Friday, September 28, 2007

Women for Wik Raise Banner of Struggle Against NT Intervention

I attended a very emotional Women for Wik seminar today on the racist Northern Territory intervention.

Olga Havnen, Coordinator of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory, tore the mask off the "compassionate" face adopted by the Howardites and explained with a power point presentation just how hypocritical and devastating is the intervention.

She pointed out that 40 per cent of the Territory's Aborigines were under the age of 15, and that many were less well-educated in both white and traditional ways than their parents.
"Forty-eight per cent of Aboriginal secondary students are 'ungrade'. That means they have not even achieved a Grade 7 primary education," she said.

"If the Federal Government thinks it's got a crisis now, well, the rest is coming!"

Olga noted that the 5 Bills rushed through Federal Parliament comprised 700 pages of complex legislation that "could not have been put together in the 6 weeks since the intervention was announced."

She's quite right. The legislation was actually framed as a response to issues raised in the Discussion paper on the NT Land Rights Act which was released by Brough's department last year, well in advance of the release of the Little Children Are Sacred Report.

This earlier post of mine looks at the issues in the Discussion paper.

Basically, the Government seized upon the Little Children Are Sacred report, wept bucket loads of crocodile tears about the sexual abuse of children in remote Aboriginal communities, totally ignored the recommendations of the report, at the same time as it used it as a fig leaf for the dismantling of land rights that it had all along intended to carry out.

For those white Australians who have put their heads in the sand over the intervention, Olga had an ominous warning, namely, that other non-Aboriginal communities, for example, white suburbs with low socio-economic status and problems of unemployment and drugs, could be added to the list of communities subject to a federal intervention.

Quietly spoken Rachel Willika described herself as a good mother to her six children living at the Eva Valley community. "Why can’t we be treated equally?" she pleaded as tears and emotion overtook her .

Eileen Cummings, of the Bulman and Ngkurr communities, and a former policy advisor to the Chief Minister of the NT, tearfully recounted how she had been removed from her mother as a five year old. "I only knew my mother for the last fifteen years of her life," she said.

She detailed how the intervention was reducing Aborigines to "wards of the state" all over again, and taking away control from families and communities instead of empowering them.

Her daughter Raelene Rosas, from the Bulman community gave a defiant speech, refusing to wipe away her tears as she spoke. She recounted how she had returned to learn traditional ways from her grandmother and described the situation of being caught between two cultures.
All were calling for support from the broader community for help in opposing the Howard Government's land grab and its attacks on Aboriginal communities and families.

As local nunga woman Auntie Alice Rigney said, at the end, "We’re going to live the past again - an apartheid system."

Actions were announced for 19 October.

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