Aboriginal speakers lashed out against the Labor government’s five-year Northern Territory intervention at a forum organised by Arena Magazine on June 21.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a former mayor of Barkly shire in the Northern Territory, said: “A lot of us are going through severe trauma. We live in terror of our language, ceremonies and land being taken away.”
She drew parallels between her people’s current nightmare and that faced by the Jews during the Holocaust of World War II.
Dr Gary Foley, who chaired the event, said the role of Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin was a “significant portion of the problem”. His said his goal for the night was to raise awareness about the intervention.
Barbara Shaw, a descendant of the Kaytetye, Arrernte, Waripiri and Warumungu people, described how her community was taken by surprise at the start of the 2007 intervention. “Newspapers are not delivered here ... we were rounded up into a basketball stadium, and told the new laws.”
She said: “Since the intervention, unemployment is increasing and more young people are going to jail. The future will not be better under these bills. We want to be treated equally, and stand proud as Aboriginal people. We are the ones with the solutions to the problems facing us today.”
Jon Altman, a fellow at the Australian National University Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research said 80% of Indigenous adults in the NT were on government support. “It is destructive of Aboriginal societies with only one end game: assimilation.”
Les Malzer, co-chairperson of the National Congress of Australian first peoples, said it was time to “stand up and fight for people’s rights”. He asked people to scrutinise the original intervention laws that “legislated away rights [of] the people of the NT in particular”.
Malzer drew links with other indigenous groups facing discrimination around the world. He said Australia continues to discriminate against Aboriginal people.