'No harmony in income management', say protesters

March 22, 2013

A protest against racism outside Labor MP Tanya Plibersek's office on March 21 demanded an end to the Northern Territory intervention and its expansion into areas such as Bankstown in south-west Sydney.

Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) organised the rally, which highlighted the small but significant steps being taken to bring Aboriginal communities, unions and others together to prevent the spread of these apartheid-like policies.

The protest was held on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and national Close the Gap day.

Karel Solomon told the rally that March 21 was also the day when, 53 years ago, South African police opened fire on protesters and killed 69 people. The Sharpville massacre was a turning point in the campaign against apartheid and racial segregation in South Africa, he said. He urged protesters to step up the campaign against the bipartisan racist paternalism.

Sue Gillett, a STICS activist from Bankstown, told the rally that youth suicide, attempted suicide, self-harm and child removal rates were on the rise in the NT. She blamed the disastrous NT intervention policies.

Public Services Association member Robin Croon said child protection workers in Bankstown, an area earmarked to trial income management, had decided not to make referrals. "We are refusing to be part of the expansion of the racist NT intervention," she said to applause.

Brett Collins from Justice Action also spoke about the lack of rehabilitation and support for former prisoners, particularly youth, which evidence says leads to re-offending.

Indigenous Social Justice Association president Ray Jackson said Aboriginal people were not the only targets for police racism. He held up a poster of Officer 266, who allegedly beat up Mardi Gras participant Jamie Jackson.

He urged support for the families who are still fighting for justice after deaths in custody. The family of Kwementyaye Briscoe, an Anmatyere man who died in the Alice Springs watchhouse on January 5 last year, believes that he was "a victim of the NT intervention".

Paddy Gibson, from STICS and the Jumbunna House of Learning at the University of Technology, said "income management" was set to expand from July and the campaign against it must also expand.

Aboriginal people, community organisations, migrants and trade unions must unite to stop income management, which does nothing but penalise the poor and already marginalised, he said.

"New rules mean that from July 2013, compulsory income management will apply automatically to anyone in Bankstown who is under 25 and exiting prison, along with young people who have an 'unable to live at home' status with Centrelink or who are on a 'special benefit' due to homelessness or other circumstances.

"If we act now, we can stop this happening and defend the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our community — prisoners and homeless youth."

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