Opposition growing to racist lawmaking for remote Australian Aboriginal communities


Legislation is currently before the Australian Senate to extend the Northern Territory Emergency Response (often called just The Intervention) in 73 aboriginal indigenous communities for another 10 years. The intervention was instituted in 2007 by the conservative Howard Government claiming it was to stop domestic violence and child abuse in indigenous communities. But others like John Pilger claim it was a land grab, about mining or "smashing Aboriginal organisations, demonising Aboriginal people and forcing migration". It arose from the Northern Territory Government Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. Investigative journalist John Pilger has debunked the reason for The Intervention with statistics saying in 2010: "Out of 7433 Aboriginal children examined by doctors, 39 were referred to the authorities for suspected abuse. Of those, four possible cases have been identified. In other words, as Professor Alastair Nicholson, a former chief justice of the Family Court, has pointed out, this is no more than the rate of child abuse in white Australia."


The Intervention was continued by the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments. Initially supported by some aboriginal spokespeople, the top down intervention included extra policing in aboriginal communities, compulsory income management, compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land, the assertion of extensive powers by the Commonwealth Government over Aboriginal communities, and alcohol and pornography restrictions in prescribed areas. It has been widely criticised as being inefficient, ineffective, has failed to deliver jobs to aboriginal people, racially discriminatory, a denial of fundamental human rights, that won't protect children.


The initial Intervention legislation in 2007 entailed suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act and was strongly opposed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. A 2008 action plan by HREOC to modify the intervention was effectively ignored. In 2009 a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Human Rights, James Anaya, criticised Australia finding the Intervention to be a "racially discriminatory treatment of indigenous individuals and communities" and "incompatible with Australia’s human rights obligations" (PDF report | Video News Report). In February 2012 a group of emminent Australians signed a Statement on Aboriginal Rights (PDF) for ending all discriminatory practices and opposing the extension of the Intervention.


Recent consultations with aboriginal communities for the extension have been flawed and perfunctory at best, as evidenced by the Senate Hearing at Maningrida 22 February 2012 (Video). Indigenous people and communities in the Northern Territory are fighting for their freedom. Seven leaders from aboriginal communities where the NT Intervention is in place said in January 2012 'Enough is enough' in a video Joint Submission to the Senate Committee (video).


Australian Lawyers Alliance, National President, Greg Barns said in a 14th March media release (PDF) “This legislation is racist, oppressive and the product of poorly conducted consultations,” and compared it to Apartheid in South Africa or segregation in the USA. In an opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald he said "In Australia, policy-makers are paying lip service to human rights considerations and repeatedly developing policy that is in breach of international law." The legislation may come under challenge in Australia's High Court.


The Senate Committee charged with reviewing the Stronger Futures Bills on 14th March announced in a majority report it supported the passage of the controversial legislation despite widespread community concern about its coercive measures according to the Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTar) organisation. “Despite strong public opposition, the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee last night delivered a majority report which supported passage of the Stronger Futures bills with only minor amendments.” The Greens Senator on the committee issued a minority report urging the Senate to reject NT Intervention Expansion.


The campaign against this bill has been gathering momentum. Watch this video here on the Stand for Freedom website. Sign the petition which now has over 30,000 signatures. The Government is deliberately ignoring the consultation process in the form of the Senate Committee where communities such as Maningrida expressed their hostility to the bill. The Nygoongar Embassy in Perth has also rejected the bill instead calling for Australia to Pay the Rent.


Related: Stop the NT Intervention | Stand for Freedom | Stand for Freedom Campaign Video | Senate Report | ANTaR Background info on NT intervention

Australia Indymedia Coverage: Stronger futures will kill us: Maningrida | Stand For Freedom on Facebook | Aboriginal Catholic Ministry: Committee report ignores concerns | ANTaR concerned that community support was not obtained | National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission: Stronger Futures or stronger policing | Uniting Church disappointed by Senate report