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At noon on Tuesday February 28 at Parliament House in Canberra a strong coalition of human rights, community sector and Aboriginal organisations will demand the Senate reject “Stronger Futures” legislation, which passed through the House of Representatives yesterday.
This legislation will extend the Northern Territory intervention for a further 10 years and expand income management across the country.
Planned speakers include Aboriginal leaders from both the NT and Bankstown in Sydney, which is facing the implementation of income management in July 2012.
The rally is part of a campaign, “Stand for Freedom”, which has been launched online to oppose the legislation and demand Aboriginal self-determination. More than 3,400 people have signed the online petition in just a few days. More information about the campaign is available at its website.
Barbara Shaw from Mt Nancy town camp in Alice Springs will address the rally. She said: “This legislation must be withdrawn immediately. It is just a second intervention. Billions of dollars allocated over the last four years have been wasted.
“These laws continue the demonisation of Aboriginal people and culture. The untold story is the ever-increasing incidents of attempted self-harm and suicide that are occurring. We’ve had a 40% increase in Indigenous incarceration and these figures will get worse with harsher alcohol laws.
“More and more Aboriginal children are being removed from families. There is a deteriorating social situation in the larger towns, as people move in from the bush due to loss of autonomy, resources and opportunities that will continue under ‘Stronger Futures’.
“The ‘consultation’ process has been a joke. Once again Aboriginal people have wasted our time and energy going to government meetings. People are weary of repeating themselves and not being listened to. Many people are giving up hope and turning to drink. Aboriginal people have the answers to problems facing our communities — we just need the power, resources and support to do this.”
Daphne Lake is an Aboriginal elder from Bankstown and a Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) member. She is one of many people traveling by bus from Bankstown to join the protest.
She said: “Last time we came to protest in Canberra, Tony Abbott said it was time for us to move on from the embassy and the fight for rights. But how can we move on when they keep kicking us back into the gutter?
“The policies they are putting out through this intervention are exactly what I had to deal with growing up and exactly what they were debating in parliament back as early as the 1930s. Laws controlling what we buy, banning alcohol just for Aboriginal people, making us seek exemptions, harsh penalties, it’s like the Welfare Board back again. And with income management, they may as well be handing out rations.
“Now they are trying to put income management into Bankstown, but they won’t get away with it. We will continue the fight just like the embassy, we can’t give up.”
John Falzon, CEO St Vincent De Paul Society National Council of Australia will also address the rally. St Vincent De Paul is just one of a host of major organisations including the Australian Council of Social Service, Amnesty International and the Australian Lawyers Alliance who have come out in opposition to Stronger Futures.
Falzon said: “You don’t build a community by attacking its people’s dignity. You don’t build a community up by putting its people down. You don’t create social inclusion by further excluding people and reducing their choices even more, watching over them even more, controlling them even more.”