Support us

August 24, 2009

Dear Trade Unionists and supporters of Aboriginal rights,
We’re writing to you from our protest camp in the desert, asking for your support in our struggle for basic services and rights that many in the cities take for granted.
On July 14 we, elders from the Ampilatwaja community, three hours north-east of Alice Springs, walked out of our houses and set up camp in the bush. We are fed up with the federal governments Northern Territory Intervention, controls and measures, visions and goals forced onto us from outside. We felt we were an outcaste and isolated from all decision making – there has been no meaningful consultation.
We had been waiting with patience to see where this Intervention was heading, hoping there may be some humanity and compassion towards our Indigenous people, some respect to bring us back into the discussion process to have a say in what is happening on our community. Instead our leaders and elders are treated with contempt, shown no respect, degraded, treated as lower class outsiders.
The NT Intervention hasn’t brought any improvements to our people’s lives. It hasn’t brought us any new houses. And, despite the fact that in Ampilatwatja, many of us are living in tin sheds with leaking sewerage, Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin has told us Ampilatwatja won’t be one of the communities to get new houses built.

Stop the NT Intervention – Support the Ampilatwatja walk off!

Instead, the NT Intervention has meant more hardship and shame for our people. We’re suffering under the welfare quarantining system- 50% of Aboriginal people’s welfare payment is converted into Basics cards, which we can only use at certain shops. Elders who have gone through earlier welfare days are feeling degraded – it’s same old ration days of, flour, tea and sugar and some clothing.
We have written to Jenny Macklin with our concerns, and she has ignored us. A recent Intervention “consultation” session was an embarrassment, with our concerns being completely ignored. We no longer have confidence in her, her government, or the government business managers (GBMs) installed in our communities as part of the Intervention. Under the GBM, our community fell into disarray and dysfunction. For us, the last straw was when the government took over our independent, community-controlled store.
Community members are living permanently at the protest camp.
We therefore have no intention of going back there. We intend to stay here until our demands are met. We demand the federal government:
– Stop the NT Intervention
– Genuinely consult with us on any plans that will affect our lives now and for the future
– Reinstate the full Racial Discrimination Act without conditions or measures
– Fund housing and community development, not intervention
– Stop the compulsory five-year leases and restore Aboriginal land rights
Until these demands are met, we are asking for the help of trade unions and any other organisations to establish and maintain our new camp.
We seek your assistance in obtaining:
– $20000 to get a bore running so we have drinking water at the camp
– $10000 to set up toilets and showers
– Tents to provide shelter for the elders and families. We need 10 and they are $250 each
– Money and donations of food
– A long-term loan/donation of a marquee, chairs and table for and open day and public meeting we are planning.

Through our own savings and community grants we are currently able to contribute $8000 towards these costs. For the remainder, we will be relying on the generosity of supporters around the country

To make a donations to our struggle please contact:
Richard Downs, Alyawarr language group spokesperson.

Email: Phone: 0428 611 169

Clothes, food and other supplies can be sent to: PO Box 1360 Tennant Creek NT 0861

From the Alyawarr people’s walk-off at Ampilatwatja

53 responses to “Support us

  1. Daniel S

    To Richard Downs Alyawarr language group spokesperson,
    I have read with great interest about the struggles and conditions of your community, also of the actions of the tiers of goverment involved.
    There was a lot of requests for things that i can see will aid the community and i support the walk off to gain some attention to what is happening. So that you can live they way you want.
    Given the amount of text and information you have provided in this space, my question is this. How is it exactly that you wish to live and plan to make that sustainable?
    I ask this as a white man from the city who while believing strongly in everyones right to live as they see fit also beleives that, that choice should have positive effects in the wider community.
    To put it another way and to borrow a metaphor. How can we (mainstream Australia) teach you to fish?
    I look forward to hearing from you or reading your response on this website

    • richard downs

      Hi Daniel,
      no we do not want you to teach us how to fish, we want you to support us to reinstate our human and UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples rights and that we be recognized as the first australians, having ownership of our lands, customs and traditions and that we unite to stop the Federal governments racism intervention laws. under the NTER we are not part of your society. we are outcaste, not recognized as people having human rights.

    • a recent exhibition of Utopia paintings [just one artist actually] in Tokyo was spruiked as valued at over $30 million
      the gst on painting resale alone is millions, let alone the taxes, curators, tickets, export earnings, balance of trade windfall

      that is before the economics of qantas ads, tourism, pastoral leases, and all the other economic activity generated by the alyawarr

      to suggest that remote communities are uneconomic or need to be taught how to be resourceful is to stare down the facts

      the fact is, when you measure economic productivity – the difference in dollars between what goes in and what comes out – the alyawarr have positioned themselves as the most productive contributors to the australian economy – not nearly the most, they are the most productive contributors to the australian economy

      this contribution is met with jenny macklins stupid statements about uneconomic remote communities – it just beggars belief

      macklin should resign, she is either too dumb to be a proper functionary, or she is beholden to corruption within the labor party, and is acting to sieze land by way of fraud


    • richard downs

      thank you sister and continue your support. we are all connected through mother earth, spiritualpathways, dreams, air and water. we are cares of land, animals, environment, all living creatures are our responsibility to ensure there is continual survival of all. stand against all racism and governments destruction of our cultures and mother earth she is the only one we humans have and can never be replaced.
      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

  3. Rosie Scott

    To the Alyawarr People,
    congratulations on your walk off. My thoughts are with you in this struggle for your land and I know many other Australians support you too.

  4. Grace

    I support completely your walk off action to get some more attention to your terrible plight.

    I live in a town of 15,000 and have a dry composting toilet. After composting for 12 months the material is suitable for growing plants and vegetables. It is very hygienic. This also saves one family of two about 15,000 litres of water a year.

    Also we have 1000 watts of solar panels, which porovide much of our own energy for cooking, washing etc.

    I know it is very expensive to put down a bore and build housing as yoy are SO far away from materials and resources. It is important to ensure that contractors do not rip you off. Perhaps you have Aboriginal people who can do the work for you at reasonable cost.
    Other people skills?

    What I am thinking is that if we get together with money and materilas, you may be able to build your own homes. Is that possible? Do you need some traing or assistance to do that?

    Kind regards

    • Richard Downs

      Hi Grace and thank you for your email. we do have our people who can build and carry out any work. with the stormy season now approaching, we need 7-8 person tents which are around about $250 a donation for 3 or 4 would help greatly for now. as this will give us time to build small shed style accommodations.
      we are also looking to estabilish solar powers at a later stage to do away from diesel generators. ideas or suggestions in this area would be appreciated
      thank you once again

    • interventionwalkoff

      My apologies if I did not reply earlier. yes we are always open to suggestions and ideas on solar and new technologies. we now have your contact and hoping once this is all behind us we will share those ideas
      Take care and thank you for your support

  5. Richard

    You & your people have my support (and I’m sure the support of many others around oz) but like many working class people at the moment, I’m barely scrapping by so I’m wondering what else, if anyhting, can the wider community do to support & assist the cause if they are unable to offer financial support?

    SCART (shane carter)
    of The MOLOTOV

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Scart,
      we understand, there are many people in similar situations. just hearing your support is strength and encouragement enough, but please continue to spread the message to come on board with us as one. we do have a government that is not listening to us and people but are continuing to create divisions. we understand the general public across our country are also struggling and our hearts go out to them.
      Thank you

  6. Karen

    Hi Richard,

    I will forward yr email to all my connections.

    I am ashamed to call myself an Australian.

    What the government of today is doing to our communities is nothing short of discrimination.
    The whole intervention in the NT has been a constant reminder of the stolen generation.

    Please let our people know to stay strong. You have a lot of support.

    I cannot pledge very much but I will contribute something to yr cause next week when I get paid.

    Please keep me informed as I will circulate yr emails to constantly remind non Indigenous/aboriginal people of yr plight

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Karen,
      look just hearing and having your support is enough, hold onto your money. I ask please continue to spread our message to friends and other good people that are out there
      stay strong and take care
      thank you

  7. Sheree Drylie


    The whole NTER is joke.
    I dont believe it was ever intended to genuinely help, It was about regaining land leases hidden under a clever media manipulated “rescue” mission.

    I am so proud of you and your mob for having the courage to walk away rather than live with the racist restrictions imposed on you.

    If i can do anything, or you need anything co-ordinated from NSW to help please feel free to email me.

    Wishing you all the best.

    • interventionwalkoff

      please continue to spread our message, our stand is against the state and federal governments racist intervention policies and we call on our white brothers and sisters to join us on this journey for human rights.
      once again thank you for your support and I hope to meet a number of you people on the tour next month to thank them and to continue the support

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Sherre,
      thank you for your support, please continue to spread our message. I hope to meet many of you on tour to thank people for their support. we are all struggling both black and white our aim is to encouragement every one to share our journey for humanity, to stand against racism policies of federal governments
      I will pass on you support and comments to our elders and leaders

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Sheree,
      thank you for your support just continue to spread our message far and wide amongst your friends
      Thanks You

  8. Sheree Drylie

    me again..
    also if your able to add social networking site shortcuts we would be able to post links to your articles ect directly to Facebook, My space ect which would help with coverage.

    • Richard Downs

      Hi Sheree,
      great idea have forwarded your suggestions onto Nat who has build the web page and assisting us along the way.agree we want to spread this far and wide, let people know we still have human rights issues in Australia from the aust governments and their removal of racial discrimination act
      thank you

  9. Hi Richard,
    Firstly, i am honoured that you accepted my friend request on Facebook, i will continue to spread the word as far as i am able. It was also a great honour to be able to talk to you directly, thank you so much for taking the time to do so.
    i hope the small amount that i was able to donate, combined with your communities courageous actions will snowball and serve as a real wake up call to the ALP. For too long i have felt great shame to have been born white. The apology brought tears of joy to my eyes and gripped my heart with a warm glow of hope and a desperately needed feeling of finally “belonging” to one race, one people, one destiny. Now their lies, continued destruction and exploitation fills me with deep feelings of disgust.
    Shame on them.
    In solidarity!

    • interventionwalkoff

      Thank you sister,
      words of encourage and support gives all of us drive and energy to continue on this journey. its fantastic to see and feel the moment building with all our brothers and sister of different colours across our country. I will pass onto our elders and leaders your message
      take care

    • interventionwalkoff

      Thank you Anne, from me and my people. as we need to expose the truth to the general public, to tell them this is wrong and against all human rights.
      Thank you

  10. Jacob Hoogesteger

    I strongly support your efforts to assert your rights. As with some others above, I too am disappointred and ashamed of this Government’s policy towards our indigenous citizens which, once again, causes them to suffer.
    Although you have been beaten down throughout the period of your contact with officialdom, you should be proud that you have retained the necessary cultural integrity and individual strength, determination and leadership to stand up for your rights. You have our wholehearted support.

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Jacob,
      Thank you, its people like yourself that give us the courage, energy and drive to continue to stand against racism. please continue to spread our message far and wide

  11. Wynn Te Kani

    Dear People,
    > There has been long term investigation into the unsuitability of septic tanks in areas where ground water flushes sewerage to the surface resulting in seasonal intestinal complaints. Why are elevated composting toilets or even toilets which devide the liquid and solid component of sewerage in the toilet pan, not being used?
    > What is the standard of water supply to the Community?
    > It seems that Aboriginal have been pidgeon holed as distinct and separate, rather than being recognised as having two sources of rights, as all Indigenous People do; Aboriginal have rights that exist in their ownership by prior occupation of a land later colonised by those who dispossessed Aboriginal without any right to do so; and Aboriginal have the right to enjoy the advantage conveyed by citizenship; the same citizenship rights confired on every other Australian ; Aboriginal do not have a diminished right in their own land; Aboriginal have a dual and double right, granted to repair the damage done in the process of their enslavement; of their land being stolen; for atrocities, inhumanities, and dehumanisation perpetrated against them; for the fact that the inalienable right of Aboriginal to achieve in the same manner as everyone else was systematically destroyed in order to achieve the advantage of others.
    > In reality, Aboriginal Communities do not have to subsidise or support the provision of services to themselves, any more than any other community who find themselves living in such appalling conditions do; because such a condition is the responsibility of Government, who, in the interest of Public Health, acts!
    > Appropriate standards of Public Health are fundimental rights in Australia.
    > The assumption that Government cannot be held responsible for failure and short comings is false in principle, though it might be entrenched in Law.
    > When Government indifference, lack of action, or action, results in wholesale injury and loss of life to a distinct group, who are clearly defined and founded on racial grounds, particularly Indigenous grounds, International Justice may interpret such behaviour as genocide, and pursue the purpetrators.
    > Arohanui, Wynn Te Kani

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Wynn Te Kani,
      Agree totally with you and yes this is genocide, no different when the governments had aboriginal protectors, income managemnt, police controls after the second world war, so it has not gone away.
      thank you for your support and encouragement and please spread our message and tell our brothers and sisters we will continue on this journey

  12. Ian

    My brother Richard, I am a Bulgun Warra Bama from Hopevale in Cape York and I feel so proud of what your community is doing to bring an end to this overt racism displayed by our ‘shameful’ racist government. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your people as you fight the good fight. Keep it up brother! We are standing behind you’s 100 percent.

  13. Tammie Davidson

    Keep up the good work, Richard (and people) – I’m supporting you all the way. Your action comes from the heart, and as Margaret Mead once said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  14. dear alyawarr,

    beloved brothers and sisters, grandfathers and granddaughters, father mother sister daughter, your struggle is our struggle and we support your leadership and call to action, we are one

    we must all recognise that we are connected, what is done to you is done to us

    we people, we animals, we trees, we water, the mother land, all connected

    we must all of us remember our absolute responsibility to respect our lands and waters, to respect each other

    our spirits are singing, we are one, we are one, and soon we will sing, we have won, we have won

    the day will come my beloved people, when the imposters are fallen, when greed is no more dominant, when truth presides over lies, when joy defeats sorrow

    hold fast, we are with you

    all australians will come together over this, we have the numbers, now we must show it, we must rise up and stand and say yes, we can make that change happen

    and who but the greedy and criminally corrupt would choose to be left out?

    who would want not to be there on the day, the day we stand as a people and declare it is over, it is over, justice has prevailed, love has prevailed, peace has prevailed, truth has returned to our hearts, that peace has returned to our earth?

    if not here, then where?
    if not us, then who?
    if not now, then when?
    – primo levi


    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Geoff,
      Thank you very much for your support and comments brother, which I will pass onto my people. our time is near and we must now stand together as one people (black/white) against racism policies of the federal governments. please continue to spread our message to people of all cultures and languages. we are now on a journey where our ancestors have layed down, mother earth, our spiritual pathways, land, our dreaming. I urge all to follow, to join and walk with us as one people, one voice.
      Thank you

    • interventionwalkoff

      thank you brother and keep building our support to get out message out

  15. Janet

    my brother Richard im a Warlpiri woman living in Nsw studying Law i think what you doing is very powerful message to all of us warlpiri and Alyarrwarra people everyone is following you with their spirit.Yani karnalu nyuntu-wana nganimpa Warlpiri -patu warlalja.
    see you in Sydney with my brother Harry keep up the good powerful supportive message from everyone in your journey goodluck


  16. Peta Douglas

    To all the Alyawarra people,

    I was handed a brochure at the Sydney Opera House today about your community’s walk-off and protest against the NT Intervention. I wish to offer my encouragement and support to your cause. I look forward to hearing Richard Downs speak at UTS this week and finding out more about how to support your community. I will endeavour to tell your story to as many people as I can and I think the Facebook page discussed in previous blogs would be a great way to spread the word and gain support from thousands of people across Australia and the world.
    Kia Kaha (stay strong)

  17. Wiradjuri women

    Hi Richard
    I applaude the stand our Aboriginal people are attempting and I pray for you all. if I had money I would gladly donate It to you. I remember my dad telling me about the walk off at Wave Hill years ago and how it was important to make a stand. I remember my mum writing letters to try to get back the thirteen pounds the government withheld over seventy five years ago, Certain non Aboriginal people of this country still think we dont have a brain and need mission managers to look after our welfare, different ethnic groups come into our great country build their own churches, practice their own religion and culture and they are praised, yet here we are the first people of this great nation and we are still discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. I wish you all well and will spread the word, stay safe we need to stand strong.

    • interventionwalkoff

      sister thank you for your support, yes lets keep building and get the grass movement going there are lot of people out there who are wtaching and supporting.
      we also have the unions on board

  18. Norah Hosken

    Hi Richard and the other elders from the Ampilatwaja community,
    I send my support and admiration for your resistance against the NT Intervention. This is discriminatory and shameful legislation that the Federal Government has not changed. I had hoped for much more from Rudd and Macklin and am bitterly disappointed at the lack of understanding and action. I am sharing with colleagues, students, friends and neighbours the details of the Resistance to the NT Intervention national speaking tour and will be there in Melbourne on friday october 16th. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to the tents and water needed to assist the resistance.
    Every single Australian is diminished by the NT Intervention. Thank you also for the UTube – you are so inspiring and knowledgeable. I will show this to students and friends.
    In support – Norah

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Nora,
      yes please spread our message and encourage others to start forming networks.
      we also want to see all young people, students coming on board, we must listen to their ideas and vision

  19. Norah Hosken

    Hi Richard and other elders from the Ampilatwaja community,
    I admire and support your resistance to the NT Intervention legislation. This racist law and policy diminishes every single Australian. I am so disappointed in the Rudd Government for not changing this. Thank you for the Utube – you are such an inspiring and knowledgeable leader. I am sharing the Utube with students, friends and colleagues. I am also promoting the Resistance to the Intervention public speaking tour dates for Melbourne and will be there on October 16th 2009. I live in Geelong and many people share the outrage at this attack on Indigenous peoples and human rights. At a time when it seems many people are looking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges to assist all Australians to live with ourselves and in this land in a more sustainable and holistic way – it seems Rudd has just got it so wrong. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to the resistance and the requirements for tents, water and other necessities.
    In support – Norah

  20. Patrick Harrison

    Hi, I’m Patrick, and I’m social justice representative for WUSA, Wollongong Uni’s student union. We recently passed a motion of support for your demands to stop the intervention, reinstate the racial discrimination act, stop compulsory leases and fund housing and development. We also voted to release a $100 donation to your community to help set up your new town. In times like this all marginalised groups, whether they are indigenous people, students, environmental campaigners or the working class, should stand together in solidarity against the powers that be when they try and take away our livelihoods. We look forward to seeing you speak at the Illawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre tomorrow night.

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Patrick,
      please pass on our thanks to all students. and let them know their ideas and involvement is needed on our march to stand against racism and discrimination

  21. greg

    Go Richard and all the team. Heard you on LNL and will send some dollars to help with the effort.

  22. Mitchell

    Thanks for the talk today at UQ, you’re a good speaker. You mentioned that youse are on facebook but I only found the Sydney group, is there a more general nation wide one?
    Cheers, Mitch.

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Mitchell, yes its on face book, type in intervention or email me and I will invite you to come on our blog. also type the same word in you tube and its all there

  23. Richard I came to your talk as you suggested on Sat in Brisbane (it went well didn’t it?) and I waited to speak to you but you were toooo busy (and popular) so I decided to wait a few days and email you again. You may remember me – Paul Wildman and I spoke to you about the Australian bush mechanic etc and send you some flyers etc – this could well be useful in your ‘walked off’ community. I asked the question about Marcia L and Gulluaway.

    I also noted you mentioned permaculture – great an addition thereto would be a community economy in which the perma-culture and solar power/hot water initiatives sit with in the community economy one and this also links to the bush mechanic approach.

    These two aspects may be worth thinking about or trailing in your ‘walked off community’.

    Am rather keen to discuss this with you if relevant on the phone my mob is 0412027818

    Thanks for the talk – good to see your support. It must be hot up there.

    Ciao paul

    • interventionwalkoff

      Hi Paul,
      will do yes its been hectic and always people wanting to catch up. but you have my email so lets keep communication

      • Ok will Richard – do i am keen to see the solar and gardens etc located within a community economy if you like econo-tecture and to respect the bush mechanic skills and build thereon – this will need to be built in early in your process. ciao paul

  24. Dear Richard, and all those who are on the journey with the Ampilatwatja community, I hope you are doing well!

    While you were in Melbourne I had the pleasure of meeting you and Harry and of recording some interviews you did with Robbie Thorpe (on 3CR) and with me during the protest rally + your words at Melbourne University and at the public forum on October 16th.

    Here is the video from your visit to Melbourne documenting this wonderfully inspiring story of the Ampilatwatja walkoff. Richard, you are doing a great job of including everyone on this journey – and the video hopes to reflect this specific aspect of the walkoff.

    I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to distribute it far and wide.

    All the very best,


  25. Frances Flemming

    Richard, it was a privilege to meet you and Harry at Wundunarr-koo at Tregear in Mount Druitt NSW last month. It was great to hear you and our group want you to know that we are supporting you by spreading the word about your campaign, and giving some financial support.

  26. Dear Richard, please, can you send me an address so I can send you the money I promised you. I can’t send it to a bank account but I have now got a St George cheque book sent all the way to Ireland and am ready to post a cheque to you.
    And what’s the name of the account?
    We were sending emails before but your yahoo address is not working now. So lucky I found this.
    Love and good wishes to all of you, Shirley

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