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Stop the Intervention campaign blasts sham consultations

Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney                    Media Release                                  21 October 2011


Stop the Intervention campaign blasts sham consultations

The Stop the Intervention Collective in Sydney says the process of consultations with Aboriginal communities on the future of the NT Intervention has been a sham.

The comments come following the release of a report on the outcome of consultations around the government's Stronger Futures discussion paper on Tuesday. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin used the release of the report to flag her support for continuing key Intervention measures.

Minister Macklin also announced the expansion of a punitive trial linking welfare payments to school attendance.

Paddy Gibson from STICS was in touch with numerous representatives from ‘prescribed areas' across the NT throughout the consultations period.

Mr Gibson says the government took a predetermined agenda into the consultations and has failed to even slightly shift course, despite an outpouring of despair and protest across the NT:

"Before these so-called consultations started, government policy was clear that on every major measure, the approach of the NT Intervention would continue beyond 2012. This report on the consultations whitewashes the deep anger felt towards the Intervention and the profound damage it has done to communities".

"The report acknowledges that Aboriginal people want jobs in their own communities. But it fails to mention that thousands of jobs have been lost as the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down as a source of waged employment. The government remains committed to pushing 2000 people who remain on CDEP wages onto the dole from April next year".

"Communities are badly bleeding as both the federal and NT governments restrict resources to a handful of 'growth towns'. This policy has no Aboriginal support, has been imposed through COAG agreements and was never up for negotiation in these consultations, despite being the cornerstone of government policy".

Mr Gibson rejected the government's claim that expansion of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM), which suspends welfare payments of parents for up to 13 weeks, has broad support across Aboriginal communities.

"This consultations' report fails to even mention remote community opposition to the cuts to bilingual education. This is further proof the report is a dishonest whitewash."

"Government officials running the consultations presented welfare cuts as the only concrete policy being considered to improve school attendance. They spent the entire consultation period fishing for quotes to support this predetermined position."

"The experience of the Intervention proves a punitive approach to education will fail. There has been a decrease in school attendance and there are now less Aboriginal staff working in schools since 2007."

"Welfare payments have been linked to school attendance through the Income Management system since 2009 and this has done nothing to increase student numbers. Remote schools badly need resources, funding for local staff and local control over curriculum and school policy".

"In numerous meetings across the NT, community representatives presented the government with copies of Rebuilding from the Ground Up, an 11 point alternative to the Intervention based on community-control. School attendance and other social indicators will only improve with empowerment and adequate resources of all communities".

"The decision to continue with the Intervention is essentially a death sentence for many smaller remote communities and homelands. Shocking statistics such as a doubling in incidents of attempted suicide and self-harm and a 40 per cent increase in Indigenous incarceration are the rotten fruits of these policies. Tragically, the acceleration of social crises is being locked in by this belligerent federal government", concluded Mr Gibson.

For more information contact:

Paddy Gibson 0415800586