Lawyers in Australia have criticised the Racial Discrimination Act for not being clear about what rights racial minorities have under it.
In a joint submission to a parliamentary inquiry into child protection law, the Australian Lawyers Association and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) say they are concerned that many rights, including the right to a fair trial, are not defined in the law.
The law says children can be treated as a person regardless of whether they are “born in” a particular racial group.
But the law also says the child can be a person of “any race” if they are a child of an “ethnic or cultural group” and if they have been deprived of “special and essential services” due to their race or national origin.
“While the law recognizes the inherent dignity of the human person and does not exclude all people from equal protection of the law, it does not recognise the inherent or special right to equality of treatment,” the NLG and the ALCA argue.
“The discrimination clause is clearly missing in the Racial Duties Act.”
They say the lack of clear guidance and policy guidance about how the Racial Equality Act will apply to children makes it impossible to provide clear advice about the impact of the act on racial minorities and their children.
“There are many cases where children have been denied access to important rights, such as access to education, health care, employment, housing, and access to a good education, because of their race,” the AGLA and the NLGs submission said.
“The failure to provide clarity about the impacts of the Racial Equity Act is a serious concern.”
Key points:The Racial Equality Bill has been tabled in the NSW parliament for two yearsBut the NLGL and ALCAs say it needs to be updated to address their concernsThe law is being interpreted broadly and could be used to deny children the right for a fair jury trialA submission from the ALA says the law needs to provide more information about what the law is meant to do and how it will be applied.
It also calls for a clarification of the definition of a person, as well as a definition of “ethnic” and “cultural” to avoid “misunderstanding of the difference between race and ethnicity”.
The NLG said it wanted clarity around how the act will apply when it comes to children.
We’re concerned that a wide-ranging definition of ethnicity and cultural identity that could also include ethnic origin would not allow the legal system to address the most pressing problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the NLGM told the inquiry.
Its submission also noted that some parents who have received child support payments and have children of their own have also been denied the right of a fair judicial trial because of a child’s race.
“It is critical that the legislation clarify the extent of the rights of the child to access these critical services and for them to be able to seek redress,” it said.
The law has been controversial since it was first tabled by then NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.
Critics have called for a review into the law’s interpretation and have suggested the definition could be applied to children who are not Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.
The NLGA has called on the NSW Government to clarify the definition, which could affect thousands of Aboriginal and Indigenous people.
“In this day and age, the law and the government have to be consistent,” it argued.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are less likely to receive child support and there are also higher rates of Indigenous people being convicted of offences related to their ethnicity, the ALG said.
Topics:law-crime-and-justice,children,family-and,courts-and and-trials,public-sector,law-policy,aol-2020,nsw,sydney-2000,vicSource: ABC News (NSW)