NT intervention: dismantling self-determination


“A structural revolution in the Northern Territory is dismantling the whole infrastructure of self-determination”, Australian Workers Union national legal officer Zoe Angus said on November 15.

Along with Sean Marshall from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), Angus was reporting back on a recent trade union delegation to investigate working conditions for Aboriginal people living under the NT intervention. She spoke at a public meeting organised by the Stop the Intervention Collective, Sydney.

Angus identified three main aspects of the intervention that are particularly undermining Aboriginal self-determination: the forced conversion of freehold and native title to government leases; the removal of Aboriginal decision-making, asset-management and control (the intervention dismissed community councils and imposed non-Aboriginal “government business managers” to oversee the running of communities); and the conversion of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) to work-for-the-dole programs.

“Where once (under the old CDEP), a person was an employee, they’re now a welfare recipient. In the context of the NT that means 100% unemployment of Aboriginal people now”, Angus said.

Under the changes to CDEP, Aboriginal workers get no more than the dole — and half of that is paid not in cash but onto a Basics Card, which can be used only on certain items at certain stores.

Marshall said the delegation, organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and led by ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence, would now work with the Indigenous Committee to develop new Aboriginal worker policy.

Angus admitted she had been ambivalent about the NT intervention, having heard the about the squalor and child abuse outlined in the 2007 Little Children are Sacred report, used by the then Coalition government to launch the intervention.

“I was under the impression the intervention was consistent with that report”, she said. “Within 24 hours [of being on the delegation] it was obvious I’d been duped. The intervention bares no resemblance to the 80 recommendations of the report.”


Zoe Angus needs to check her facts before she spouts misinformation about the NT Intervention at public meetings. The facts are: 1. The Intervention did not remove Aboriginal decision-making, asset-management and control. The NT Government did most of this, to the extent that it has actually occurred. 2. The intervention did not dismiss community councils; the Northern Territory Government did this a year after the Federal Government introduced the NTER. The NTG had been planning this move for several years before Mal Brough became Minister or thought about an Intervention. 3. Not all Government Business Managers are non-Aboriginal. 4. The new Shires, not the Government Business Managers, oversee the running of communities. 5. The changes to the CDEPs have not led to 100% unemployment of Aboriginal people. There are many thousands of Aboriginal people in full-time and part-time employment in the NT, and there are many jobs available to unemployed Aboriginal people in the NT. These jobs are quite separate to the CDEPs. There are other inaccuracies in Murphy's article concerning details of the CDEPs and IM.
@ bob durnan a terrible atempt at demonisation. you really are a racist, regardless of which government is at fault the fact is its racist and wrong, I would never put my name on a defense of the government when world history is going to show how sic Australians really are, and you putting your name their is identifying your family as part of the Australian racist collective. and yes we know they have been planning to aquire Aboriginal land for a long time, the problem is they told lies to get what they wanted. brings new meaning to WHITE LIE