Leaders call for apology over NT intervention

BY AMY MCQUIRENOVEMBER 8, 2011

 Originally published in Tracker Magazine.

Dhurili leader Reverend Djiniyini Gondarra is one of several NT lawmen and women who have signed a statement denouncing a future for the NT intervention.

NATIONAL: A group of prominent Northern Territory Aboriginal leaders have called for an apology from the federal government for the “hurt, embarrassment, shame and stigma” caused by the controversial Northern Territory intervention.

They have also stated that they will not support any extension of the controversial policy and have raised the issue of reparations.

The group includes Djiniyini Gondarra, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Japata Ryan, Harry Nelson, Yananymul Mununggurr, Djapirri Murunggirritj and Barbara Shaw.

All of them live in prescribed areas under the intervention and have spoken out following the release of the Gillard government’s Stronger Futures report.

The report was released last month following a six-week period of consultations throughout Northern Territory communities.

The consultations were intended to ask communities about the future of the NT intervention, which was launched in 2007 following a media furore over child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities.

The legislation, which was rushed through Parliament with less to no consultation with those involved, placed prescribed communities under compulsory income management, blanket alcohol and porn bans and compulsory acquired Aboriginal townships on five year leases.

On releasing the report, Indigenous Affairs minister Jenny Macklin announced that she would be extending trials that link welfare payments to truancy into Northern Territory communities.

But concerns were immediately raised about the validity of the consultations.

Aboriginal policy expert Jon Altman said that the questions and topics for consultations appeared pre-determined.

And Jumbunna House of Learning researcher Paddy Gibson also said that the report “whitewashes the deep anger felt towards the Intervention and the profound damage it has done to communities”.

Their concerns have been backed by the leaders in a statement released this month.

“The recent consultations report shows that government has failed to take seriously our concerns and feelings,” the statement says.

“This report is simply a reflection of pre-determined policy decisions.

“This is shown clearly by the absence of any commitment to bilingual learning programmes as well as the proposal to introduce welfare cuts and fines to parents of non-attending school children.

“Once again a punitive policy that is neither in the best interests of the child or the family.”

They have called for the government to commit to long-term funding for the homelands, and to handover control to communities.

“Community councils have suffered from years of underfunding. The same is happening today with the shires that have been imposed on us.

“There is a lack of funding for our core services. There is no capacity for Aboriginal communities to engage in long-term services planning without the certainty of long-term funding.”

The statement calls for real, long-term commitment to quality education for Aboriginal children.

It calls for bilingual education to be re-introduced to schools, attendance rewarded instead of penalising truancy, boosting Aboriginal teachers in classroom, ensuring the curriculum acknowledges traditional knowledge and culture and ensuring that Aboriginal teachers are treated fairly.

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