Friday, 23 July 2010

Gathering : Convergence : Activism in Alice Springs Against The Intervention

Thank you to Marisol Salinas and Cheryl Kaulfuss for the information below.

A major gathering campaigning against The Intervention occurred in Alice Spring from 6-11 July 2010 (10/11 July was spent visiting Town Camps and Outstations).  The Friends of the Earth International Indigenous Solidarity Gathering  merged with the Defending Indigenous Rights Conference in Alice Spring organised by Richard Downs and his people.

The Northern Territory Intervention, under the guise of fighting alcohol abuse and child sexual abuse, is eroding Aboriginal rights.  The Intervention has not reduced rates of alcohol abuse. Rates of child sexual abuse were never higher in the Northern Territory than anywhere else in the country. There were no paedophile rings to be cracked.

Meanwhile, The Intervention has introduced a welfare quarantining scheme reminiscent of the ration days.  According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, who visited the NT in 2009, The Intervention measures “[…]overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples,
infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities”.

It has been speculated the welfare quarantining provisions that have been imposed under The Intervention may be spread to other parts of the country under the guise of making the policy ‘non-discriminatory’, because it would apply to a broad layer of welfare recipients.

Under The Intervention, the Community Development Employment Scheme (CDEP) was scrapped. This has deeply impacted the ability of indigenous communities to have control over their own labour requirements and projects. Contractors are flown in to perform work on award wages that could be done by local workers.  The locals are doing work for the dole and still having half of their payments quarantined. This pits one worker against another. The precedent currently being set under The NT Intervention is not a good one for working people.

The gathering supported the efforts of Aboriginal activists in the Northern Territory to have The Intervention scrapped and to have programs like the CDEP re-established and advanced. Indigenous communities need control over their own affairs and (like all workers) should be paid award wages.

The gathering focussed on the environmental impacts of mining, proposed uranium dumping, and tourism on indigenous communities in this region and Australia wide. The mining companies often seek to divide indigenous people by holding out false promises of jobs and the payment of compensation to pay for improvements to the infrastructure that should, by rights, be a governmental responsibility.

On the final day of the convergence, 
300 people rallied in Todd Mall, Alice Springs, July 9.
 Photo: Jay Fletcher

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