• Aboriginal women and children from Kalkaringi (Wave Hill), Northern Territory. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The ten year anniversary of the Northern Territory Intervention has come and gone, but those critical of the controversial policy are not staying quiet.
By
Rachael Hocking

26 Jun 2017 - 4:58 PM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2017 - 5:17 PM

A three-day convention, called Stand Up 2017, was held in Alice Springs at the weekend, where attendees focused on the way forward.

By the end of the three days there was a resounding call for treaty, and roadmaps drawn up with a view to regaining community control.

But while the conference was focused on solutions, many speakers and delegates also shared stories of the heartache they say the Intervention has caused.

"I walk down the street, I feel really uncomfortable around kids, because of the perception they see us all been here. We feel it today. It broke us,” Delegate Matthew Ryan said.

Many delegates at the conference, convened by the Intervention Rollback Action Group, have lived under Liberal and Labor interventionist policies for ten years.

They remember when the army and federal police came down on their communities and forced them to sign five-year land leases; when their welfare money was first quarantined, and alcohol and pornography were banned.

It was prompted by allegations of child abuse in 2006, but still to this day not one prosecution has occurred.

Sitting with her daughter and granddaughter, Arrernte and Amatjerre woman Rosalie Kunoth-Monks said the ideology behind the policies outlived the decade-old legislation.

“It’s not ten years on. It's a continuing assault on people's rights,” she said.

Those at the conference voiced a need to regain control over their communities.

Rosalie’s daughter, Ngarla Kunoth-Monks, said firstly locals needed to be prioritised for jobs.

“Stop contractors coming out. People have been trained and trained and trained and then trained some more, we've never had the opportunity to become the teachers; we're always the teacher's aides,” she said.

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There were many calls for treaty, largely led by NT Independent Member for Nhulunbuy, Yingiya Mark Guyula.

“The treaty that we are standing for at this camp is asking for a space to think for ourselves, time to recognise our sovereignty and recognise that we never ceded this land,” he said.

The conference held panels on a range of issues, from housing to workers' rights, income management and incarceration. And many attendees, like Barbara Shaw from Alice Springs pointed out the exorbitant cost of programs under the Intervention, estimated to be more than one billion dollars.

“Lobby against Intervention… because it’s your taxpayers money that's been wasted over the past ten years,” she said.

High on the agenda were concerns about the high rate of child removal and the importance of maintaining culture.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks is currently working with her daughter Ngarla to set-up an 'immersion school,’ where culture comes first and children won't study English until year seven.

“Not just speaking language. But reading and writing, and knowing why they are putting the body paint on,” she said.

A keen listener of what elders had to share was Dylan Voller.

“It's been an absolute honour to be able to sit in a room full of all our elders and leaders of our community and learn as much as we have,” he said.

Meanwhile, the only member of federal parliament present was Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who continued her calls to end income management in communities. 

“Ensure that there's community owned and delivered, and initiated programs that address the issues of disadvantage,” she said.

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Last week the government backtracked and admitted the execution of the Intervention was 'flawed.’

Yolngu man, Reverend Djiniyini Gondarra, said that’s not enough.

“There is a lot of damage the government has done in ten years. They have to fix it. They have to work with us, they have to work with the born leader… We are waiting for them to come and talk to us,” he said.