26 September 2023

Commissioners call for consistency

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Information Commissioners and Ombudsmen from across the country have highlighted the important role of historical records in truth telling and sharing history in a joint statement marking National Sorry Day last week (26 May).

In signing the statement Principles for nationally consistent approaches to accessing Stolen Generations records, NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd and Privacy Commissioner Samantha Gavel said historical records in truth telling and sharing history, intergenerational healing, redress and reparations were important for Stolen Generation survivors and their families.

The Commissioners said principles outlined in the Healing Foundation’s Bringing Them Home 20 years on: An action plan for healing would inform ongoing discussions about greater national consistency in approaches to accessing Stolen Generations records.

The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that provides a platform to amplify the voices and lived experience of Stolen Generations survivors and their families.

The Commissioners acknowledged that the principles supported implementation of recommendations about access to records from Australian Human Rights Commission’s Bringing Them Home (1997) report and the Foundation’s Make Healing Happen: It’s time to act (2021) report.

“We are committed to working together with the Healing Foundation and stakeholders to champion timely, easy access to records through informal access schemes wherever possible, with formal access applications required only as a last resort,” they said.

The Healing Foundation’s principles cover self-determination, non-discrimination, cultural renewal, a coherent policy base, and adequate resources.

Along with Commissioner Tydd and Commissioner Gavel (pictured), the joint statement was also signed by:

  • Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk; and Freedom of Information Commissioner, Leo Hardiman;
  • Victorian Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel; Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner, Rachel Dixon; and Public Access Deputy Commissioner, Joanne Kummrow;
  • Queensland Information Commissioner, Rachael Rangihaeata; Privacy Commissioner, Paxton Booth; and Acting Right to Information Commissioners, Anna Rickard and Katie Shepherd.
  • South Australian Acting Director, State Records, Privacy Committee of South Australia, Stephanie Coleman; and Ombudsman, Wayne Lines;
  • Northern Territory Information Commissioner, Peter Shoyer; and Deputy Information Commissioner, Brenda Monaghana
  • Western Australian Information Commissioner, Catherine Fletcher;
  • Tasmanian Ombudsman, Richard Connock; and
  • Acting ACT Ombudsman, Penny McKay;

The Healing Foundation’s 56-page Bringing Them Home Action Plan can be accessed at this PS News link.

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