John Leemans, a Gurindji man and LHMU delegate from Kalkarindji, Northern Territory, travelled to Sydney and Brisbane to speak at worksites, union and community meetings in March.
John is an outspoken activist and campaigner against the Northern Territory Intervention. Last year he helped organise a workers’ strike in Kalkarindji to protest the quarantining of Aboriginal workers’ wages. Some workers in Kalkarindji are paid only the equivalent of Newstart Allowance with half quarantined onto a BasicsCard that can only be spent in certain stores.
John spoke to a meeting of over 400 NSW Nurses’ Federation delegates, explaining how Intervention policies make Aboriginal people feel like “strangers in their own land”. He described the Intervention’s negative impact on health, compulsory land leases that have taken away control of land from Aboriginal people and the systematic under funding of communities. The delegates received John’s powerful call for the repeal of the Intervention laws very warmly, interrupting his speech numerous times with cheers, encouragement and applause.
At an early morning meeting on site with construction workers in Pyrmont, John explained how, “this Intervention is making things worse … we are crying out to the government, we want this Intervention to end and we want real consultation to deal with our problems … we need this to get on with our lives and feed our families.”
John also met with workers and officials from the MUA at worksites in Port Botany, as well as attending an LHMU meeting to discuss what role the union can play in the campaign against the Intervention. He also spoke to a vibrant rally at Sydney Town Hall attended by 180 people despite wet weather. He also took his messages to university campuses in Sydney and Queensland and to Amnesty International.
John’s tour was part of the ongoing campaign against the NT Intervention and for Jobs with Justice for Aboriginal workers. Collectives in Alice Springs, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are busy organising to scrap the failed Intervention.
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