Aboriginal unionist: Gov’t failing to create jobs

Mark Fordham

Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory "want to work, want to have a go”, Aboriginal activist Mark Fordham told 60 people at Brisbane’s Kurilpa Hall on October 24. Fordham is a former Community Development Employment Projects co-ordinator at Ampilatwatja community and is a member of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union.

Fordham had spent the previous two weeks touring the east coast, speaking with unions and community groups about the effect the federal government’s intervention into NT Aboriginal communities has had on employment.

Aboriginal workers "should be given options in work”, Fordham said. "People are not given real choices. There are guys who want to work full time, for a full day, 38 hours a week, but are denied this right under the NT intervention.”

The government's policy was to "move us off the land, shut down the communities and grow the 'hub towns’”, Fordham said.

On October 29, following a public meeting the night before in Parramatta, Fordham spoke to 100 supporters and unionists who had taken their lunch break to join a protest at the Town Hall in Sydney, part of a national day of action against the NT intervention.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, an Aboriginal activist from the NT, said: “Our people in the Northern Territory are traumatised to such an extent that we do not know who to turn to.

“Action is needed to say no to the Northern Territory intervention.”

Rebel Hanlon from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and Paul MacAleer from the Maritime Union of Australia also spoke.

At a Melbourne rally that day, 200 people heard Aborginal activist Sharon Firebrace speak. She said: “The intervention is a black mark on Australian history.”

Other speakers included members of the Greens, the National Tertiary Education Union, the Maritime Union of Australia and a visiting Colombian Unionist.

In Brisbane, 20 people held a protest outside Centrelink. A protest also took place in Alice Springs.

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