Letter to Rudd: uphold Aboriginal rights

July 19, 2008

The following letter was presented by Sam Watson on behalf of Brisbane's Aboriginal Rights Coalition to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a protest outside Rudd's electorate office on July 14.

Dear Prime Minister,

The intervention into the Northern Territory has caused many concerns among the Aboriginal community of Brisbane, as well as those directly affected in the Northern Territory.

As you would know, the intervention was initiated by the Howard government without prior consultation with representatives of the Aboriginal communities affected. This in itself would be reason enough to declare a moratorium on the intervention and begin genuine consultation with the Aboriginal communities. In Darwin and Alice Springs there were protest marches against the intervention led by representatives of the prescribed communities.

Having created the emergency in the Northern Territory by years of neglect, the proposition that the only way to remedy those years of deprivation is by suspending the Racial Discrimination Act, imposing business managers and quarantining welfare, is reminiscent of that infamous statement about destroying that Vietnamese village in order to save it.

The recent report of the intervention task force recommending that so-called "unviable communities" in the Northern Territory be deprived of funds and support has only added to our alarm at the impact of the intervention. We also note that statements from Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin indicate that the government may not reinstate the CDEP [Community Development and Employment Project] scheme to ensure the funding of many programs and services in the prescribed communities.

We note that Tom Calma, [the] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's race discrimination commissioner, has expressed a number of concerns in a recent report on the intervention and recommended in particular that the Racial Discrimination Act be reinstated as a priority to ensuring that the fundamental rights of Aboriginal people are being upheld.

We can only reiterate that the injection of funds and services into communities in the NT is badly needed but should not come at the cost of the basic rights of Aboriginal people.

The announced review of the intervention is an opportunity for the government to establish a process of consultation that was dismissed by the previous government.

As concerned members of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition in Brisbane, and as your constituents, we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss these and other matters with you before the review is finalised in September.


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