Around 30 adults and children gathered outside Midland Centrelink on April 14 to demand the end of welfare quarantining in the Northern Territory.
Organised by the WA Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC), the protest demanded the repeal of the NT National Emergency Response Act and associated legislation, which threatens to extend the NT intervention into WA and other states. The protest demanded that it not be extended into WA.
The federal and WA Indigenous affairs ministers have already agreed to child protection officers recommending the quarantining of welfare payments of WA Centrelink recipients.
Various speakers addressed the protest, while members of the crowd chanted "Justice Now!" and handed out leaflets.
ARC organiser Natasha Moore told the protest, "The intervention is just another form of government control over Aboriginal people's lives. Housing is a major issue but the government prefers to target Indigenous people's welfare benefits instead. The intervention is meant to protect children, but instead it's leaving Aboriginal people in a more disadvantaged and marginalised position in society. Self-determination is the solution and Aboriginal people need to control affairs that affect them".
Nyaikinjaki elder and ARC organiser Wayne Riley-Collard said, "These laws are like laws the government introduced during the assimilation period. We are going backwards to food rations days."
Nyoongar elder and ARC activist Bev Humphries told the protest she didn't want her grandchildren to be subjected to these laws. "Stop the injustice!" she shouted.
Nyoongar health worker Kerri-Ann Winmar said, "I've been to Alice Springs and I've seen the impact on communities. This scheme isn't working and we can't let it happen here."
A Nyoongar worker with the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs stated, "Remote Aboriginal communities have few resources to tackle the issues that concern them. Instead of genuinely supporting them, the government is forcing people to travel miles to buy food from major corporations. Welfare quarantining means no book-up stores and basic things such as medication and white goods have become extremely hard for Aboriginal people to purchase."
The protest pledged to organise a contingent for May Day and a rally and march for the June 21 national day of action to mark the anniversary of then-PM John Howard's announcement of the intervention laws. The ARC will invite Aboriginal people who are experiencing the laws firsthand to be key speakers.
To get involved contact Natasha on 0434 303 248.