Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Anniversary of NT Land Grab

The first anniversary of the Howard Government’s so-called Northern Territory “intervention” falls on June 21.

We condemned the intervention at the time for professing to be motivated by the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children whilst in reality being an attempt to roll back the Northern Territory Land Rights Act and open Aboriginal lands up to the mining industry.

According to a weekly progress report on the Northern Territory Intervention leaked to an independent news source yesterday, only 63% of children in remote communities have received health checks promised under the “intervention”, and despite Howard's promise that all government funded computers would be audited for pornography, no computer audits have been carried out as yet.

The document also reveals that Centrelink has received approximately 40 Ombudsman's complaints, mostly around problems concerning the IM (income management) process. Under the IM scheme, welfare payments to Aboriginal Territorians were to be transferred to controlled accounts and substituted for food and clothing vouchers. Sources in the NT state that the cost of income management alone is currently running at $3000 per person per annum — to manage average welfare payments of around $10,000 per recipient. The documents point out that there are around 10,500 people under income management.

According to Mitch, an Eastern Arrernte/Luritja representative from Alice Springs, “Kevin Rudd has said his apology will contain an affirmation never to repeat past wrongs, but this is precisely what his government is doing rolling out Howard’s intervention. He is continuing the genocidal policy of the Stolen Generations and the Howard years.“We are back to ’flour, tea and tobacco days’, being forced to work and jump through hoops for ration vouchers. Centrelink is not providing proper services for remote communities so there has been a mass exodus of our young people. My brothers have been forced into town to look for work.”

Being “forced into town” in the context of the vast Australian outback means leaving the traditional lands for which one’s community acts as custodian and travelling sometimes many hundreds of kilometres into Alice Springs or other NT towns.

Lyle Cooper, a Health clinic worker and President of Bagot Town Camp adds in reference to the new Federal government’s apology to the Aboriginal stolen generations: “I thank you Prime Minister Rudd for your apology…(but) it's an invasion all over again. We are being told where to shop, what to eat, how to act and how to live.”

People of goodwill, progressive organisations, unions and churches have come together with Aboriginal organisations form the NT to call for the repeal of the NT “intervention”, and for real action in consultation with Aboriginal communities to implement the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred report behind which the previous government disguised its land grab.

The following motion was endorsed unanimously by all divisions of theConstruction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) at their NationalBi-annual Conference at Brighton Beach Sydney, 22/2/08:

"That the CFMEU demand the immediate repeal of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Legislation; we further demand that Federal, State and Territory Governments sit down and enter into respectful dialogue with Aboriginal people in their communities and then act alongside and in support of Aboriginal people in keeping with the "Little Children are Sacred" report."

The Northern Synod of the Anglican Church called on the Australian Government to enter into a real partnership with indigenous people in the Northern Territory by enacting legislation that upholds human rights, affirms self-determination and enhances the capacity of individuals and communities to contribute to solving issues of concern within their own lives. Part of a motion carried by the Synod reads:

“Therefore we believe that the Government shoulda) repeal the NT Emergency Response Act 2007; andb) start afresh through consultative processes to develop a range of responses that directly address the recommendations of the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ Report.”

This Saturday, thousands of people around the continent will gather in support of indigenous sovereignty, self-determination and justice, demanding an end to the NT Intervention. They will demand:
- Repeal all "NT intervention" legislation
- Restore the Racial Discrimination Act
- Fund infrastructure and community controlled services
- Sign and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Affairs

To the shame of the social-democratic Australian Labor Government, it is continuing to carry out the wishes of the imperialists in dismantling Land Rights in the Northern Territory.

Only a genuinely independent Australian nation, led by the working class in a republic based on a new Eureka-inspired Constitution, through a Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, can properly defend Aboriginal rights and give effect to genuine reconciliation and hope for the future.

In the meantime, we rally and march and continue to fight!

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