Government has 'betrayed its own people'

Issue 

More than 500 people rallied in Darwin on September 15 to support the rights of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory and to oppose the federal government's intervention into NT Indigenous communities.

Speakers included Olga Havnen from the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory; Maratja Dhamarrandji, an elder from Galiwinku on Elcho Island; local elder Kathy Mill; Indigenous parliamentarian Matthew Bonson; the Greens candidate for Solomon, Debbie Hudson; and barrister Pat McIntyre.

According to a media statement by rally organisers, the speakers "pointed out the discrepancy between the rationale for the intervention given by the federal government, and the disempowerment and dispossession of Aboriginal people, the seizure of Aboriginal land and abolition of CDEP [Community Development Empowerment Projects]. The $88 million being spent on additional public servants to quarantine welfare payments was contrasted to the lack of ongoing funding for primary health care in communities.

"Although the mood of the rally was at times sombre — some participants had painted their foreheads with white clay as a sign of mourning, and many wore funeral black — there was a strong feeling of solidarity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous and a resolve to continue the action until, as local songstress Ali Mills put it, 'the ripple that has started today becomes a tsunami'."

McIntyre told the crowd: "Australians should be ashamed of August 2007. That is when our federal parliament created its own national emergency by betraying its own people and its own legal and political heritage. It consciously re-embraced legislative racism.

"In less than a month our fellow citizens have lost their homes, their towns and their businesses. They have lost their right to free and private assembly. They have lost their right to appeal the decisions of public servants. They have been collectively defamed and condemned as evil, corrupt, ignorant savages! Enough of this nonsense!"

Volunteers lined up with posters of the 97 recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred report, and a resolution was passed stating that the rally: "Expresses regret that the federal government has failed to support the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred report;

"Supports the profound commitment of Aboriginal Territorians to strong families, strong communities and to protecting their children from harm;

"Acknowledges that child sexual abuse is a national issue;

"Expresses support for the newly-formed National Aboriginal Alliance and for Aboriginal organisations and communities in the Northern Territory in their opposition to the discriminatory and coercive elements of the federal government's 'emergency intervention' in the NT."

A "Walk for Strong Communities" is being held on September 27 at 5pm, gathering in Raintree Park and walking to the sunset at the Mindil Beach Markets. For more information, visit http://www.federalintervention.info.

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