21 Aug 2009

UN envoy looks at treatment of Aborigines

7:23 pm on 21 August 2009

The United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous human rights has toured some of Australia's most disadvantaged aboriginal communities to investigate claims of racist federal government policy.

In 2007, troops, medical staff and social workers were sent into more than 70 settlements in the Northern Territory to combat violence and rampant child abuse, the BBC reports.

Racial discrimination laws were suspended to allow the controversial policy to be implemented. Alcohol and pornography were banned and indigenous residents were forced to spend a portion of their welfare payments on essentials such as food.

Professor James Anaya from the UN is looking into complaints that government measures to fight child abuse in remote settlements are racially discriminatory.

He has travelled to the heart of Australia, Alice Springs, to learn more about the unrelenting poverty that makes Aborigines by far the country's most disadvantaged people.

Professor Anaya's visit was requested by indigenous groups, church leaders and social justice organisations.

Some campaigners have argued that the measures violate human rights because they only target Aborigines.