Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Labor softens on NT intervention

ABC News has released a report today under the heading Macklin to make 'minor changes' to NT intervention.

Jenny Macklin is the Indigenous Affairs Minister in the new Federal Labor Government in Australia. The NT intervention was the contemptible attempt by the previous Government to roll back Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory under the guise of an emergency response to the abuse of Aboriginal children.

The ABC reports Macklin as saying that the new Labor Government “supports the intervention, but with some minor changes.”

"The number one issue that we've indicated since we were elected that we wanted to add to the intervention is really to bring Indigenous people in the Northern Territory into the process," she said.

“Being brought into the process” sounds suspiciously like being asked whether you’d prefer a bullet or the guillotine.

Aboriginal communities have demanded genuine consultation about the problem of child abuse, and will not be satisfied with “minor changes” that allow the main thrust of the attack on their land rights to stand.

Macklin anticipates a wave of criticism from Aboriginal communities for caving into the pressure of the giant mining and pastoral interests whose interests were really served by the intervention.

She said, "I emphasised to the taskforce that my whole approach in Indigenous affairs will be that based on evidence," she said.

"I'm not interested in ideology, I'm interested in what works."

Fine, but the question is works for whom?

For the people in the remote communities and the abused children, or for the giant mining and pastoral interests who want unfettered access to Aboriginal land?

And since Macklin wants evidence, how about listening to the likes of Rachel Willika of Eva Valley community, whose heartrending account of the effect of quarantining welfare payments is reproduced below. Would Macklin have enjoyed Christmas with her family under such paternalistic and semi-fascist restrictions as those now imposed on Willika and other Aboriginal persons in the NT?


Christmas spirit in the Northern Territory
By Rachel Willika (first left in photo)
15th December, 2008

The children at Eva Valley community had no Christmas presents this year. No Santa Claus, no decorations, no Christmas spirit, nothing.

Christmas Day, we had lunch at the Women's Centre. The Fred Hollows Foundation provided and paid for all the food. It was good food. We had salad, ham, turkey, prawns, Christmas cake, chips, lollies for the children.

We all helped with getting that food ready.It was a quick lunch because a family member had passed away.I don't know why there were no presents this year. In other years, we've had presents. Someone helps us-a local organisation, or someone. But we had no presents this year.

We couldn't buy presents ourselves because that quarantining has come in. We got that store card just before Christmas. That store card is just for Woolworths, Big W, and Caltex. There is no Big W in Katherine, only Target, so we couldn't buy toys. Only little toys that are in Woolworths.We could only buy food with that store card. What about presents, and Christmas decorations and streamers, and stuff like that? Those things are important, too.

You can't choose where to spend your store card. You can only spend it at those places that they say. Woolworths, Big W, Caltex. There's pictures showing on the card. Woolworths, Big W, Caltex.

I got my Target card on January 3. My friend and I were walking around Eva Valley yesterday and we said 'No-one's been listening to us. Nothing has changed'. We've told those intervention people about our worries, but nothing has changed. We want our voices to be heard.

We want a store up and running at Eva Valley, so we don't have to get a taxi to Katherine to buy food. The community bus is broken down and the taxi costs $220 in and $220 back. When we go to town some of us share the cost of that taxi, but it is a lot of money, even when you share the cost.Last Thursday I went to town to get my store card, to buy food. When I went to that Centrelink there was a sign 'There are no store cards in the Katherine office until 1pm today.' Centrelink was running out of store cards. They could only give me a store card for $50 to buy food, and one for $200 for clothing. I've still got $94 that they have to give me for food. Now, I'll have to pay another taxi ride to get back to Katherine to buy food. I think they won't give me a taxi voucher. I'm a bit worried, because they might not have enough store cards again.

There were a lot of people lined up at Centrelink, and some of them were getting upset. They said 'This is no good' and 'I don't like standing in line all day.' Some people had come in from a long way.

One old lady from Beswick said: 'Oh, hurry up. I've got to get my voucher so I can go back and the water might be up over the bridge. I might not be able to get in, if I go back too late.'

There were over 500 or 600 people at Centrelink. They were from Barunga, Beswick, Eva Valley, Walpiri Camp, Gorge Camp, Binjari, Long Grass, some from Hudson's Downs, some from Roper. Some were inside, and some were waiting outside. There was a big, long waiting line. Everyone was complaining about the time. There were only six or seven workers. I counted them.

A lot of people only got a store voucher for a little bit of money, like me. I think maybe some of them didn't get anything. That Centrelink was running out of store cards.

One woman had a problem getting her ID card. You have to have your ID card with you all the time. We got our ID cards from legal aid. We paid $5 to get that card. Centrelink said we had to get our ID card. It has our photo on it. We had to go right back, walk over to legal aid, walk back to Centrelink, wait in line again. At Katherine Centrelink, there is a toilet but it is not in use. Some people have to wander off to find a toilet and they miss out when their names are called. They have to wait in line again.

One young girl from Barunga said: 'I live at Barunga and we don't have access to store cards at our community, even though we've got a store. I have to come all the way to Katherine to get my store card.'

Just before Christmas we were stranded in Katherine. That mini bus driver said 'Wait. I can't travel at night. I'm going to have to take you mob in the morning now.' We were stranded, and we had bought all our food. We didn't know where to sleep. I know that Christian Brother from church, and I saw him, so I asked him 'Can you help us out? Do you have a vehicle that can take us to Eva Valley?' He went to ask his friend and his friend wasn't there. He was on holiday. He said to me 'This is not fair on you. You have to travel a long way. You should talk to your local government, write a letter.' He said 'When you come into town next time, you and me can sit down and write a letter. We can go to that local government together and talk to them.'

This has been a hard Christmas for us at Eva Valley. If people want to help Aboriginal communities have a good Christmas spirit next year they should make a donation through the Fred Hollows Foundation.
Next Christmas I hope we have presents and Santa Claus and a real Christmas spirit.

Rachel Willika lives at Eva Valley, one of the Aboriginal communities prescribed by the Federal Government's intervention in the Northern Territory.

1 comment:

watchdoggie1951 said...

Very well put, my friend ; and yet leaves so much more unsaid.
I too, have made several comments on this issue and many others that affect the Aboriginal people on the whole.
To have a look at our comments, go to

This racially motivated and politically biased Intervention must be halted.