Gillard meets protesters on last day of NT visit

Michael Coggan ABC News 9th June, 2011

One of her reasons for the visit was to hear the voices of Indigenous Australians as the Government shapes the next phase of the intervention into 73 Aboriginal communities.

Ms Gillard says she thinks the intervention, which is approaching its fourth anniversary and involves measures such as child health checks and extra police, is working.

But arriving at Charles Darwin University to open a new $28 million medical training school, she was heckled by protesters who called for an end to the intervention and voiced opposition to a proposed nuclear waste dump near Tennant Creek.

Security managed to keep most of the protesters away, but one angry Larrakia woman, June Mills, managed to get Ms Gillard's attention for a few seconds.

"I'm 55 years old and I'm still homeless. All the Larrakia in this country are homeless and it's our land," she told the Prime Minister.

Afterwards Ms Mills told the ABC she was facing eviction from public housing and wanted more recognition of the Larrakia people as the traditional owners of Darwin.

"My whole family's homeless. We're all under threat of eviction every day of our lives," she said.

"I want my land and I want my house, and I want the house how I want it, and I want to live how I want within my family structure.

"I want housing that's suitable for families. I want housing that's suitable for Aboriginal people to live the way they want to live in their extended family situation.

"I want health. I want the intervention to end now. Right, the anniversary on June 21 is coming up and I want an end to the intervention. We've had enough of this racism in this country."

But Ms Gillard says the evidence she has seen and the people she has spoken to over the past three days have convinced her that many aspects of the intervention are working.

"I believe the intervention has made a difference," she said.

"We are seeing things like 7,000 meals being provided to kids in schools each day. Kids being better fed, better clothed because of income management.

"Fresh fruit and vegetables in camp stores - to keep yourself healthy you need something as basic as fresh food. We are seeing reductions in things like aggravated assaults in recent statistics.

"So I think change is happening. I saw some of that change myself in Alice Springs through the Alice Springs Transformation Plan - new houses being built in town camps, which when we came to government were places of absolute squalor and degradation.

"So change is happening but more needs to be done."

The Prime Minister also fended off protests about Federal Government plans to build a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek.

"In the legislation, yes, Muckaty Station is identified and that is because it was volunteered by the traditional owners," she said.

"I understand there is disputation about who the traditional owners are. We of course followed the advice of the Northern Land Council, which is the appropriate process for us to follow, but this matter is now before courts and of course we will abide by any decision that comes from those court proceedings."

It is not yet clear whether there will be a second version of the NT Emergency Response when the current arrangements end in August next year.

If there is, it is unlikely to be called an intervention. Over the past three days the word "transformation" has had a good work-out and it is expected to be heard more often.

Comments

the actions of a white woman

User Submission

the actions of a white woman on Indigenous land who does not stop and listen to a black woman..there is something wrong with Australia. Not only did Julia Gillard walk away but she walked away smiling. Not out of happiness but because that is how things are covered up. That is no genuine smile. We want genuine respect for human rights and especially Indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed for such a long time from their sovereign land.

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