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Traeger Park School v. Minister of Education Northern Territory of Australia

Traeger Park School v. Minister of Education Northern Territory of Australia

Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - Aboriginal Students Support & Parents Awareness Committee , HREOCA 4, 26 February 1992.

Keywords: Availability, Discrimination, Retrogressive measure, National law, Australia, Budget 

The closure of a school attended by aboriginal children in Australia (at which 138 of 142 learners were indigenous) was ruled to be justified by budgetary savings and by declining enrolments and low attendance in that school. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that the one important reason for closing the school was its image of ‘an aboriginal enclave.’ The closure of that school would trigger a dispersal of the indigenous learners in the neighbouring schools. The Commission asked how they would have been absorbed and whether these ‘Traeger Park children’ would be additionally disadvantaged.

To have breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Commission decided evidence would have to be brought of an act which firstly involves a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on race, colour, etc. and which secondly has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of any human right such as ‘the right to education and training. In this case, the Commissioner found that the decision was one based on race. However, he also determined that the Minister's subjective purpose was for the maintenance of educational opportunities and services for those children. 

The Commissioner determined that the Minister's decision was based on the view that mainstreaming the students would be in their longer term interests and not made with the 'purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of any human right'.

See the Belgian Linguistic Case in the section of cases on language. The distinction here was not held to be discriminatory based on the justification b. In the Belgian case.

See also the case of Governing Body of Mikro Primary School & Anor. v. The Western Cape Minister of Education & Others in the cases relating to language. That case also stated that if children could easily attend other schools that met their needs, the State would not have breached discrimination laws. 

The students' rights to education were, in the Commissioner's interpretation of the Act, sufficiently protected as long as they had access to some form of education. Their rights did not seem to extend to the form that that education took.

NB. Unlike in Zaire and Cyprus cases, there was alternative acceptable educational provision available to the complainants.