Rally marks eight years of intervention

Aboriginal activists and supporters rally on June 21.

Protesters in Sydney marked the eighth anniversary of the Northern Territory Intervention — renamed Stronger Futures — with a rally at Town Hall and march to the Block in Redfern on June 21.

Speakers at the protest included Ken Canning, Albert Hartnett, Eva Cox, Gerry Georgatos and Kyol Blakeney.

Spokesperson for the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) Alex Johnson said: “John Howard’s announcement of the NT Intervention was one of the most shameful days in the history of our brutal treatment of First Nations People. It has set the struggle for First Nations People’s rights back many decades.”

Under the Intervention, the military was sent into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended and compulsory "income management" was introduced for Aboriginal people.

The Intervention removed the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) which provided employment and maintained basic infrastructure in the communities. It removed assets, which are vital to remote communities and which are taken for granted in any other community in this country.

Most of the Intervention’s measures were extended for 10 years by the federal Labor government’s Stronger Futures legislation in 2012.

“$1 billion has been spent on the punitive, racist measures of the Intervention, which have only had a detrimental effect,” said STICS representative Cathy Gill.

“Government statistics show that since 2007, incarceration in the NT has doubled, reported rates of attempted suicide and self-harm are up almost 500%, child removal rates have increased more than three-fold, and there is more alcohol related domestic violence.”

Additional measures introduced in the NT mean police can now enter the homes of Aboriginal families in the NT without a warrant, courts are unable to consider cultural circumstances when sentencing, alcohol and R18+ material are restricted regardless of community wishes.

In the NT 94%, or about 20,000 people, of the people on income management are Aboriginal. More than three-quarters of those who managed to move off the scheme are non-Aboriginal.

The Intervention/Stronger Futures legislation is the primary reason that small remote Aboriginal communities in the NT are now weak and vulnerable to closure. The Intervention has provided the framework for spreading the politics of assimilation and punishment across Australia.

Aboriginal people and their supporters are coming together in unprecedented numbers to fight back against community closures and policies that foster cultural genocide and disempowerment.

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