There are alternatives to the federal government’s NT intervention into Aboriginal communities, and some of the key ones have been brought together in a new statement that has won the support of Aboriginal community leaders and other groups and individuals.
The statement, “Rebuilding from the Ground Up: An Alternative to the NT Intervention”, is available on the Jumbunna Aboriginal Education Centre website.
It includes a list of demands that Aboriginal people have raised repeatedly since the intervention was first imposed by the former Howard government in 2007. The emphasis is on Aboriginal self-determination and adequate resourcing for all communities.
Alice Springs town camp leader Barbara Shaw presented Prime Minister Julia Gillard with the statement on June 7.
“Rebuilding from the Ground Up” will be launched in Darwin on June 21, after the Prescribed Area People’s Alliance — a group of Aboriginal people affected by the NT intervention — has met to ratify it.
“The NT intervention has been a disaster for Aboriginal communities,” the statement says. “Rather than ‘closing the gap’, government statistics show Indigenous incarceration rates have risen by almost 30%, school attendance is down in many places, suicide and self harm have increased and thousands of workers are being put onto Centrelink as CDEP closes down.
“There are growing crises in urban centres such as Alice Springs as large numbers of people move in from the bush.”
It also says the NT government’s policies have been “guided by the same approach of paternalism and assimilation including dissolving Aboriginal community councils, effective cuts to homelands and smaller communities, and bans on bilingual education”.
The statement calls for: the restoration of Aboriginal community governance, higher government investment in Aboriginal communities, a new Aboriginal employment program, an end to compulsory government leases of Aboriginal land, Aboriginal administration of Aboriginal housing, a big increase in education funding and an end to “punitive programs linking welfare to school attendence”.
It also says compulsory income management should be abolished and Aboriginal-managed health services supported. The statement calls for the repeal of blanket alcohol bans in Aboriginal communities and the “end [of] all discriminatory laws that have led to increased police harassment and incarceration of Aboriginal people”.
[Read the full statement at http://jumbunna.uts.edu.au/researchareas/alternatives.html. A list of endorsements and supporters of the statement is available at http://rollbacktheintervention.wordpress.com/ ]