Emma Murphy

The Northern Territory government’s latest proposed approach to teaching Aboriginal students, like its previous policy, places a primacy on reading and writing in English. It allows for students’ first language to be used to help teachers explain new concepts, but critics fear it falls short of valuing Aboriginal languages.
Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem land, is home to the famous 1963 “Bark Petition”. This was a protest action by the Yolngu people that led to the first native title litigation in Australia’s history. I was there last month for the anniversary of that stage of their landmark struggle. The petition was an attempt by the Yolngu people to force legal recognition of their land ownership rights.
A Rohingyan Burmese asylum seeker faced Darwin Magistrates court on August 15, charged with assaulting a Serco employee at the Nothern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) early on August 12. Serco is the private prison corporation that runs Australia’s immigration jails. The refugee was involved, with two others, in a two-hour peaceful protest earlier that night. He has been in detention for 21 months. The immigration department has granted him refugee status, but for more than a year he has been waiting for an ASIO security clearance.
Two days after staging a rooftop protest, Burmese Rohingyan refugees inside the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC), received . “Your concerns about the delays in finalising cases are understandable,” it said.
Federal immigration minister Chris Bowen announced plans for a new 1500-bed detention facility on March 3. It is to be located at Wickham Point, an industrial area 35 kilometres south-east of Darwin. The March 4 NT News said the Darwin Airport Lodge, which currently houses refugees, would also be expanded by 400 beds. This would bring Darwin’s total detention capacity to 2900, making the city the largest detention location on the mainland — larger even than the notoriously overcrowded Christmas Island facility.
Ten-year-old Tamil refugee Brindha faces deportation to Sri Lanka after being rejected by the immigration department, the January 3 Australian said. In March 2010, she told Green Left Weekly the International Organisation for Migration was treating refugees “like animals”. At the time, she was onboard the Jaya Lestari, a boat packed with 254 Tamil asylum seekers who had tried to reach Australia for protection from persecution.
A new report from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) casts doubt on the ability of current government and corporate policy to meet its goal of “closing the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal unemployment. The CAEPR report looks at the goals and achievements of two private-sector initiatives: the Australian Employment Covenant and Generation One.
“A structural revolution in the Northern Territory is dismantling the whole infrastructure of self-determination”, Australian Workers Union national legal officer Zoe Angus said on November 15. Along with Sean Marshall from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), Angus was reporting back on a recent trade union delegation to investigate working conditions for Aboriginal people living under the NT intervention. She spoke at a public meeting organised by the Stop the Intervention Collective, Sydney.
In Green Left Weekly #861, Solidarity’s Paddy Gibson addressed a debate that from time to time comes up among activists opposing the NT intervention: whether an assimilationist agenda or mining interests are behind the intervention.
Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest had an opportunity on ABC’s November 1 screening of Q&A to defend his record on Aboriginal employment. He didn’t do very well. “You can see that through Generation One, a real challenge to fill those jobs, because we've proven for all time that corporate Australia — in fact every Australian — isn't racist”, Forrest said. “We do love our first Australians. We do want to help them as much as we can but we can do it without just throwing money, and I believe I could do more.”
My Name is Rachel Corrie is a play based on the letters and diaries of the US peace activist killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The play will run in Melbourne over November 3-14. This follows a sellout season at the 2010 Adelaide Fringe Festival. In January 2003, Rachel Corrie travelled to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement. She was part of a nonviolent protest against the State of Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian housing to expand Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories.
Anti-corporate activists will target the second day of the $US8000-a-head Forbes Global CEO Conference, calling for the needs of people and the planet to be put ahead of the interests of the billionaires. The “Billionaire Pirates” will make an appearance, targeting the conference's theme of “Full Sail Ahead”, and demanding entry alongside their corporate pirate mates.
On September 10, the commercial television regulator, Commercials Advice (CAD) withdrew approval for the screening of a pro-euthanasia ad by Exit International on September 12. Exit International condemned the decision as an attack on free speech. According to its website, Exit International is ”a leading end-of-life choices (voluntary euthanasia/ assisted suicide) information and advocacy organisation”.
Equality of access and outcomes in Indigenous education was a key demand at the 2010 Garma Festival, held over August 6-10. Up to 1200 visitors from around Australia and the world joined 2-3000 Yolngu people for the famous festival in north-east Arnhem Land. Each afternoon, clan groups from across Arnhem Land, Kunnunurra, Groote Eylandt and Central Australia performed traditional song and dance. Evenings featured Aboriginal bands from across the Top End, and films by and about Aboriginal issues. The mornings were dedicated to forums and workshops.
Review: Vale Kwementyaye Ryder — a photo essay Bob Gosford,
letters of support to UNSW staff. On July 7, members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) started receiving letters from the university that said they had been stood down without pay for imposing a ban on the recording and transmission of student results to the university. The union imposed the bans after negotiations with university representatives failed to make progress on improving job security, pay and other conditions for UNSW staff.

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