Gurindji leaders are saying that the closure of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), local government reforms and the seizure of land and assets under the Intervention have had a devastating impact on the community. The Labor government promised to phase out remaining CDEP programs and transition Aboriginal workers into ‘real jobs’ but instead hundreds have been forced onto income management and local services are struggling or have collapsed.
Dagaragu is the site of the original Wave Hill walk-off, where Gurindji stockman went on strike against Vesty’s station to fight for equal wages and the return of traditional homelands. The Gurindji people have a proud history of standing up for Aboriginal rights. They say that since the Intervention these hard won rights have been stripped away.
Protest spokesperson John Leemans says the community is sick of being bullied by the government and wants control of local employment, housing programs and Aboriginal Land handed back to the community:
“Prior to the Intervention we had nearly 300 CDEP workers employed in municipal services, construction and maintenance roles. When the government took over and abolished the community council and CDEP everything came to a halt. We went two years without regular rubbish collection because the truck was seized. Houses and buildings are in desperate need of repair but there’s no funding for workers or materials.”
“If you go out to Dagaragu you’ll see the evidence these cuts have had on our people. Everything we built has gone - the old CDEP office, the brick making shed, the nursery, the health clinic, the old family centre. Soon we may lose the bakery. Houses that are now under Territory Housing control are overcrowded and falling apart. The damage is just overwhelming.”
“We now we have around 40 workers left on CDEP and training programs. Many are working 35 hour weeks but under the new laws they’re working for nothing but a Centrelink payment. It’s worse than working for the dole, because half goes onto the BasicCard and can only be spent at approved stores. History is being repeated here, with our people forced to work for rations again.”
Representatives from trade unions and residents of neighbouring communities will join with the Gurindji people on October 20th.
Many Gurindji will also travel to Alice Springs to join national rallies on October 29th calling for ‘Jobs with Justice’ for Aboriginal workers and an end to the Intervention. These protests are being supported by numerous organisation including Unions NT, the CFMEU, Tangentyere Council and the National Association of Community Legal Centres.
“The government has got to listen to the Australian people, the churches, the unions, the UN. Everybody around the world is condemning this intervention and the government can’t ignore the world. They have to demolish this law”, concluded Mr Leemans. The protest will begin outside the store at Kalkaringi at 11am on Wednesday October 20
John Leemans on 0438 345 155