New Book Charts Disempowerment of Aboriginal People

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
5 Nov 2012

Indigenous people say Intervention has caused more pain and suffering

Aboriginal elders and communities from the Northern Territory tell their stories of disempowerment in a hard-hitting new book to be launched tonight.

The book, "A Decision to Discriminate - Aboriginal Disempowerment in the Northern Territory" charts the Government's lack of consultation with Indigenous people when designing the Stronger Futures legislation.

The stories are taken from evidence presented to the senate hearings prior to the legislation.

Georgina Gartland, of Concerned Australians, the group behind the publication of the book says it is an historic record that uses quotes as a way of recording what the people have said, and documents how Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are being denied the right of taking responsibility for their communities.

"As with previous governments, this government failed to consult with communities," Georgina said.

The book will be launched tonight at gleebooks, Glebe Point Road followed by a Melbourne launch on Wednesday 7 November. Dr Falzon, CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society National Council will speak at the Canberra launch of the book on 13 November.

Indigenous people want to be consulted to determine their own future

Despite condemnation of the Strong Futures Bill by the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, Amnesty International, as well as a petition signed by 43,000 Australians and more than 430 submissions against the proposed legislation including those from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), the ACM, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), the Society of St Vincent de Paul, human rights groups, Aboriginal landowners and the Aboriginal people themselves, an expansion on the Howard's Government's controversial Intervention policy was passed by Parliament in June this year.

Not only did the Stronger Future Bill extend the Howard Government's 2007 Closing the Gap legislation for a further 10 years, but some of the most controversial measures such as quarantining welfare payments and other features of the Intervention have now been extended to other states. Bankstown in Sydney is one of the areas that now come under the Government's expanded policy.

Originally designed to combat violence, alcohol and child sexual abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, the legislation known as Closing the Gap was constantly criticised for its failure to hold any meaningful consultations with the Aboriginal people and their communities. The Government gave those affected little say in their future or self-determination and according to Concerned Australians, showed little knowledge or understanding of the communities themselves.

But when the Closing the Gap legislation came to an end, as planned on 30 June this year, the Gillard Government passed new even harsher legislation encompassing other states as well as the Northern Territory.

Protesting Stronger Future legislation

The book also traces how despite the more than 430 submissions, the Senate Committee involved in the legislation failed to offer constructive alternatives for the Government's consideration.

Describing the Government's Stronger Futures Bill as "unconscionable," "racist" and "inherently disempowering" Dr Falzon says and cites Professor John Altman of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research who found that despite the Intervention having been in place for five years, there is no evidence that it has worked, and in many instances may well have made things worse.

Graeme Mundine, Executive Officer of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and journalist Jeff McMullen will also speak at the Sydney launch.

"This new book is an important historical record and focuses on the Senate Committee Inquiry into the Stronger Futures legislation and shows how the government's decision-making process chose to ignore the views and ideas expressed by many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory communities," Graeme says.

"A Decision to Discriminate: Aboriginal Disempowerment in the Northern Territory" (rrp $15.00) is published by Concerned Australians and available at leading bookstores or online at