Rod McGuirk, AP, August 7, 2007
The Australian government Tuesday introduced bills in Parliament to fight child sex abuse among Aborigines, in a plan condemned by critics as discriminatory and an attack on indigenous culture.
In introducing almost 500 pages of legislation, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough described Outback Aboriginal communities as “a failed society where law and order and behavior have broken down and where women and children are unsafe.”
“Do we respond with more of what we’ve done in the past or do we radically change direction with an intervention strategy matched to the magnitude of the problem?” Brough told Parliament.
The government plans to seize some of the powers of the Northern Territory government in response to an officially commissioned report that found child abuse was rampant in indigenous communities on Australia’s tropical northern frontier.
Under the plan, alcohol and hardcore pornography will be banned from Aboriginal communities and Aborigines will be forced to spend a portion of their welfare checks on essentials such as food.
Aboriginal leaders from the Northern Territory came to the national capital of Canberra on Tuesday to lobby the government to delay the legislation, which the government wants passed this week.
A delegation leader, John Ah Kit, told reporters “our culture being smashed to smithereens” by the federal takeover of indigenous communities.
“This is about the beginning of the end of Aboriginal culture; it is in some ways genocide,” Ah Kit, a former Northern Territory government minister, said without elaborating.
Brough rejected the genocide accusation as “sad and also offensive” because the intervention was directed at stopping pedophiles.
“You talk about trying to stop that as genocide, you’re either very confused or it’s very sad circumstances that you’re living in,” Brough said.