Demanding justice for Aboriginal Australia

The following is abridged from a call for a convergence in Canberra on the opening day of federal parliament, February 3, to say 'no' to racism and demand justice for Aboriginal Australia.

Aboriginal Australia still waits for human rights.

Aboriginal people are 13 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous Australians and horrific deaths in custody continue. Aboriginal babies die at more than twice the rate of the non-Indigenous population. The Stolen Generations still wait for compensation.

Land rights are under increasing threat by mining companies and waste dumps and by the government's push for leases to remove community control over community land. [The] Labor [government] has not adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In March, Human Rights Commissioner Tom Calma said, "The most revealing indicator that the NT Intervention was not consistent with human rights principles was the provision at the centre of the legislative machinery used to support the Intervention, namely suspending the operation of Racial Discrimination Act". Yet the Rudd government says the Racial Discrimination Act will remain suspended and a blanket welfare quarantine will be maintained for at least the next year.

Under the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), leases and government business managers have been imposed on prescribed communities.

The only houses built with Intervention funds have been for the Government Business Managers and other public servants. Only a handful of "prescribed" communities have been offered funding for housing – and only if they lease their land to the government for 40, 60 or even 90 years.

[Under the NTER] successful programs run by local communities dealing with issues of alcohol abuse, domestic violence and education have been dismantled. The recommendations of the Little Children Are Sacred report are being ignored.

The NT government has announced a ban on the teaching of Aboriginal languages in schools for all but one hour in the afternoons. This approach – of open assimilation and "mainstreaming" - is being rolled out across Australia. Koori schools in Victoria are being closed by the state government.

Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), a crucial source of support for Aboriginal communities and employment for thousands of families, are being threatened with closure nationally.

"Income management" means Aboriginal people are treated as second-class citizens.

In February 2008, Prime Minister Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations, committing the government to, "A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again". But injustices are being perpetuated under the NT Intervention.

The solution to the poverty and disadvantage of Aboriginal communities begins with self-determination – allowing affected communities to decide what programs are needed and how they will be implemented.

For more information, email the Intervention Rollback Action Group at <rollbacktheintervention@gmail.com>.

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