Northern Territory intervention – the end of an era.

whitlam-lingiari.jpg                                          Prime Minister Gough Whitlam hands back Gurindji land to the Late Vincent Lingiari in 1975     

            oodgeroo_noonuccal.jpg                                                                                                               The Late Oodgero Noonuccal, campaigner for the 67 referendum, reconcilliation and a treaty.

                                           perkins.jpg                                                                       The Late Dr.  Kumantjayi Perkins, leader of the “Freedom Rides” and architect of Aboriginal self determination in government indigenous policy that lead to ATSIC.

                                                                                        eddie_mabo.jpg                          The Late Koiki Edie Mabo, who took the Queensland government to court claiming traditional land rights.  The high court ruling on his case lead to native title.

At the time of writing  the Australian government is undoing the Northern Territory Land Rights act, the Racial Discrimination act and passing new laws for the Northern Territory.    Amongst these laws is the removal of the permit system that requires outsiders from Aboriginal communities to get permission from Aboriginal councils to pass through or visit Aboriginal land. There is also the power for the government to resume and take control of Aboriginal land.

These laws are justified as part of the governments crackdown on child abuse in Aboriginal communities, however the N.T. Police, as well as Aboriginal authorities say that the removal of the permit system will hinder their efforts to police Aboriginal communities, in particular to restrict sly-grogging (illegal sale of alcohol, especially in “dry” communities.

There has been much comment in the media and around the blogosphere criticising these laws as no more than a land grab by the government. There is still no coherent plan to deal with child abuse in the governments new laws, its half a billion dollar price tag or the military and police officers who have already been deployed in this intervention. It seems to have no relevance to strategies to tackle child abuse. Even the writers of the N.T. “Little Children are Sacred” report that, theoretically, justified the intervention, have said they are disgusted by the intervention and dissasociated themselves from it.
The truth is this latest attack on indigenous rights and interests is the next obvious step in the governments roll-back of all the Aboriginal gains of the twentieth century.
 Firstly Native title was changed from an affirmation of land rights to become the legal mechanism by which land rights are extinguished.
 Then there was the Late Charles Perkins’ dream for indigenous self determination in indigenous policy, a dream that manifested in ATSIC but was then demolished by this present government.
The recent acquittal of a Queensland police officer of manslaughter charges for the 2004 death in the Palm Island watch house, and the fact that deaths in custody continue at all, is testament to how seriously the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was taken. There are higher rates of imprisonment and deaths in custody today than during the period examined by the Royal commission.
The campaign around the 1967 referendum – and its success – began a twenty five year struggle by Aboriginal Australia that achieved considerable success and political momentum, culminating in the Bicentennial protests in 1988.
All the gains of last century have now been undone by the Howard Government, while Kevin Rudd’s opposition has sat back silently and let it happen.
There is no hope of repealing these laws if the A.L.P. Wins government at the election, they have given in-principle support to the whole thing.
Before 1967 Aboriginal people were voiceless and marginalised, and bit by bit crawled their way to the centre of the national agenda and forced change. Today Aboriginal people are also voiceless and marginalised and the struggle must start again.



Filed under Aboriginal, australia, history, justice, politics

3 responses to “Northern Territory intervention – the end of an era.

  1. Ana

    I agree with your assessment of the gubbaments real agenda here in rolling back completley indiginous struggles and land rights and the push for self determination and sovereignty. Along with NZ, Canada and the US, Australia has unrepentenly blocked the passage of the Draft Declaration Rights of Indiginous peoples.

    You make it clear showing how they have deliberately Removed all of these hard fought rightd and the mechanisms for self determination for Indigenous peoples engaged in the struggle for their survival

    Apartheid in Azania was brought down by international pressure in support of struggle and the same will have to be the case to bring down Apartheid in Australia.

  2. Ana

    ——— Forwarded message ———-
    From: Les Malezer
    Date: Sep 1, 2007 8:06 PM
    Subject: [pacific] Agreement for Amended Declaration
    =To: pacific@…

    Dear Colleagues You will have very recently received my global email announcing the agreement reached over the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    This agreement between the Co-sponsoring States – those supporting the existing text of the Declaration – and the Africa Group of States means
    that the Declaration, complete with amendments negotiated as part of the agreement, will not be defeated in the General Assembly when it is
    considered on 13 September. In fact, there will be almost a complete consensus of States in support of the Declaration is Middle Eastern, Asian and Small Island States agree also to back the agreement.

    However, if there is opposition by Indigenous Peoples to these latest amendments it is still feasible that the Declaration will not be adopted, and there will be no Declaration approved by the General Assembly.

    So on the question of whether these amendments are good or bad changes for Indigenous Peoples you are being asked to make your own judgment.

    You will probably conclude that this is both a matter for political, as well as legal, consideration.

    As I know many of you will ask for my own view, and Mililani Trask and myself are collaborating here in New York on the Pacific interests, I
    am prepared to express my own personal opinion. Of course, I do not intend to try and force you to a particular point of view. I believe also that Mililani supports my view that we should endorse this amended Declaration, and the agreement, and advocate for the adoption and implementation of this Human Rights standard.

    Mililani perhaps has slightly different reasons for backing this Declaration. These are mine. The amendments are, except for one provision, minor and of no consequence. One amendment in particular is positive and will enhance the interpretation of the Declaration.

    The controversial amendment is the inclusion of ‘territorial integrity’ into the last Article, Article 46. There are differing legal opinions on whether this creates a change in international law or not, on the
    notion of territorial integrity to the effect that its impact upon the human rights of Indigenous Peoples is different from all other
    populations. In Australia, our indigenous organisations have already decided that there is not a negative impact and that the inclusion or
    not of ‘TI’ has no consequence. We were satisfied that in international law the relationship between the rights in the Declaration and territorial integrity remain the same, whether the terminology is included in the Declaration or not.

    However you should seek legal advice, hopefully good advice, if you want to resolve your own mind.

    I simply now go on to say that all other amendments are basically cosmetic.

    Taking a political viewpoint, I am extremely surprised that these soft changes have satisfied the Africa Group of States and I can only conclude that they have grown tired or disinterested in the
    Declaration, or had very little objection in the first place.

    Also, and this is political and legal, we should promote this Declaration and talk up its qualities. It is going to be us who push for its impact in the future, not the States, and we also want to
    ensure that courts, be they domestic or international, take the most positive interpretation of the text in the future. Why should we make
    it easy for the courts to see problems or shortcomings in the Declaration text?

    I have many other thoughts but I leave it here for you to ponder further and decide how you are to regard the Declaration. I look forward to your responses.

    Note that Mililani and I, and perhaps a few others, will send out more comments over these next few days.




    Les Malezer
    PO Box 8402
    Woolloongabba Qld 4102

    Mobile: +61 419 710 720
    Tel: +61 7 33914677
    Skype: +61 7 31030383
    Fax: +61 7 33914551

    Email: les.malezer@…

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