transferrable to other languages in their tongue, absent any idiotic affectation. The vulgar tongue is universal.

That it has been refused screenings in Russia on pain of fines is hardly surprising. If it is deemed an obscenity, The Death of Stalin has achieved its purpose, a suitably obscene riposte to the terror of a mammoth, murderous state.

Government’s institutional brutality (Part 4)

Part Twenty-nine of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

On 29 August 2016 Elijah Doughty, a fourteen-year-old Indigenous child, was involved in a fatal traffic collision with a utility truck whilst riding a stolen motorbike. There is no evidence that Elijah had stolen the motorbike. The driver of the Nissan Navara vehicle, a 56-year-old ‘white’ man, was also the owner of the motorcycle, that he had reported stolen the previous day.

The driver was subsequently charged with manslaughter but was acquitted by a jury on 21 July 2017 after a trial at the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Instead he was found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.

On 28 August 2016 the driver and his wife had been out visiting friends and arrived at their front gate at 8.15pm. She had driven home, as they had earlier agreed that she would. While they were out he drank six Carlton Dry beers. The man suspected immediately that they had been burgled because the key that he said he always left at the front gate was gone. Break-ins were not unusual at the time in the twin cities of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, where thefts were the main topic of conversation. His wife posted about the thefts on the Facebook page dedicated to local crimes. A friend offered a $1,500 reward for the return of the Honda, and members of the ‘Whinge and Whine Facebook’ group began sending information.

Police had told the man that dirt-bikes often end up at Gribble Creek reserve, and suggested he check under bushes for the Honda. He searched the streets near his home by torchlight on foot until 10.30pm. He told his employer he would not be in the next day and started searching again soon after 6am on 29 August. He was parked at the edge of Gribble Creek shortly after 8.30am listening for motorbikes when he saw a person wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and riding the bike that his children used. He started his car and gave chase. The pursuit lasted no more than 26 seconds.

The driver was the owner of the stolen motorcycle that Doughty was riding. He had followed Doughty in his utility along a dirt-track in the Gribble Creek area of Boulder. Crash investigators stated that the man travelled at an average speed of 67 km/h as he gained ground on Elijah at a rate of 5.65 m a second. Elijah was on a 70cc bike – widely marketed as suitable for eight-to 11-year-olds – and travelled at an average speed of 46 km/h. A collision subsequently took place in which Doughty was killed after suffering severe injuries. The forensic pathologist explained to the jury that Elijah’s injuries included his skull split in half, brain stem snapped, spinal cord severed, most of his ribs broken, fractured pelvis, and leg and ankle mangled. Elijah’s body was found 9.5 metres from the largest piece of dirt-bike wreckage, while the utility had continued in a straight line for 34 metres.

The following day, a protest occurred outside the Kalgoorlie Courthouse. Approximately 200 people, some armed with rocks and bottles, broke down the gates of the court and surrounded the police. The police used pepper spray and riot shields in response. Twelve police officers were injured during the disorder, with one requiring stitches, while several demonstrators were arrested. Five police cars and a local business were damaged.

Dozens of Indigenous People were expected to be arrested. Media were calling the disorder a riot.

The event was similar to those which had occurred many times before in many parts of the continent.

In Queensland in November 2004 Palm Islanders had burned the local police station, court house and part of the police barracks to the ground. That happened after Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley – the most senior police officer beat an Indigenous person to death on the floor of the local watch house.

The victim, Mr Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji, was just over half Hurley’s size. Mr Doomadgee’s ‘crime’ was to walk past Hurley – who was arresting another Indigenous man – and swear, while singing, ‘Who let the dogs out’. Within an hour he was dead.

Doomadgee suffered a ruptured spleen, broken ribs, and his liver rendered into two parts held together by a couple of blood vessels. That is the kind of fatal injuries one might expect to see in the victim of a serious accident.

The body of Doomadgee was placed in the morgue, and Hurley went to drink beer and share a meal with police from the Ethical Standards Command – senior officers who had been sent to the island specifically to ensure that the police investigation into one of their own was not corrupted. One of the lead detectives assigned to the case was Hurley’s close friend and neighbour, Senior Constable Darren Robinson.

As tensions grew, and police spread rumours in the media that Doomadgee may have suffered his injuries prior to his arrest, calls for calm from community leaders grew.

Six days later a forensic pathologist’s report was read out to Palm Islanders at a public meeting. The report found that Doomadgee had died after tripping up a single step, and falling onto a flat floor.

Before that report, news of the event had been covered in a single media report. The story was presented as another ‘death in custody’.

Within an hour of the report being read out, the Palm Island police station, the court house and the home of Senior Sergeant Hurley had been burned to the ground. That was to make a more interesting story.

The event was written about, and even a film was made out of the story.

Palm Islanders were to suffer greatly: Doomadgee’s son suicided, a week before the coronial inquest into his father’s death was to commence; an Indigenous man who was sharing the cell with the dying Doomadgee suicided two years after the event.

An entire community of Indigenous People was terrorised by Queensland’s police.  Dozens of Indigenous People were arrested and gaoled. Most claimed to have been assaulted in the process. Children were held at gunpoint by tactical police dressed in black, wearing masks. They sat scared in their homes with laser targets pointed at their heads.

The man who led the uprising, Mr Lex Wotton, spent several years in gaol. The morning after his conviction, Queensland Police announced bravery awards for officers who served on the island during the uprising.

Six of the police who received those awards were adversely named in a report by what was then the Crime and Misconduct Commission – 2002-2014, now the Crime and Corruption Commission. No real sanctions were ever imposed against them.

For his part, Senior Sergeant Hurley went on to defraud Queensland taxpayers of more than $100,000, after being given an ex gratia payment by the Police Service for property lost in the fire. He had already claimed $35,000 from his insurer for the very same property.

After authorities initially decided that Hurley had no case to answer, public outrage – driven in large part by outstanding reporting from a national newspaper – forced a criminal trial.

Hurley was acquitted, but as he left the court he declared to media his responsibility for causing the death of Doomadgee. Subsequently, Hurley was promoted briefly to Acting Inspector, moved to the Gold Coast, and took extended leave, on full pay.

The Queensland Police Service was forced to take action against Acting Inspector Hurley. In March 2016 Hurley was charged with two counts of assault of a female colleague. (White Man’s Manslaughter. Black Man’s Murder. White Man’s Riot. Black Man’s Uprising, Chris Graham, New Matilda).

As in most cases resulting from the death of an Indigenous person, the charge of manslaughter is a convenient escape for the defendant. And there is among Indigenous People an instinctive reaction to the very word: manslaughter as a presage of ‘white’ justice – always easy on the defendant. The charge Senior Sergeant Hurley beat was also manslaughter.

If one knows anything about the history of Indigenous deaths in Australia, then one might understand the reaction of Kalgoorlie protestors.

Mr. Edward James Murray, 21 years old, a descendant of the Kamilaroi people, was a rugby league footballer. On 12 June 1981 he was found dead in his police cell in Wee Waa, New South Wales within an hour of having been detained for being drunk and disorderly. Murray had planned to travel to Sydney, to join the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League team’s tour of New Zealand when he was detained.

Police claimed that they found Murray hanging in his cell around 3:30pm, and argued that he had suicided. This occurred prior to the majority of Aboriginal deaths in custody which were later examined in the 1987 Royal Commission. Mr Murray’s parents remained unconvinced that their son’s death was a suicide, and fought for a more extensive investigation into the death. That death, too, has helped to draw attention to the issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Murray’s case drew the attention of several investigations, including the Muirhead Royal Commission, the N.S.W. Anti-Discrimination Board Report on Street offences; and his case was one of the first to be investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1988.

In 1997 Murray’s body was exhumed and a new autopsy revealed a previously undetected smashed sternum. A forensic pathologist determined that the injury had most likely occurred immediately prior to his death. Despite this, the details of his death remain a mystery, and still no one has been officially implicated in his death. This has been to the dissatisfaction of Murray’s family, who have called for a more extensive inquiry.

On 6August 1987 Mr. Lloyd Boney was violently arrested by three police officers for breach of bail. He was found dead 90 minutes later, hanging by a football sock in a police cell in Brewarrina, N.S.W.

The Police Internal Affairs Branch conducted the investigation into Boney’s death. No attempt was made to separate Boney’s arresting officers between interviews, providing them opportunities for ‘collusion and reconstruction.’

The local Indigenous community was suspicious of the police for their role in the death and believed it to be physically impossible for Boney to have killed himself the way he did due to his intoxicated state.

But the Coroner found Boney had suicided with “no suggestion at all of foul play.” This led to widespread protests by the community in Brewarrina, as well as Indigenous organisations nationally.

Four days later Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Commission was scathing of police conduct, and what was the police response: a video of officers at a costume party in 1992, mocking Boney’s death. (The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: timeline of events and aftermathNITV).

Toward the end of 1990 and early 1991 in Bowraville, New South Wales, three Indigenous children were murdered. The first to disappear was 16-year-old Colleen Walker, who was reported missing on 13 September 1990. The second to disappear was Walker’s cousin, Evelyn Greenup, on 4 October 1990. The third victim was 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux on 1 February 1991.

There were several similarities between the disappearances which led police to believe that they were committed by the same killer: the murders all took place within the short time frame of five months. all three victims were Indigenous, autopsies of the two bodies which were found indicate both suffered blunt force trauma to the head, all three victims disappeared after parties in the Indigenous community in Bowraville, in an area known as ‘The Mission.’

The community was investigated for child abuse. In spite of two trials and a Coroner’s Inquest, no one has been successfully prosecuted for the murders. Almost three decades later, the serial killer remains free.

On 28 September 1983 when John Peter Pat, a 16 year old Indigenous boy, was killed in a fight with police officers of the Wickham and Roebourne police stations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the five officers tried over the death claimed to be acting in self-defence and were acquitted of manslaughter charges in May 1984. A Royal Commissioner in 1991 acknowledged that “The death of John Pat became for Aboriginal people nation-wide a symbol of injustice and oppression. Suspicion and a continuing sense of injustice in the Aboriginal communities throughout Australia saw the anniversary of John Pat’s death marked by demonstrations calling for justice.” (Death of John Pat – Wikipedia).

On 26 January 2008 Mr Ian Ward, an Indigenous elder from Warburton, Western Australia, was arrested by Laverton police and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He was then driven 570 kilometres to a courthouse, remanded in custody, and driven a further 352 kilometres to a prison. The journey was undertaken in a steel prison van in 42-degree heat. Mr. Ward was ‘cooked to death’, no-one was charged with anything, The van’s air conditioning was not working and the temperature was so hot that Mr. Ward had third-degree burns to his stomach from lying on the metal floor. It was noticed by the prison transport contractors G4S driving the vehicle that Ward was unconscious. He died shortly afterwards of heatstroke. No one has ever been charged with any offence, despite repeated warnings about the dangers of woefully inadequate prisoner transport.

After 25 July 2009, when five white youths kicked an Indigenous man, Mr Kwementyaye Ryder, to death next to the Todd River in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, they also faced manslaughter charges.

They bucked the trend and were convicted. Their sentences ranged from 12 months to three and a half years, despite driving up and down the dry river bed targeting homeless Indigenous People and firing a replica pistol at them.

The judge in that trial, Justice Brian Martin, the man initially appointed by the Turnbull government to lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of Aboriginal children in juvenile detention, described the boys as “otherwise of good character.” Martin resigned shortly after his appointment. (Five jailed for racist Alice Springs killingA.B.C.).

On 4 January 2012 Mr. Kwementyaye Briscoe was dragged by police into cell of the Alice Springs watch house. His blood-alcohol reading was more than 0.3 and he had a head wound. Although police were required to visit him every 15 minutes, almost two hours passed before officers checked on the 27-year-old. When they did, he was dead.

On 17 September 2012 the Northern Territory Coroner found that “the care, supervision and treatment of the deceased while being held in custody by the Northern Territory Police was completely inadequate and unsatisfactory and not sufficient to meet his medical needs. This lack of care resulted in his death.” And again: “In my view, the catalogue of errors is so extensive and involved so many police officers of various rank as to suggest mismanagement for a period of time by police command at a level higher than just ‘local’.

Coroner Greg Kavanagh described police actions as heavy-handed and unnecessary and was dismayed at the continued practice of dragging prisoners by their limbs. Evidence given to the Coroner was that while officers should have been checking on Kwementyaye Briscoe, they were distracted by the internet, iPod and iPhone, ignoring the pleas for help from other prisoners.

Coroner Cavanagh said: “They were singing out to him, “Take him to the hospital and get him checked out. Ya know, he’s pissing out blood.” (Coroner delivers scathing report on death in custody – 7.30, A.B.C.).

The response from those in power to the death of Mr Doomadgee, and Mr Murray, and Mr Boney, and Mr Pat, and Mr Ward, and Mr Ryder, and Mr Briscoe is precisely what Indigenous People in Australia expect when one of their own is killed. They expect a manslaughter charge, if they are lucky.

And while those deaths are amongst the nation’s most infamous, they are far from the only examples of the spectacular failures of the criminal justice systems when it comes to the loss of black lives.

There are many, many more similar stories – and recent, too.

There’s Jack Sultan Page, an eight-year-old Indigenous child, run over and left to die in November 2014 in a hit and run by a man who was on bail for drugs charges. The killer, Matthew Alexander, aged 23, was sentenced to six months home detention, and an 18-month suspended sentence. During the course of Alexander’s committal hearing, Jack’s mother was warned by Magistrate Greg Cavanagh, “You’ll be arrested if you don’t shut up. This is a court of law. Not a pub where people can yell at each other.”

This is just a short roll call of the dead – a tiny proportion of the ever-growing list of Indigenous People, many of them children, who have been brutally killed, then let down by the system which is – so they are told – is there to protect them.

So the question now is not so much: will Elijah Doughty become the latest victim of a vulgar, corrupt, indifferent system? Rather, will Indigenous People have a logical reason whatsoever to believe he will not?

There is hardly no Indigenous family in Australia untouched by state-sanctioned violence. They well know that while black lives do matter, they do not matter as much. They expect that the deaths of their loved ones will mean less.

The most senior police officer on the ground in Kalgoorlie on 30 August 2016 was Acting Commander Darryl Gaunt. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the job, and told media he’s “never seen anything like this before.” Describing some social media commentary as “disgusting and racist”, he added, “It has absolutely inflamed the situation, without a doubt.”

And yet, a white man allegedly killed a black child, but the people being cast as animals in Kalgoorlie are those who reacted to a well-worn history of brutal oppression by clashing with police, and smashing some windows.

This is despite the reality that the victim’s family, and Indigenous elders, supported police and tried to calm protesters.

In the midst of all this, Elijah Doughty, a 14-year-old child was lying dead in a morgue.

Those condemning protestors in Kalgoorlie would do well to remember that he was someone’s son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend.

And they would do well to remember that the system entrusted to deliver justice for this young boy is the same justice system which freed so many killers. It is the same justice system which saw no response, no accountability, in so many clear cases. It is the same system which ignored the cries of Ms Dhu.

Meanwhile in Kalgoorlie Ms Debbie Carmody, a local Indigenous broadcaster from the Tjuma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corporation, accused local anti-crime Facebook groups of “inciting violence and murder” against Indigenous youth.

The utility driver was charged with manslaughter and pleaded not guilty after his offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death was rejected by the State.

The trial was held in the Supreme Court of Western Australia from 17 to 21 July 2017. During the trial, the utility driver stated that he had not intended to hit Doughty and claimed that Doughty had “veered in front of him.” The driver admitted however that he could not prevent the collision because he was driving too close to the motorbike.

On 21 July 2017 Doughty’s killer was found not guilty of manslaughter. He was instead found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving occasioning death, and as a result could be out of prison as early as February 2018.

In a stunning display of the double standard in the criminal justice system, Elijah’s killer could be out of prison before a man charged over his involvement in the ‘Kalgoorlie riots’ which erupted in the wake of the killing. That protesting the death of a black teenager at the hands of a white man warrants almost as much time in gaol as the killing itself exposes the systematic prejudice of the criminal justice system.

It is no wonder that Indigenous People in Western Australia are twenty times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people. In a recent address to the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of the Northern Territory, the Chief Justice of Western Australia admitted, “[A]t every single step in the criminal justice process, Aboriginal people fare worse than non-Aboriginal people.”

The police play an important role in entrenching this racism, this case being no exception.

After the crime, the police ignored usual crime-scene processes, failing to preserve or examine physical evidence in a way that would be inconceivable had a white person died as Elijah did.

During the trial, police maintained an overbearing presence in both Kalgoorlie and Perth. In spite of the fact that the trial was taking place in Perth, some 600 kilometres away, police formed a protective ring around the Kalgoorlie courthouse when the verdict was announced. In Perth police horses and bikes outnumbered those who had gathered in solidarity outside the court on the morning of the verdict. And glass barriers were erected inside the court in anticipation of violence from the Indigenous community members present. For the racist police, the grieving Indigenous community must be treated as the principal threat.

It would be remiss not to mention the media coverage of this case. Initially there was no interest in the death of Elijah; he was just another dead black child in a country town. What drew their attention was the protest which erupted in the wake of his death. A “violent mob”, as many news outlets described it, and a couple of broken windows were a more familiar narrative.

Following the verdict, members of the public gallery screamed abuse at the defendant and the jury. The court was briefly adjourned to allow their removal by security.

Supporters of Doughty, watching the proceedings in Kalgoorlie through video link, protested the verdict, many wearing t-shirts with the Black Lives Matter slogan. The protest was described by journalists as vocal but peaceful.

Following the jury verdict on 21 July a number of rallies and vigils were held across Australia to call for justice for Elijah Doughty. A crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 24 July 2017 while chanting “What do we want? Justice. What have we got? Fuck all.” Some protestors allegedly vandalised the windows of the Supreme Court by spreading red ochre, while one woman screamed “This is the blood of Aboriginal people, don’t wait for this to be your children’s.”

On 26 July 2017 protestors in Brisbane sat on the road to block the intersection of Albert and Adelaide Streets. Another protest took place in Melbourne on 28 July 2017, in which protestors marched to Flinders Street railway station then sat on the road and started a fire in a metal drum for the purpose of a smoking ceremony, blocking one of the city’s busiest intersections. One man was arrested and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade extinguished the fire.

On 28 August police charged Elijah’s father, Darryl Doughty, over an incident at the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court. The distraught father was selected for a security search with a metal detector wand by a male Court Security and Custodial Officer, but police alleged he failed to comply and left the building. Police claimed that Darryl was seen ‘acting aggressively’ towards a member of the public and allegedly assaulted a court officer causing minor injuries. He was charged with assault and released on bail after appearing at court where he pleaded not guilty. He was due to appear in court again on 6 September 2017.

Gathering with friends and family for a vigil at Gribble Creek, Elijah’s grandfather Albert said the justice system had failed their family.

“We tried to get some healing at the end of this, some closure, but the justice system just opened it back up again,” Mr Doughty said.

Continued Monday with: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 3)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


Government’s institutional brutality (Part 3)

Part Twenty-eight of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Amnesty is highlighting state and territory laws and policies which violate the rights of children, like mandatory sentencing in Western Australia. Amnesty has already successfully fought for changes to the law in Queensland which restores the detention of children to a last resort and ensure children are not held in adult prisons.

Each Australian state and territory is responsible for its own law and justice policies, but it is the federal government which is ultimately responsible for ensuring Australia protects the rights of Indigenous children.

Amnesty’s aim is to safeguard the rights set out by the United Nations in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognises the rights of Indigenous People and communities to control decisions affecting their own lives and futures. That is the foundation of our Community is Everything campaign – with research and plans developed under the guidance of Indigenous community members.

Amnesty is working with Indigenous peak organisations and other NGOs, as part of the Change the Record coalition, to close the justice gap.

The two main goals of Change the Record are:

  • to close the gap in rates of imprisonment by 2040; and
  • to cut the disproportionate rates of violence at least to close the gap by 2040 with priority strategies for women and children.

Change the Record is chaired by Indigenous experts in the justice field and draws on the combined expertise of Indigenous peak, community sector and human rights organisations.

In the view of Amnesty it is the Australian Government to be ultimately responsible for ensuring that Australia meets its obligations in protecting the rights of Indigenous children. Currently the Australian Government is not holding state and territory governments to account for failing Indigenous children.

This is despite consistent recommendations, including from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the Federal Government take responsibility in addressing the justice gap.

The Federal Government could make a difference by setting targets to close the justice gap and finally taking responsibility for change. Justice targets are the first step in developing a long-term national plan to close the justice gap.

It is the view of Amnesty that at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting states and territories should agree, in consultation with Indigenous leaders, on a national strategy to address Indigenous over-representation in the justice system.

Amnesty was calling for the Australian Government to support more Indigenous-led solutions for children and amend laws for a fairer youth justice system. The organisation intends, over the next five years, to work hard to make this an issue that politicians cannot ignore.

To close the justice gap, Amnesty International is calling for more Indigenous-led solutions for children. To that end:

1) Governments should adequately fund the hard-working Indigenous People and organisations already working to support children and families and prevent contact with the justice system, and

2) Judges should have adequate alternatives to detention available to them to work with and rehabilitate children instead of locking them up.

To reach a fairer youth justice system governments must address the faulty parts of Australian justice system by:

1) setting targets to close the justice gap;

2) implementing a national system the better to collect and address problems with data to ensure that Indigenous children receive the support they need;

3) amending laws – for example mandatory sentencing and restrictive bail laws – which have negative consequences for Indigenous children and prevent judges from properly administering the law;

4) ending inhumane treatment of children in detention;

5) making sure that the national legislation complies with the standards to which Australia has agreed to be held, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. (Indigenous justice – Amnesty International AustraliaOur Campaigns; Indigenous rights Archives – Amnesty International Australia).

There has been no reply from any of the Australian governments.

* * * * *

Julieka Dhu – commonly referred to as Ms Dhu in Australian media to respect Indigenous naming customs – was a 24-year-old Indigenous woman who died in police custody in 2014. Between 2 and 4 August 2014 she was detained in custody in a police watch house in South Hedland, Western Australia on unpaid fines. On 4 August, at 1:39pm, she was pronounced dead. Ms. Dhu’s was the 340th Indigneous death in custody since the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Ms Dhu’s death generated controversy in Western Australia after police were called out to a disorderly event to assist her but instead after a background check arrested her on unpaid fines totalling $3,622. Western Australia remains the last jurisdiction in Australia not to have put an end to the gaoling of fine defaulters.

Ms Ruth Barson, a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, who assisted Dhu’s family, said: “Well if we look at Ms Dhu’s example she was somebody who was very poor, she was somebody who had absolutely no means to pay and she was also someone who was in a domestic violence situation. So it’s essentially not a fair and not a flexible system, it’s an automatic system that doesn’t take into account why a number of people cannot pay their fine for very good reasons.” Mr Gerry Georgatos, a university researcher and human rights campaigner, who has campaigned for prison reform, as well as championing the rights of Indigenous People and the homeless, and has campaigned for the establishment of the Custody Notification Service in Western Australia and for an end to the gaoling of fine defaulters, said: “Fines being unpaid should be a civil matter, they’re not a criminal matter, [and] shouldn’t be a criminal matter. My experience, having worked with people pre-release and post-release is that people in general come out worse from the prison experience than when they went in. We should be doing everything possible to keep people out of the prison experience, not doing everything we can to get them in to the prison experience.”

Ms Dhu’s family campaigned for a Coronial Inquest into her death. The findings of the Inquest by State Coroner Ms Ros Fogliani were delivered on 16 December 2016. Beginning in November 2015, the Inquest heard that Ms Dhu had been a victim of domestic violence, was in physical pain, complained of being in pain and begged for medical attention. Police took Dhu to the Hedland Health campus on two occasions but the Coroner’s Inquest heard that triage staff reported Dhu had “behavioural issues”. The Coronial Inquest heard police officers had believed that Dhu was “faking”.

The Coronial Inquest was shown disturbing footage of police officers dragging Dhu, apparently unconscious, along the floor of her cell and into a corridor, where she was then carted by her arms and legs to the back of a police wagon. She was then locked inside. At the Hedland Health campus, one hour later, she was pronounced dead.

The Coroner’s Inquest heard that Dhu was life-threateningly ill while in custody, that she had gone into septic shock and died from septicaemia and pneumonia. Counsel to the Coroner, Ms Ilona O’Brien stated: “By the morning of 4 August 2014, Miss Dhu’s clinical state rapidly worsened and although it was not appreciated by the police officers involved, some of whom believed that Miss Dhu was feigning her illness, she was in an advanced state of septic shock and only hours from death.”

Senior medical officer Ganesan Sakarapani rejected the suggestion that the Hedland Health campus had a culture of institutionalised racism, telling the Coronial Inquest that staff have access to cultural awareness programmes. He also rejected the suggestion that Dhu would have been treated differently had she been white. Mr. Georgatos, whose PhD research was in understanding racism, described it is impossible that there be no institutional racism at Hedland Health campus and stated: “I heard a medical director of the Hedland Health Campus “categorically reject the notion of institutional racism” at his hospital … He claimed that there has been significant cultural awareness training at his hospital … He does not understand what institutional or structural racism is and means. Cultural awareness and anti-discrimination training require one to acknowledge that racism exists in every institution, in every workplace, among the most well-meaning and best of people. All structures are people. Of course there is racism at Hedland Health Campus, just like there is at the South Hedland Police station. Racism has many veils and layers. Racism is not limited to the overt and often visible harm that one can do to another but includes also what people think of others.”

Mr George Newhouse, the principal solicitor of the National Justice Project, a human rights and social justice legal service, who was assisting the family, said that recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody have not been implemented in Western Australia, “Now those recommendations were made over 25 years ago, and if they had been implemented in W.A. it’s quite likely Ms. Dhu would not have passed away.”

A campaign was commenced to end the gaoling of fine defaulters in Western Australia – a practice which ended in 1988 in New South Wales, and also for the implementation of the Custody Notification Service – to be coordinated through the Western Australia Aboriginal Legal Services, which would have provided Ms Dhu a trained legal advocate at the time of her detainment. In addition. there were calls, led by the C.E.O. of the W.A. Aboriginal Legal Services, Dennis Eggington, a Nyungar man, for more to be done by the State to reduce the high arrest and incarceration rates of the State’s Indigenous People, which are the highest in the nation and among the highest in the world. (Death of Ms Dhu – Wikipedia).

Mr George Newhouse undertook to lodge a claim of misconduct leading to death in the Supreme Court of Western Australia as well as a racial discrimination complaint in the Australian Human Rights Commission, which could ultimately progress to the Federal Court. He was confident of their prospects of success in the wake of his colleague Mr Stewart Levitt’s historic Federal Court victory on behalf of around 2,000 Palm Islanders over police racism following the 2004 riots there.

“Stewart has been extremely successful with the Palm Island case in highlighting endemic and systemic racism in the Queensland Police Service,” Mr. Newhouse said. “These are issues that need to be exposed in W.A. as well and I think taking Stewart’s approach and applying it to Ms Dhu’s case will expose the rotten core of prejudice that exists both in the police service and also, surprisingly, in the health service in W.A.”

Mr Newhouse wanted Ms Dhu’s case to be a turning point in Australian race relations. “It’s a very important case because this was an atrocity and there’s too much tolerance in this country for this kind of repeated desecration of Indigenous families by people with the authority of the state,” he said. “And we need to set standards which all Australians adhere to.”

A 2016 Coronial Inquest had found that the police acted inhumanely and that Ms Dhu’s life could have been saved if doctors at the Hedland Health Campus had properly diagnosed her illness, but an internal police investigation, overseen by the Corruption and Crime Commission, found there was no criminality. Eleven officers underwent ‘disciplinary measures’ due to their lack of compassion towards Ms. Dhu, but none of them were dismissed or charged.

The Coroner also recommended that the W.A. Government consider introducing a Custody Notification Service, for which the family and Deaths in Custody Watch Committee had been pleading. By the end of July 2016 it was still to be introduced.

The Hedland Health Campus staff were reportedly counselled and an independent review of procedures conducted.

Mr Newhouse said that lessons needed to be learned from this case. “It just should never happen again and reforms need to be put in place as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“It’s three years since her death and time’s up. Time’s up. These reforms need to take place and I’m hoping that the case will lead to real reform in W.A.”

The Western Australian Police could not comment on specific civil action against it but said that since Ms Dhu’s death it had made a number of changes to its custodial policies and procedures to ensure the safety and preserve the dignity of people in their care.

A spokesperson for the Hon. Roger Cook, Minister for Health and Minister for Mental Health, as well as Deputy Premier, said that W.A. Country Health had conducted an extensive review into Ms. Dhu’s death and made systemic changes and improvements to its service. (Ms Dhu’s family prepare to take on WA Government after ‘three years of hell’, 31 July 2017, A.B.C.).

Towards the end of September 2017, the Western Australia Attorney-General, the Hon. John Quigley revealed that the family of Ms Dhu had received a $1.1 million ex gratia payment from the W.A. Government. Mr Quigley said that the lump sum did not prejudice the family’s right to future civil action, but would be deducted from any future damages.

“I have met three members of Ms Dhu’s close family and offered the states’ sincerest apologies for the circumstances leading up to the death of their family member,” Mr. Quigley told a Budget estimates hearing.

He also said that he had informed the family that the State Government would implement a Custody Notification Service, one of the recommendations from the 2016 Coronial Inquest. Such Service, Mr Quigley said, could have prevented the death. “There would have been someone from the [Aboriginal Legal Service] ringing up to ask why she was there and inquire into her welfare,” he said. (Ms Dhu’s family receive $1 million ex gratia payment, 20 September 2017, Perth Now).

Continued Friday with: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 4)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 2)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at


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