Stronger Futures ignores Aboriginal voices


NT Consultation Report 2011 ― By Quotations
Published by Concerned Australians
72 pages, hardcover, $15

The latest Concerned Australians book, NT Consultation Report 2011 ― By Quotations, couldn’t have been released at a better time.

The simple but powerful collection of quotes are selected from the federal government’s Stronger Futures consultations, conducted across the Northern Territory between June and August last year.

Supposedly, the consultations were designed to hear from Aboriginal people affected by the NT intervention. What would they like to see happen when the NT Emergency Response legislation expires in August this year? What can the government do to ensure “stronger futures” in the NT?

The Stronger Futures in the NT bill, which the government claims is based on last year’s consultations, is due to be voted on in the Senate soon. Aboriginal people and their supporters have condemned it as unrepresentative of the concerns raised.

The bill has been referred to a Senate inquiry, due to report in mid-March. But the House of Representatives saw no reason to wait for the inquiry’s report, and passed the bill on February 27.

NT Consultation Report provides page after page, quote after powerful quote, of proof that the discriminatory measures in the Stronger Futures legislation were not welcomed by the people who will be affected by them. In fact, they were articulately, vehemently opposed.

“Is it just spin?”, asked a participant in the Darwin public meeting. “If you’re consulting properly, why are you only hearing one voice?”

The glaring discrepancies between the independent transcripts on which the book is based, and the government’s report of the consultations, has led former Chief Justice Alistair Nicholson to question the legality of the legislation.

ABC Online said on February 15: “Mr Nicholson says the consultations reveal people do not like the new local government super shires model, want the Intervention scrapped and bilingual education brought back to Territory schools.”

But Stronger Futures will entrench many of the more punitive aspects of the intervention for at least 10 years.

A participant in the Galiwin’ku consultation said: “Since the government took over ... there’s been too many changes in the policies. ‘You do!’ ― ‘We decide!’ …

“How can we as Yolngu people put something forward when the decision, the main thing, is in the hands of the government?”

Stronger Futures places even more control in the hands of the government at a time when, Concerned Australians says, “the single most repeated message from the consultations is the demand for community control ... and the right to self-determination”.