As this magazine goes to print, a military takeover of Indigenous lands in the Northern Territory (NT) is in progress. The Howard Government, citing violence and child sexual abuse, is attempting to seize Indigenous country by force and to complete the dispossession of the first Nations of central and northern Australia. The federal government has said it intends to extend its seizure to Indigenous communities in the states. These vicious hypocrites will do this by using the amendment supported by 90% of Australians in the famous referendum of 1967. That was the provision intended to give the federal parliament power to stop violence, abuse and neglect by state authorities.
Prime Minister John Howard is trying to deprive the Territory’s original peoples of the core of their economy and their national culture — their homelands. In imposing martial law on Indigenous Territorians, this government has turned 219 years of undeclared colonial war into an armed annexation.
Violence and abuse are never acceptable. All of the misery experienced by Indigenous people on this continent derives from the fact and the consequences of invasion. The withholding of services such as schools, housing, healthcare and employment were (and are) intended to starve people off their country.
However, dispossession has inevitably led to a breakdown of communities, which has been accompanied by an indefensible level of violence and abuse directed inward. Much of the violence against partners, children and other members of the community is carried out by a minority of hopelessly alienated men. Many Indigenous leaders have spoken out about this, and only the most deliberately blinkered can deny there is a problem. In the sandstorm of government lies, there are hard grains of truth.
Another big lie campaign. Domestic violence, deliberate abuse of children and thuggery are unacceptable in any community. That said, the moral panic about child sexual abuse is based on the false claim that Indigenous children are at a far greater risk of abuse than non-Indigenous children. Yet figures published by the government’s own Child Protection Agency reveal that, in terms of substantiated cases of child abuse, the percentage of Indigenous children victims is less than non-Indigenous children in every state and territory.
In fact, substantiated cases of all forms of child abuse against Indigenous children in 2005-06 were 19% of the total, despite the fact that Indigenous people make up 29% of the Territory population. This is not to argue that any case of child abuse is acceptable in any community. But it does go to show that the government’s invasion has another motive. Pat Turner, who before her recent retirement was Australia’s most senior Indigenous public servant, put it this way: “This government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our land.”
Among the lies, there is another truth as big as Uluru. Given the resources, Indigenous Nations can deal with all of these problems — community-based organisations have solutions. Demands for resources have gone unanswered. Solutions will not be found if
their country is stolen, this time for good; if their children are stolen, this time for good; if the men are exiled, this time for good.
There’s a word for that: genocide!
Land rights for miners and dumpers. In 2005, the federal government announced that it would build a nuclear waste dump on Indigenous lands and overrode territory laws to enable that to happen. This is part of Howard’s ridiculous plan to build 25 nuclear power plants. But that’s not the tenth part of the takeover plan. The ancient rocks of northern
Australia contain vast deposits of iron, gold, aluminium and, of course, the planet’s largest deposits of uranium. In the newer sediments bordering the Timor Sea, there
are oil, coal and gas reserves. That is the real reason behind the government’s land grab. Why else would they want to compulsorily acquire every significant Indigenous community in the Territory? Forget the government’s rhetoric about “just compensation.”
They will tie that up in the courts until the Elders die and the new Stolen Generation loses connection to country. Under the Native Title Act, this means the land is forfeited to the Crown, and no compensation is payable.
Betrayal in Black and White. There is no shortage of self-appointed or handpicked “leaders” who have put up their hands to help implement the government’s dirty work. There’s Noel Pearson, the insufferably pompous lawyer from Cape York. A favourite of the Prime Minister, he’s all for punishing parents and stealing children “for their own good.” Ditto Sue Gordon, the Perth magistrate and head of Howard’s tame National
Indigenous Council (NIC). Gordon is part of the taskforce, which is managing the invasion. Then there’s former ALP President, Warren Mundine, an Indigenous man who claims that those of us who see through Howard’s spin forget that “vulnerable people need protection.” Has this person never heard of the Stolen Generations and what caused them?
Kevin Rudd, possibly the next prime minister of this country, has committed the ALP to a bipartisan prosecution of Howard’s policies. He even accidentally let slip what all of this is about. Should he be elected, he promises to form a cross-party “war cabinet” to deal with Indigenous Australians. And ALP state governments are already sending police to take part in the occupation. The Labor Party leadership supports dispossession if that will win it the next election. How more treacherous can they get?
Voices of defiance. The troops are on the ground, and they face angry Elders demanding justice! The people of Mutijulu know how to call things by their right names. Opposing, as they say, the “military occupation” of their community, they point out that the federal government took direct control of their services two years ago and, thanks to that, they now have no services at all. In other communities visited by Howard’s stormtroopers, Elders have demanded housing, healthcare and schools. Indigenous police rangers are outraged. One said, “The Commonwealth’s radical takeover is unfair. Community life out where I am is great, it is beautiful, and I wouldn’t be here otherwise. To convey that perception, for somebody like myself or people in our community that we’re all doing this sort of stuff, is just not right.”
Organise now! Indigenous peoples of Australia face a full-frontal military attack. Troops and armed police are already in Indigenous communities. This is a national emergency, all right – for the First Nations of northern Australia!
It’s also a national emergency for every trade unionist and every member of a minority community, including Indigenous communities in the states. We must rise up against this attack. Because the next military assault might be aimed at a picket line or an anti-globalisation rally.
Australian capitalism has just escalated the class war. We’re all on the front line. The fight for Indigenous control of Indigenous affairs is a battle we all have a stake in.