On June 21 2007, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard launched the Northern Territory Intervention. 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 Aboriginal lands to send a clear message that the Commonwealth was in complete control.
The Northern Territory Emergency Response Act 2007 included a host of new measures that applied to all communities on Aboriginal land in the NT, now branded as ‘prescribed communities’. The Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) was abolished, forcing thousands of people onto welfare. Funding agreements with the NT government restricted productive investment to a handful of larger communities—the rest were written off as “economically unviable”. Government Business Managers were imposed on communities, often residing in compounds behind barbed wire.
An “income management” system was introduced to control 50 per cent of Centrelink payments, mostly distributed on a “BasicsCard” that can only be spent on Government approved items in approved stores. A blanket prohibition on pornography 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.
Since the launch of the NT Intervention by the Howard government in 2007, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning Research at UTS has worked closely with Aboriginal community leaders in the Northern Territory, documenting the impacts of the policy and campaigning to have their voices heard.
As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Intervention, Jumbunna Senior Researcher Padraic (Paddy) Gibson has been looking back over an extensive archive of interviews, photos and audio recordings from demonstrations and public meetings held to challenge discriminatory laws and demand self-determination. Some of this testimony will be shared through the anniversary week as part of a series showcasing ten voices from the grass-roots.
Aboriginal people and supporters in the NT are currently mobilising for a major conference in Alice Springs from June 24 - 26. The conference will reflect on a decade of life under the Intervention and chart a way forward for the struggle to take back control of community life and win the right of communities to live and work with dignity on their own lands.
There are also Satellite events in Sydney and Melbourne over the coming week where people can hear first-hand about the continuing impacts of the NT Intervention and grass-roots visions for change.
Alice Springs Event:
- 24th-26th June 10 years of intervention- looking back, moving forward. 3 days of workshops and actions
- 19th June 5pm “The Intervention 10 years on: Voices from the frontline” UTS, Dr Chau Chak Wing Building(Building 8), 14-28 Ultimo Road, Room 005, Level 3
- 21st June 6pm “The Northern territory Intervention- 10 years of shame” Redfern Community Centre
- 24th June 1:30pm “Sydney Rally and March” Meet at Archibald Fountain, North end of Hyde Park and March to Redfern Park
- 22nd June 6pm “Politics in the Pub” Gaelic Club, 1/64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
- 21st June 6pm “The NT intervention: Aftermath”, Evangelist Uniting Church, 4 Elm Street, North Melbourne
- 29th June 3pm “10 years of the NT intervention and working towards treaties” RMIT Building 80, 4th Level, Room 11, 445 Swanston Street, Melbourne
This week NITV and Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning Research will be sharing 10 stories of the intervention by those on the frontline.