"The May 1 news that Mt Isa, in central Queensland, is unable to cope with the influx of people fleeing the government's intervention in the Northern Territory is yet another example of why this policy must end", Greg Eatock told Green Left Weekly on May 1.
Eatock, an activist in the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC), based in Sydney, said that a "Black and White: Unite to Fight conference" is being organised for May 23-25 by the coalition to discuss the NT intervention and the campaign to end it.
"This is the first conference initiated by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, but not the first conference to discuss fighting back", he said.
Significantly, the conference will begin on the evening of May 23 at Australia Hall, on Elizabeth Street, the site where Indigenous protesters against the white invasion held the Day of Mourning Congress on January 26, 1938 to mark 150 years of British colonisation. They had originally sought, but were refused access to, Sydney Town Hall. Nevertheless about 1000 people came, making it one of the first mass civil rights gatherings.
A manifesto distributed at that conference opened with the declaration that: "This festival of 150 years' so-called 'progress' in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed on the original native inhabitants by white invaders of this country."
The ARC conference, 70 years later, will be discussing many of the same problems. The May 24-25 sessions, at the Redfern Community Centre, will include speakers reflecting on past struggles such as the campaign for land rights from the Wave Hill strike to the Wik decision, the 1972 Tent Embassy, the Lands Councils, the Deaths in Custody campaign, and the struggle for Jabiluka, among others.
Sessions will assess the return to paternalism, the ideology behind the NT intervention, ways forward for the campaign, the role of unions and building coalitions with non-Indigenous supporters. Speakers confirmed include Larissa Behrendt, Barbara Shaw and Vince Forester.
Eatock said that the ARC is bringing people from the affected communities, but particularly those from the NT, Queensland, WA and Brewarrina in outback NSW.
"Mt Isa, a town in the middle of a mining boom, is failing to cope with the influx of refugees from the government's rotten policies. This is further evidence, along with reports from Darwin, Alice Springs and communities across the NT, that the intervention is not only breaching human rights, but it is causing untold harm to these communities. It is yet another reminder that we urgently need to come up with alternatives to the punitive approach", Eatock concluded.
For more information contact Greg on 0432 050 240 or visit <http://aboriginalrightscoalition.wordpress.com>. The ARC is seeking help to fund the conference. Send donations to "Aboriginal Rights Coalition", BSB 062 231, Account Number 1026 4494.>