Thursday, 18 June 2009

June 20: Aboriginal rights, the NT Intervention and DIC

This Saturday, June 20, there will be national protests to mark the second anniversary of the racist Northern Territory Intervention, introduced under the Howard government but continued under Rudd.

Coincidentally or not, a number of developments have emerged this week that heighten the political and social importance of forcing real action on Aboriginal issues. (It seems to be a repeating motif, both under Howard and Rudd, that official announcements concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters occur in clusters around days, anniversaries or events affecting the same populations. Under Howard, it could possibly be put down to a malicious attempt to counterpoint celebrations of indigenous survival with right-wing attacks against them. Under Rudd the correlations are harder to define, yet appear to exist none the less).

Marion Scrymgour - the highest ranking Aboriginal member of any government in Australia - quit the Northern Territory Labor Party over its Aboriginal policy on June 4. As an independent, she now holds the balance of power.

On Monday, the ABC's Four Corner's program carried the heart-wrenching and infuriating story of Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder in Western Australia who died in the back of a police van while being transported through the desert in extraordinary heat. Details can be found here.

Then, on Tuesday, the Queensland Court of Appeal ordered a new inquest, with a new coroner, to re-examine the death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004, with four broken ribs, a burst spleen and a liver torn in two. As the SMH article points out:

"In 2006, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for Mr Doomadgee's death in custody after he was arrested for public nuisance."

While Hurley was charged on Invasion Day (the symbolism reeking of political spin), he was acquitted of the charges of manslaughter and assault. Then:

"At the conclusion of a review of the matter in Townsville late last year District Court Judge Bob Pack overturned Ms Clement's ruling and ordered the inquest be reopened.

Last month Mr Doomadgee's family and the Palm Island Aboriginal Council fought to have Judge Pack's decision ruled invalid in the Court of Appeal."

The Court of Appeal decision found Judge Pack's reasoning to have been "flawed", but still ruled Judge Pack was still correct in ordering the inquest be reopened, essentially trying to exonerate Hurley of any responsibility.

As Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sam Watson said outside the court, yet another example of "police trying to rewrite history". The struggle against systemic racism continues, and needs your help.

The details for this Saturday's rallies are:

  • Sydney: 10:30am Belmore Park, (opposite Central station). Protest, march and concert - marking two years since the announcement of the NT Intervention. March to the Block in Redfern for family and culture day concert. More information can be found here.
  • Darwin: 11 am, Raintree Park: Speakout by people from communities and Town Camps throughout the Northern Territory and short speeches from invited guests. 8 pm: Rock Against Racism, Brown's Mart. For more information or to help with transport, go here.
  • Brisbane: 11 am Queens Park, corner George and Elizabeth Streets, City. Organised by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition - Brisbane.
  • Perth: 12-2pm, Forrest Chase. Public protest rally: "Never Again! Nor More Deaths In Custody!" More information can be found here.
  • Melbourne: 12 noon: Rally against the intervention at the GPO; 3 pm: public meeting at Trades Hall with George Newhouse, lawyer for the NT group against the Intervention. Organised by Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective.

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