Steve Hodder Watt delivered this speech to a protest against the Intervention outside Parliament House in Canberra on the first sitting day of the new Rudd Labor government on February 12, 2008.
Steve was part of a delegation of 40 Aboriginal people from the Northern Territory who travelled to Canberra to join the demonstration with 2000 supporters from around Australia.
This is an edited transcript of his words that day:
Steve Hodder Watt – Canberra Convergence 2008
"Some people talk about Aboriginal people learning to respect themselves, well I ask those people, 'when are you going to learn to respect Aboriginal peoples? When are you going to learn how to say ‘werte’ (hello - Arrernte)?”
This Invasion, not Intervention, is 'our fault' again. 'Not' the government’s fault. Some even said the invasion/Intervention is a “good thing”.
Well let’s do the maths then.
For starters, (they say) 'how can it be racist, it only picks on blacks. It can’t be racist'.
They suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and continue to attack the most disadvantaged peoples in this place.
Make them hasten their pace to join the rat race while we continue to face the ingrained prejudice that makes this nation an international disgrace.
"I say they broke the pact on what it means to be black."
You force us to reform by quarantining welfare. Well I don’t think it’s fair that you take income from one group in the community that everyone else in this country gets as a basic right.
They put their own money on a gift card and make them queue up to get their own money back as a ‘gift’.
Now in Alice, them mob are given free reign to inflict more pain and stand over us mobs without disdain, backed up by ‘token blacks’ who plead for us to stand back, retract and change our tact.
Well I say they broke the pact on what it means to be black.
Even if us mobs wanted ‘reforms’, it’s still us that got to weather the storms that the government created.
Instead of ‘consult and inform’ they impose “drastic measures” on the most under-educated peoples here, spending millions in the last year.
What support do families have on the ground?
Where are they to be found?
How many services can countrymen get their hands on?
Land tenure is (like) basic services held to ransom by a government that doesn’t exist anymore.
This mob that just started up here [Rudd Labor government] were backed up by the central Australian and Top End blacks.
With political will, we overwhelmingly chose to resist, convincingly chose to insist that the invasion (Intervention) be at least reformed so this mob up here (points to Parliament House), they say they’re starting to listen. Well don’t close your ears if you want to hear.
Re-enact the Racial Discrimination Act.
For the benefit of the nation, sign the UN Indigenous Peoples declaration.
Oh yeah and PS. Don’t forget to repeal the NT Emergency Response legislation.
Stephen Bunbadgee Hodder-Watt is a Lardil man from Mornington Island who has lived in Alice Springs for three decades, including through the period of the NT Intervention. Steve has worked in Indigenous media for many years, including for the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and as a media officer for the Central Land Council and travelled extensively across remote communities “prescribed” by the Intervention.