'Self-determination has been shattered'

February 13, 2009

The following is an open letter to Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin regarding the Northern Territory intervention. The letter was signed by the Prescribed Area People's Alliance delegation to Canberra and presented to Macklin and others on February 4, 2009.

Enough is enough.

You talk about "closing the gap" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. But we want to close the gap our way, on our terms — not like past assimilation policies.

Self-determination has been shattered and abused by the government. They change laws every year, every time they come into power.

How can we trust your government?

You are pushing out the NT intervention, which is racist to the hilt.

Your policies are hammering down on us on all sides. They are making it harder to get food, live on traditional lands and live day to day.

Children are being punished through this intervention. All it has given us is heartache.

How would you like it if your home was invaded? How would you like it to be "income managed"?

The health of our communities is deteriorating.

For example, Sunrise Health Clinic in Katherine is seeing increasing anaemia rates in children. Youth suicide is emerging as a problem, where it did not exist before.

Regardless of the consequences and feelings of people who are affected, in a court of law you have to be tried before convicted. We didn't even have that opportunity.

Compulsory land acquisition is a gateway to longer leases. Five years, 40 years, 99 years. Now you are threatening to not build houses until we sign your leases. But we will not sign.

The government has changed but your top advisors and bureaucrats have not.

Their brains have melted into John Howard's way. You are listening to them, instead of listening to us. It's really bad. Get rid of your advisors and start afresh.

The vision of our old people comes with responsibility to maintain our land and culture.

The development of our communities must support our dreams and aspirations, with our land and resources in our hands.

There is a national campaign that will not accept this racism from the government and we will fight — starting from prescribed areas and with supporters stretching out across the country.

You have the power to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act but you choose not to. As long as you don't, there is still suffering. You are murdering us.

There is nothing dignified about losing our rights as human beings based on being Aboriginal citizens.

We as a people have merit, we have worth, we have incredible knowledge and culture, and most of all we have courage and hope for the future.

We demand:

• repeal of the Northern Territory intervention laws;

•i mmediate reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act and the NT Anti-Discrimination Act;

• that you organise a series of day-long meetings across the NT before March 21, 2009 to come and listen to all Aboriginal women who want to meet with you;

• funding for housing and essential services for all communities without having to sign leases;

• provide us with a list of all of your advisors on the intervention;

• provide access to all evidence provided to you from advisors regarding the NT intervention;

• immediately remove all government Business Managers and resource properly funded Aboriginal community councils;

• endorse and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People; and that you

• stop the promotion of genocide. By the UN Genocide Conventions, one definition of genocide is: conditions of life set to destroy the group in whole or in part.

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