On June 21st 2007, the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended to allow the Northern Territory Response Act 2007.
An activist, a community leader and a Hip hop artist have shared detailed stories of how this controversial move still impacts them and communities all around the nation.
Kevin Buzzacott is an Arabana man and veteran activist. This testimony comes from an interview with Paddy Gibson from Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning in August 2008, one year into the NT Intervention:
"The Intervention is like many of the policies, many of the tricks over the years to nail people, to scare people, to get the land off people. The full control.
I've seen people spread-eagled on the back of the car and strip searched. They even take you to the jail if you speak your rights to them - all in the name of the Intervention. They bust into your homes, whether there's grandmothers or grandfathers or a baby sleeping in the house. They arrest you. They hassle you.
You get a mother in a car with her kids driving home from the shop. The cops lights blare - the sirens going. They pull the car over. The kids are screaming in the car, they're terrified because they're scared of the cops and they think they're going to get arrested.
"As soon as they see a police car, they start shaking and carrying on. The control - this is no monkey business. this is full on. Terror – it’s a terror attack."
Now people, just driving into town, as soon as they see a police car, they start shaking and carrying on. The control - this is no monkey business. This is full on. Terror – it’s a terror attack.
They take half of your pension. You've got to chase Centrelink to get your food vouchers, this sort of thing is just crazy. It takes you hours to get to the shops, you’ve got to do the embarrassing thing of queuing up with the card. I've never dreamed that they'd pull us back 50 years or more like this, back in the old mission days, the old ration.
I think people of Australia - they better watch this. Because if they get away with it here in the Territory, whatever freedom you think you might have, it’ll be gone."
Kevin Buzzacott has lived for many years between South Australia and the Northern Territory, campaigning for the rights of his people and to defend Aboriginal country from mining. He is currently the President of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and describes himself as a Peacemaker. During the opening phase of the Intervention he spent time living outside of Alice Springs and became subject to “income management”.
Valerie Martin Napaljarri
This is an edited transcript of a speech given by Warlpiri community leader, Valerie Martin Napaljarri, to a protest in Melbourne in June 2009, marking two years since the start of the NT Intervention:
"When the Intervention first came, when the armies first came into our country and our communities, we were so scared that they were going to take our kids away. The old people ran, took the kids with them out of the community. They were reflecting, back on the mission days. But I said, ‘no no, let’s steady down. We have to stand up and fight’. That’s the way to go - to fight.
I still dance for our culture. I dance, I have my ceremony, my paintings. We want to keep our culture and language to do with the land – but they want to wipe this out.
How can we control our culture and our land? How can we teach our kids with the way the government is treating us now? Controlling our lives! I call it an invasion. We are being invaded once again.
"When we say sorry we mean it."
There’s the BasicsCard, our money, being controlled by our own government! I can’t spend my BasicsCard outside the Northern Territory. It is racism. Shame on Australia for how we are being treated.
We are not animals, yet we are being treated like guinea pigs, 'oh… lets find another program for Aboriginal people.' Shame on Australia I tell you now. This is our land - we are the first. Australia is supposed to be a good place, where we live in harmony. But not for us.
They are trying to bribe us, saying that if we want new houses built on our land, we must sign it to government [under a 40 year lease]. And they want to close down the outstations, heard us like cattle into big communities, “hubs” they call it. They are not listening to us.
We want to see Macklin in our community - with Rudd. We want to talk face to face. After saying ‘Sorry’, he just went ahead with putting these laws on us, still putting laws on us. When we say sorry we mean it."
Valerie Martin Napaljarri, a Warlpiri woman, is an artist, translator, journalist and spokeswomen for her people. She has decades of experience in leadership roles within community, cultural and media organisations across Central Australia. Her current roles include working as chair of the Yuendumu Women’s Centre and PAW media. Valerie has travelled extensively over the past decade speaking about the impact of the Intervention on her people.
Kylie Sambo is a Warlmanpa / Warumungu youth leader and hip hop artist. This testimony is taken from an interview with Paddy Gibson in Tennant Creek in February 2013, five and a half years into the NT Intervention:
"I’ve been on income management from when I was 16. It was upsetting, because I felt like I didn’t need the BasicsCard. I know how to manage my money. I don’t need a card to tell me to use it just towards things that are limited.
When we get our pay, we need to call up Centrelink to transfer money from the ‘income management’ account onto the BasicsCard. Lots of us don’t have phones, we have to walk to the payphone and sometimes stay on the line for hours just to make that transfer.
You have to follow harsh rules, you have to notify Centrelink at least a week before if you are going to leave town, or they cancel your payments for not attending your appointments. It’s so hard to travel too, we can’t use BasicsCard outside of the NT.
"We might be different colours, but our blood is all red. Colour shouldn’t matter - we should be one."
I think it is racist against us, because in most places it’s only Aboriginal people that have it. They gave it to Aboriginal people first. They want to use us as a guinea pig to see if it “works”, and then they’ll spread it out to all people.
It is hurtful to know that there is someone out there discriminating against us. At the end of the day, we might be different colours, but our blood is all red. Colour shouldn’t matter - we should be one.
Since the Intervention, more young people go in and out of prison for things that don’t really matter. They do one stupid thing wrong and get locked up. Then when they try to make a change in their life, it’s very difficult. They’ve got a criminal record so they can’t really get a job, they’ll just be more on BasicsCard.
All the money they spend on income management, the hundreds of millions of dollars, they could put into so many useful things instead. Here in Tennant Creek we need a facility for young people at night, to hang out, do music, internet, do the things they can’t get access to at home. Help them out, ask them what’s wrong and be there for them through life."
Kylie Sambo was a leading youth voice in the successful campaign against Commonwealth Government attempts to impose a nuclear waste dump on Warlmanpa land at Muckaty station. She uses music to share the struggles and spirit of her people. In 2011, Kylie won the ABC’s Haywire competition her song ‘Muckaty’ about the waste dump fight. Kylie has also traveled around Australia campaigning against the expansion of income management and speaking about the impacts of the Intervention on young people.