Despite crisis levels of overcrowding, many urban Aboriginal communities have been denied federal funding for new housing. On March 18, ABC online said town camps around Darwin were not allocated any of the $1.5 billion in upgrades planned for Aboriginal communities.
One hundred and thirty people packed out a room in the Crowne Plaza hotel to hear traditional owners and nuclear experts call for the closure of the Ranger uranium mine in the world heritage-listed Kakadu national park. Yvonne Margarula condemned the mine for its presence on land that is sacred to her people — the Mirrar people. “The promises never last,” she said. “But the problems always do.”
The federal ALP government is pushing ahead with the punitive system of “income management” despite the fact that it is racist, unfair and expensive. In June 2010, the federal government passed legislation allowing the extension of welfare quarantining beyond the 73 Northern Territory remote communities that were its first target.
Twenty people gathered on March 21 in Mitchell Park to commemorate the victims of the March 11 tsunami in Japan. The gathering made paper cranes and heard from Sachi Hirayama from Darwin Youth for the Japanese Disaster who promoted charity events for the cause. Cat Beaton read a statement from Environment Centre Northern Territory saying that people’s thoughts were with those who lost loved ones as a result of the natural disaster but also with the workers struggling to rebuild after the devastation.
A dozen protesters gathered outside Darwin Magistrates Court on March 8 to call for an end to the detention of asylum seeker children. The protest was held outside the trial of six teenage asylum seekers, who faced charges with various offences resulting from a scuffle in Darwin immigration detention centre in February. Richard Davis from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network told ABC Darwin that the youths should not have been charged.
Media reports paint Alice Springs as being in the midst of an out-of-control crime wave. Action for Alice, a group of local business owners, has produced a commercial for Imparja television. The ad calls for a law and order push to end the alleged crime wave, which it blames on Aboriginal youth. The level of hysteria reached a new pitch in an article by Nicolas Rothwell in the February 19 Australian. Rothwell claimed that Alice Springs was plagued by rampaging young Aboriginal people, fuelled by alcohol.
The NT government has failed to change its policy of "First Four Hours" of English in remote Aboriginal schools, despite the trial period expiring in January. The policy was introduced in January 2009, supposedly as a way to improve English literacy for Aboriginal students. The policy mandated that schools teach only in English for the first four hours — the most productive hours — of school, leaving teaching in local language to the last two, least productive, hours of the day. It effectively banned Aboriginal language in the classroom.
Aboriginal workers in the government’s $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) are working for what amounts to half the dole plus rations. However, these workers are still being recorded as contributing to SIHIP meeting its employment target, Crickey.com.au said. SIHIP is the housing project announced by the federal government in 2008. The project was to provide much needed housing for Aboriginal populations in remote areas of the Northern Territory.
The last Aboriginal residents of the Redfern Block will be evicted on November 19 to make way for a new development by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation. Aboriginal Housing Corporation CEO Mick Mundine told ABC TV’s November 8 Lateline that the development involved commercial interests, which would put money back into the corporation to support affordable housing for local Aboriginal people.
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.”
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks was under a control order that prevented him from speaking about his ordeal for a year after his release. In an attempt to further silence him, on October 27 shadow attorney-general George Brandis called on the government to charge Hicks with profiting from crime for writing a book. The book about his experiences, Guantanamo: My Journey hit number four in the non-fiction bestseller category.
Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray gained notoriety on October 25 for throwing shoes at former prime minister John Howard on ABC’s political talk show, Q&A. Gray is a long-time activist committed to non-violent direct action. He is a member of climate action group Rising Tide and has also been involved in a variety of social justice campaigns. Gray’s decision to throw his shoes at Howard was a homage to Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at former US president George Bush during a press conference in December 2008.
Mark Fordham, an Aboriginal activist from the Northern Territory and member of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, is touring the east coast to raise awareness about the jobs with justice campaign. The campaign aims to force the government to provide real jobs and services to remote Aboriginal communities in the NT (see article page 7). In Sydney, Fordham spoke to waterside workers with Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) officials. He thanked maritime workers for their solidarity with the Gurindji workers who walked off Wave Hill station in 1966.
On October 20, 200 people gathered in the community of Kalkarindji to protest against the policies of the Northern Territory intervention, launched in 2007 by the Howard Coalition government. Under the intervention, Aboriginal welfare recipients in the NT have half their pay “quarantined” onto a Basics Card, which can be used only in approved stores and only for food, clothing and medical supplies.
Sydney’s Redfern Block is a colourful place. It’s houses and flats are covered by political posters and banners, graffiti and dot paintings. But new colours now appear on the doors of residents — eviction notices. The Redfern Block is set to be demolished and replaced by the $60 million Pemulwuy housing project. The last 75 residents have until November 19 to leave but will be able to reapply to return in 2013 when the new project is set to be complete. But those accused of selling drugs will be denied housing.
WAVE HILL — Aboriginal workers in the community of Kalkaringi — site of the famous 1966 Gurindji walk-off — will stage a protest on October 20 against what they call “a return to the ration days”. Under the NT intervention introduced in 2007, Aboriginal workers on Community Development Employment Projects have been pushed onto work-for-the-dole. They now work for welfare payments only, half of which they receive on a Basics Card that can only be spent on food, clothing and medical supplies.