13 October 2009


                                                  Friday 11 September

In this edition:

- Report of recent actions in Melbourne
-Upcoming events organised by MAIC
- NT government homelands plan
- Macklin housing crisis
- Battle over Alice Springs town camps
- UN Rapportuer James Anaya's report
- Ampilatwatja walk-off request for support

Recent activities against the Intervention in Melbourne
Barbara Shaw court case:
On Friday August 28 a dozen protesters came together in front of the Federal Court in Melbourne to support and show solidarity with Barbara Shaw in her attempt to prevent Macklin taking over the Alice Springs town camps or signing leases over the land. The protest was important in showing that town campers are not alone in their struggle to maintain rights over their land. The court case was successful in stalling the take over the town camps: the judge ruled that no deals can me made over the town camps until a decision is ruled after another sitting which will not be until October. The fight over the town camps continues and we will be there again to protest the blackmailing of the town camps and support those resisting the take over.
Jenny Macklin protest:
On Friday 4 September a protest was held by the Melbourne Anti-Collective to protest against Minister for Inidigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin. Macklin has been under increasing pressure over the failure of the Intervention to deliver a single house to an Aboriginal family and over her blackmailing of the Alice Springs town camps. Macklin was speaking at the Fabian Annual Dinner where she was to be congratulated for her work in Aboriginal communities. Around two dozen Aboriginal rights protesters argued loudly that she should be condemned for her work against Aboriginal communities and forced the Minister to sneak in a back door.
Solidarity fundraiser:
On Saturday 5 September the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective held 'Uprising: Aboriginal Solidarity Fundraiser' at the Horn in Collingwood. Around eighty people turned out throughout the night to enjoy the live reggae music and dj's, show solidarity with those resisting the Intervention, and donate to the upcoming speaking tour of Richard Downs and Harry Nelson. A painting by prominent anti-Intervention activist Barbara Shaw was also raffled to raise money for the Aboriginal solidarity gathering to be held in November in Alice Springs.

Upcoming events organised by Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective

Speaking Tour of Richard Downs
and Harry Nelson
In mid-October we are fortunate to have two leading activists from central Australian Aboriginal communities visiting Melbourne. Richard Downs is from the community of Ampilatwaja, who walked off their community in mid-July in protest at Government neglect, and who are maintaining a protest camp near an old bore on their lands. Harry Nelson is a leading activist from Yuendumu, a community that has consistently and forcefully spoken up against the Northern
Territory Intervention.
On Friday 16 October at 6pm Harry Nelson and Richard Downs will be speaking alongside local Abooriginal activist Robbie Thorpe at MAYSAR 184-6 Gertrude St Fitzroy. It is the conclusion of meetings at Melbourn University on Wednesday 14th, Monash on Thursday 15th and with trade unions on Friday day.

Stop the Homelands Plan!
The Northern Territory Government's Working Futures policy launched may this year is one of the most overtly racist and assimilationist policie to come out of the Intervention which began over two years ago. It is an open battle between Aboriginal self-determination and forced assimilation into colonial society. It is the continuation of the genocidal project of destroying Aboriginal people and culture that began in 1788.
Working Futures freezes any new funding to over 600 homeland communities with the stated and clear intention of shifting Aboriginal people off homelands into 'hub' communities where they will have the opportunity to live 'mainstream' lives. The twenty 'hub' communities to receive funding under the policy have worse living conditions and social indicators than in the homeland communities. Report after report has shown people are healthier on homelands. Suicide rates are low on homelands but an epedemic in the towns people are being forced to move.
Another element of this assimilationist project is the attack on bi-lingual education. Teaching in Indigenous language is to be severely restricted, apparently to improve education outcomes. However, the few bi-lingual schools that do exist have had higher attendance rates and better outcomes in English than other remote schools. This is a policy with no respect for the right of Aboriginal children to be educated in their first language and with no evidence to support it.
The move to strenghthen language and culture was central to the homeland movement which began in the 1970s as a response to the failure of assimilationist policies. Aboriginal people have continued to move to homeland communities since the 1970s as it is where self-determination
is practised, albeit on meagre funding. Self-determination for Indigenous people is one of the most stressed elements of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which Australia has now signed, not just because of human rights discourse, but because it is recognised as essential to indigenous people enjoying a quality life.
Resistance to Working Futures has continued to grow with a strong movement based in the homelands now spreading around Australia. The Get Up campaign has been central to raising support. Almost 30,000 people have signed the Get Up petition for increased funding to homelands, and this week a delegation of Indigenous leaders from homelands travelled to Canberra to meet with key policiticans.
By Joe Lorback
Jenny Macklin, minister for Indigenous affairs says she is committed to Aboriginal housing and closing the gap, but the deeply racist motivations behind the NT intervention and her housing policies have been well and truly exposed.
Macklin is using the intervention policies to sever Aboriginal control over housing and to squander millions of dollars that were intended for desperately needed building and repairs on undisclosed “administrative costs”.
The “economically viable” Aboriginal communities in the NT were told that the 5 year leases suspending aboriginal community control, rolled out at the start of the intervention were not enough to supply adequate housing.
Tangentyere council, the severely underfunded organisation providing housing and basic services to the Town Camps of Alice Springs, refused to sign away control and sign away housing stock to the consistently discriminatory and distrusted “NT Housing”. In May this year Macklin announced her intentions to compulsorily and permanently acquire the Town Camps of Alice Springs.
She has run into strong opposition. Anti-Intervention groups across Australia held demonstrations on the anniversary of the intervention in defense of Tangetyere's right to adequate funding, community control and self determination. Activist groups published a letter in The Australian in support of Tangentyere's strong stance of refusing to be held ransom for the basic services. Barbara Shaw and other Alice Springs Town Campers have issued legal injunctions to halt the process on the grounds that no consultation had occurred with the residents of Tangentyere.
Even where leases have been signed, housing has not followed. The official review into the intervention unsurprisingly found that where community control is denied, damage, disaffection, and disempowerment follows, and millions of dollars are wasted on ineffective projects.
The $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) is case in point. Multinational construction consortiums like Parsons-Brinkerhoff (who has made millions in Iraq reconstructions) have contracts under SIHIP to build houses in the wake of the roll out of the Intervention. But to Macklin's and erstwhile NT Indigenous Affairs minister Alison Anderson's embarrassment, it has been revealed that SIHIP has failed to build a single house in 18 months.
By Lucy Honan

The Fight Over the Alice Springs Town Camps

A group of Aboriginal residents in Alice Springs town camps, led by Barbara Shaw, whose current tenancy arrangements are under threat by the Commonwealth Government have initiated proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia in an effort to protect to their current rights and interests.
For over 12 months, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, has been negotiating with the Tangentyere Council over the investment of significant funding for housing and infrastructure upgrades in the town camps. Tangentyere Council is the Aboriginal representative body for the Alice Springs town camps. ·
During the course of the negotiations, the Minister has been proposing to take 40-year sub-leases over each of the town camps by which the Commonwealth would obtain ‘secure land tenure’. The Minister has maintained that the Government will not invest any funding on housing unless it has control over the town camps. Negotiations between the Minister and Tangentyere have broken down over the question of tenancy management and decision making powers under the proposed arrangements, with the Aboriginal residents maintaining that they wish to preserve their right of self‑determination and rights and interests over the land.
On 24 May 2009, the Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government was commencing the process of compulsory acquisition of the Alice Springs Town Camps, citing the failure of negotiations with the Tangentyere Council. The power to compulsorily acquire the town camps is pursuant to powers granted under the Northern Territory Intervention. The Minister set a deadline of 28 July 2009 for Tangentyere Council to agree to the proposed 40-years sub-leases, or else she would take steps to compulsorily acquire the town camps.
On 29 July 2009, Tangentyere Council indicated to the Minister that it was prepared to enter into the sub-leases because the only other alternative was that their land would be compulsorily acquired.
As a result, the group of town camp residents initiated two proceedings in the Federal Court in order to protect their current tenancy rights and interests. On 6 August 2009, the town camp residents obtained injunctions, which prevented the Minister from entering into the proposed 40‑year sub-leases and also from exercising her powers under s 47 of the NTNER Act to compulsorily acquire the town camps.
A full hearing of the case took place on 31 August and 1 September 2009 before Justice Mansfield. The primary questions before the Court are whether the Alice Springs town camp residents have been afforded natural justice obligations under the Minister’s notice to compulsorily the land, and whether entering into the proposed 40-year sub-leases is contrary to the interests of the members of the housing associations.
By Barbara Shaw and Ben Schockman

Analysis of the battle over the town camps:
Whatever governments call it - extermination, protection, relocation, assimilation, integration, self-determination, intervention - they want to control the land. Land may be life to the people, its money to them.
Barbara Shaw et al v. Jenny Macklin is not a fair fight. For a start, the contest is between the first people and the occupying power, the Federal and N.T. governments. It’s long odds. When those governments make the rules, the odds lengthen. And when the venue is the law court set up and staffed by those governments, the chance of coming out on top is very slim.
Yet a Federal Court Judge at the beginning of August stopped Jenny Macklin from using the power she has under the intervention law John Howard made. Macklin’s plan to seize community land around Alice Springs either for 40 years, or forever, was stopped until August 31, 2009, for a matter of weeks. The judge reckoned that the government had not adequately informed the residents that the takeover of leases would mean the loss of their rights as tenants. He also said just because the government has the power to seize land by force, doesn’t mean it can do it without providing ‘natural justice and procedural fairness’.
The leases the communities hold are perpetual ones - the land is theirs forever. Or that’s what people thought at the start of the 80’s after the leases were finally granted. That was the victory after a long, hard fight for land rights and for control of their lives and communities. But the battle couldn’t stop. Even 30 years ago the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Construction didn’t want to consider the design and layout of the houses the residents wanted. The people wanted houses in groups not lines, each group separated by trees. Social relations were as important as shelter. But the Department report said it clearly:
So long as traditional aboriginal groups place inter and intra family relationships, communications, responsibilities etc. above European style pride in possessions, there will be little [DHC] motivation towards construction and maintenance of houses.
By 2009 that lack of motivation of government departments is obvious. Yet even after years of government neglect and denial of resources, doing their best with what they had, representatives of the residents were reluctant to sign away, for 40 years, control over what they had fought for. There was no clear agreement about what control the residents or the housing associations would have left over their lives and their land, or when, if ever, the leases would be returned.
So September 1 came around and it was on again in the Federal Court, those listening on the people’s side knowing that its justice is anything but natural and the procedures never fair.
The lawyer for the Federal government said if Jenny Macklin’s actions weren’t just or fair before, they were now, or they would be if she were given the control she wanted. Residents had been ‘properly notified’ of the changes. Handfuls of leaflets in English had now been delivered to one person in each camp. None, by the way, were written in any of the five languages spoken by the residents.
The lawyer for Tangentyere Council, which represents the housing associations of each town camp, said the 40-year lease agreement already signed by the council was what the housing associations wanted. They couldn’t countenance losing the land forever. He called the choice given to them by Jenny Macklin as Hobson’s choice, Sophie’s choice, no choice. The decision to sign away the leases for 40 years had been made already. Under that agreement the N.T. government’s housing department would issue fixed term tenancies to individuals for up to five years with the power to cancel them at up to 42 days notice.
Most of the people living around Alice in the 60’s were there because of government polices. Extinction, protection, relocation, assimilation – the result was many people from many places with different languages had been forced to live on the fringes of the town. During the land rights campaigns, there were big meetings of people talking in 5 or 6 languages. No English was spoken. No whitefellers were present. Agreement was reached as to where people could live in relation to where they came from. And the town camp communities were established in the land law of Aboriginal society. The people could live on the land as permanent tenants.
Very soon, the Federal Court judge will give his final decision. It will be at best a stay of execution, at worst, an execution date. To stop the execution will take a fight outside their courts, on the land itself. Justice will be delivered by just us.
Since July 2007, relocation, killing language, stealing children, controlling income have all been justified under the NTER legislation as being for the good of the people. The intervention is the invasion continued. It has to stop.
By Tanya McConvell

Excerpts from Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, as he concludes his visit to Australia, 27 August 2009.
During my time in Australia, I have been impressed with demonstrations of strong and vibrant indigenous cultures and have been inspired by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move toward a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism. It is clear that these historical forces continue to make their presence known today, manifesting themselves in serious disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous parts of society, including in terms of life expectancy, basic health, education, unemployment, incarceration, children placed under care and protection orders, and access to basic services.
Aspects of the Government’s initiatives to remedy situations of indigenous disadvantage, however, raise concerns. Of particular concern is the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which by the Government’s own account is an extraordinary measure, especially in its income management regime, imposition of compulsory leases, and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography. These measures overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities.
However, any such measure must be devised and carried out with due regard of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to be free from racial discrimination and indignity. In this connection, any special measure that infringes on the basic rights of indigenous peoples must be narrowly tailored, proportional, and necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives being pursued. In my view, the Northern Territory Emergency Response is not. In my opinion, as currently configured and carried out, the Emergency Response is incompatible with Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties to which Australia is a party, as well as incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia has affirmed its support.
Given what I have learned thus far, it would seem to me that the objectives of the closing the gap campaign, the Emergency Response, and other current initiatives and proposed efforts of the Government will be best achieved in partnership with indigenous peoples’ own institutions and decision-making bodies, which are those that are most familiar with the local situations.
It is worth stressing that during my visit, I have observed numerous successful indigenous programmes already in place to address issues of alcoholism, domestic violence, health, education, and other areas of concern, in ways that are culturally appropriate and adapted to local needs, and these efforts need to be included in and supported by the Government response, both logistically and financially.
In addition, international human rights norms, including those contained in the United Nations Declaration, affirmatively guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to participate fully at all levels of decision making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies, as well as to maintain and develop their own decision-making institutions and programmes. Further, adequate options and alternatives for socio-economic development and violence prevention programmes should be developed in full consultation with affected indigenous communities and organisations.
Furthermore, it is important to note that securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socioeconomic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity.
Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands and resources should be made... initiatives to address the housing needs of indigenous peoples, should avoid imposing leasing or other arrangements that would undermine indigenous peoples’ control over their lands.
Stop the NT Intervention
Support the
Ampilatwatja walk off!

Dear Trade Unionists and supporters of Aboriginal rights,
We’re writing to you from our protest camp in the desert, asking for your support in our struggle for basic services and rights that many in the cities take for granted.
On July 14 we, elders from the Ampilatwaja community, three hours north-east of Alice
Springs, walked out of our houses and set up camp in the bush. We are fed up with the federal governments Northern Territory Intervention, controls and measures, visions and goals forced onto us from outside. We felt we were an outcaste and isolated from all decision making – there has been no meaningful consultation.
We had been waiting with patience to see where this Intervention was heading, hoping there maybe some humanity and compassion towards our Indigenous people, some respect to bring us back into the discussion process to have a say in what is happening on our community. Instead our leaders and elders are treated with contempt, shown no respect, degraded, treated as lower class outsiders.
The NT Intervention hasn’t brought any improvements to our people’s lives. It hasn’t brought us any new houses. And, despite the fact that in Ampilatwatja, many of us are living in tin sheds with leaking sewerage, Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin has told us Ampilatwatja won’t be one of the communities to get new houses built.
Instead, the NT Intervention has meant more hardship and shame for our people. We’re suffering under the welfare quarantining system- 50% of Aboriginal people’s welfare payment is converted into Basics cards, which we can only use at certain shops. Elders who have gone through earlier welfare days are feeling degraded - it’s same old ration days of, flour, tea and sugar and some clothing.
We have written to Jenny Macklin with our concerns, and she has ignored us. A recent Intervention “consultation” session was an embarrassment, with our concerns being completely ignored. We no longer have confidence in her, her government, or the government business managers (GBMs) installed in our communities as part of the Intervention. Under the GBM, our community fell into disarray and dysfunction. For us, the last straw was when the government took over our independent, community-controlled store.
Community members are living permanently at the protest camp
We therefore have no intention of going back there. We intend to stay here until our
demands are met. We demand the federal government:
- Stop the NT Intervention
- Genuinely consult with us on any plans that
will affect our lives now and for the future
- Reinstate the full Racial Discrimination Act
without conditions or measures
- Fund housing and community development,
not intervention
- Stop the compulsory five-year leases and
restore Aboriginal land rights
Until these demands are met, we are asking for the help of trade unions and any other
organisations to establish and maintain our new camp.
We seek your assistance in obtaining:
- $20000 to get a bore running so we have drinking
water at the camp
- $10000 to set up toilets and showers
- Tents to provide shelter for the elders and
families. We need 10 and they are $250 each
- Money and donations of food
- A long-term loan/donation of a marquee, chairs and table for and open day and public meeting we are planning.
Through our own savings and community grants we are currently able to contribute $8000 towards these costs. For the remainder, we will be relying on the generosity of supporters around the country.
If you make a donation, or to find out more please contact Richard Downs, Alyawarr language group
Email: spiritualdesert@yahoo.com.au
Phone: 0428 611 169

From 14th -16th October Central Australian Aboriginal leaders Richard Downs and Harry Nelson will be speaking around Melbourne on the effects of the NTER legislation, the resistance to the Northern Territory Intervention and the Ampilatwatja protest camp. The protest camp was formed in mid-July in protest against the continuation of the Intervention by the Rudd Government and inspired other communities to discuss taking similar action. Richard Downs is the spokesperson for the Ampilatwatja protest camp and is touring the country to raise awareness and seek support for the camp. Harry Nelson is an elder and leader from Yuendumu a community that has consistenly spoken out against the Intervention.
The Tour in Melbourne:
Wednesday 14 October at 1pm
  • Melbourne University Student Union, Joe Nap B
Thursday 15 October 1pm
    • Monash University (Clayton), venue to be confirmed
Friday 16 October 6pm
  • MAYSAR 184-186 Gertrude St Fitzroy
  • This is the conclusion of the speaking tour in Melbourne and will also be featuring local Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe
Pictured: Ampilatwatja community members living at protest camp