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Mick Dodson: the truth under intervention spin

Last night I attended a large gathering at Canberra's Helen Maxwell Gallery to hear the views of Mick Dodson on the Government's intervention in the Northern Territory. ACT Greens Senate candidate Kerrie Tucker was host. Dodson wasn't too hard on Labor; Rudd had little choice but to tick Howard's box or play into hands just itching to wedge Labor on race.  Still, Rudd's speech on the matter to Parliament gave him room to clean up the mess if he wins office.

Dodson said that just about every page of the 500 pages of legislation authorising the intervention breaks our obligations under international human rights treaties we've signed up to, particularly the Convention outlawing racial discrimination. Mal Brough (Longman) had admitted he hadn't read  the Sacred Children report which supposedly triggered the intervention, and it was a fair bet he hadn't bothered to read 'his' legislation' either. Indeed, it was probably read only by "those brave souls in the Senate who voted against it," he said, including the Greens.

Dodson said he was concerned about the recklessness with which politicians are now prepared to break the scared principle that one does not by law discriminate against people on the basis of their race, and the media's  casual acceptance of this trend.

"This is not an intervention, it's an invasion of people's rights and liberties. The only positive is that it is a recognition of government failure."

Because of media laziness, most Australians didn't know what 'the intervention" was really all about. They didn't know that:

* There is no mention of the word 'child' or 'children' in the legislation, which violates the UN Convention of the rights of the child.

* The intervention would not create one new women's refuge or safe house in the 73 NT communities subject to it, despite the fact that only 5% of the communities already had either.

* The intervention would not fund one new child protection worker, or any extra child protection services.

* Instead it would create 725 new jobs in the public service, 300 of which are in Centrelink administering the withholding of ALL Aboriginal people's welfare income, regardless of whether they were good parents or bad, on the sole basis of where they lived. There is no right of appeal, for anyone.

* The intervention would not fund any services for the victims of abuse, or for the perpetrators.

* Assets can be seized from Aboriginal bodies if even $1 worth of Commonwealth funding was in their mix - without any compensation.

* The intervention threw 8,000 Aboriginal people who worked through CDEP (The Community Development Employment Scheme) in exchange for only 1500-2000 replacement jobs.

"This is racist action not for the purpose of helping children,  but to wedge political opponents. What troubles me most is the racial discrimination and the incapacity of the media to be outraged by this. Why are we ready to allow this to happen?"

"Australians think it's about protecting kids. The lazy media let that happen. And if you put your head up you get called a child abuser yourself. You get abused for saying, 'Hang on a minute, can we talk about this?'"

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Inventive racism

Slightly off-topic, I'm sorry. I've just read a regular column in our small local rag that had this bit of news:

An Aboriginal family has just moved into a flat in town. When they tried to get the phone connected Telstra, we're told, refused them on the grounds that the last tenants, also Aboriginal, had left without paying their bill.

(So ... the way to get an increase on your credit card withdrawal limit is to move into a home whose former occupant had a great credit rating ... with the proviso that you both have the same ethnic background?)

What Sue Gorgon said

On 4 Corners last week Sue Gorgon (aka Gordon) said "it is not up to our group to provide child protective services".

Women for Wik are holding a forum in Adelaide on Wednesday night that I will be attending.

Some things never change

How could anyone possibly believe that the Howard government would be in any way altruistic towards Aboriginal people. His record stands as a testimony to his beliefs and to his ignorance.

I think this intervention is one of the greatest retrograde steps Australia has taken on human rights in the past 100 years. If we as a community/nation are really serious about child abuse why is the concentration purely on Aboriginal children. The statistics show that one in four children are being abused at some time during childhood. There is no claim that those statistics are drawn only from the Aboriginal community.

We also don't know how accurate those statistics are as many incidents are only reported many years later when adults who have been trying to deal with the issues leading from the abuse finally tell someone. Why aren't the laws going to be there for all abusers if that is what will work? Simply because the government knows it won't work.

I would also really like someone to tell me how seizing land and stopping payments will prevent child abuse. Surely one of the factors, and there are many, in child abuse, domestic violence and rape is people's loss of empowerment. They offend in this way to feel powerful. Why make it worse?

To implement this intervention without the co-operation of the community is adding further insult, tarring everyone with the same brush and again asserting that paternalistic attitude that has caused so much pain and suffering to indigenous communities around the world. Makes me ashamed that Howard has been able to divide people like this.

Most people are afraid to stand up and be counted as he has already drawn the wedge early by making his statements about people thinking differently, Terming them pathetic or some such label. Many people have switched off because I think it is too painful for them to think about and they are too busy trying to get by in their daily lives.

Incest and DV

Most assault and rape are domestic.

I think one reason the stats on incest are likely to understate the issue is that I doubt men are reporting it yet.  This is just my impression from the people I have spoken to.

One problem is that the court process can be quite horrific.

Another is the way the programs (the few that exist) in schools are done.  Eg telling kids 'if this happens to you'; instead they should be saying 'if anyone has ever done this to you'.  It is a small difference but has made all the difference - so that some of the children in those classes ended up not reporting what had happened to them.

I do think we have made some progress on this in the last few decades (nothing like enough of course).  I think the next big wave will be men reporting when they have been abused.

Needless to say, interventions like those in the NT are, if anything, counterproductive.

Let The Sun Shine Through

, for someone who doesn't like conspiracy theories or conclusions of the jumped-to variety, you come across as remarkably tolerant.

Personally, the theory I don't like is the one that anyone recognising a conspiracy when they see one must be deluded, and never taken seriously. Looks to me like something dreamt up by would-be conspirators.

Suspicious ... who, me?

I dislike conspiracy theories and I'm wary of jumping to unwarranted conclusions. This 'intervention' sounds like something Howard thought up one night and sprung on the party next morning. Can't help feeling there's more wrong with it than the obvious (and that on its own is a lot).

Is there anyone out there who can, with conviction and authority, assure me that there's absolutely no connection whatsoever between this 'intervention' and prospective sites for nuclear waste on cheap land?

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