Ignored Aboriginal voices return in sequel

Issue 
Photo by TreatyRepublic.

NT Consultations Report 2011: By Quotations
Published by Concerned Australians
72 pages, hard cover, $15
www.concernedaustralians.com.au

NT Consultations Report 2011: By Quotations, published in February 2012, is an important sequel to the highly regarded This Is What We Said (February 2010) and Walk With Us (August 2011).

Between June and August last year, the Australian government conducted “Stronger Futures” consultations in Northern Territory communities. The stated purpose was finding out what worked and what didn’t work under the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) ― commonly called the intervention ― that started in 2007.

This book features quotations, presented in an accessible and attractive format, from 10 consultations that were independently reported. Beautifully illustrated, this hard-back book gives voice to the views of Aboriginal people living under the intervention.

Mainstream media has given much commentary to the laws under which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory now live. In this book, we hear the true voices of Aboriginal people calling out to be heard.

Each page speaks volumes about their frustration and despair at the failure of government to listen. Every quotation contains a clear expression of the participants’ thoughtful responses to the issues faced by their communities.

The reader cannot fail to be moved by the deep commitment of the community members who gave their time yet again to engage in consultations with the government. This commitment was given despite the betrayal of having their voices ignored in previous consultation, such as were documented in This Is What We Said.

The quotes provide insights into the cumulative impact of the NTER laws. The responses are presented under various topics, such as feelings about the consultations, requests for the return of control over communities, support for homelands and the importance of education ― including the restoration of bilingual programs.

Also addressed are job losses, confusion about the constant change of government policies, lack of promised housing, the unaffordability of healthy fresh food and the fact that 80% of homelands were “dry” before the intervention started.

In these quotes are carefully considered, locally-based solutions that could be easily implemented. These solutions should be genuinely considered by the government ― if only they were really listening.

One cannot fail to notice that the solutions offered by Aboriginal people are consistent with the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the government expressed its support for in April 2009.

The introduction to the book gives an overview of the strength of the most constant recurring themes during the consultations; the demand for community control to be returned to the people and the right to self-determination respected.

Ironically, these themes are not referred to in the government’s published consultation report. Similarly, the desire for the return of bilingual learning programs to Northern Territory schools, repeatedly called for during the consultations, hardly gets a mention.

What makes this book so unique is that it is based on the only recordings of the 2011 consultations. This book is essential reading for every Australian citizen. It provides the opportunity to listen to this country’s First Peoples’ authentic voices, which often fail to reach the mainstream media. These voices deserve to be heard and respected.

Full transcripts of the quotations can be found on the “concerned Australians” website concernedaustralians.com.au.

[Sydney book launch of NT Consultations Report 2011: By Quotations: Friday, May 4, at 5.30pm for 6pm start. Amnesty International’s NSW Action Centre, Level 1, 79 Myrtle Street, Chippendale. Speakers include: Graeme Mundine, executive officer, ACM Sydney Archdiocese, and Amy McQuire, editor, Tracker magazine.]



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