One of the most controversial aspects of federal government policy has been the Northern Territory Intervention. Eight years after it began, a new book has sparked fresh debate about its ongoing impact.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
NITV News
7 Sep 2015 - 6:06 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2015 - 8:06 PM

TRANSCRIPT

Natalie Ahmat: One of the most controversial aspects of federal government policy has been the Northern Territory Intervention. Eight years after it began, a new book has sparked fresh debate about its ongoing impact.

Ella Archibald-Binge: Larissa Behrendt was at home watching the news when she heard the government was sending troops into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

The first thing she did was call her friend in Alice Springs.

Larissa Behrendt, lawyer and author: And I said, 'hey you fellas do you know this is happening?' And they didn't know that. And you could hear them say, 'what they're bringing the army in?' And the pandemonium that happened after that. And to me that was such a representation of what was to follow. 

What would follow was the introduction of compulsory income management, alcohol restrictions and a number of other so-called "emergency measures".

Now, more than 20 writers have documented the ongoing effects of the intervention in a new anthology.

The measures were introduced by the Howard Government in 2007 in response to a report documenting child abuse in the Northern Territory.

But instead of improving conditions in the communities, many say the legislation has made things much worse.

Thalia Anthony, criminologist: It's had effects that have harassed, intimidated, brutalised indigenous people. And its effect has been to segregate indigenous people - off their lands, onto town camps, but also into prisons. We've seen unprecedented numbers of indigenous people in NT prisons. They're having to build new prisons to accommodate all the indigenous people who are feeding them

Despite criticism, most measures were extended for another decade through Labor's Stronger Futures legislation in 2012.

Larissa Behrendt, says the only way forward is to give control back to the community.

Larissa Behrendt: It is just common sense that the people who are closest in the community to these issues understand the best about how to deal with them.

Looking to culture as the solution, not the problem.

Ella Archibald-Binge, NITV News