National Aboriginal Alliance: New independent political voice

Issue 

Following a meeting in Alice Springs on September 12-14, attended by some 100 Aboriginal people from across Australia, a new, independent political body for Aboriginal Australians is being established, the National Aboriginal Alliance.

In a September 14 statement, National Indigenous Television CEO Pat Turner said the meeting had laid the foundations of something important. "It is something we hope that all of our brothers and sisters and the many fair-minded Australians will stand shoulder to shoulder with us on."

According to Tasmanian participant Michael Mansell, "This is the beginning of resistance. Finally, a national voice of dissent and one that will offer leadership instead of 'black bashing'."

Bev Manton, chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, said her organisation and its 23,000 members were appalled by the Howard government's actions in the Northern Territory. "We have supported the Aboriginal people of the NT since John Howard announced this so-called intervention. We have agreed to continue this support in financial terms, for 3-6 months, and will be actively involved in the newly formed National Aboriginal Alliance.

"I urge, encourage and call upon everyone to financially support the NAA to establish a fighting fund to develop a plan of attack against this invasion. By Howard's actions, he has re-ignited the fire in our bellies and united all of the Aboriginal people across Australia."

Following are the resolutions adopted at the founding meeting:

•We celebrate the hundreds of years of struggle by our people to maintain our cultural integrity, protect our lands, and fulfill our obligations to future generations. Our alliance will continue this powerful tradition of activism to determine our own futures as proud and strong Aboriginal people.

•The lack of national political representation for Aboriginal people has left us vulnerable to harsh government policies, and these attacks against Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are a consequence of the lack of representation. Had there been a powerful black political voice in place, we doubt these attacks could have succeeded.

•This national gathering of over 100 people from all parts of Australia recognises the need for an independent national political voice. The National Aboriginal Alliance is established to provide that voice.

•We affirm our profound commitment to protecting our children from harm. We acknowledge those within our communities who fought for decades to address the complicated issue of child abuse, and we deplore the successive Australian governments who ignored our cries for help.

•We reject outright the discriminatory and coercive elements of the Commonwealth's invasion ("emergency intervention") in the Northern Territory.

•The Racial Discrimination Act has only ever been suspended on three occasions — each time to erode the rights of Aboriginal people. This previously occurred in 1998 with the Native Title Amendment Act and the Hindmarsh Island Bridge legislation. We demand that the Commonwealth immediately restore integrity to the Racial Discrimination Act.

•We demand the immediate removal of Commonwealth Business Managers from Aboriginal communities in the NT. They are comparable to the missionaries and police protectors who exercised despotic control over our forebears and therefore, have no place in our lives. We urge our peoples and communities to actively resist in a peaceful way the so-called intervention in the Northern Territory.

•We demand that the Commonwealth respect the property rights of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, including the right to control access to our lands through the permit system; rights that generations of our people fought to secure, often in the face of fierce opposition.

•We demand that the Commonwealth respect the expertise and independence of our community organisations. There is not a single reference to child protection in the hundreds of pages that comprise the Commonwealth's legislative package. Rather than protecting children, this so-called "emergency intervention" is a cynical attempt to subject our people to further genocide.

•Many of the socio-economic problems in our communities are the legacies of decades of chronic under-funding in essential service delivery and infrastructure. We demand that our communities receive the equitable services delivery and infrastructure that is our entitlement.

•We call upon all Aboriginal people to walk in the footsteps of our Elders, whose legacies are now at stake and whose victories are being wound back. We must stand united to seize back the power to shape our own destinies.

•We call on all Australians, to engage with, speak up and support Aboriginal people's self-determination.

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