Stolen Generations Inquiry Chair welcomes Government’s commitment to Reparations

Stolen Generations survivors at Parliament House for tabling of the Unfinished Business report

Jan Barham MLC, the Greens NSW spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Reparations for the Stolen Generations, has welcomed the NSW Government’s response to the inquiry’s 35 recommendations.

“This strong commitment to act on reparations is welcome, it’s significant, and it’s long overdue,” Ms Barham said.

“It’s almost twenty years since the Bringing Them Home report into forcible removals was tabled. It would be better if we hadn’t needed two decades and another inquiry to get here, but I’m glad that our committee’s recommendations have received such strong support in the Government’s response.”

The response tabled today indicates that the NSW Government will provide a reparations package that involves more than $73 million, including ex gratia payments as well as support for survivors’ groups and programs and services focused on individual and collective healing to address the intergenerational impacts of the Stolen Generations.

“The financial reparations scheme leads the way among the states who have established compensation for the Stolen Generations, but what is most important is the acknowledgement, the healing and the certainty that comes from a comprehensive approach to reparations. That was captured in our inquiry’s recommendations and can now be delivered with the Government’s support.

“I’m grateful to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Leslie Williams, for her commitment, engagement and respect in addressing this issue. It’s important that she not only delivered this response, but that she made sure to meet with the Stolen Generations survivors to explain the detail of the Government’s response.

“Our inquiry’s report was a unanimous one and I want to acknowledge the contributions of all committee members who recognised the importance of this issue and worked to deliver these recommendations for the New South Wales Government to act on.

“But most of all I acknowledge those Stolen Generations survivors who came forward again and told their stories to our inquiry, and who have waited so long for governments and society to genuinely acknowledge and address the wrongdoing and harms they suffered,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Unfinished Business: Reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales (Final Report of the Inquiry)

NSW Government Response to the Report

National Close the Gap Day

“Today marks ten years since the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee was formed to address the unacceptable gap in health and life expectancy outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people in Australia”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs.

“The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by 2030. However, there remains much to do, with the latest Close the Gap Report showing that life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is still around ten years less than that of non-Indigenous people.”

“The latest report shows that Close the Gap indicators must be broadened to include incarceration rates to ensure that a more holistic approach is taken to achieve equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“The Parliament recently supported my motion calling on the Premier to implement a NSW Close the Gap Strategy for New South Wales to collect meaningful data on incarceration rates, community safety, child removal and disability-related issues. It’s critical that this Strategy is localised so that Indigenous disadvantage can be addressed in all regions and communities across the State, and inform government programs and funding.”

The 2016 Report made clear that Australia must renew efforts to Close the Gap, stating:

“We can and want to be the generation that closes the gap but we must stay the course and keep our attention and resources focused on this goal. The health gap has rightfully been described as a stain on our nation, and this generation has the opportunity and responsibility to remove it.”[1]

More than 1,500 events have been registered to mark National Close the Gap Day today, and 220,000 people have called on governments to take action to achieve health and life expectancy equality for Indigenous people by 2030.

“I congratulate the Close the Gap Steering Committee, its members, supporters of the campaign as well as all organisations that are working with Indigenous communities to eliminate health and life expectancy inequality by 2030.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Jan’s motion calling for a NSW Close the Gap Strategy:

The Close the Gap Steering Committee Progress and Priorities report 2016:

[1] The Close the Gap Steering Committee Progress and Priorities report 2016: p.2

Greens call for NSW Close the Gap Targets

Aboriginal Land Rights rally in Hyde Park

“I’m calling on the Premier to establish clear NSW targets and report across all key areas of inequality so that his Government and future governments can be held accountable,” said Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs.

“Working with Aboriginal communities to ensure they have the services and opportunities required to address inequality in health and wellbeing is a responsibility of every Government, particularly in light of historical wrongdoings.

“Today’s release of the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report shows the lack of national progress on addressing the disparity in life expectancy and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Ms Barham noted that there are significant areas of inequality and disadvantage that aren’t addressed by the national targets.

The Close the Gap Steering Committee’s report on Progress and Priorities 2016 recommends targets to address imprisonment rates and community safety, as well as the exacerbated disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal people with disability, education and employment.

“New South Wales should establish targets to address the full range of causes and indicators of Aboriginal disadvantage and inequality, including incarceration rates, rates of child abuse, neglect and removal, disability, mental health and suicide.

Ms Barham noted that the NSW Government had introduced some welcome initiatives in Aboriginal Affairs but that greater engagement with Aboriginal communities and self-determination in addressing needs was required.

“I’ve worked with this Government to support a range of initiatives that aim to provide opportunity and self-determination to Aboriginal communities, including through the new OCHRE strategy and ensuring Aboriginal land rights are respected and delivered.

“All politicians and parties must support giving priority to working with Aboriginal communities to address the ongoing inequality and lack of opportunity they experience, and I call on the Premier to make it a priority to close all of the gaps in New South Wales,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


Clearing the Aboriginal land claims backlog must be a NSW Government priority in 2016

The Auditor-General’s latest update on Aboriginal land claims shows that the Government must significantly increase the resources available for Crown Lands to address the backlog and deliver on the promise of land rights, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands.

“The Auditor-General’s report on Trade and Investment shows that despite having enacted the Aboriginal Land Rights Act more than 30 years ago, successive governments’ failure to process tens of thousands of claims means that it isn’t delivering the opportunities for economic development and self-determination that should be available to Aboriginal people,” Ms Barham said.

“The Auditor-General’s repeated recommendation to clear this backlog can only be fulfilled if the Government delivers a significant increase in priority and resources for the processing of land claims, along with a constructive and transparent process for negotiating Aboriginal Land Agreements under the land rights amendments passed by the Parliament last year.

“In 2014-15 the number of unprocessed claims rose to more than 28,000, and 754 of those claims have been left unresolved for more than a decade.

“I welcome the Government’s effort to reduce the number of land claims that had been approved but weren’t transferred out of the Department, but there are still 220 approved claims covering land valued at $742 million that must be transferred to Aboriginal ownership as quickly as possible.

“In 2012 the Auditor-General called on the Government to develop a plan for addressing the backlog of Aboriginal land claims. Last year the Parliament passed legislation that will allow the negotiation of voluntary agreements between Government and Land Councils.

“Aboriginal land agreements create the possibility of addressing more than one claim at a time and finding a way forward that is agreeable to all stakeholders, but this framework needs to be backed up by a transparent, inclusive process for proceeding with those negotiations.

“Importantly, the Government must ensure that the 2016 Budget commits the funding and resources required to allow a much greater degree of effort at resolving claims, both through determining them individually and by entering negotiations for land agreements.

Ms Barham called on the new Crown Lands Minister, the Hon. Niall Blair, to reinvigorate the land rights movement in New South Wales and overcome the issues that have undermined the land claims process.

“During the previous Parliament the Government caused unnecessary damage to their credibility and standing with Aboriginal people and organisations by introducing legislation to extinguish land claims relating to coastal lands.

“I’ve been pleased that Minister Blair has engaged far more constructively on these issues since his appointment as Crown Lands Minister. With ongoing commitment and the right processes and resources, he has the opportunity to restore faith in the Aboriginal land rights framework by working hard to address the backlog of claims,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s Report Volume Twelve 2015: Trade and Investment

Labor’s Lot 490 proposal shows outrageous disregard for Aboriginal land claim

The Labor Party has undermined Aboriginal Land Rights in the Tweed by introducing legislation that would affect a land claim, says North Coast Greens MP and spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands, Jan Barham MLC.

Ms Barham’s comments follow the introduction into NSW Parliament by Labor’s Walt Secord MLC of a Bill that would reserve Lot 490 as a regional park.

“This significant and environmentally sensitive area is currently protected from development by Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council’s land claim, which is one of thousands across the state waiting to be finalised. The legislation introduced by NSW Labor shows no regard for the importance of that claim,” Ms Barham said.

“Any announcement on the end use of the land is premature, and it undermines the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to provide self-determination and compensation for the traditional owners and custodians of the land.

“A recent public land forum I hosted in the Tweed heard from Tweed Byron Land Council’s Leweena Williams and local conservationists about the ecological significance of Lot 490.

“It’s important to note that Aboriginal land claims can include conditions such as easements for public access to areas such as the beach. Once a land claim is granted, the Government can also negotiate for the reservation or dedication of lands for the purpose of nature conservation.

“Labor has disregarded the fundamental importance of Aboriginal land rights and the need for self-determination and negotiation with the Aboriginal community. This Bill mustn’t proceed until the land claim has been determined, and I call on the Government to ensure the claim is resolved as quickly as possible.

“I have continued to press the Government to clear the backlog of unresolved Aboriginal land claims. The Greens strongly support Aboriginal land rights and the need to prioritise Aboriginal communities’ ownership and custodianship of land.”

Ms Barham noted that Lot 490 had a long history of being earmarked for development by both local and state governments and called for the importance of both the Aboriginal land claim and the environmental and cultural values of the site to be respected.

“The Greens recognise the strong community support for ensuring the land is protected from inappropriate private development and we know how important it is that the area’s threatened species and biodiversity are protected.

“It was Labor’s Tony Kelly who removed Tweed Shire Council as trustees of the Crown reserve in 2004 and then proposed leasing the site for a major development by Leighton Holdings, which thankfully fell through.

“For Labor to claim that they are the environmental protectors of the Tweed defies belief, and for them to undermine Aboriginal land rights in the process is disgraceful,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Stolen Generations inquiry established to examine reparations in NSW

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs, has welcomed the NSW Upper House’s support for an inquiry into reparation for the Stolen Generations.

“I’m very pleased that the NSW Legislative Council unanimously supported my motion to establish an inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations in NSW. This inquiry is an opportunity for us to examine what we have achieved in addressing the intergenerational harm caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to take a thorough look at what still must be done,” Ms Barham said.

“It’s eighteen years since the Bringing Them Home report into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was released, and seven years since the national apology to the Stolen Generations.

“Bringing Them Home made it very clear that an apology is only one step of making amends for the injustices of the past. It’s time to see what progress federal and state governments have made in fulfilling the obligation to make reparations. This includes examining where we stand in terms of delivering guarantees against repetition of past harms, measures of restitution and rehabilitation, and the question of monetary compensation.”

Ms Barham, who serves as Chair of the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 3 that will conduct the inquiry, noted that the terms of reference include consideration of the NSW Government’s response to the Bringing Them Home recommendations, along with considering options for new policy and legislation.

“In recent years we’ve seen other states take up some of the issues raised in the national inquiry that haven’t addressed by the Federal Government, with Tasmania implementing a compensation scheme and South Australia conducting its own inquiry and having a Bill that passed through their upper house.

“The disadvantage still experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities needs to be addressed, and that includes the intergenerational trauma inflicted by the separation of children from their families and their culture.

“This inquiry has the opportunity to engage directly with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations to learn about what we should do to deliver genuine reparations. I’m pleased that the Parliament has given its support to this important work,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Terms of reference:

1. That General Purpose Standing Committee No. 3 inquire into and report on reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales, and in particular:

(a) the New South Wales Government’s response to the report of the 1996 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Their Families entitled ‘Bringing them Home’ and the recommendations made in the report regarding reparations,
(b) potential legislation and policies to make reparations to members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants, including approaches in other jurisdictions, and
(c) any other related matter.

2. That for the purposes of paragraph 1, the committee adopt the definition of ‘reparations’ contained in recommendation no. 3 of the ‘Bringing them Home’ report, which states that reparation should consist of:

(a) acknowledgment and apology,
(b) guarantees against repetition,
(c) measures of restitution,
(d) measures of rehabilitation, and
(e) monetary compensation.

Incoming Government must support a fairer and more caring society

Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.

“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.

“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.

“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.

“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”

The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.

“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.

Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.

Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.

“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.

“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.

“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.

“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Planning for a more caring community

  1. Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
  2. Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
  3. Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  4. Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
  5. Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
  6. Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region

Greens announce Aboriginal Policy Initiative

On National Close the Gap Day, Greens MP and Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Jan Barham has announced the Greens’ initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in NSW.

“The Greens policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People acknowledges the failings of Government to address the devastating conditions in many areas for Aboriginal people,” said Ms Barham.

Photo of Aboriginal people with quote about Aboriginal policy

Key elements of the policy include:

  • a NSW Premier’s report on outcomes for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples,
  • a $250 million investment in Aboriginal housing to deliver around 1,000 homes,
  • a plan and protocols to clear the backlog of 26,000 Aboriginal land claims,
  • strategies for Aboriginal employment & training, including child welfare & tourism,
  • lowering the eligibility age for the Seniors Card to 45 years for Aboriginal people, and
  • a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations

Ms Barham said: “NSW can take the lead and prepare a state based annual report on a broader set of Closing the Gap indicators to ensure that the funding and policies that are in place are delivering outcomes.”

Last year Greens MLC Jan Barham presented a motion to the Parliament for the establishment of an inquiry into Stolen Generations reparations. In Tasmania, legislation has been enacted to provide for compensation and there is a similar bill before the South Australian Parliament.

“The history of removal of Aboriginal people from their families and country in NSW still affects the lives of many, and an inquiry to report and consider appropriate reparations could deliver a framework for genuine redress.”

“The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of major concern with life expectancy identified as between 10 and 17 years less than the general population. The Greens have called for eligibility to the NSW Seniors Card to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the age of 45 years, to enable earlier opportunities for access to health and transport services.

“The health and wellbeing of people is determined strongly by their ability to access safe and stable housing. The Greens have acknowledged that there needs to be a major injection of funding to facilitate more housing and reduce the increasing issue of homelessness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Contact: Jan Barham – 0447 853 891

Media release [PDF]

The Greens NSW Aboriginal Policy Initiative

Greens Parliamentary Motions and Stolen Generations Inquiry Proposed Terms of Reference

Government must act on Aboriginal land claim backlog

The NSW Government’s failure to transfer lands that are part of approved Aboriginal land claims is depriving Aboriginal people of significant opportunities for economic and social self-determination, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs.

“The latest Auditor-General’s report on Trade and Investment shows that the Crown Lands Minister has yet to transfer approved land claims worth $719 million.

“The failure to transfer land worth almost three quarters of a billion dollars despite the claims having been approved is holding up Aboriginal Land Councils from being able to engage in important work that would contribute to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that in addition to the incomplete transfers of approved claims, the Auditor-General estimated that at the Government’s current pace, it would take 122 years to clear the backlog of undetermined Aboriginal land claims.

“Two years ago the Auditor-General told the Government it needed a plan for reducing the number of unprocessed claims. There are 504 claims that have been waiting for determination for more than a decade, and a total of more than 25,000 land claims still need to be determined, yet the Minister for Crown Lands hasn’t put forward a plan for improving the processing of claims.

“The only effort we’ve seen from Minister Humphries has been an effort to restrospectively rule out claims relating to coastal lands in the disgraceful Bill that the Government was forced to withdraw last month.”

Ms Barham welcomed the recent amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act that would allow voluntary agreements to be negotiated as a way of resolving land claims, but warned that this process should not be treated as a solution to the failure of Crown Lands in dealing with land claims across the state.

“The amendments made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs provide a new pathway that Aboriginal Land Councils may choose to take up. But if the alternative is for claims to be left unprocessed by the Government for years or even decades, then there is no way the agreements can be regarded as voluntary.

“More than thirty years ago this state enacted a system of Aboriginal land rights in recognition of the historic dispossession and disadvantage. The Government, and in particular the Crown Lands Minister, needs to get serious about fulfilling the promise of land rights,” Ms Barham concluded.

Auditor-General’s 2014 Report on Trade and Investment

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Greens call on Premier Baird to withdraw attack on Aboriginal Land Rights

Jan Barham, the Greens NSW spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs, has called on Premier Mike Baird to withdraw his Government’s Crown Lands Bill that would extinguish Aboriginal land claims relating to coastal areas.

“The Greens are appalled that the State Government has introduced legislation that removes the rights of Aboriginal people to make claims over land in the coastal area. The Premier needs to take action and withdraw this disgraceful Bill,” Ms Barham said.

“The Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill was introduced by Minister Kevin Humphries on 21st October without any consultation with Aboriginal people.

“The Minister has wrongly claimed that public access to beaches and coastal areas is disadvantaged if this legislation is not enacted. In his speech to the Parliament, the Minister said that the Land and Environment Court’s granting of land at Red Rock near Coffs Harbour presented a risk for the ongoing public ownership of beaches and important coastal lands. What he failed to mention was that the Red Rock land grant included an easement provision to ensure public access to the beach in perpetuity.

“The reality is that in a number of cases, Aboriginal Land Councils have made land claims relating to coastal areas with the support of the broader community, to that ensure environmental and cultural values are protected and future use and enjoyment is preserved.

Ms Barham warned that the Government’s legislation is inconsistent with key principles of law, as it is discriminatory and affects claims that were made under the current legislative framework.

“The Bill only affects the interests and right to claim land of Aboriginal people while protecting the interests of other Crown Land users, and is therefore discriminatory.

“It includes a retrospective element that would affect many of the claims that have been lodged but left undetermined by the Government since the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was introduced in 1983. There is currently a backlog of over 26,000 claims that need to be settled, and the Government now proposes to interfere with the rights relating to claims that were made years – and in some cases decades – ago.

“The definition of what constitutes the beach and coastal land in this Bill is also vague and inconsistent with existing law, and would likely have a broad negative impact on Aboriginal people’s right to claim vacant Crown lands.

“It is shocking that this Government would introduce laws that attack the rights of Aboriginal people to make land claims. To misrepresent this as being about protecting public rights to access the beach is disgraceful.

“This term of Government has seen an unprecedented level of consultation with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello. But the Minister for Lands, Kevin Humphries has taken a grossly disrespectful approach that jeopardises the Government’s good work and standing on issues affecting Aboriginal people,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

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