More than 400 people attended a February 7 forum that condemned the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
The forum was organised by Concerned Australians. It coincided with the launch of a public statement addressed “to the people of Australia” by seven Indigenous elders. The statement asked for support to “help to put an end to the nightmare that Northern Territory people are experiencing on a daily basis”.
The authors of the statement — Dr Djiniyini Gondarra from Galiwin'ku; Rosalie Kunoth-Monks from Utopia; Harry Nelson, from Yuendumu; Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann from Nauiyu; Djapirri Mununggirritj from Yirrkala; Dhanggal Gurruwiwi, from Yirrkala and George Gaymarani Pascoe from Milingimbi — all addressed the forum.
Gondarra told the meeting: “I wouldn't be here if the intervention was good. It's not a special measure, why is it only targeting Indigenous people in the NT?"
Kunoth-Monks said: "When I was called to Geneva to testify on the effect of the intervention, I was not sure how to express the loss of dignity and loss of rights we felt. I had to go out of Australia to feel like a member of the human race, away from the control. We have Government Business Managers who write reports not only on communities, but also on individuals who even dare to answer back.
"The intervention has caused much destruction, there is no housing, little infrastructure and the recent rain has shown the neglect, especially the leaking sewerage. All infrastructure is second grade, not built according to building programs."
Nelson said: "We have experienced very enormous pressure on our community as it has been targeted by the government as a hub town. This has led to much hardship in the last few years. After a year of the intervention, our council was taken over, thrown out, our rights taken away. Our shire is now run from Alice Springs."
Ungunmerr-Baumann said: "We are in a unique situation as we did not accept a 5-year lease on our community. The shires have moved in and the people been disempowered. There have been many suicides and people are very depressed."
Mununggirritj said: “The intervention has led to chaos, destruction in the minds of grassroots people, destroying what we had. We need to sort this out with your help."
Speakers also addressed the destructive impact of the NT government’s restrictions on teaching in Indigenous languages in NT schools.
[For more information on Concerned Australians visit www.concernedaustralians.com.au .]