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And the Intervention goes on… - by Keri James, Canberra Working Group for Aboriginal Rights

February 2009

And the Intervention goes on...

Almost two years of the Northern Territory Emergency Response - the "Intervention", has turned racially discriminatory legislation (shocking and alarming; implemented with Army tanks and Riot squads; a departure from equality), into what now seems an established status quo that the Australian public is ready to forget.

The affected communities themselves are far from forgetting, this month presenting a 60 page formal complaint before the United Nations. Australia has already been warned about questionable racist policy by the U.N Human Rights commission, as well as the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Australia may be the only Western country to have been so warned.

Should the Australian Government actually comply with accepted International standards for Human Rights, Australia would already have adopted the U.N Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the signing of which was a pre-election promise. Were this so, the Intervention would immediately be nullified, as many articles of the Declaration could never allow for such an over-turning of the basic rights of Original Peoples.

Labour's own Northern Territory Emergency Response Review of last year found that: "...addressing specific concerns in Aboriginal communities does not require the exclusion of fundamental human rights such as the Racial Discrimination Act."
The Act has not been reinstated.

Remote communities deemed ‘unviable' are not the only places where Aboriginal people are fighting for their lives and the right to Self-determine.

It seems Australia is implementing measures only to continue the main-streaming and assimilation of Aboriginal Peoples - still genocide, though not the outright murder with which we started. The definition of genocide also includes the extermination of a people through loss of Culture, Language and access to Land - conditions of life set to destroy the group in whole or in part.

One Language every 3 weeks is said to disappear from the world, and yet currently Northern Territory schools are being told they will only teach in Aboriginal Language one hour a day in the afternoons. Koori schools in Victoria are being shut down completely.

Successful CDEP programs (Community Development Employment Projects), are threatened with closure nationally. Intervention policies are being introduced to Western Australia and Queensland. Communities have been offered housing only if they lease their Lands to the Government for up to 90 years.

People on the Land are faced with an uncertain future - no jobs, no shops, no welfare, no infrastructure at all, and Ancestral Lands threatened by Mining Companies and Nuclear waste dumps. It's a Land Grab, and the ousted people are expected to sink quietly into the cities and assimilate uncomplainingly.

This month in Canberra saw (as last year), a mass Convergence of Aboriginal People, many from the Northern Territory prescribed areas, here to protest the Intervention at the opening of Parliament. While the mainstream media seemed largely to ignore advertised events (such as the Demonstration at Parliament House; the Centrelink Rally to protest Welfare quarantining complete with Riot squad and dogs; the Albert Hall Forum, so well attended people could only crowd around the doors; and the colourful spectacle of hundreds of tents on the Aboriginal Embassy lawns, where people gathered for 3 days of workshops), some coverage was afforded to other more impromptu actions:

On the day that the High Court decided (6 Judges to 1), that the Northern Territory Intervention could not be over-ruled as unconstitutional, the last hopes of the attending people from the affected communities disappeared. Disappointed and angry, many stormed the building and were then removed by police.

Two Elders then decided to stage a sit-in at Old Parliament House for the night, after delivering their written statement of support for the Northern Territory communities. And Question Time in Parliament on the first day of sitting was interrupted by at least 12 protesters shouting from the gallery -

"Stop the Intervention! Human rights for all"!

And -

"Re-instate the RDA! Shame ALP"!


Keri James is an active member of the Canberra Working Group for Aboriginal Rights.

For more information on this campaign and also regular e-newsletters, media-monitoring all aspects of the Intervention, please contact WGAR - Working Group for Aboriginal Rights, Canberra.

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To contact WGAR, email: [email protected]