Barb Shaw, a well-known Aboriginal activist from Alice Springs’ town camps who has campaigned tirelessly against the Northern Territory intervention, doubled the Greens’ vote in the huge NT seat of Lingiari. The result damages the government’s claim that Aboriginal people support the intervention.
The intervention imposes a series of discriminatory measures against Aboriginal people in remote communities. It was launched by the Howard Coalition government in August 2007 and has been extended under Labor.
In 2009, the government “consulted” with communities affected by the intervention and claimed the results revealed support for the intervention.
Documentary evidence, such as transcripts of the sham consultations, proved the claims were a lie. Shaw’s breakthrough vote is another strong indication of the massive discontent with both major parties in Aboriginal communities.
Overall, Shaw scored 12.56%. But, the Greens said, in all remote Aboriginal communities south of Tennant Creek, Shaw won more votes than ALP incumbent Warren Snowdon. Snowdon received 840 votes total for those booths, while Shaw scored 905. In some areas, the swing to the Greens was up to 40%.
Warren H. Williams, Greens Senate candidate for the NT and another strong Aboriginal voice against the intervention, received 998 votes from these booths compared to Labor’s 941.
In Tennant Creek, where Shaw grew up, she received just three votes less than Snowdon.
These remote booths make up only 15% of the Lingiari electorate, but Shaw polled strongly in Alice Springs as well. At the Civic Centre polling booth she received 22% and more than 14% for the rest of the town.
The NT intervention, and Aboriginal rights in general, was ignored by both major parties during the election campaign. The strong vote for the Greens’ NT candidates shows how strongly Aboriginal people feel about how these policies have affected them, and how much they want change.
Shaw told Green Left Weekly: “I've been campaigning for the last three years against the intervention. I’ve made myself well known in that area.
“We did some research into some remote communities. We went up to Kalkarindji and did some research up there, and some communities in central Australia. I got to go to three communities during mobile polling and more before that.”
Shaw said life was harder under the NT intervention. Half of welfare recipients’ income is “quarantined” onto a Basics Card that can only be spent on food, clothing and medical supplies. Aboriginal people on Work for the Dole schemes also have half their income “managed” under the new system.
“The shire councils [which have replaced Aboriginal community councils, under an NT government policy that coincided with the introduction of the intervention] promised a lot of jobs for people in remote communities. Now, [Aboriginal people] have to justify themselves to Centrelink just to receive Basics Card money”, Shaw told GLW.
“Snowdon has admitted that he didn't get a lot of love or lot of votes from the bush because of the intervention."
Snowdon said the large swing against him was a referendum condemning the NT intervention. He told ABC Online on August 23. "People are sending a strong message to Labor that they weren't happy with many aspects of what's happening in Aboriginal communities, the intervention.
"They don't believe they are being listened to. There are issues to do with the shires and the implementation of Territory government policy. All that sort of discussion was going on."
Shaw said she would continue the struggle against the NT intervention. “I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm going to continue being a researcher in the bush, making sure the people's voice is heard."