Australia approves laws for Aborigines

Published: Saturday 15 September 2007

The Australian government in the last week of August approved laws for the Northern Territory's indigenous people, which, it says, are designed to fight rampant child sexual abuse among the Aborigines.

The move was in response to an officially commissioned report that found child abuse was widespread in the state's indigenous communities. Under the laws, the government plans to seize some of the powers of the state government, impose bans on alcohol and pornography in the communities, and enforce welfare restrictions so that the Aborigines spend a portion of their welfare funds on family essentials like food. The laws involve policing and medical checks for children in the outback.

Opposition leaders have, however, branded the laws racist and discriminatory, and criticised a law that says traditional owners of the land will lose their veto power over who enters Aboriginal land in the state. Experts fear the law will rather allow the commonwealth to take over township leases of indigenous communities and scrap the Aboriginal land permit system.

The government says the measures are needed to ensure open access to previously restricted communities and allow housing and community facilities to be built and repaired.

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