In the final months of government, John Howard introduced a package of discriminatory, unfair and punative measures against Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Aimed at controlling Aboriginal lives and land, the legislation was a stark violation of basic human rights and dignities.
Federal Labor is promising a new era in Aboriginal affairs. They are pledging to say sorry to the stolen generation and to sign the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. They have promised to restore both the CDEP (Community Development and Employment Program) and the permit system, which will ameliorate some of the worst effects of the NT intervention.
Unfortunately there are aspects of ALP policy that is still disturbingly similar to the Liberals. Plainly discriminatory measures such as mandatory welfare quarantines, compulsory land acquisition and the presence of non-Aboriginal "business managers" with extraordinary powers are being suffered under right now.
There has been no move to allow the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The cry for immediate review of the legislation coming from across the NT has been ignored.
The Labor Government must comply with accepted international human rights laws and standards of non discrimination, equality , natural justice and procedural fairness. Legislation being implemented in the NT breaches commitments Australia has made as a signatory to major human rights treaties and conventions; such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Human Rights Commission must immediately review the legislation to ensure compliance with these obligations.The federal election revealed overwhelming opposition to the intervention among Aboriginal communities. When Labor MP's in affected areas emphasised political differences to the Coalition they consistently received over 80% of the vote; with 95% in the town of Wadeye.
Despite government claims that the intervention is a response to the Anderson & Wild "Little Children are Sacred" report, no new community-based services to ensure the safety and protection of children have been established, and there has been a notable duplication of services - particularly in the area of child health checks.
There is an urgent need for delivery of essential services, infrastructure and programs genuinely targeted at improving the safety and well being of children and developed in consultation with communities. Huge amounts of public money have been wasted, with $88 million alone going towards bureaucrats to control Aboriginal welfare.
A vibrant, mass convergence Canberra on the first day of parliament will be an important step in challenging the lingering legacy of Howard's racism. We can strongly push for an immediate end to what Aboriginal communities have themselves described as an invasion. We can send a strong signal to Kevin Rudd and his new government to put Aboriginal rights at the centre of their agenda; to massively increase the resources available to communities across Australia and to respect Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs.
Initiated by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition,
SydneyContact: Shane Phillips 0414077631 Greg Eatock 0432050240
Endorsements from Aboriginal activists include:
Olga Havnen (Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the NT)
Barbara Shaw (Tangentyere council, Alice Springs)
Lez Malezer (Chairman, Global Indigenous People's Caucus UN, Foundation Aboriginal Islander Rights Association)
Jackie Katona (CEO of Lumbu Indigenous Community Foundation, Djok clan)
Michael Mansell (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre)
Sam Watson (Brisbane)
Mitch (Eastern Arrernte/Luritja activist from Alice Springs)
Robbie Thorpe (Melbourne)
Phil Falk (Senior Lecturer School of Law, Griffith Uni, Wiradjuri nation)
Linda Murphy (Lecturer, School of Arts, Griffith Uni)
Sandra Phillips (QUT) Nicole Watson (Jumbunna, Sydney) Heidi Norman (UTS)
Victor Hardt (Oodgeroo, QUT)
Shane Phillips (Redfern)
Peta Ridgeway (Newcastle)
Arthur Ridgeway (Newcastle)
Greg Eatock (Coordinator Deaths in Custody Campaign, Sydney)
Pat Eatock (Secretary, First Aboriginal Tent Embassy)
Supportive Organisations include:
Women for Wik, Indigenous Social Justice Association, Aboriginal Rights Coalition (Sydney)Intervention Reform Coalition (Darwin)
Intervention Rollback Working Group (Alice Springs)
Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Canberra)