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Responses to Howard's attacks on Indigenous people in the NT

Here are four good articles in response to Howard's recent attacks on Indigenous people...

 

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Make no mistake, Howard's NT plan is a new apartheid

 

Guy
Rundle writes:

Last
week, the Howard Government, via a sleight of hand connected to the grant of
lands in the 1970s, imposed a de facto apartheid system on Australia. You
may want to argue that this was necessary, desirable, a last resort, etc etc,
but first you have to acknowledge that this is apartheid. A section of the
population will be prevented from exercising their legal rights in the places
where they live and rarely leave.

This
denial will extend to what they can buy, how they raise their children, what
they can do with the benefit money to which they, as citizens, are entitled to
receive. İn other words, such people have been legally ruled – if the law
survives a High Court challenge – to be denied the right to equality under the
law. Aborigines in these areas are once again the exceptional case.

How
did the editorial writers of The Australian mark this occasion? By arguing that
it marks the end to "Aboriginal exceptionalism". That’s pretty
much the screwy non-logic that has dominated this episode, and which will
dominate the inevitable failure of what is de facto, the military occupation of
Aboriginal Australia.

Forty
years ago the Aborigines got full citizenship and the beginnings of land
rights. Neither of these were due to white beneficience, but to the pressure
put on sluggish governments by political movements – the ‘freedom rides’ in the
first place (started by Charles Perkins and black and white members of the
Communist Party of Australia) and the Wave Hill strike on the other (sparked at
least in part by communists such as Frank Hardy, who would later draw Fred
Hollows, another communist, into Aboriginal Australia).

İn
the '70s these grew into full-scale urban and remote political campaigns, which
generated medical services, legal services, campaigns on land control and
ultimately the successful Mabo et al lawsuit establishing native title.

To
understand this is to understand why Howard’s initiative, should it be
implemented, will inevitably fail. Nothing that Aborigines have won or achieved
has come from outside. İt has come, as it can only come, from movements built
from within that force white Australia
to cede power, not to re-extend it.

Yet
much of the criticism of Howard’s initiative has been misplaced or
misunderstands why it is wrong and counterproductive. That it has a political
dimension is without doubt. Howard, who can retrieve a majority with a thimble
and a line of thread, has performed a dialectical two-step that would have done
Lenin proud. Moving on Aboriginal suffering makes him look like a man of action
and compassion, and using the police and the army to do it appeals to the right
who would dismiss any other type of move as more wasted money. Rudd is left
with nothing to do, except bleat agreement. Going to the liberal-left of it and
talking about rights would be suicide. Going to the right of it – well there is
no right of it, save for reintroducing forced child removal.

But
the political maneouvring is beside the point. İf the policy was right its
genesis and motive wouldn't matter. İts inevitable failure is obvious with a
moment’s consideration.

İ
mean really, try and think about it, really think about it for a minute. What
are the constituents of the policy? That troubled Aboriginal communities will
develop self-determination and autonomy by having key decision-making powers
over their own lives taken away from them? That school attendence will be
enforced by the army? That chopping up land into freehold title will magically
introduce the idea of home ownership and bourgeois individualism into a culture
that had not yet developed agriculture when Europeans encountered them? Come
on.

Can
you think of somewhere where this policy of military modernisation has been
tried before? That’s right. İraq. The place where 24-year-old interns
were sent to establish stock markets and private health systems etc, where it
was assumed that, once a dictator was deposed, a society pretty much like
Akron, Ohio, would emerge.

As
it unaccountably failed to do so, relations between occupier and occupied
detoriarated to the point where a situation of open conflict developed. So,
too, will it occur in the north when Aboriginal Australia unaccountably fails
to become a southern Switzerland, organised crime breeds from prohibition (as
it always does) and Aborigines increasingly define themselves against the army
of experts – military and therapeutic – sent in to "help" them.

And
as in the Middle East, such exuberant
manoeuvres will delegitimise a whole generation of failed leaders. Abbas,
Al-Maliki, Khazai have now been joined by Noel Pearson, rubber-stamping the
surrender of Aboriginal power when the minister calls.

One
consolation of this policy is that it will fail more quickly and more visibly
than previous ones, and people can then move on to really thinking about how
power is formed and held. Another is that the next generation of leaders will
be formed not in the muddy waters of ATSİC and reconciliation, but by seeing
their parents and elders bullied by cops and social workers, with vastly more
powers than they now possess. Given the way prohibition usually works, the cops
will be running the illegal market in booze within six months anyway.

What
this new initiative represents above all is cowardice. İt is cowardly because
it has little to do with blacks, the movement they have to rebuild, the power
they have to take from us.

This
policy is for and about white people. İt is about assuaging their guilt and
shame of white people by being seen to be doing something, anything, in the
face of horror, the unwillingness to look deep into the heart of colonialism
and face what really needs to be done with determination and resilience.

 

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Mutitjulu community leaders: please listen to us

 

Mutitjulu
community leaders Dorothea and Bob Randall write:

We welcome
any real support for indigenous health and welfare and even two police will assist,
but the Howard Government declared an emergency at our community over two years
ago -- when they appointed an administrator to our health clinic -- and since
then we have been without a doctor, we have fewer health workers, our council
has been sacked, and all our youth and health programmes have been cut.

We have no CEO and limited social and health services. The Government has known
about our overcrowding problem for at least 10 years and they’ve done nothing
about it.

How do they propose keeping alcohol out of our community when we are 20 minutes
away from a five-star hotel? Will they ban blacks from Yulara? We have been
begging for an alcohol counsellor and a rehabilitation worker so that we can
help alcoholics and substance abusers but those pleas have been ignored. What
will happen to alcoholics when this ban is introduced? How will the Government
keep the grog runners out of our community without a permit system?

We have tried to put forward projects to make our community economically sustainable
-- like a simple coffee cart at the sunrise locations -- but the Government
refuses to even consider them.

There is money set aside from the Jimmy Little foundation for a kidney dialysis
machine at Mutitjulu, but National Parks won’t let us have it. That would
create jobs and improve indigenous health but they just keep stonewalling us.
If there is an emergency, why won’t Mal Brough fast-track our kidney dialysis
machine?

Some commentators have made much of the cluster of s-xually transmitted diseases
identified at our health clinic. People need to understand that the Mutitjulu
health clinic (now effectively closed) is a regional clinic and patients come
from as far away as WA and SA; so, to identify a cluster here is meaningless
without seeing the confidential patient data.

The fact that we hold this community together with no money, no help, no doctor
and no government support is a miracle. Any community, black or white would
struggle if they were denied the most basic resources. Police and the military
are fine for logistics and coordination, but health care, youth services,
education and basic housing are more essential. Any program must involve the
people on the ground or it won’t work. For example, who will interpret for the
military?

Our women and children are scared about being forcibly examined; surely there
is a need to build trust. Even the doctors say they are reluctant to examine a
young child without a parent’s permission. Of course, any child that is
vulnerable or at risk should be immediately protected, but a wholesale
intrusion into our women's and children’s privacy is a violation of our human
and sacred rights.

Where is the money for all the essential services? We need long-term financial
and political commitment to provide the infrastructure and planning for our
community. There is an urgent need for tens of millions of dollars to do
what needs to be done. Will Mr Brough give us a commitment beyond the police
and military?

The Commonwealth needs to work with us to put health and social services,
housing and education in place rather than treating Mutitjulu as a political
football.

But we need to set the record straight:

There is
no evidence of any fraud or mismanagement at Mutitjulu – we have had an
administration for 12 months that found nothing.

Mal Brough
and his predecessor have been in control of our community for at least 12
months and we have gone backwards in services.

We have
successfully eradicated petrol sniffing from our community in conjunction with
government authorities and oil companies.

We have
thrown suspected p-dophiles out of our community using the permit system which
the Government now seeks take away from us.

We will
work constructively with any government, state, territory or federal, that
wants to help Aboriginal people.

Bob
Randall is the subject of the documentary Kanyini

 

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Howard's New Tampa -Aboriginal Children Overboard

Below is the text of an article by Jennifer Martiniello which will be forwarded to major newspapers in Australia. Please pass on to your networks. Jennifer Martiniello is a writer and academic of Arrernte, Chinese and Anglo descent. She is a former Deputy Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, and a current member of the Advisory Board of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the ANU.

Howard's New Tampa - Aboriginal Children Overboard

Howard's new Tampa children overboard are our Aboriginal children. The Little Children are Sacred report does not advocate physically and psychologically invasive examinations of Aboriginal children, which could only be carried out anally and vaginally. It does not recommend scrapping the permit system to enter Aboriginal lands, nor does it recommend taking over Aboriginal 'towns' by enforced leases. These latter two points in the Howard scheme hide the true reason for the Federal Government's use of the latest report for blatant political opportunism.

It has been an openly stated agenda that Howard wants to move Aboriginal people off their lands, and has made recent attempts to buy off Aboriginal people by offering them millions for agreeing to lease their lands to the Federal Government, e.g. Tiwi Islands and Tangentyere in Alice Springs. There was also the statement by the Federal Government that it could not continue (?!) to provide essential services to remote communities, which raised an uproar of responses in the press. The focus on the sexual abuse of children is guaranteed to evoke the most emotive responses, and therefore command attention, just like the manipulation of the Tampa situation. But while the attention of the media and the public is being emotionally coerced, what is being sneaked in under the covers?

Two issues specifically - mining companies have applied for more exploration permits in the Northern Territory, the Jabiluka uranium mining operations at Kakadu have already hit the media because of the mining company's applications to the Government to significantly expand its operations, including establishing new mines at Coronation Hill, and another critical issue - nuclear waste.

The Howard Government has already mooted that nuclear waste should be dumped in the Northern Territory, on Aboriginal lands. Aboriginal traditional owners are absolutely opposed to this. We have a long history of deaths and illness from radiation, from the atomic tests at Woomera in the 1950s to the current high incidences of carcinomas in the community at Kakadu near the Jabiluka site. The main obstacle to the Federal Government's desired expansion of mining operations in the Northern Territory and nuclear waste dumping is, of course, the Aboriginal people who have occupancy of, and rights under the common law to, their traditional lands.

Following the stages of the Howard Government's usual modus operandi (defund, blame, eliminate), defunding of critical programs for remote Aboriginal community projects began in July 2004, with coerced changes to funding contracts, and monies for critically needed youth and health programs in remote areas being the first dollars to go. Take Mutitjulu for example, which was notoriously profiled by the ABC's Nightline program. I say notorious because one of Senator Mal Brough's personal staffers was the so-called ex-youth worker interviewed on that program, and the content of that interview was laden with myths and mistruths. The staffer in question failed to appear when summoned before a Senate inquiry to explain and the Senator's office is yet to issue a statement. When the community lodged a formal protest to Government, it was raided and their computers seized. But the program did show the effects of the Howard Government defunding of essential programs on that community, in particular the youth centre and health centre. The people at Mutitjulu also just happen to be the traditional owners of Uluru, one of this country's most lucrative tourist attractions. The Howard Government would not like us to ask who benefits by the people of Mutitjulu being forced off their community. Under the amendments to Native Title made by the Howard Government, once Aboriginal people have left their traditional lands, forcibly or otherwise, their rights under the common law that every other Australian enjoys over their land are significantly impaired.

Progressive defunding of Aboriginal art centres has also begun, with a range of community art centres not having their funding renewed by DCITA in July 2005 and 2006 in the Northern Territory, from communities in Arnhemland to mid and southern Territory communities. The art production facilitated by those Aboriginal art centres are the only means through which members of those communities can actually earn a living, as opposed to being on welfare. But then, dependent people are easier to control by means of that dependency. The Howard Government's failed Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) have also been the catalyst for further blame shifting and progressive defunding, take Wadeye for example.

Our Aboriginal communities are being squeezed further into dysfunction and disenfranchisement by carefully targeted political engineering, the systemic and ruthless roll-out of a planned agenda. It is no accident that Howard's scheme to address what he calls the urgency of the Little Children are Sacred report's 97 recommendations was trotted out so very quickly, and addresses so very few of those recommendations. It is sheer political opportunism to advance an already in motion agenda, and to score points in an election year. After all, The Little Children are Sacred report is not the first of such reports, nor are its findings and recommendations new. The Federal Government has had the 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997 and 2002 reports gathering dust and deliberate inaction on its shelves. Perhaps Mr Howard has been saving them up for a rainy election year? And of course Mr Howard's scheme targets only Aboriginal communities, despite the fact that the findings specifically state that non-Aboriginal men, that is, white men, are a significant proportion of the offenders, who are black-marketeering in petrol and alcohol to gain access to Aboriginal children. What measures is the Howard Government going to take about non-Aboriginal sex offenders, pornographers, substance traffickers and the like? Nothing according to the measures announced, but then, they're not Aboriginal and they don't live on the Aboriginal communities where their victims live.

So who are the real victims here, the silenced victims of John Howard's scheme? Aboriginal children, of course, who will be subject to physically and psychologically invasive medical examinations, irrespective of their home and family circumstances, and who will deal with the mental and emotional fall-out from that? Aboriginal men, too, who become the silenced scapegoats, painted by default by John Howard as all being drunken, child-raping monsters. Perhaps the fact that almost every picture shown of Aboriginal men in the media these days shows them drunk, with a slab, cask or bottle under their arms leads Mr Howard to expect that one to pass unchallenged, irrespective of the fact that statistics show that only 15% of Aboriginal people drink alcohol, socially or otherwise, compared to around 87% of
non-Aboriginal Australians. The greater majority of Aboriginal men are good, decent people. Perhaps the media would like to rethink its portrayals of Aboriginal men? How about some photos of the other alcoholics, you know, the white ones. There's more of them.

And what of our communities? The Howard Government also hasn't mentioned that the majority of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are already dry communities, decided and enforced by those communities. But then that would spoil the picture Mr Howard wants to paint of our Aboriginal communities. Other large communities, such as Daly River, have controlled the situation by only having alcohol available from the community's club and enforce a strict four can limit. Also forgotten in the current politically opportunistic furore is the fact that Aboriginal communities around Tennant Creek and Katherine have been lobbying Governments and town councils for decades to restrict the sale of alcohol on Thursdays, when Aboriginal community people come to town for supplies. So far their pleas have been rejected. Nothing in Mr Howard's plan to facilitate that, either. Or about the control of alcohol when those people, once forced off the communities into the towns, bring their problems with them, child abuse or alcoholism and all the rest. Of course that would make access to Aboriginal children a lot easier for white offenders, they won't have to go so far to find a victim.

One last word on focus of attention. In the famous Redfern Address, the then Prime Minister, Paul Keating asked perhaps the most important question for all Australians to consider. He said 'We failed to ask the most basic of questions. We failed to ask - What if this were done to us?' What if this were done to us - to Mr and Mrs Average Australian, to our schools, youth centres, health centres, access to medical care, communities, homes, children, grandchildren? After all, current national health reports from a wide range of health organisations name sexual abuse of non-Indigenous Australian children as a crisis area in need of urgent attention. And the numbers of victims are higher. National reports into mainstream domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse also call for urgent action, again the issues are at crisis level, and the numbers of victims and abusers are far higher than in the Little Children are Sacred report. None of the recommendations in all of those hundreds of national health reports recommend compulsory sexual health tests for every Australian child under sixteen. Not one of them recommends that a viable solution is closing down youth and health programs, in fact they all advocate that more are needed. None recommend that the victims' or the offenders' communities and homes should be surrendered to the Federal Government and put under compulsory lease agreements, and none advocate processes which would lead to either the victims or the abusers losing their rights under common law to their property as measure to control or remedy the occurrence of abuse. Would the Howard Government even dare to contemplate such as that? I think not. It would be un-Australian, and the Government it would expect immediate legal repercussions on the grounds of impairment of human rights, extinguishment of rights under common law, discrimination, and a raft of other constitutional issues. Besides, Mr and Mrs Average Australian don't, for the most part, live on top of uranium and mineral deposits or future nuclear waste dumps.

But seriously, the most critical question for all Australians to ask themselves in the lead up to this year's Federal Election is just that - What if it were done to us? With full acknowledgment of what has already been done to workers, trade unions, student unions, public primary, secondary and tertiary education, elderly care, palliative care, medicare, crisis health care,nurses, teachers, multicultural affairs, migrant groups, women, child care, small businesses and artsworkers, among the many, through the exercise of policies of social engineering and fear, your answer at the polling booth may just determine whether it will be done to you, or continue to be done to you. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald 25th June, the Howard Government last week used the military to seize control of 60 Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, which are now under military occupation. This is not Israel and Palestine. The Northern Territory is not Gaza or the West Bank. This is Australia - but is it the Australia you thought you lived in? Walk in our shoes, Aboriginal Australia's, and ask yourselves, what would it be like to have this done to us? And then, walk with us.

 

Jennifer Martiniello

 

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Letter to from Pat O'Shane to Kevin Rudd

 

From: Patricia O'Shane
Date: 24-Jun-2007 19:10

Dear Friends: below is set out a letter which I have today sent to Mr
Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament of
Australia.

I am asking you to send your letters of protest to the Prime Minister,
Mr Rudd, and all State Premiers in this country.

The Prime Minister has stated that he will deploy Australian
Defence
Forces in Aboriginal Communities in the Northern Territory to enforce
the Commonwealth Government's proposals.

----- Original Message -----

From: Patricia O'Shane
To: Kevin.Rudd.MP@aph.gov.au
Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2007 1:30 PM
Subject: Your Response to Howard's "national emergency"

Dear Mr Rudd

It is with extreme alarm that I heard you express support for Prime  Minister Howard's proposals to take over Indigenous communities in NT, in his averred concern over Indigenous child sexual abuse.

First, the issue has been around for decades; and people such as I warned about it at least 20 years ago. At the time when I stated it at a public meeting in Sydney, I was vilified by the media and politicians as alarmist, and being hyperbolic; others were simply ignored.

For Howard to now characterise this issue as a "national emergency" is nothing more than a
political stunt, just at the time when he is facing an uncomfortable election. He needs to divert attention from some of the problems that are raising their very ugly heads within the Liberal Party, not to mention his poverty of thinking on any social issue
whatsoever.

But apart from that, the real test of his concerns about Indigenous (or any other) kids being subject to abuse at all and any levels can be more accurately assessed by his previous political stunts, the "Tampa" affair, Children Overboard, the deportation of children born of Refugees in Australian Detention Centres. The man is not only a hypocrite, he is evil (by their deeds shall we know them - as you would know, Mr Rudd, from your Bible).

I would have expected that you'd note it was Howard, who shortly after assuming the office of PM, embarked on a protracted vicious propaganda progam of demonising Indigenous Australians, which
enabled him to put a fire bomb through Indigenous programs, pretty much with impunity, and cut $400M from Indigenous Health - never to be restored (by him, at least). This is the PM who is responsible for the virtual demolition of programs which were designed to overcome the very
problems which breed child sexual abuse, which cannot be crudely reduced to a law-and-order issue.

I would also have expected you to note Howard's agenda to push the development of the nuclear industry to which uranium is fundamental. And guess what? Uranium just happens to be present throughout the NT, and especially in Aboriginal Lands - just waiting for Howard's mates to exploit it, as soon as he gets rid of the permit system, takes control of the communities, and cuts more moneys from them - thus ensuring their inability to mount any sort of resistance to any nefarious
activities he might wish to get up in their
homelands.

Far from Howard attempting to institute measures to ensure that Indigenous Australians will indeed get to share a place in the sun with the likes of Howard's wealthy, privileged, mates, he, like so many of his ultra-conservative think-alikes, is once again engaging in the blame game. And he's about to fix it, jack-boot fashion by cutting services in savagely punitive fashion, and metaphorically sending these wrongdoers (Indigenous parents) to ... well ... Hell, really - compounding the present sufferings of the little children, along with all other members of their communities.

Anyone who ever thought that we'd build a Civil Society in this country must surely have had the blinkers blasted off their faces by this week's pronouncements by this vicious overlord.

That you, Mr Rudd, would put your name to Howard's proposals is a serious indictment of your leadership, not to
mention that it signifies an alarming lack of judgement.

While it is expected that you would agree that Indigenous child sex abuse is shocking (by the way, is it any worse than child sex abuse which is endemic in Western society?), it is quite another thing for you to agree to Howard's raft of proposals for dealing with the issue in NT Indigenous Communities, which are punitive, destructive, and
frankly racist.

In order to distinguish yourself as a true alternative Leader of the people of Australia (that is, including Indigenous Australians) you need to clarify issues for action, such as:
Differentiating between Howard's land grab of Indigenous communities and the issue of child abuse; Making a distinction between Howard's political & economic agenda, and the real crisis of child abuse in communities; Removal of permits and the Commonwealth's control of the territory would enable
Howard to place control of the mineral resources
on Aboriginal lands into private hands; That solutions to the crisis of child abuse have been highlighted in a raft of domestic and
international texts which do not promote deployment of police and the military as the frontline response: it requires a health, education, human services and housing response; That the Commonwealth has had the ability for decades to address this issue and has not had the political will. Let us be clear that Howard and Brough (not to mention Noel Pearson and Sue Gordon) are not the "Great White Hopes" for Aboriginal Communities;

Mr Rudd, you can have access to any number of people within the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities who would be more than willing to assist you in establishing a distinguishing platform with the aim of building a Civil Society, which would include happy, healthy Indigenous
communities.

There are professional Aboriginal women who have dedicated themselves to this field for some 40 years. It is not the moral outrage of one Aboriginal male such as Noel Pearson. I refer you to Naomi Mayers at the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service, Gracelyn Smallwood from Queensland who has worked with the World Health Organisation and has
been vocal on this a issue for years, and Boni Robertson. These women are your reference points. In fact you have within the Labor party, Ms Linda Burney who can clarify for you what and who needs to be considered in your response, so that your leadership position reflects integrity.

I look forward to hearing you outline a more considered policy response to the NT situation, and particularly to John Howard's promotion of further violence and disempowerment in Indigenous communities, and his continuing demonisation of the people.

Pat
O'Shane, AM, LLM

 

Miscellaneous: