The Sydney launch of the Four Days in July national Aboriginal rights convergence was addressed by journalist John Pilger, Alyawarr peoples’ walk-off spokesperson Richard Downs, Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer and Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS. More than 300 people attended the April 23 meeting.
McAleer described the intrusive control, bureaucratic mismanagement and overriding of community wishes under the Northern Territory intervention. He witnessed these things when he visited Ampilatwatja in February as part of the trade union brigade that helped build the walk-off camp’s “protest house”.
Downs said he wanted to spread two key demands: to abolish the intervention and reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act. He said that signing a 40-year lease is like signing a death warrant. At Tennant Creek, the community was promised new houses if it signed. After it signed, that promise was reduced to refurbishment. The government has had two-and-a-half years and $672 million, and it has built only two houses.
Downs demonstrated the broad outlook of this campaign by finishing his presentation with a list of the “way forward”, which included renewable energy, permaculture, welcoming refugees, and an end to war.