A COMMITMENT to organising with unionists has paid off for the campaign against the NT Intervention and the rollout of Income Management into Bankstown. Child protection workers in the Public Service Association (PSA) in New South Wales have put an industrial ban on participating in the implementation of Income Management and on referring their clients to Centrelink.
The PSA’s action is a powerful antidote to Indigenous Affairs’ Minister Jenny Macklin’s line that Income Management “helps families” and is “in the interests of children.” It is an embarrassment to the government and shows that child protection workers regard Income Management as a policy that punishes and stigmatises the people they work with. Importantly, many of the workers involved see their action as part of opposing the racism of Income Management and the entire Intervention in the Northern Territory.
The PSA’s action comes on top of another recent victory. In July, the NSW ALP conference unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to halt the rollout of Income Management in Bankstown and any other community and review the Stronger Futures legislation that extends the Intervention for ten years.
The motion also called for the redirection of all funds earmarked for Income Management into programs to provide real support for people, such as job creation and social services and called for the right for anyone on the system to be able to exit immediately.
This gives the campaign a powerful tool in forcing the debate about Income Management and the NT Intervention as the government’s roll out to five “trial sites” enters its second month.
However, despite these developments, Macklin is determined to extend the paternalism of Stronger Futures to the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in South Australia.
The NPY Women’s Council—the only Aboriginal organisation that unequivocally supported Stronger Futures in submissions to the Senate inquiry on the legislation—has called for the introduction of Income Management. They’ve long been a conservative organisation that Macklin relies upon to cover up for the mass hatred of Intervention policies amongst Aboriginal people.
Macklin is using their latest call as a battering ram against the huge opposition to Stronger Futures, which extends as widely as the entire Catholic Church of Australia. At the conclusion of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Adelaide in July, church representatives led a march to parliament to hold a prayer vigil against Stronger Futures.
The NPY Women’s Council’s call does not reflect the views of people on the ground in the APY Lands. Mr Murray George, a member of the executive of the APY Land Council, travelled to six community consultation meetings on Income Management within the area where people overwhelmingly rejected proposals to introduce the scheme. The extent of the opposition was such that Centrelink officials dropped out of the consultations. As Mr George said, “They’re not listening to people, you know…I walk the communities, I go and sit down with the community and I talk to those people and I know what they want.”
This truth was acknowledged by a recent meetings of SA Unions, the peak union body in South Australia. They passed a motion opposing the roll out of Income Management in the APY Lands, noting that “…all communities in the APY Lands have rejected the introduction of compulsory Income Management at a recent visit by federal government officials despite the claims by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin…”.
They also expressed their opposition to Income Management in Playford, Adelaide, one of the five trial sites, as well as the NT Intervention which they declared has, “had serious detrimental effects on the culture and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.”
Rather than measures to control people, APY Lands communities desperately need money for jobs and investment in social services. Labor has progressively axed 400 jobs—from a community where 900 people are of working age—since it began cuts to the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) in the APY Lands in July 2009. Now they want to blame Aboriginal people for the misery they’ve inflicted.
The push only reinforces the importance of the campaign in Bankstown. A victory there could be a real boost to those in the APY lands opposing this, as well as those in the Northern Territory bracing themselves for a decade of Macklin’s Intervention.