Monday, 3 September 2007

New nation-wide indigenous leadership body formed!

A new coalition of Aboriginal leaders from around the country formed a couple of weeks ago, and has released its first public statement, according to the National Indigenous Times article (reproduced below) A decade under Howard has been a living nightmare, says new black leadership group.

The new (but as-yet unnamed) group includes

PHOTO: TOP L-R: Pat Turner, Olga Havnen, Naomi Mayers, Dennis Eggington; MIDDLE, L-R: Sam Watson, Bob Weatherall, Michael Mansell, Michael Williams; BOTTOM, L-R: Gracelyn Smallwood, Nicole Watson, Larissa Behrendt and Bradley Foster.

This comes at a crucial time for indigenous Australia after a decade of fierce attacks from the Howard Government: the abolition of ATSIC, the undermining of Native Title, the invasion of indigenous lands held under Land Rights, the continuing deaths in custody and police racism, the return of assimilation and paternalism, the cuts in funding to essential aboriginal services, the ongoing denial of justice to the stolen generation, the stolen wages of generations and the refusal to say sorry.

All this 40 years after the referendum which overwhelmingly showed the support of non-indigenous Australians for a change in the treatment of Australia's first people. Yet what has changed? Not a lot - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are still massively over-represented in prison, still die 17 years earlier than the rest of the population, still suffer systematised diiscrimination, and are still denied the substance of a sovereignty never ceded.

Both Labor and Liberal have promised the world, and failed. Or worse, lied and manouevered, and tried to condemn indigenous Australia to the dust-bin of history. At the UNSW Indigenous Legal Centre's National Forum on July 20, two sentiments was repeatedly expressed - that both the major parties have failed; and that the re-invasion of the Northern Territory needs to be to the Indigenous rights movement what WorkChoices has been for the union movement - a catalyst to action.

On Friday August 31, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up in Victoria Park in Sydney again, and the same night politics in the Pub packed the Gaelic Club to the rafters (the Wombats counted over 130 people) in a discussion on the fight for indigenous rights. ANTaR, Oxfam, the Greens, the Socialist Alliance, ReconciliACTION, the newly re-formed "Women Against Wik", and many more groups are getting ready to take the fight to the next level.

But the leadership has got to come from the indigenous community. It's time.

It's time to get more than angry - it's time to get active!

A decade under Howard has been a living nightmare, says new black leadership group
National Indigenous Times
Thursday, 23 August 2007

By Chris Graham

NATIONAL, August 31, 2007: A new coalition of Aboriginal leaders from around the nation has released its first public statement since forming a fortnight ago.

And the group, which has yet to adopt a formal name, has come out swinging, issuing a release that is written in the vein that the group intends to continue fighting… with plenty of aggression.

Describing the past decade under the Howard government as “a nightmare” for Aboriginal people, the group attacks both the Liberal and Labor parties for creating policies which “blame the victims”.

The group includes former senior public servant Pat Turner, Olga Havnen (ACOSS and ANTaR), Naomi Mayers (CEO, Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service), Dennis Eggington (WA Aboriginal Legal Service), Sam Watson (Murri academic and activist), Bob Weatherall (FAIRA), Michael Mansell (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre), Michael Williams , Gracelyn Smallwood (North Queensland), Nicole Watson and Larissa Behrendt (both Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University Technology Sydney) and Bradley Foster (community leader from North Queensland).

It formed a fortnight ago in response to the federal government's 'emergency intervention' into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

“A decade under John Howard has seen native title made harder to get with his 'bucket loads of extinguishment' legislation,” the statement reads.

“The elected body ATSIC was sacked; the Reconciliation Council dumped; paternalistic funding conditions imposed, such as being asked to wash hands and attend school to get Commonwealth monies.

“The Northern Territory Land Rights Act has been amended to increase access for mining and now vulnerable Aboriginal communities in the NT are invaded by troops.

“It has been a nightmare decade for Aboriginal people.

“We have been reduced to beggars in our own country.”

The group accused the Howard government of selective listening when it came to hearing Indigenous people.

“Any dissenting voice is ignored by a Government that selects "yes" people to promote its own agenda, and the select few are tragically held out as the voice of Aborigines,” the statement read.

The group accused both the Coalition and the ALP of 'blaming the victims' and launched a scathing attack on the NT intervention plans, which are endorsed by both major parties.

“The Howard and Rudd response to policies that have kept families and whole communities destitute is to blame the victim.

“Those victims, long denied a real chance to make a go of it, will now have their income stolen and must go to the local store with food vouchers: those vouchers will have a list of purchasable items on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

“The balance of family incomes will never be seen by the "beneficiaries" because the bureaucracy keeps it to pay "other" costs.

“This demeaning approach will create greater dependency and strip the last form of human dignity from those subjected to a destructive policy.

“The increased police presence in community areas with "dob-in desks" is designed to humiliate, not rehabilitate.

“Portraying all Aborigines as paedophiles and drunks, and taking land away, undermines the remaining virtue we have: our dignity.

“We cannot watch developments in silence any longer. Our people deserve better.”

The group says the new coalition will seek to “represent the unrepresented Aboriginal communities” from around the nation and it promises to never align with any political party.

“We believe we bring experience and sincerity to the national political landscape.

“In our quest, we will not favour any political party as we see Aboriginal issues as being above party politics. Our single aim is to improve the lot of our people.

“We see our culture and people as an asset, not a liability.

“If we cannot persuade governments, then we will take our case to the court of public opinion - to the Australian people, to give us a chance to create a better future.”

Also, readers who haven't done so already should check this out, and sign it.


Korakious said...

That's quite interesting. I've taken an interest in indigenous politics, but I know next to nothing about Australia.

Red Wombat said...

The body has a name,the National Aboriginal Alliance, and has hit the mainstream media today:,23599,22417169-29277,00.html,25197,22417169-12377,00.html