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Issue #1577      12 December 2012

NT Aboriginal Elder calls for repeal of “Stronger Futures”

Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) held a forum last week to mark the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Speakers reflected on the 20 year anniversary of Paul Keating’s famous “Redfern Speech”, which recognised the horrific impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people.

The forum at the Tom Mann Theatre in Surry Hills, followed the release of a comprehensive evaluation of the income management system which provides clear evidence of ongoing and systematic discrimination against Aboriginal people.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, a senior Aboriginal Elder from the Utopia homelands in Central Australia, addressed the forum, demanding the repeal of “Stronger Futures” legislation. These laws continue the imposition of the Northern Territory Intervention for a further ten years.

Mrs Kunoth-Monks says that the NT Intervention is a return to the colonial-style policies Keating spoke against, and has done enormous damage to her community.

“What this is about is our survival. We have been traumatised by the NT Intervention. The decision to continue with these policies under ‘Stronger Futures’ for a further ten years must be … reversed.

“The government says they want to ‘normalise’ us. Well the sooner they free us from discrimination, the sooner our lives can go back to normal. We need to live on our own terms and with strength in our own customary practices. This must include a return to structures of governance in the outback that put our people in full control.

“What does it say about our government when they receive a report on income management which shows clearly that it is discriminatory and yet they are willing to carry on? I feel such pain for our young people, like my grand-daughter, who like calves branded with an iron have been singled out as second class citizens when are trying to find their place in the world and build a bright future,” concluded Mrs Kunoth-Monks.

Jeff McMullen, a veteran journalist and Chief Executive Officer (Honorary) of the Ian Thorpe Fountain for Youth also addressed the forum. Mr McMullen has worked extensively with Aboriginal communities living under the Intervention:

“We raise our voices in Redfern 20 years after Paul Keating challenged Australians to look at the damage done by discrimination. The anniversary of that honest healing speech should compel all of us to examine our government’s enormous hypocrisy and double standards in caging Aboriginal people as second class citizens not worthy of the same rights or protection under law. The ‘Stronger Futures’ laws mean an Aboriginal child born in 2007 will spend their first 15 years officially being singled out for discrimination endured by no other group in Australia”, said Mr McMullen.

Paddy Gibson from STICS said:“The legitimacy of the Intervention is in tatters. The evaluation report on income management showed two thirds of Aboriginal people feel discriminated against and three quarters feel the system is unfair.

“The government’s own statistics show suicide rates, Aboriginal incarceration, alcohol fuelled violence and unemployment have all markedly increased since 2007. Plans for an expansion of income management have hit a brick wall of opposition, including union bans on implementation that have stopped any referrals for compulsory income management here in NSW.

“Efforts by Aboriginal people in the NT to resist the Intervention, and its extension under the so-called ‘Stronger Futures’, require urgent support from across Australia. This is a defining human rights issue for our times,” concluded Mr Gibson.  

Next article – Murky debate misses real issue

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