As 2000 Aboriginal people and their supporters gathered at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Tent Embassy in Canberra, Coalition leader Tony Abbott said: “I can understand why the Tent Embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then… I think it probably is time to move on from that.”
Ninety people gathered on Larrakia land in Darwin on November 18 to launch the new concerned Australians book, Walk With Us. A moving welcome to country by June Mills was followed by speeches from Bagot resident Joy White, Yolngu educator Yalmay Yunupingu, journalist Jeff McMullen, Alana Eldridge from Larrakia Nation and young Aboriginal man Matthew Heffernan. In a poem written for the occasion, Yunupingu said: “We have been manipulated, cheated and undermined because the white man thinks he has a superior way of thinking.”
Language and education specialists are concerned the federal government’s national roll-out of digital television will have a detrimental effect on the preservation and transmission of Aboriginal languages and cultures. In 1987, the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS) was established to balance the introduction of mainstream TV channels (via satellite) into remote communities with some local control and ability to broadcast local content.
Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin released the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Report on Consultations on October 18. The federal government facilitated “community consultations” across the NT between June and August, discussing future policy toward Aboriginal communities after the Northern Territory Emergence Response (NT intervention) legislation expires in June next year.
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 a notice on March 17 from the immigration department. “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.