Real progress will only come from strong and respectful relationships

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\"\"Bullying, gossiping, jealousy and family feuding are critical issues within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has been told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.

This lateral violence or ‘internalised colonialism’ will be the central theme of the 2011 Eddie Koiki Mabo lecture Commissioner Gooda will deliver tonight at James Cook University in Cairns.

Commissioner Gooda says the effects of colonisation and dispossession from lands and territories have provided a platform for conflict which often plays out in the native title context. However, he says lateral violence must be addressed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves.

“Lateral violence has been described as harmful behaviour perpetrated within oppressed communities by members of that community. It can occur within families, between families, between clans and even across entire communities,” Commissioner Gooda says.

“It’s a theory that says when we are consistently oppressed we live with anger and frustration about our situation and treatment and we often turn on those who are closest to us.”

In his speech, ‘Strengthening our relationships over land, territories and resources: the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, Commissioner Gooda raises some of the difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in participating in the native title system.

“Lateral violence occurs in native title because the process imposed by government reinforces their position of power and reignites questions about our identity,” he says.

“There is an inherent contradiction between past government policies in Australia that removed our peoples from our country and the current requirement under the Native Title Act for us to prove continuing connection to our lands and waters since the arrival of the British.”

Commissioner Gooda says the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be used to combat lateral violence.

“The rights set out in the Declaration can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to create and maintain environments that are ‘culturally safe’ for us to address lateral violence,” he says.

“Rights of self-determination, free prior and informed consent, non-discrimination and protection of culture are contained within the Declaration. But they are also fundamental principles that reinforce each and every one of the rights contained within it.

“It is my view that lateral violence occurs when these fundamental human rights and principles are not met,” he says.

“Laws and policies that try to address the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be developed in line with these principles to ensure they don’t contribute to lateral violence in our communities.”

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