Fake consultations in the NT

June 21, 2009

Aboriginal residents living in remote communities in the Northern Territory have condemned the government's "consultation" about the NT intervention as farcical.

The Rudd Labor government said on May 21 it would reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). The act was suspended by the previous Howard government to allow the passage of the discriminatory NT intervention laws.

Despite this, the government plans to continue with the exact same racist policies.

The intervention includes a number of punitive measures targeting only Aboriginal people. The police and the army were sent into Aboriginal townships. Strict alcohol, drug and pornography bans are twinned with the quarantining of 50% of welfare payments for those living in "prescribed areas". Indigenous welfare recipients can only spend this money at a government-approved shops using a special card.

The government started the consultation process with NT Indigenous communities in an effort to comply with provisions within the RDA that permit racial discrimination if it is considered in the interests of the people in question and they have given their informed consent.

The consultations with Aboriginal communities will supposedly give the government the "consent" it needs to make the intervention legal.

The head of the federal government's Human Rights Consultancy Committee Father Frank Brennan told ABC Online on June 14 that the consultations should be able to determine the future of the intervention.

"It's not so much a question of the good intentions of government, rather it's a question of whether or not the people on whom the so-called benefit is to be bestowed have given their consent", he said.

The tour, which began on June 15, will visit each of the 73 communities targeted by the intervention. But some Aboriginal communities have criticised the consultation process, saying that there hasn't been enough notice or community involvement.

Imelda Palmer, a community leader from Santa Teresa, told ABC Online that she had no notice about the consultation that took place there on June 15.

"Not many people know about this meeting. I only found out when the ABC journalists came to interview me ... that's not good enough. It should have been a public meeting out in the open, for the whole community, not behind closed doors. It needs to be one voice out there in the open if this is proper consultation."

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