October 7, 2009
Media alert- Press conference 10am, NSW Parliament House Press Room.
NT Aboriginal Leaders condemn Intervention, housing program failure
Alyawarr spokesperson and leader Richard Downs, from Ampilatwatja community in the Northern Territory, is using a speaking tour of the east coast to condemn the ongoing rollout of the NT Emergency Response (NTER) Measures and gather support for the community protest camp established three months ago on his traditional country.
Richard Downs will join Harry Nelson Jakamarra, an Elder from Yuendumu community (NT) for a media conference and public meeting in Sydney on Wednesday October 7 (see below for details) before travelling to Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Ampilatwatja community has pledged to remain at their protest camp until the NT Intervention measures are lifted.
Richard Downs said, “The government is playing a waiting game. It thinks we’ll get sick of it and go back to the community. But we’re saying no. We’re never ever going to go back to that community to live under your controls and measures.”
Mr Downs added, “I want people around the country to know what it is like to live under the intervention. I want to tell our Prime Minister and Jenny Macklin, you to have silenced our Elders, our leaders, you have disempowered our people under your federal governments NTER measures, you have taken control over our lands.”
“You tell us our children are sacred and must be cared for so they too may have a better future. But what future do our children have when you have disempowered us and taken away our voice’s and taken away our human rights?”
Harry Nelson Jakamarra said, “The Intervention housing program has not built any new houses at Yuendumu. We are just being blackmailed. If we don’t hand over our land we can’t get houses maintained, or any new houses built. We have never given away any Warlpiri land and we are not going to start now”.
“They have taken land off us with the intervention, but we have never agreed. Every time Government officials come to Yuendumu to ‘consult’ with us, they don’t listen to us. They just tell us what their plans are. When any of us speak up about our concerns, it’s as if they have deaf ears. They just go on with their plans as if we had said nothing. There is no communication. They treat us like kids.
“We are proud Warlpiri people. It is a great insult to be treated like this”, Mr Nelson concluded.
Richard Downs, Ampilatwatja community, 0428 611 169.
Natalie Wasley, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, 0429 900 774.
Sydney Public Meeting: 6:30pm, Wednesday October 7
University of Technology Sydney (UTS), 745 Harris St Ultimo- Building 4, Level 2, Room 36.
Speakers: Richard Downs, Larissa Behrendt (NAIDOC Indigenous Person of the Year 2009) and Chris Graham (Editor, National Indigenous Times).
Full speaking tour details at www.interventionwalkoff.wordpress.com/events
PRESS RELEASE FROM RICHARD DOWNS
On behalf of my people I am calling on you to heed the advice of the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous rights and support your people demanding an end to the NT Intervention.
In your statement against the rapporteur you say the Intervention is protecting of women against sexual assault, physical assault. But this is not true – you need to focus on the big picture of what is happening to us. Your governments so called measures under the intervention go far beyond this to take away our dignity, our self esteem, and land control, disempowerment, human and indigenous rights.
More oppression, more young people in goals, we have no say in the justice system, which is failing. Your system is about creating divisions, hate and racism and control over people who are already struggling under oppression.
Get out of you air-conditioned office. You need to visit the people on ground, see and listen to them or are you afraid to find and learn the truth. You are an outsider, an outcaste a nobody just like us. The governments have taken away all our indigenous and human rights in this country. We are now are separate from rest of Australian people. Otherwise I urge you to show aboriginal people evidence and proof that we are all equal. Show me where you and your government have had consultation, meetings with my people.
Show us where this great law is protecting women and children, give us the evidence on how many convictions there has been with sexual child abuse, rape, murders, where is this indigenous pedophile ring your governments statements stated at the beginning. We don’t need any controls and measures and taking away of our land to negotiate to come to an agreed partnership arrangements with governments and others.
Make your stand Warren, Human Rights for all people of different cultures.
Support your peoples United Nations DECLARATION on the Rights of INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.
Start your journey on discovery of yourself, your people, humanity our brother, open you mind and let your spirits guide you. Focus on the whole issue not on particular points to pull the wool over our general public friends. Tell the general public the truth don’t hide the rest.
“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity. Nelson Mandela – Freedom – Compassion”
Ampilatwatja Community walk off spokesperson
We are refugees in our own country
August 23, 2009
Formal request made to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights to register us as refugees with the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, under the International Refugee Convention.
Today, across the Northern Territory, and since 2007, Indigenous people are facing a path of destruction through the denial of our basic human rights under the Federal government’s intervention.
The Aboriginal people of Ampilatwatja, comprising 30 elders and members of the Alyawarra nation, walked off their community in July in protest against, and to remove themselves from, the Australian governments Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation, which has subjected them to martial law, exercised by a military junta, since its enactment in 2007.
Since this time, Aboriginal people living in Prescribed Areas have been excluded from the protection of the Racial Discrimination Act and Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination legislation. The NTER legislation constitutes serious, substantial and persistent racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, multiple violations of the Race Convention and other international human rights covenants, to which Australia is signatory.
Aboriginal people had no other option but to walk off the Prescribed Area, thereby removing them from being subject to the NTER legislation, and which additionally accords them the status of being internally displaced refugees. “We no longer have any rights to exist as humans in our own country and are outcasts in our own community”, says Richard Downs, spokesperson for the Alyawarra elders.
Aboriginal people are nothing without our land – our connection to the land is real; we belong to the land, and any threat to this connection results in immediate physical and psychological illness; trauma and despair. Research conducted by the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association shows that Aboriginal people are experiencing feelings of “collective existential despair”, characterised by widespread helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness, and with profound implications on resilience, and the social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory; indeed, throughout Australia.
Our basic human rights are being violated… at this very moment, we are being violated.
The policies that were developed, and pushed through quickly under the governments’ colonial martial law, are causing severe and irreparable damage to Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory of Australia.
“The current status of Aboriginal people is that we are refugees in a Country we have called our own since time immemorial”, says Richard Downs, spokesman for the Alyawarra nation.
This legislation contravenes Section 116 of the Australian Constitution: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion”. By depriving the Alyawarra nation the right to their religious and cultural freedoms by forcing them to move off their land to escape a military junta, thereby deprives them the right of access to their homelands to fulfil their cultural and religious obligations.
“Past and present policies continue to deny our right to be within our homelands on our own terms”, states Michael Anderson, leader of the Euahlayi Nation of northwest NSW and southwest Queensland and elected spokesman of the 16 tribes in the Gumilaroi nation.
Therefore the Alyawarra nation makes the following recommendations and respectfully request that you:
1. Register the Alyawarra nation as refugees under the International Refugee Convention as Internally Displaced Persons, thereby according them the international obligations and protections this status affords, and
2. Ensure that the Australian government is aware of, and fulfils, its obligations under the International Refugee Convention, the UN Charter for Human Rights, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international human rights covenants, to which Australia purports to be a signatory.
Richard Downs – Alyawarra Nation firstname.lastname@example.org 0428 611 169
Michael Anderson – Euahlayi Nation email@example.com 0427 292 492
21/7/09 for immediate release
Ampilatwatja walk off puts demands on government and calls to spread protest
The walk-off protest by the Ampilatwatja community the NT has a comprehensive list of demands on government, calling for an end to Intervention policies and a redirection of funds to community development projects.
Elders and leaders and urging other communities across the NT to join them in taking strong action to restore Indigenous rights.
Acute sewage problems made conditions in many houses unlivable, compounding anger at Intervention policies and sparking the walk-off last week.
Despite some action dealing with the sewage and a commitment of funds for housing upgrades, a protest camp remains 3kms out of town.
Community spokesperson Richard Downs says the camp will continue until Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin visits the community and addresses their concerns. The protest is threatening to take community members even further away onto ancestoral lands unless demands are met.
“We have seen no progress in our community over the last 3 years. The place is a mess. Our leaders have no say or involvement in what’s happening on ground, the Government Business Manager appears to have secret meetings with all government agencies which we are not a part of and feel this is now enough. We are an outcaste on our own community”, says the statement of demands.
“Stop the compulsory welfare quarantine. The Intervention is creating racism, divisions, hatred and resentment across the NT. Where is the respect, courtesy shown to our Elders and leaders? Instead your system has degraded, shamed our leaders in front of our people and the general public”.
“Funds must go to community development, not ‘Intervention’. The old men and women leaders are the driving force, the engine rooms to go forward. To this stage your government has stopped this, as we now have no power and feel embarrassed by your laws”.
“End the compulsory lease and restore land to Aboriginal control. We are now urging and calling all communities who feel they are in same
situation as our community to stand up and support us and keep fighting for indigenous people’s rights. We urge indigenous people right across the NT to take similar actions.”
For more information contact:
Richard Downs on 0428611169
Ampilatwatja Community demands
Stop the compulsory welfare quarantine
Compulsory welfare quarantining is wrong. The focus should have and should be on the offenders both white and black, so as the good people are not penalized and categorized with all offenders. It needs to focus on following;
- White and black People or persons, family who continually have alcohol problems, who are living in townships, communities and cities
- Neglecting their children
- Drunk and abusive in public places
- Returning to communities drunk and making trouble
- People who do grog runs
- People involved with and selling drugs, dope etc.
We want to make our own rules so there is a two way approach and have our elders and families consulted by the courts.
To ask what to do with people who abuse our people and system because of grog. This is really important especially when people go into Alice Springs and get into trouble. We need to make sure they are sent home and not get into a cycle of depending on alcohol or drugs or become reliant on others who in turn rely on them when they have money.
Your restriction rules and laws on the signage and notice boards that are in place on communities and in towns under the intervention are not working for our people. In fact to us the alcohol situation appears to be getting worse and out of hand.
The negative impact Welfare quarantine has on people.
- Feeling ashamed, embarrassed and targeted when shopping as having to produce the green card in front of the general public.
- Embarrassed when told at check out you don’t have enough money to cover the cost and told you have to take out the stuff from shopping trolleys you don’t need and have to put back.
- Elders having gone through earlier welfare days feeling degraded. To them it’s same old ration days of, flour, tea and sugar and some clothing.
- Not having cash to purchase fuel, tyres, to attend funerals or to visit sick relatives in emergencies
- Not having the extra cash to repair and service their motor vehicles.
- Not having extra cash to send to their children in boarding schools.
- The elders and leaders involved in droving, working on cattle stations, which helped open up parts of the country. Is this the way? The governments show their appreciation to them.
We have seen no progress in our community over the last 3 years. The place is a mess. Our leaders have no say or involvement in what’s happening on ground, the GMB appears to have secret meetings with all government agencies which we are not a part of and we feel this is now enough. We are an outcaste on our own community.
Still replacing the GBM will not solve the issues and concerns we have. You as the Minister need to stand up and give some directions for all parties to consult and form partnerships. As you stated, you want to work with people, you want to really listen to the concerns and make it right
You need to inform your GBM’s they must work closely with indigenous leaders.
These GBM’s have been given a lot of racist powers under the Intervention – they can sit in any meeting, fire any staff, take over Aboriginal assets. Their draconian Intervention powers must be revoked.
If the state and federal governments really wants to help our people, then get rid of the intervention and start again. But with more consultation, a two way approach.
Funds to go to community development, not ‘Intervention”
Assist with supporting and setting up Women’s and Men’s centers as a main hub centre’s, where all discussions take place regarding, community development, preventative health care, training, employment, leadership programs, education. The old men and women leaders are the driving force, the engine rooms to go forward. To this stage your government has stopped this from being the driving force, as we now have no power and feel embarrassed by your laws.
Get your governments to focus on developing the community stop wasting tax payer’s funds. Treat people as you would like them to treat you.
Start spending money on more housing for our people to stop overcrowding. Consult and liaise with us on what types and designs of housing we want, don’t just put house’s in that you think is suited and right for people.
Stop the Intervention
We want this to stop, the State and Federal Governments intervention is creating racism. Divisions, hatred and resentments across the NT. Where is your consultation, working together, partnerships, we certainly do not see this on our community and where is the respect, curtsy shown to our Elders and Leaders instead your system has degraded, shamed our leaders in front of our people and the wider general public.
Health, Hygiene and well being issues
Your GMB and Government agencies promote healthy life style, nutritional food in all stores. And say the government is doing well, yet like allot of communities it’s a disgrace when you have rubbish, mangy dogs, and people isolated, poor sewerage systems, no dust control on our access road into the community. Your government and GBM’s and agencies need to engage the people. The old saying you give people the knowledge, skills and power to help themselves
The roles and responsibility of daily work programs, repairs and maintenance on our community falls with the shire. As you are aware it has now been highlighted the poor state of our community.
People are continually being told by the shire, we do not have the funds available carry out majority of work.
- Broken down house’s and leaking sewerage
- All fencing in need of repairs
- Animals knocking down and scattering rubbish bins
- None of our indigenous workers on full salary but paid pittance of $300 per week. This amounts to workers walking away and dropping out of the work force
- No training programs
- Broken down machinery and equipment
- Workers manually lifting and emptying the rubbish bins (OH&S)
- Access road into community creates dust which blows into the community
- Sports oval needs dust suppression and control. The ground is like concrete
End the compulsory 5-year lease and restore the land to Aboriginal control
We have not seen any benefits to our people and the community since your Governments has taken control. Instead it’s a disgrace and embarrassment.
You have isolated our people, degraded, embarrassed and taken away our rights to be consulted and negotiated as human beings. We feel as there is no progress on our community that you end this compulsory lease.
We are now urging and calling all communities who feel they are in same situation as our community to stand up and support us and keep fighting for indigenous people’s rights.
Write letters to newspapers, press, television, Ministers. Don’t sit back and just watch and do nothing our action is only as good as the people themselves.
By people not saying or doing anything these actions shows indigenous people are supporting the full intervention.
We urge indigenous people right across the NT to take similar actions.
16/7/09 for immediate release
Elders ‘walk off’ Ampilatwatja to protest Intervention
A group of 30 elders and leaders from Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory have walked off their community in protest at the federal government’s Intervention.
The catalyst for the protest was the government takeover of a community-run store in May using Intervention powers.
A protest camp is currently set up 3kms from the township. The elders say they will establish a camp on traditional lands further away from the community and bring many more people with them unless demands are met.
Community spokesperson Richard Downs says that the Intervention is widening the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and that strong action is needed to push the government to respect Aboriginal people.
“The Federal Minister, departments and Government Business Managers (GBMs) have not shown any compassion, understanding or respect towards our leaders and my people. Our people are demoralized, hurt, embarrassed, outcaste on their own community. We no longer have any rights to exist as humans in our own country”, said Mr Downs letter sent to Minister Jenny Macklin.
“Under your GBM’s and intervention team’s poor management my people and community is in disarray. Malfunctioning with dust, rubbish and poor housing with leaking sewerage. People have no motivation, no self esteem, no direction. You took away our independent community store. What will you take away from us next?”
“At this stage we no longer have any confidence with any members of your GBM’s and intervention team and your government. As our rights have been taken away by your governments we feel to try to continue and play the waiting game will only result in further demoralization of my people.”
“We have no other choice but have now decided and agreed upon to return to our grandfather’s, mother’s country which is on the pastoral lease. And let you and your government to live in the community as you wish. I urge all our brothers and sisters along with non aboriginal people to stand up and support us.”
For more information contact:
Richard Downs on 0428611169