By Hamish Chitts
The Northern Territory Emergency Response legislation, commonly referred to as the NT Intervention, is a prime example of the ALP’s and Coalition’s bipartisan approach to racism. Initiated by the Howard government months before it lost the 2007 election, the intervention was readily continued by the Labor government. It has proved to be what Aboriginal people and their supporters feared — a racist attack on Aboriginal self-determination and a land grab.
Artwork by Van Rudd
The Defending Indigenous Rights Conference, held in Alice Springs from July 6-9, has called on all political parties to abolish the NT intervention laws and return rights of self-determination and restore Aboriginal control over traditional lands, including remote communities, homelands, and town camps. The conference passed five resolutions:
- Women’s statement. The women’s statement challenged Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin’s consistent distortions that women support income management and the intervention. “This is not the truth”, the statement said. “Income management, cuts to the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP), the bi-lingual education ban in schools, compulsory five-year leases over our land and housing — all these measures are taking away our control over our lives and our communities. Your legal discrimination against us has given a licence to racists to abuse us in the street, in supermarkets and to attack our kids at school.”
- Worse than Work Choices: Exploitation of Aboriginal workers must stop! Jobs with justice now! Under the new CDEP, Aboriginal people no longer receive wages. They are being forced to work providing vital services such as rubbish collection, school bus runs, sewerage maintenance, construction and aged care in exchange for quarantined Centrelink payments.
- No to radioactive racism! The NT intervention, NT government’s “Working Futures” and other paternalistic policies are stripping communities of funding and resources and pushing traditional owners and communities to consider high impact projects like uranium mines and nuclear waste dumps in exchange for essential services which are basic human rights.
- Defend Aboriginal languages — Scrap the bi-lingual education ban. The government is denying Aboriginal people their identity and culture through the bi-lingual education ban.
- Indigenous media and media representation. The conference condemned the pro-intervention editorial line pushed in the current National Indigenous Times to gain access to government funding. It called for a boycott of the National Indigenous Times while this sell-out strategy continues and supported efforts by former NIT staff to establish alternative forums for news and critical analysis of Indigenous issues.