FaHCSIA's Whitewash 'consultation' report - MR by STICS
Media Release: Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney. Wednesday 25th November 2009
Whitewash 'consultation' report can't hide Intervention atrocities
The Stop the Intervention Collective in Sydney (STICS) has labeled a FaHCSIA report on NT Intervention consultations a "shambolic whitewash", deliberately designed to mask deep community opposition to Intervention measures.
STICS says that claims of community support for the Intervention rely on secret, unaccountable meetings with Intervention staff. The strong anti-Intervention sentiments expressed through public consultation meetings have been misrepresented or ignored.
Contrary to Minister Jenny Macklin's statements, the report provides evidence that the Intervention is responsible for widespread abuses of human rights and the intensification of many social problems, particularly relating to alcohol.
"Claims that communities want a continuation of discriminatory measures rely almost totally on notes taken by Government Business Managers (GBMs) imposed by the Intervention. GBMs and Indigenous Engagement Officers were explicitly briefed to convince people of the ‘benefits' of the NTER", said Paddy Gibson from STICS.
"The secret ‘evidence' from 444 of these private meetings stand in stark contrast to the numerous transcripts from public meetings in communities and regional centres that are on the public record. In these meetings racist measures like the Income Management system and the compulsory 5-year leases are fiercely rejected."
Minister Macklin claims that a report by CIRCA, a private research body who monitored a small number of public meetings, validates the consultation process.
But Michael Brull from STICS says the CIRCA report provides no evidence to substantiate the Minister's statement that "the majority of comments said income management should continue".
"CIRCA repeatedly complains that government reports did not register the ‘level of anger' towards the Intervention, the fact that many ‘spoke passionately about not wanting income management to stay', and so on. CIRCA shows that the consultations were biased in favour of the intervention, championing its 'considerable benefits' and 'important improvements'. Yet even this wasn't enough for some public servants at the meetings, who CIRCA caught being 'defensive of the government's actions'. If this is how they behaved when public scrutiny was possible, what do you think happened behind closed doors?", concluded Mr Brull.
"FaHCSIA admits that at no point in the consultations was there significant support for compulsory 5-year leases, a measure the Minister has pledged to continue. This report says racism has increased as a result of the Intervention; that large numbers of people find the imposition of Income Management to be a breach of their rights and that desperate infrastructure needs remain unmet", said Paddy Gibson.
"A key rationale for the Intervention was supposedly to address alcohol problems. But the report says bans across prescribed areas have led to 'dangerous drinking outside town boundaries, increased road accidents and personal injury due to unsafe drinking practices and deterioration in relations between community and the police'".
"Framing the Intervention controls as ‘special measures' under the RDA is a disgraceful betrayal of Aboriginal community sentiment. Communities need massively increased resources, employment programs and empowerment. Macklin's planned legislation will continue to see money wasted on failed bureaucracies that are violating human rights", concluded Mr Gibson.
On Thursday November 26th at 12:30pm STICS will hold a protest outside FaHCSIA offices, 280 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills, Sydney.
Speakers include George Newhouse, human rights lawyer and Professor Larissa Behrendt, co-author of the recently released "Will They Be Heard?" report on the NTER consultations available at http://rollbacktheintervention.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/091123_will-they-be-heard.pdf
For more info contact: Paddy Gibson 0415800586 or Michael Brull 0406957131