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TENNANT AND DISTRICT TIMES FRIDAY 30 JUNE 2017 3
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TENNANT Creek’s Kylie Sambo was in Syd-
ney last week to join a forum marking the 10
year anniversary of the Intervention
Organised by the Jumbunna Indigenous Institute at the
University of Technology Sydney, the forum was also
addressed by Pat Turner from Central Australia, who is
currently the CEO of the National Aboriginal Commu-
nity Controlled Health Organisation and Steve Hodder,
a Lardl man who has lived many years in Alice Springs.
It has been 10 years since Liberal Prime Minister John
Howard launched the Northern Territory Intervention,
on June 21 2007.
The Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) was suspended
to allow the imposition of an explicitly racist regime
over Aboriginal lives and communities. The army was
sent into many remote Aboriginal communities to
send a clear message that the Commonwealth was in
The Intervention included many new measures that
applied to all communities on Aboriginal land in the
NT, now branded as ‘prescribed communities’. This
included town camps like those in Tennant Creek.
The Community Development Employment Program
(CDEP) was abolished, meaning that thousands of
Aboriginal people lost their jobs and now had to
rely on Centrelink. Funding agreements with the NT
government restricted infrastructure investment to a
handful of larger communities—the rest were written
off as “economically unviable”. Lots of homelands and
outstations lost services and funding.
The system of Income Management came in to control
50 per cent of Centrelink payments, mostly distributed
on the “BasicsCard”. A blanket prohibition on pornogra-
phy and alcohol was applied across Aboriginal land and
police were given powers to enter homes and vehicles
without a warrant to enforce this prohibition. These are
just some of the draconian Intervention powers, which
were extended until at least 2022 by the Gillard Labor
government in new legislation including the Stronger
Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012.
The forum heard that the Intervention, which has
cost more than $2 billion, has not improved the lives
of Aboriginal people and in many cases has made
There are twice as many Aboriginal men in prison
now compared with 2007 and more than four times
as many women getting locked up. Territory Families
is taking lots more children away from their families.
Before the Intervention there were approximately 250
Aboriginal children in ‘out of home care’ and now there
are more than 900.
The youth suicide rate has increased and there is no
evidence health outcomes are improving. Many com-
munities, including Tennant Creek, have not received
any new housing.
Kylie gave a very moving speech about how it feels
to be a young person who has grown up under the
discriminatory laws of the Intervention. She criticised
the BasicsCard, saying it is a waste of money which
should not be forced on Aboriginal people:
“It’s hurtful for me to go into the shop with a basics
card and everyone else is looking at me, wondering
‘what is that card?’And when they do find out what that
card is they’re going to be looking at us differently, like
‘oh, that person is an early school leaver’ for myself,
or ‘that person has been in jail’, or ‘that person has
problems with their kids, they’re on the welfare’... Do
you know how that feels? That feels very hurtful and
very disrespectful to us — because you’re here in our
country. We’re sharing this country with you, and yet
you’re still treating us like this”.
“This colony, this Australia, is built on that violence
and now we’re getting accused for it — that we’re the
bad people when we’re not... Being given this basic
card is basically saying, ‘Oh, you’re black, you’re
violent, you’re different to everybody else”.
Kylie compared the Intervention to the old days, when
Aboriginal people were controlled on missions and
stations and only paid in rations rather than cash, “It
happened years ago and it’s still happening today, so
when are we going to get that change?”
Kylie spoke about how hard it is for Aboriginal people
to find work in Tennant Creek and criticised the current
system that forced people to do activities for Centrelink
and the BasicsCard. She argued that the way forward
was self-determination, the government allowing
Aboriginal people to have the resources and power
to develop their own communities in their own way:
“Take away the welfare (Territory Families), not
the kids. Give back funding to the outstations so that
everyone can go back to their homelands and establish
something good. Stop giving Centrelink staff so much
money just to keep people on income management, it
could be put to good use”.
The Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice
Springs also organised a weekend of meetings and
protests to mark the 10 year anniversary, from June
24 - 26. Delegates from across NT communities joined
the conference, including number of people from Ten-
nant Creek including Dianne Stokes Nampin, Mark
Chungaloo and Shirely Lewis. Dianne spoke during the
public meetings and at a protest that marched through
the streets of Alice Springs to Minister for Territory
Families Dale Wakefield’s office.
Dianne criticised the way that children have been taken
away from their families under the NT Intervention,
comparing it to the Stolen Generations. She raised a
number of concerns about the way that the hospitals
in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs are working with
Territory Families. Dianne said that the right of families
to look after their own children must to be respected
and what was needed was more support from health and
other services, not threats to remove children.
The conference concluded with a strong statement
calling for an end to the NT Intervention and demands
Tennant speaker at
By PADDY GIBSON
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