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Issue #1786      July 19, 2017

“Ten years too long”

“Stop the Intervention!”

On the 10th anniversary of the Northern Territory Intervention, Arrernte women led a march through Mbantua (Alice Springs) protesting the interference of the state at the expense of Aboriginal people’s human rights, health and wellbeing. The march came as the final action after a three-day summit, Stand Up 2017, attended by activists from around the country to talk about the harm the Intervention has done to Aboriginal people and the road ahead.

Ten years ago, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard declared there was a “national emergency” in the Northern Territory and was unapologetic for his “interventionist” approach, which included compulsory income management, compulsory health checks for children, alcohol restrictions on Aboriginal land, linking welfare payments to children’s attendance at school, compulsory acquisition of townships, the scrapping of the permit system and a raft of other restrictive measures.

Howard and his Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough claimed they were responding to the Little Children are Sacred report, which examined sexual abuse in remote NT communities.

They ignored almost every recommendation of the report and suspended the Racial Discrimination Act to introduce the Intervention.

Despite numerous reports showing the Intervention had achieved almost none of its stated aims and was doing harm – both from within government and independent sources – five years later, in 2012, the Labor Gillard government extended the Intervention for another 10 years under the Stronger Futures for the NT legislation.

Arrernte woman Alison Furber – who spoke first in language, then in English – said a decade of failed policy that harmed her people was more than enough.

“We want to make our own decisions.

“Our way, controlled by us.

“And in the Northern Territory we need bilingual schools so our kids aren’t punished for speaking their own languages.”

Arrernte woman Natasha Craigie-Braun said the Intervention had caused enormous harm.

“How dare they paint our Aboriginal men as abusers,” she said. “Why was there military everywhere?

“We all have to come together.”

Sister and brother Kirra and Dylan Voller both addressed the rally. Dylan is one of the Aboriginal boys who was violently abused by guards in Don Dale Youth Detention. He was released recently.

His sister Kirra has become one of the strongest voices against overincarceration of young Aboriginal people.

Kirra read out the statement from Stand Up 2017, which called for:

  • a repeal of the Intervention laws, including Stronger Futures;
  • a return to community governance;
  • more opportunities for people on homelands;
  • proper investment in housing to address overcrowding;
  • bilingual education;
  • no more fines for parents whose children don’t attend school;
  • closure of youth detention centres in favour of community based programs;
  • jobs programs and a closure of the federal government’s Community Development Program (CDP, a work for the dole scheme);
  • scrapping of income management;
  • an urgent return of the children taken away from family and community under the Intervention; and
  • Treaty.

Yolngu Elder Reverend Dr Djiniyini Gondarra said there needed to be proper dialogue between Australian governments and First Nations people.

“No more kissing the government’s shoes,” he said.

The Koori Mail

Next article – “Stop slashing care hours”

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