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Darwin rally hears Federal Government has "betrayed its own people"

The Intervention Reform Coalition is a coalition of people who have come together to show their support for the rights of Aboriginal people to have a say in what happens in their communities, for Territorians to have a say in what happens in the NT and to show their concern about the way the intervention disregards hard fought for human rights.

The group includes people working in the areas of law, medicine, the arts, and the environment who after hearing from speakers Chris Howse (Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee), Tony Fitzgerald (Anti Discrimination Commission), Pat McIntyre (Barrister), Dr Paul Burgess and Olga Havnen (Combined Aboriginal Organisations and Women for Wik) at a public meeting, felt they needed to make a stand. The group supports the stand taken by the NT Combined Aboriginal Organisations Coalition.

The following is a report of last Saturday's rally in Darwin concerning the Federal Government's "emergency" intervention in indigenous communities.

 

Over 500 people rallied in central Darwin this morning to support the rights of Indigenous Territorians and oppose the Federal Government's intervention into Northern Territory Indigenous communities.

Speakers including Olva Havnen from the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory, Maratja Dhamarrandji and elder from Galiwinku on Elcho Island, local elder Kathy Mills, NT Indigenous MLA Matthew Bonson, Greens candidate for the federal seat of SOlomon Debbie Hudson, and barrister Pat McIntyre spoke about the damage already being done in communities by the hastily conceived legislation which ignores the advice of experts.

They pointed out the discrepancy between the rationale for the intervention given by the federal government, and the disempowerment and dispossession of Aboriginal people, the seizure of Aboriginal land and abolition of CDEP. The $88 million being spent on additional public servants to quarantine welfare payments was contrasted to the lack of ongoing funding for primary health care in communities.

Although the mood of the rally was at times sombre - some participants had painted their foreheads with white clay as a sign of mourning, and many wore funereal black - there was a strong feeling of solidarity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous and a resolve to continue the action until, as local sonstress Ali Mills put it, "the ripple that has started today becomes a tsunami".

The crowd joined Ali in singing a specially adapted version of the protest song "Blowing in the Wind":

How is it one nation always insists

You just have to do what we say?

Can one man be king of an empty land

His spirit destroying all life?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,

The answer is blowing in the wind.

Ninety-seven volunteers from the crowd, including adults and children, lined up with posters of the 97 recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report, and the rally passed a resolution in support of the Report. The resolution, passed by acclamation, reads:

That this ralley:

  1. Expresses regret that the federal Government has failed to support the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report;
  2. Supports the profound commitment of Aboriginal Territorians to strong families, strong communities, and to protecting their children from harm;
  3. Acknowledges that child sexual abuse is a national issue;
  4. Expresses support for the newly-formed National Aboriginal Alliance and for Aboriginal organisations and communities in the Northern Territory in their opposition to the discriminatory and coercive elements of the federal Government's "emergency intervention" in the NT.

They also agreed to continue their action with a "Walk for Strong Communities" to be held on Thursday 27 September at 5pm, gathering in Raintree Park, Darwin city, and walking to the sunset at the Mindil Beach Markets.

Barrister Pat McIntyre summed up the frustrations of those at the rally with these words:

Australians should be ashamed of August 2007. That is when our Federal Parliament created its own national emergency by betraying its own people and its own legal and political heritage. It consciously re-embraced legislative racism. In less than a month our fellow citizens have lost their homes, their towns, and their businesses. They have lost their right to free and private assembly. They have lost their right to appeal the decisions of public servants. They have been collectively defamed and condemned as evil, corrupt, ignorant savages! Enough of this nonsense!

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