Peter Robson

Indigenous Affairs Minster Jenny Macklin announced on January 30 that the federal government will make a formal apology to the stolen generations — the 13,000 Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their parents as part of a government policy of assimilation — on February 13, the day after the first sitting of the new parliament. Despite calls by Aboriginal groups to include a compensation plan, PM Kevin Rudd’s government has continued to rule out any national compensation fund to go with the apology.
PM Kevin Rudd used potentially rising inflation and interest rates as the excuse for the federal government's economic plan, announced on January 21. Those hoping that the ALP's pre-election promise of an ``economically conservative’‘ government was just election hype will be disappointed. It could be straight from the former Coalition government's economics bible.
On January 7, Indigenous activist Christine King made a statement to ABC Radio on behalf of the Stolen Generations Alliance. She called on the Rudd government to put its money where its mouth is and provide a national fund of $1 billion to compensate the stolen generations.
The November 24 electoral victory of the ALP was based largely upon public opposition to the Howard Coalition government’s Work Choices laws. But in the Northern Territory, opposition among Aborigines to PM John Howard’s “emergency intervention” into their communities was a major factor in boosting support for Labor.
On November 18, PM John Howard announced that the federal government would consider extending the welfare quarantine currently in place for all Aboriginals on welfare in the NT to all welfare recipients convicted of drug offences. “It’s not right that people should have control of taxpayer money when they have been convicted of such offences”, he told ABC News. “This will mean that they will not be able to spend the money on those sorts of drugs, or indeed, for that matter, on alcohol and tobacco.”
Three members of Iraq’s Olympic soccer team and one of the team’s assistant coaches announced their intention to apply for asylum in Australia after an international game in Gosford on November 17. They are currently on three-month temporary visas as athletes, and as such are not being sought by the immigration department.
Although it was silent on the issue during the state elections, the NSW Labor government led by Premier Morris Iemma is canvassing plans to privatise large sections of state utilities including the rail network, the electricity grid and Sydney’s ferries. The privatisation scheme is necessary, according to the government, to raise funds in order to reduce the budget deficit and pay for improvements in NSW hospitals and schools, and upgrades to the Sydney highways, as well as produce greater efficiency in public transport.
Les Malezer, chair of the UN Global Indigenous Caucus, which was responsible for drafting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, spoke to a packed meeting in the Redfern community centre on October 28. “Our wealth is that of our Indigenous values: land, culture and spirit”, he said. “Not in assimilation, not in power, not in dollars, not in telling our people what they should do, or running organisations that do the same. Our wealth is in our lands, territories and resources. And the forced theft of these means that there must be reparation.”
On October 12, PM John Howard announced his plan to hold a referendum to alter the preamble to the Australian constitution to include an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of Australia. This is a departure from Howard’s historic position against “symbolic” gestures of reconciliation — a position that in the past has earned him the ire of Indigenous groups, who in 2000 literally turned their backs on Howard when he refused to apologise for previous governments’ complicity in the horrendous policies that led to the Stolen Generations.
In a surprise move, former Northern Land Council chairperson Galarrwuy Yunupingu has reversed his opposition to the Howard government’s intervention into NT Aboriginal communities and, on September 20, announced that he had made a deal with federal Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough to enter into 99-year leases to Canberra of parts of his traditional land in north-east Arnhem Land.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon & Julia Stiles
111 minutes
Screening nationally
A motion moved by Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett calling on the government to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people was voted down in the Senate on September 10. This comes at a time when the Northern Territory intervention by the Howard Government has started to put “boots on the ground” in the NT, with few results reported from the mainstream media and serious criticism from Aboriginal and human rights groups.
Sydney is to be shut down in the lead-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit from September 2. US warmonger-in-chief George Bush will be attending amid an unprecedented amount of money and effort being spent on security.
Health was thrown into the pre-election spotlight on August 1 when PM John Howard stepped in to rescue Mersey Hospital in Tasmania from financial difficulties. In a mantra with some similarities to that used to justify the takeover of Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Howard blamed an inefficient state government for its inability to solve the crisis.
The Howard government’s legislation for its “emergency” military-police intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory was rushed through the House of Representatives on August 7. MHRs were given less than 24 hours to read the 500-odd pages of legislation before being asked to vote on it.
At a time when it is pretending to improve conditions for people in the Northern Territory’s remote Aboriginal communities, the federal Coalition government is phasing out the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEPs). The announcement was made in the May federal budget papers, but has also been integrated into the new NT intervention plan, announced by PM John Howard on June 24.

Pages

Subscribe to Peter Robson