Sunday, 5 August 2007

NT intervention worrying and sickening: Yunupingu

Speaking at the Garma festival at Gulkula near Nhulunbhuy in the Gove Peninsular, north-east Arnhem Land, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, former Northern Land Council president and highly respected indigenous leader, attacked the Howard government's intervention in the Northern Territory, calling it "sickening, rotten and worrying".

"We in the Northern Territory are about to be dispossessed of everything, everything that we've got left from the original dispossession of our land and lives.

"That I should go and change my lifestyle and become a white man is worrying, worrying and sickening."

While the theme for this year's festival is
Indigenous Health: Real Solutions for a Chronic Problem, the federal government's invasion of indigenous communities overshadowed the event, as it did the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre's national forum, intended to mark forty years since the referendum, that this wombat attended recently.

The tide of public opinion has turned so fast against Howard's intervention (but not entirely), the report's authors have been so critical, and they have dropped the ball so quickly, that there is only one good thing that can be said about it: it has got people's attention.

The gradual erosion of rights that the Native Title Act ensured, especially after Howard's amendments, the underfunding and abolition of ATSIC and other indigenous bodies, the ongoing deaths in custody, the exclusion, racism, poverty, health and housing problems, and Howard's stubborn refusal to bow to the "black-armband" view of history and apologise for the Stolen Generations (and there's finally been a victory on that front too) has hidden a very real problem - the lack of a coordinated, activist, strategy for solving the problems indigenous australia. But from the Gove to the York Peninsular, from
Mutijulu to Cumeragunja, from Perth to Palm Island and Redfern, and Canberra, the challenge has been laid out: Whadja gunna do about it?

As Yunupingu pointed out so succinctly,
"I am just reminding people that this is a struggle."

And to win a struggle, you need a vision of what victory will look like, and to know who's on your side.

This from the National Indigenous Times:

"But one fact that Aboriginal Australians can take to the polls with certainty is that nothing will really change under a Rudd government."
"Confronting us at the election booth are two parties - who both have historically discriminated against people and whose Indigenous platforms are shallow to say the least."

At the July 14 rally against Howard's attacks in Sydney, and again at the UNSW-organised forum on July 20, Pat Turner, CEO of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory (who have released a 30 page response to Howard's attacks - PDF) echoed those same sentiments, putting Labor on notice: Either distinguish yourself from Howard, or risk losing indigenous support. And everyone should vote for a minor party in the senate, because neither of the major parties can be trusted.

But it's not just about exposing the hypocrisy of the ALP - most people know about it. What we need is a new vision for Australia - Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

As Sam Watson, Socialist Alliance Qld senate candidate says: "
It’s time to put the shameful and disgusting politics of the major parties into the rubbish bin."

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