• An angry Pat Turner in Canberra, 2007, after Northern Territory Emergency Response was announced. (AAP)Source: AAP
Indigenous leaders have berated the government and spoken out about the failures of the Northern Territory Intervention at an event in Sydney this week.
Amanda Copp

21 Jun 2017 - 4:51 PM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2017 - 4:51 PM

Aboriginal rights campaigner, Pat Turner; hip hop artist, Kylie Sambo; and broadcaster, Steve Hodder Watt reflected on 10 years since the NT's Emergency Response at the University of Technology Sydney on Tuesday night.

Ms Turner said the intervention was “just idiotic, political grandstanding” and lamented the damage it had done in Aboriginal communities.

“It is the worst set of public policy that I have ever seen and I have worked in the public sector forty years of my life," she said.

Research presented at the event suggested conditions for Indigenous people in the Territory have become much worse after the intervention.

Since 2007, the rate of Indigenous incarceration has doubled; the number of children in out-of-home care has gone up by three times; and there has been a spike in youth suicide and self harm.

Kylie Sambo was 16-years-old when the intervention came into effect and experienced policies firsthand.

"It's hurtful to go into the shop with a BasicsCard and everyone else is looking at me and the rest of my family and everyone else in my community wondering, 'what is that card?'”

“And when they do find out what that card is, they going to be looking at us differently, thinking that person is an early school leaver, like myself, or that person has been in jail."

She said when it comes to government control of Aboriginal people, nothing has changed.

“We're still getting treated like this and it's not right, it happened years ago, decades ago, it happened 10 years ago and it's still happening today.”

“When are we going to get that change?"

“That's the history  of Australia, the protection acts, the missions and unfortunately we're back with that now."

Steve Hodder Watts said the government’s actions only exacerbated ingrained social problems.

"I think that intervention accentuated that socio-cultural disconnect, and obviously elevated the disempowerment of Aboriginal people and their organisations."

Policies from the intervention are still in effect but Mr Hodder Watt said people have become desensitised and forget that controls over Indigenous communities still exist.

“It's important to come down and have people realise that the fight has to continue and it's still going on."

Senior researcher at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, Paddy Gibson said the intervention is simply continuing Australia's dark history with Indigenous people. 

“That's the history  of Australia, the protection acts, the missions and unfortunately we're back with that now,” he said.

“We're back in that era and we're seeing the effects of that not just in the Northern Territory, but right across Australia."

The question now is, what can be done to improve Aboriginal lives which continue to be controlled by the government.

Ms Turner said power should be returned to local people to determine how they run their communities.

“We should be able to make mistakes -- everybody else had made them for us -- we should be able to work it out for ourselves, but we have to be given the mechanism and the resources to be able to do that,” she said.

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