UN rep visits Australia to probe Aboriginal discrimination claims

A United Nations representative is visiting Australia to investigate complaints that a government crackdown on child abuse in Outback settlements is violating Aborigines' human rights. UN special rapporteur on indigenous human rights, James Anaya, was requested by a coalition of Aboriginal groups, church leaders and social justice organizations to investigate a two-year-old federal crackdown on sexual abuse of minors in the Northern Territory, the coalition said in a statement on Monday. The federal government suspended its anti-discrimination laws to implement its response to a Northern Territory government-commissioned report in 2006 that found child abuse was rampant in remote Aboriginal settlements. The government then imposed strict measures in 2007 aimed at protecting children from abuse. Alcohol and hard-core pornography were banned from Aboriginal communities and indigenous inhabitants were forced to spend a portion of their welfare checks on family essentials like food. Activists say these measures violate human rights because they target Aborigines only. "During my 12-day mission, I will investigate and report on the major challenges faced by indigenous peoples of the country in the enjoyment of their human rights," Anaya said in a statement last week. He was not immediately available for comment on Monday.