Monday, November 30, 2009

Aboriginal leaders call for big February 13 protest

Aboriginal leaders are calling for a national day of action against the NT intervention and for Aboriginal rights on Saturday February 13 2010.

This is to mark the second anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation.

They intend to state loudly and clearly that “’Sorry’ means you won’t do it again!”

This refers to the fact that the injustices of racism inherent in the creation of the Stolen Generation and revived by the Howard Government’s August 2007 NT intervention, are being repeated by the Government of the Prime Minister who apologised to the Aboriginal people two years ago.

Removing Aboriginal control over Aboriginal communities and subordinating Aboriginal interests to those of giant mining, pastoral and finance companies was at the heart of the intervention.

To justify this craven service to the giant corporations, the Howard government demonised Aboriginal communities as places where “rivers of alcohol” flowed and children were sexually abused.

Indeed, the little children were abused – by the Government – which based its intervention on a report into their circumstances and then ignored the recommendations that arose from the report, implementing only two of ninety-seven.

So what has this extraordinary military-led intervention into NT Aboriginal communities achieved?

What is has not achieved is housing. Not a single house has been built and communities are being told that they will receive no housing until they surrender traditional rights to land and sign 40-year leases.

The discriminatory welfare quarantining or income management, which required the suspension of the NT Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), has only led to greater poverty, social dislocation and community tension.

And yet the Federal Government plans to extend compulsory welfare quarantining to non-Aboriginal Territorians and then to other “areas of social disadvantage” around the country.
This is a desperate act to hide the racist bias of intervention measures and will only end up hurting other poor communities. The expansion of welfare quarantining should be opposed.
The latest Federal Government progress report on the intervention for the first time makes some pre- and post-intervention statistics available for prescribed communities.

Child health care referrals and specialist audiological and dental referrals are down, yet reports of child malnutrition are up. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the restriction of 15,000 BasicsCards holders to 85 licensed stores and $200 million of Aboriginal income being “managed”.

Alcohol, drug and substance abuse incidents are all up, and there are more domestic violence incidents, despite a far greater police presence.

Adding to the tensions is the push to get people out of “remote” (from what? from whom?) homelands and into a handful of centralised “hubs”, and the severe restrictions on the use and teaching of Aboriginal languages.

Aboriginal communities don’t deny that measures are needed to address problems in their communities. But they want to be involved in finding the solutions. They want to be empowered through genuine processes of consultation and decision-making.

“We are fed up with the federal government’s controls and measures...forced onto us from the outside,” said Richard Downs, spokesperson for the Alywarr people at Ampilatwatja who have established a special protest camp. “We are outcasts, isolated from all decision-making,” he added.

But both the Howard and Rudd governments are committed to serving the interests of imperialism and the giant corporations at the heart of its operation.

Still playing “Father knows best”, Rudd has broken his promise to reinstate the NT Racial Discrimination Act by October 2009 and has indicated through Minister Jenny Macklin that even when the Act is reinstated, the provisions that allow for “special measures” to benefit Aboriginal people will be used to continue income management and other discriminatory practices of the intervention.

The planning of actions for February 13 is underway for Alice Springs, Sydney and Melbourne. No doubt actions in other cities will be announced in the near future.

A large number of representatives from NT “prescribed communities” and a wide range of community organisations are endorsing the actions of February 13 2010.

Demands for the protest are :

· Stop the NT intervention – Sorry means you won’t do it again
· Reinstate the RDA - racism is not a special measure
· Land rights, not leases
· Quarantine racism, not welfare
· Self-determination, not assimilation
· Aboriginal controlled housing and services for all communities

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