Elder tells UN's Highest Authority about 'racist' intervention

By Jano Gibson and Ashleigh Raper ABC News

Reverend Djiniyini Gondarra is a senior elder and Dhurili clan leader of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land.

In Geneva this week, he told UN high commissioner Navi Pillay Aboriginal people are victimised by some of the services delivered to them.

"It is now time to stop establishing Aboriginal services that only victimise us and only say that we are special people with a special measure," he said.

"That is a racist sort of attitude."

The UN high commissioner will travel to Australia next week to examine the current human rights record of the Gillard Government, including how the intervention is being managed.

Meanwhile, the lives of Indigenous people under the intervention are being shown to a world audience.

A new documentary entitled Our Generation has been picked to premiere at the London International Documentary Festival on Sunday.

Reverend Gondarra will be in London for the premiere and says it is an important moment for Indigenous people.

"[It is] inviting the British people to ... walk with me on the long walk to the freedom, to give Aboriginal people support for justice and liberation from how we feel about many things to do with the Northern Territory Emergency Response - another thing we are victims of," he said.

MEDIA RELEASE – 12 May 2011

Respected Aboriginal Elder talks with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva

Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, senior elder and Dhurili Clan leader of the Yolngu peoples of Northeast Arnhem Land, has met privately with the highest authority on human rights at the United Nations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

At the top of their agenda was the ongoing Northern Territory Intervention, which has been heavily criticized by the United Nations Committee on the Convention to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD), the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights. The High Commissioner co-ordinates human rights activities throughout the UN System and supervises the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The High Commissioner will be visiting Australia in little more than a week to examine the current human rights record of the Australian Government, including the ongoing implementation of the Northern Territory Intervention.

Whilst in Geneva, Rev. Dr. Gondarra also met with: United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, James Anaya; Chief of the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, Antti Korkeakivi, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit; Coordinator of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples at Amnesty International, Andrew Erueti; and key staff of the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

He travels onto London as special guest of the World Premiere of Our Generation, an explosive new documentary on the Northern Territory Intervention and Indigenous relations in Australia.

Contacts: Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM 0420 400 284
Alastair Nicholson AO 0418 533 411
Michele Harris OAM 0414 296 861

Attached Photo: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay being presented with a gift of a galpu from North East Arnhem Land by Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra

A Galpu (spear thrower) symbolizes the authority to uphold the law. It is decorated in the style of the the Dhurilli Tribal Nation of East Arnhem Land and is associated with the Mawul rom ceremony that promotes and teaches healing and reconciliation.


Still discriminatory Research

Meanwhile, new research has found changes made by the Federal Government to the intervention have not stopped it being racially discriminatory.

A group of law academics from the University of Queensland has examined the structure and powers of the intervention from when it was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 and how it wa
s altered by Labor last year.

One of the researchers, Anthony Cassimatis, says the government under Kevin Rudd made positive changes to reduce discrimination against Indigenous people.

But Mr Cassimatis says it is still discriminatory despite the changes made to the income management system.

He says the measures have not gone far enough.

"Our concern, essentially, is that those changes do not adequately address the requirements of the international obligations Australia has assumed," he said.

"Just 24 of the 50 most vulnerable areas in Australia would be covered by the new income management regime.

"To me [that] begs the question: what about the other 26 most vulnerable areas?

"If this is an effective social policy initiative, why is it that only the Northern Territory vulnerable areas are the subject of the measures."

Comments

NTER

Rolling back reality.
Rebuilding the Chaos, from the Ground Up: anti-Intervention groups call for a return to year zero in remote Aboriginal communities. (A version of this article also appears on The Drum.)

By Bob Durnan.

Winter is icumen in, here in central Australia; the car windows are filling with frost.
The solstice is nigh.
With the winter solstice, as in the three years just past, comes the anniversary  (1 ) of the announcement of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (2), and thus also the ritual gatherings of the anti-Intervention Shushers3 at street parades, and in other gatherings, endeavouring to defeat the NTER demons.
Prominent amongst the Shushers – besides some Aboriginal leaders – are several sub-groups: some tediously dogmatic socialist fragments; the moralistic section of the greens, distinguishable by their emotive sloganeering about the Intervention; Foucauldian oppositionists (a determined band of anti-governmentalists, who recite obscure theoretical mantras); and the white rastafarians, who about this time of year are heading north on their annual pilgrimage to jamboree in the warm Arafura sun.
Meanwhile, down at the Jumbunna House of Tweets (4), Shusher researchers are busy issuing new edicts.
One such has come my way. It is titled Rebuilding from the Ground Up . It is a virtual manifesto of post-Intervention Shushism, and is bound to form the basis of much fervent shushing in the next few months.
As proof of its status, Rebuilding’s demands “have been widely endorsed” by the Intervention Rollback Action Group (Alice Springs) (5), the Stop the Intervention Collective (Sydney) (6), ‘concerned Australians’ (7) (Melbourne), and unspecified “Aboriginal community leaders”.
The content of the document signals a continuing commitment to naiveté about Aboriginal issues. It embodies the Shushers’ perennial romantic idealisation of Aboriginal society, but with freshly focussed anxiety about one of their central concerns: they must never contemplate or admit to any limitations or problems associated with slogans such as “community control”, “culturally appropriate” or “self-determination”.
The first demand clearly illustrates the extent of the Shushers’ flight from reality: it advocates a return to the system of “community government councils” in the remote Aboriginal communities of the NT. It demands that we “Restore decision making power and administration of municipal services to these councils” – the same principle that three successive Aboriginal Ministers for Local Government under Clare Martin described as wholly dysfunctional.
The present Shire system may be inadequate and needing reform, but a return to the bad old days of ever escalating social problems, chaos, corruption and waste in many communities does not readily recommend itself as a way forward for the residents of remote areas. The Shushers here display their incompetence as policy thinkers: they are amateurish in their response to this genuine crisis and its policy challenge. They clearly demonstrate this by their advocacy of a return to the very system that allowed twenty-five years or more of ruinous irresponsibility in many places, where non-accountability became the enabling mechanism for the creation of generations of grossly neglected children, dysfunctional families and early deaths.
They also advocate the removal of the GBMs -General Business Managers (8) without any thought being given to ensuring an ongoing Federal Government presence. (One of the great benefits of the NTER has been its implementation of a new Australian Government commitment to guaranteeing the quality and co-ordinated delivery of government programs on the ground. The removal of this presence would be another giant leap backwards, comparable to the sudden, very premature withdrawal of Commonwealth public servants from remote NT communities in the late 1970s).
The second major demand is that rivers of government money must flow to provide full services “wherever Aboriginal people choose to live”. This demand doesn’t broach the question of what equity principle might be operating here. Will other needy and vulnerable citizens (including Aboriginal workers, students and pensioners) support such an open-ended and costly policy? What evidence is there that the funding invested, in previous decades, in hundreds of now abandoned outstations was a wise investment? How does that investment compare to what might have been achieved if the money had been spent on other priorities, such as early childhood and parenting skills programs, and effective education? Would other impoverished citizens mind if their living standards suffer because a huge proportion of the Australian Government’s budget were to be absorbed providing a full range of services to single family outstations in extremely remote places?
The enormous cost implications of this demand is compounded by demand number three, which wants good jobs created for everybody who wants one, wherever they want to live. This again is to be, presumably, via the government payroll, and regardless of the economic logic of the investment or productivity of the jobs, just so long as they are “under community control”. The approximate quantum of dollars needed to achieve this utopian ideal remains un-estimated here, as in all parts of this document.
Demand number four goes further: it requires government to “Rescind all township leases signed since the Intervention began in 2007”. These township leases cover a tiny proportion of Aboriginal-owned land, way less than one per cent. Abolishing the leases would remove the township areas from any form of public ownership, and return the land to control by sectional interests, beyond the reach of the majority of residents, with its governance again not being subject to the principle of the “common good”. (In the process there would be a retreat from the possibility of creating some of those good jobs demanded in the previous demand).
Demand number five requests another retrograde move: “Return administration of housing stock from the NT Department of Housing to local Indigenous housing committees attached to the community councils”. Large sums of money, great responsibilities, huge expectations, major risks, but, under this model, little accountability or capability, and no economy of scale, for the crucial task of managing, developing and maintaining social housing stock in the remote communities.
Demand number six, concerning education, is not as silly as its precursors, and contains a number of sensible demands, but spoils the effect by finishing with a demand that the new pressure on parents to send their kids to school should be removed.
Demand number seven mandates the removal of the widely popular and very useful compulsory Income Management program. This is to occur before many people become functional and strong enough to protect themselves and their vulnerable family members from the ubiquitous grog and cannabis fuelled humbugging, bullying, abuse and violence that necessitated the introduction of Income Management in the first place.
Demand number eight is for greatly needed and easily justifiable services, such as “early childhood programs, youth services, men’s programs and women’s centres”, but advocates that they be placed under the direction of the dead hand of the departed, unlamented “local councils”.
Demand number nine outlines sensible health services, and thankfully doesn’t require that they be subject to the wishes of “local councils”.
Demand number ten effectively proposes that all questions relating to alcohol be left in the hands of “the community”, thus absolving governments of all responsibility for moderating the impact of this extremely serious problem that dominates daily life in many communities, and which destroys many people from most communities. It also includes the demand that the communities – no matter how small – have local alcohol treatment programs, regardless of the practicality, cost or need, for them.
Last but not least, demand number eleven is for the government to “Recognise customary law as an important vehicle to empower communities to take responsibility for offending and improve community safety”. It fails to mention whether this recognition would include the sanctioning of the violent or deadly punishments which are common and integral parts of “customary law”.
It may be more accurate for the Jumbunna House of Learning researchers and their supporters to consider renaming their document “Rolling back reality”. The proposals as they stand could never be funded. They fail to take into account individual community needs and desires. They demand full community control, but make no mention of financial realities, accountabilities and responsibilities. Most importantly, they overlook the everyday reality of very high levels of violence in many communities; violence being used casually in too many inter-personal relationships; extraordinarily excessive consumption of alcohol and cannabis by many people in many places; untenable levels of child neglect; and the implications for the weak and vulnerable if there is a return to control by the most powerful in some of these remote places.
The real pity of this is that the more Jumbunna, IRAG, WGAR, STICS, GLW et al promote this “rights-driven” approach, the more confusing and debilitating it all becomes for Aboriginal people in remote communities. The modus operandi of many in these protest groups is to turn up wide eyed at meetings or communities, take at face value whatever they are told by whatever Aboriginal people are willing to talk to them, and then regurgitate whatever parts of it fit their own utopian ideals, as legitimate demands of the people. Seemingly on principle they refuse to factor in things like the possible good faith or policy logic of government programs. They also ignore such small considerations as past policy and program failures, very poor track records of some of those making the utopian demands, and the urgency of addressing issues such as endemic violence, child neglect and substance abuse, let alone the need to prioritise spending. They thus encourage Aboriginal people to make impossible demands on government, and enter into delusional assumptions about what is just, reasonable and logical.
In the process, the chances of governments being able to engage in productive and realistic dialogue and negotiations with local Aboriginal populations are often greatly diminished. This means we all lose; but in particular, it is Aboriginal people who lose when policy development and advocacy are conducted in such a chaotic manner.
 
Footnotes:
(1) Announced on 21st June 2007
(2 ) NTER, aka ‘the Intervention’
(3 ) Shushers: those who believe that all native peoples are ultimately innocents; refuse to admit seeing wrong doing when it occurs; decline to hold people responsible for any bad behaviours; avoid speaking critically to, and/or object to hearing criticism of, Indigenous people.
(4 ) Jumbunna House of Tweets: The Shushers’ spiritual home at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS)
(5) Aka IRAG
(6 ) Aka STICS
(7)  Alastair Nicholson, George Newhouse, Jon Altman, Malcolm Fraser et al 8 Government Business Managers, employed by FaHCSIA and placed in many remote communities to ensure the implementation of Australian Government programs and policies to assist Indigenous people

( from Alice online. 8/6/2011. alb. )

Review

anonymous user comment

Below is a link to a video which shows something of the meeting between Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner and Aboriginal leaders from across the Northern Territory.
The meeting took place yesterday (Friday 20th May 2011) in Darwin. It also shows something of Rev Dr Djiniyini’s visit to Europe.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2011/05/20/3222974.htm

chuck the NT Intervention out

anonymous user comment

chuck the NT Intervention out of Queen Elizabeth's royal window.

Comment viewing options

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.