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US Report Singles out problems in NZ

US Report Singles out 'Disproportionate societal problems for indigenous people':

Maori Party Release Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia; Co-leaders, Maori Party Thursday 9 March 2006

"How many international reports need to come in, before the Government starts to listen?" asked Dr Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori Party. "It is a matter of continuing shame to this country, that the world is looking at us, and reporting 'disproportionate societal problems for indigenous people'.

His comments followed today's release of the United States Department Report on Human Rights Practices in New Zealand, by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

The report, submitted to the Congress by the Department of State, records a: "continuing pattern of disproportionate numbers of Maori on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, in infant mortality statistics, and among single-parent households".

The report also highlighted the Special Rapporteur's report on human rights and fundamental freedoms, which is due this year. That report will deal with treaty settlements and indigenous economic, social and cultural rights.

"We were also concerned to see the inventory of injustices recorded within the Corrections system described in this report" stated Dr Sharples, Corrections spokesperson for the Maori Party.

The Human Rights report lists the following issues under prison and detention centre conditions as occurring during the twelve-month period ending June 2005:

- Prison overcrowding was a problem; - Juveniles spent more than 600 detention nights in police cells; - Eleven inmates from the Paremoremo Prison Behavioural Management Regime (BMR) were awarded compensation for 'breaches of their rights under the Bill of Rights Act'; - Management failings in the 'Goon Squad' allowed the unit to develop an 'inappropriate militaristic culture'.

"It is of course deeply distressing that the position of tangata whenua in Aotearoa is reported to the Secretary of State as a 'human rights problem', and indeed, is the only problem which features as worthy of report" said Tariana Turia, co-leader of the Maori Party.

"Other issues identified in the report that are of huge concern to the Maori Party were - continuing violence against women; - high numbers of Maori recorded as victims of violent abuse (32% compared to 17% of European persons); - other societal abuse and discrimination including abuse directed at Somali and Muslim communities, discrimination against Pasifika peoples and vandalism of mosques" said Mrs Turia.

"We are also shattered at the high number of convictions of Maori for assault by male on a female; and assaults on children. Such violence is intolerable and we must all take responsibility for making it stop".

The Maori Party has taken a lead in asking family members to take responsibility and address community violence.

Mrs Turia also recommended that the report become a basis for action.

"Surely we have enough reports now about how badly this country is doing in respecting the rights and aspirations of its indigenous peoples".

"We will be undertaking every action possible to hold the Government to account, to ensure that Maori aspirations can be supported and their rights advanced" stated Mrs Turia.

"The very first step must be to identify what the 'disproportionate societal problems' are that lead to the very negative outcomes described in the US report".

"What we want to know now, is what the solutions to these 'disproportionate societal problems' are- and the Maori Party will be the first out of the starting blocks in working with others in creating solutions for change".

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