The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on June 1.
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A June 16 rally in Bankstown will mark five years since the announcement of the discriminatory NT intervention. It is also taking place just two days before the government’s new Stronger Futures legislation is set to be debated in the Senate. This legislation will extend key NT intervention powers for a further 10 years. It will also expand the system of income management — quarantining 50% of Centrelink payments — around Australia, starting with Bankstown and four other “trial sites”.
The persecution of Aboriginal people under the intervention has had horrendous consequences. Reported rates of attempted suicide and self-harm have more than doubled. Indigenous incarceration has increased by 40%. Large numbers of people are drifting away from their homelands as resources, jobs and opportunity are withdrawn from the bush.
Stronger Futures will keep explicitly racist laws on the books — banning access to alcohol and restricted materials on Aboriginal land, granting police extraordinary powers which apply only to Aboriginal people and denigrating Aboriginal culture and law. Both the Human Rights Commission and visiting UN representatives have consistently rejected the characterisation of these measures as “special measures” under the Racial Discrimination Act.
In July, Centrelink case officers and Child Protection staff will be instructed to place “vulnerable” welfare recipients in Bankstown on compulsory income management. The government also wants community sector organisations to refer people to Centrelink for income management. Between 50% and 70% of welfare payments would be quarantined. The income-managed money could be placed on a BasicsCard, which can only be used in certain shops for certain products.
A recent report by the Equality Rights Alliance surveyed 180 women on income management in the NT. It found that 79% wanted to exit the system, 85% had not changed what they buy and 74% felt discriminated against.
Stronger Futures also proposes amendments to the Social Security Act that will see further attacks on the rights of Centrelink recipients. These measures will initially be targeted at NT Aboriginal peoples, but have implications for all poor and marginalised communities across Australia - especially Bankstown and other “trial sites”:
• An expansion of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) means chronic school attendance problems could see families cut off certain Centrelink payments entirely.
• Staff from nominated government agencies will have the power to summarily order people onto Income Management in the same way that Child Protection agencies currently do.
• Staff from nominated government agencies will be able to pass on information about clients to Centrelink, even if doing so contravenes State or Territory law.
• Income Management will follow you even if you move out of an Income Management area.
A major statement calling for immediate withdrawal of Stronger Futures was released by the Yolngu Nations Assembly on May 2. It threatens a boycott of all community and mining lease negotiations and has won widespread support, including from the Catholic Church and the Congress of Australia’s First People’s.
A campaign calling for an end to government income management is also gaining momentum, with a strong campaign in Bankstown voting at a public meeting on May 26 for a community wide boycott of the system — including support for workers who refuse to refer.
Two days before Stronger Futures is debated join this crucial demonstration: Say NO to a decade of discrimination under 'Stolen Futures' laws; NO to government income management; and YES to self-determination for Aboriginal peoples and proper investment in employment and social services in ALL communities across Australia.
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Rally 12pm June 16th, Paul Keating Park, Bankstown
Not in Bankstown, not in the NT, not anywhere - say NO to government income management
Stop 'Stolen Futures' laws - no to another decade of discrimination
Larissa Behrendt, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning UTS
Rosie Pearson, Yirrkala community, NT
Representatives from the Bankstown Coalition