Access and Equity Policy for a Multicultural Australia

From the Priority List inbox:

The Race Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the report  and recommendations of the independent  Access and Equity Inquiry Panel.

The Access and Equity policy has been an important policy  that defines Government services obligations to culturally diverse  communities.  The review of this policy  arises from the recommendations of the Australian Multicultural Advisory  Council, which recommended the formation of the Australian Multicultural  Council and ‘The People of Australia’ policy.

Dr Helen Szoke said, “The Access and Equity policy is an  important focus for government departments in all interactions with Australia’s  culturally and linguistically diverse population.  A focus on cultural responsiveness is an  investment in ensuring that all people in Australia can participate equally in  the community and receive the services and responses that they need to be part  of the broader Australian community.”

The Panel’s recommendations call for the strengthening of  this policy, through identifying clearer and more specific obligations that  departments and agencies are required to meet. There is also an expectation  that the principles of Access and Equity will influence all Government social  policy areas.

The Panel has proposed some important core minimum  obligations for Australian Government departments and agencies in relation to  the Access and Equity policy, with an emphasis on a whole-of-government  approach to better engage with the country’s increasingly diverse community.  The recommendations, if adopted, will encourage better participation of people from different backgrounds in  Australian community life.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s research conducted  with African Australian and Arab and Muslim Australian communities has  identified that often members of these communities are reluctant to report on  negative experiences when dealing with programs and services due to a lack of  knowledge about the law and complaints processes, or the perceived difficulty  in making complaints.

Dr Szoke said, “The panel’s recommendation to review the  accessibility of complaints mechanisms, in consultation with communities, will  help to address some of these barriers and make the process of providing  feedback both easier and more effective.”

“I look forward to the Australian Government’s response to  the report and in particular, to learning what mechanisms will be identified to  enhance the governance, accountability and implementation of the policy,” Dr Szoke said.

The full report of the Access &  Equity Inquiry is available at  www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/a-multicultural-australia/government-approach/government-services/AandEreport.pdf

Tent Embassy’s 40th year highlights Aboriginal struggles

The official poster of NAODIC Week 2012

The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) observes the spirit of Aboriginal struggles this week since the founding of the Tent Embassy 40 years ago.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said NAIDOC Week should be a reminder that despite inroads made to  date, there’s still a long journey ahead to ensure equality between Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians,

Speaking ahead of the start of NAIDOC Week with the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, Commissioner  Gooda said it was an opportune time to refocus energies and pursue the dream of  a fair and equal Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over  the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous  affairs,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“It provides a constant reminder to us to keep the  challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the  forefront of our leaders’ minds and adds much needed visibility for our  struggle for equality and justice.

“It is crucial that we acknowledge the legitimacy of the  discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islander people and focus our efforts and our energies on  securing the equal enjoyment of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islander peoples.”

The Tent Embassy was established on 26 January 1972 when  four men placed a beach umbrella into the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra  in an iconic protest against the refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights.

This act represented for many a symbol of strength and  defiance against injustice. The Tent Embassy’s protest on government policy,  along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people and the Gove land  rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights  movement in Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has helped to make self-determination an  overriding factor in the thinking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  affairs. However, of most significance is the place of the Embassy in the  collective understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recent  history,” Mr Gooda said.

“It is a symbol of struggle, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islanders’ power as a people to protest for positive change and to reclaim the  pride undermined by centuries of dispossession and discrimination.

A series of events was held to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy earlier this year.

“It also reminds us of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  people’s ability to unite to campaign for better outcomes, bringing concerns  and the struggles for equality to the forefront of public attention and  political debate.”

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission