Indigenous rights group backs Amnesty call for homelands funding, slams leaked cabinet report

Stop the intervention rally, Sydney, February 2010. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on August 15.

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The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) has welcomed the release last week of The Land Holds Us, a report by Amnesty International.

The report recommends the provision of government support and services for all Aboriginal Homelands and documents gross neglect and under-funding.

STICS is concerned that the government is moving towards total withdrawal of support for Homelands and smaller communities, citing the recommendations of a finance department report to cabinet on Indigenous spending, released under freedom of information laws last week.

STICS says that while the report talks of extensive “failure” in Aboriginal affairs, it’s recommendations are for further attempts to centralise Aboriginal populations in areas deemed “economically viable”, an extension of disastrous approach taken through the NT Intervention.

“Jenny Macklin faces a stark choice. Intervention laws will expire in 10 months,” said said Jean Parker from STICS.

“At this time, the meager Commonwealth funding currently supporting Aboriginal homelands will completely expire. Will [indigenous affairs minister Jenny] Macklin continue to impose assimilation-based policies, or will she heed Amnesty International’s call for recognition of the rights and desires of Aboriginal people to live on their lands?

“Amnesty’s report exposes current policy of Federal and Territory Labor governments as a return to the strategy practiced in the Northern Territory (NT) between the 1930s and the 1960s.

“The policy of concentrating Aboriginal peoples into missions and reserves was at the heart of the assimilation era. Despite the disastrous impact of assimilation on the fabric of Aboriginal societies, current ‘hub towns’ and ‘growth towns’ policies repeat exactly the strategy of population concentration”, said Parker.

“Communities across the NT are currently being destroyed by these policies. It’s a new wave of dispossession”.

“We applaud Amnesty International’s research. Amnesty have voiced the desperation of Aboriginal people who will fight to stay on their Homelands despite the government’s policy — which is to let these communities rot”, Parker concluded.

Early last the week a 470 page cabinet report was made public. While the report decries 40 years of government failure in Aboriginal affairs, it endorses the NT intervention and Labor’s current Aboriginal affairs program:

Paddy Gibson from STICS said: “Far from recommending a break with failed policies, this report advocates consolidation of the two cornerstones in the disastrous NT intervention.

“Firstly, restricting investment to a handful of communities deemed ‘economically viable’ and forcing residents of other communities to move in order to find work. Secondly, concentrating control of services and assets with ‘mainstream’ agencies at the expense of local Aboriginal organizations.

“The intervention has been the biggest policy failure of the past 40 years. Despite almost $2 billion in investment, government statistics show accelerating processes of social breakdown.

There’s been a 30% increase in Indigenous incarceration, a 38% increase in rates of child removal and a doubling in rates of attempted suicide and self-harm.

“A severe process of dislocation, akin to the stolen generations, is currently taking place in the NT. The recommendations of this finance committee report would see this continue.

“The report talks about engaging more with communities. But community leaders have made their demands clear in a recent program, Rebuilding from the Ground Up: An Alternative to the NT Intervention,” Gibson said.

“A true break with the failures of the past would see this program adopted. End racist laws and fund jobs in all Homelands and communities. Establish Aboriginal community control over housing, township land and services and put Aboriginal culture and language at the heart of the education and justice systems.”

[To support the Amnesty International petition to save Aboriginal homelands click here.]