THE RUDD government is set to hand down its “review” of the Northern Territory intervention at the end of September. All signs point to Rudd retaining the racist policies aimed at dispossession. Paddy Gibson spoke to Walter Shaw, an Aboriginal leader from the Mount Nancy town camp in the NT. Shaw is speaking around the country alongside screenings of the new documentary This is Our Country Too. The tour is designed to build the campaign against the intervention.
Can you comment on the impact of the NT intervention, more than one year now since it began?
I have seen no improvements within the last 12 months. The government really needs to be forced to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been wasted on this intervention.
A lot of Aboriginal people are feeling very disempowered in terms of where they are going in their lives, with abolishment of the Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP). People out in prescribed areas don’t have any community status anymore, they are basically rolled into the [welfare] system and there is no way forward for them.
There’s been no financial counsellors in order to assist people in terms of proper expenditure of their income. Centrelink just holds half their income. If we were looking at bringing people forward this requires education and motivation.
We have seen many layers of law restricting alcohol consumption. But there needs to be preventative programs and a lot more intensive case management for the groups and individuals affected by alcoholism.
There has been no consultation and negotiation with the Aboriginal people. As long as this approach of government-mandated programs remains in place, Aboriginal people are not going to move forward because we deal with what works for our communities and what works for individuals and families.
The government is now saying Aboriginal communities in the NT will be thoroughly looked at and shut down if they’re not economically viable. But I believe it is the responsibility of government to assist the Aboriginal people living in these communities to ensure that their community becomes economically viable.
The land which our people are living on was not just handed over; we had to fight long and hard to secure land tenure over the course of the last 40 odd years. The government has got the finances and the resources to support initiatives and ensure that Aboriginal people can remain on their own traditional lands and the places where they have grown up.
Can you comment on the upcoming NT government election? There has been very little discussion of the intervention, though we know Labor has committed an extra $280 million to continue the intervention for another four years.
I believe Territory Labor don’t have any justification for the intervention that they continue to support. Take the NT government action, the Little Children are Sacred report. They had it for eight weeks, then the Federal Government took over responsibility for it. But none of the 97 recommendations from that report are rolled into the intervention.
Someone has to wonder—what motivations both political and moral, from both tiers of government, both the Federal and Territory Labor Government, are behind moves to roll this intervention on for the next five years?
So people are looking at Greens and Independents. But there has been no time for us to organise what I believe would have been an upsurge of Aboriginal candidates unhappy with where things are going. This is because of the timeframe with the announcement of the election. The NT government has called the election ten months before the end of their term. There was no time to prepare a campaign, particularly with the scarce resources available to Aboriginal people.