The National Native Title Council (NNTC) today expressed concern about the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA).
NNTC’s Chief Executive Officer, Brian Wyatt said that the legislation should stay as it is. “There is no need to tinker with any piece of legislation that is perfectly adequate for the purpose it was designed for. If Parliament votes in favour of permitting offensive, insulting and humiliating behaviour based on race, then our society is in serious danger of going backwards.
“Australia, in general, is a very tolerant and respectful society, but for many Aboriginal people racism is a real and lived experience, often on a daily basis,” said Mr Wyatt. “The current legislation does not in fact curtail free speech about any political issue. As an Aboriginal person I am often involved in open and frank discussions about race, identity and history. Having community discussions about these issues can and does occur, and that is how it should be.
“But there needs to be some form of protection against hurtful and offensive behaviour, particularly being attacked or humiliated because of one’s race. As a society we should not be watering down the protections provided in the current legislation.
“The legislation has served us well over a number of years, and the Attorney General’s proposed changes should not be allowed to progress,” said Mr Wyatt. “And if Mr Abbott is truly the Prime Minister for Aboriginal people, then he should be listening to Aboriginal people and opposing these appalling amendments.
“Over the last few years, Australia has made a number of significant steps to improve relations between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community, most recently the apology offered to members of the stolen generations, unfortunately the proposed changes to the RDA would be a significant step backwards.”
The NNTC is the peak body for native title representative bodies and service providers.