Around the country, the campaign against the Intervention needs to step up the fight with a renewed mandate.
Campaigners should draw encouragement from the anti-Intervention vote in the Northern Territory, as well as the way the campaign built through the election period.
The release of another report by the UN in August under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, that criticised the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act to allow the continuation of Intervention measures as “embedding” discrimination in Australia, has again confirmed the injustice at the heart of the policy.
In the coming months, Jobs with Justice initiatives offer a way of seeking to draw unions further into supporting the campaign. The closure of Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the resulting mass unemployment is one of the main weapons being used to gut Aboriginal communities and organisations and to force assimilation.
While workers at the remote outstation community of Irrultja were queuing up to vote Green this was their primary complaint with the Intervention. Geoffrey Dodson, an employee of the Barkly Shire said:
“Before with the Ahrrenge [local Aboriginal] council we used to work for better wages. Since the Shire and Intervention took over it’s really hard. We’re just working for the same amount as Centrelink, it doesn’t rise up.
“We used to have 11 or so men working here and 13 ladies, now it’s just three or four of each.
“We get no help grading the road these days. We get no help maintaining our houses since they’ve been taken over, even though the rents have gone up. It’s getting a lot harder now.”
Under Intervention measures Aboriginal workers doing work under the hollowed out CDEP program are paid only Centrelink benefits, half of which are quarantined onto a BasicsCard.
Before the start of the election campaign, a successful east-coast speaking tour by a Gurindji construction worker being forced to work for the BasicsCard galvanised strong support.
CFMEU members on Sydney building sites were outraged at how poorly Aboriginal workers like him were being paid.
Extending union support for the campaign offers a way to build pressure inside the Labor Party to change its policy, as well as beginning to mobilise people with real power to force changes in government policy. Significant alliances with unions have already been forged.
Another speaking tour is being planned by city-based collectives in the second half of October.
This will build up to a National Day of Action demanding an end to the Intervention and Jobs with Justice for Aboriginal workers on October 29.
The campaign is requesting that unions, land councils and all progressive organisations endorse a statement condemning the attacks on Aboriginal workers and the expansion of income management, to be published on the same day.