• No Entry sign at the entrance to Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community at the base of Uluru (Ayres Rock), Yulara October 28,2006 (Photo: AAP Image/Terry Trewin) (AAP)Source: AAP
Aboriginal community leaders from the Northern Territory have issued an open letter to the newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians on the 12th anniversary of the NT Intervention.
Douglas Smith

21 Jun 2019 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2019 - 5:12 PM

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the start of the NT Intervention and according to community leaders nothing has improved for the lives of Aboriginal people in the Top End.

In an open letter addressed to the newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, the Intervention Rollback Action Group says the Intervention has been “devastating in many ways.”

In 2007, 600 soldiers and police officers rolled into the small town of Mutitjulu, in what was considered to be the ‘worst response’ possible to the 'Little Children Sacred’ report, produced after allegations of widespread child sexual abuse and neglect within Aboriginal communities in the Top End.

A dozen years on, and community leaders say, in terms of social and economic disadvantage, things have only gotten worse.

“It’s 12-years on now and nothing really has changed towards improving and getting better. It’s just gone the other way and it’s just getting worse and worse,” Independent member for Nhulunbuy, Yingiyia Mark Guyula told NITV News.  

“The health is one of the issues in the communities, the rollback of all the issues of assimilation or people moving from out there living on homelands and on communities that people used to live [on] freely to work and provide healthy living," he said. 

Mr Guyula said he was hopeful that Minister Wyatt would be different from Aboriginal Affairs ministers before him and that he "will be the one to listen to Yolngu" and Aboriginal people everywhere. 

Open letter

The open letter was written by Barbara Shaw and Elaine Kngwarraye Peckham, who was unable to speak to NITV due to family reasons.

In the letter, they and other Aboriginal voices in the Alice Springs community call on the government to stop further removal of Aboriginal children from their families; bring home those already taken away; and increase support for community initiatives for children at risk. 

The open letter has also received support from the alliance of the 'Concerned Australians'. 

Former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Alastair Nicholson, has proposed an immediate measure to reduce the alarming number of Indigenous children held in custody in the NT by raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

One of Australia's leading analysts on the impacts of the NT Intervention, Professor Jon Altman, said according to official figures there are higher levels of poverty in NT communities today than when the discriminatory measures were imposed in June 2007

“12-years on it is clear that political and bureaucratic elites who deployed the military intervention promised so much and have delivered very little," Mr Altman said. 

Newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said in a statement to NITV News that his government wanted to "do things differently", and he appreciated the “input from Barbara Shaw and the Intervention Rollback Action Group and will respond in due course.”

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