Australia: From The Holocaust to Recolonization of Aboriginal People
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International Day of Action, November 17th
Image depicts Australian Federal Parliament flagpole atop Uluru
In June this year, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, announced that there would be a ‘National Emergency Response’ to combat child abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The measures announced included the quarantining of half of all welfare payments, the abolition of the Community Development Employment Program, the appointment of managers for 73 prescribed communities, compulsory sexual health examinations of children, and the abolition of the permit system, amongst other things.
These measures are a violation of human rights, and is obviously racist and authoritarian. The passage of the Emergency Response legislation is dependent on the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the Northern Territory Native Title Act. Federal police and the military have been sent into the NT to enforce these measures.
Aboriginal people that work through the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) manage their own wages and money. Abolishing CDEP will push people onto welfare and the welfare income management system that allows for quarantining and tight control of how people’s money is spent. Many people running businesses on CDEP in remote outstations are already being forced to move into larger regional towns. The extraordinary measures give the Federal Government power to seize lands and property without compensation. The owners of those lands and properties have no right of appeal. Lands will be leased for five years, but the government has plans to extend these measures for 99 years. It is entirely up to ministerial discretion whether rent is paid on those lands or not.
The Federal Government has appointed non-Indigenous business managers to the ‘prescribed’ communities. These managers have the power to decide who lives in a community and who must leave; they can observe any meeting of an organisation working at the community, they can change any local programme. Many Aboriginal communities consider these measures, often being administered by under-prepared military personnel, as an invasion rather than an intervention.
These measures return Aboriginal people to the days of mission stations, where life was tightly controlled by authoritarian managers. It is a return to times of colonial control on Aboriginal life, and the complete absence of any autonomy or self-determination. The removal of basic property rights as enjoyed by all other Australians, with the abolition of the permit system, is a gross violation of human rights. Even the Northern Territory police oppose this measure, for the likely adverse effect it will have on crime.
Some $570 million is being spent on these measures. Half of that money will be spent on the salaries of 700 new bureaucratic positions created to regulate this intervention. $88 million will be spent on measures to control the incomes of Aboriginal people on any government payment (including aged pensions and veterans payments).
This is an insult to the hard work of Aboriginal people who have been campaigning for basic services in remote communities. Roads, schools, health care, housing and social services are desperately needed by these communities. It is estimated that the housing backlog alone for Northern Territory Aboriginal communities is half a billion dollars. Moreover, with the publication of the Closing the Gap report by Oxfam earlier this year, it has been shown that Indigenous life expectancy is 17 years below that of non-Indigenous life expectancy.
A week and a half ago, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the Federal election for November 24th.
This came shortly after Australia voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (along with Canada, New Zealand and the USA).
It is time to stand up for justice for Indigenous peoples everywhere, to demand either a change of policy, or a change of government!
One week before the Australian Federal election, on November 17th, various groups across Australia will be taking action to show opposition to the Federal government’s intervention into the Northern Territory. We hope that those outside Australia will join us in calling for an end to this government, an end to racist, colonialist policies towards Indigenous people, and support for the strong self-determination that Indigenous people demonstrate every day.
With allegations that the Australian Federal government is manipulating international media about the intervention, it is vitally important that information about the intervention and views of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory are widely disseminated through social justice networks. Please use your community and activist media to promote the interests of Indigenous Australians, and Indigenous people worldwide!
National Aboriginal Alliance: nationalaboriginalalliance.org/
Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory – alternative to the government’s Emergency Response:
Women for Wik: womenforwik.org/
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation: antar.org.au/
Koori Mail: koorimail.com/
Things you can do:
1. Organise a protest outside the Australian Consulate in your nearest city. Make it clear that the Howard government’s shameful opportunism on human rights is gathering international criticism.
2. Donate to the National Aboriginal Alliance.
3. Spread the news of this horrendous violation of human rights to as many people as possible. Write an article about it, post to your blog about it, send the news to your friends via email. Encourage your friends to speak out about it as well.
4. If you are part of a political organisation, collective, or group, please send your words of solidarity and support to the National Aboriginal Alliance. Send messages of solidarity to: secretariat at nationalaboriginalalliance dot org.
5. Write letters to Mal Brough, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, or John Howard. You can find guidelines here: http://www.antar.org.au/action/current_actions/