Macklin accused of threat to seize Alice town camps

Kate Hagan | | August 5, 2009 + RELATED ARTICLES

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin was unlawfully intimidating housing associations in an effort to seize control of Alice Springs’ town camps, the Federal Court has heard.

Jonathan Beach, QC, for camp resident Barbara Shaw, said Ms Macklin threatened to compulsorily acquire the camps if the 18 housing associations that controlled them did not sign new 40-year leases with the Government.

The leases are to pave the way for a $100 million house-building program in the camps where basic facilities such as sewerage and power are lacking.

Mr Beach said there was no guarantee that each of the housing associations would benefit from the funds.

He said by signing the leases the associations were acting contrary to the interests of their members and breaching contracts with tenants.

Ms Shaw, 33, a Kaytetye-Arrernte resident of the Mount Nancy camp whose family has been highly influential in the Tangentyere Council, has initiated the Federal Court bid to stop the housing associations that control the camps from finalising the new leases.

A temporary injunction is in place until Friday, when Justice Alan Goldberg is due to deliver judgment .

Stephen Lloyd, SC, for the Federal Government, said the house-building program would be delayed until at least next year if new leases were not signed within days, since workers would be diverted to other projects.

‘‘My clients are not prepared to spend substantial amounts of money without having greater influence over the provision of what is ultimately a form of public housing,’’ he said.

Mr Lloyd denied suggestions Ms Macklin had threatened the housing associations, saying that she had legitimate powers to compulsorily acquire the camps under the 2007 Emergency Response Act.

Peter Gray, SC, for 13 of the housing associations, said his clients wanted to enter into the leases because it was the only way to avoid Government acquisition and obtain badly needed funds.

‘‘The leases are not contrary to the interests of (association members) due to the overriding, vital significance of their title to the land not being lost,’’ he said.

¦ The Northern Territory Labor Government is precariously clinging to power after the Minister for Indigenous Policy, Alison Anderson, angrily quit the ALP and made scathing criticisms of Chief Minister Paul Henderson.

Territorians could to go to the polls within weeks if there is a vote of no confidence in the Government when Parliament resumes next Tuesday.

Ms Anderson said she had turned her back on Labor because Mr Henderson did not defend her over a newspaper article that attacked her last weekend.

With Lindsay Murdock

Read more about Minister for Indigenous Policy quitting

Barbara Shaw's United Nations NT intervention Speech

7th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues | United Nations, NY: April 2008

Barbara ShawMadam Chair, distinguished members, Indigenous brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Barbara Shaw. I am a Kaytetye-Arrernte woman from Central Australia. I am here to speak on behalf of the Indigenous grass-roots people of Central Australia, on the Australian Government's policy of Intervention.

In June of 2007, on the emotive pretext of protecting children from sexual abuse, the previous federal government introduced racially based punitive measures for Aboriginal people living in designated places (prescribed areas). There was no mention of child protection in the 700 pages of legislation, which was rammed through parliament in a single day.

The Emergency Response Legislation:
- Suspended the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA);
- Compulsorily acquired Aboriginal lands;
- Appointed government business managers to communities;
- Quarantined 50% of every person's welfare payments in prescribed areas;
- Legislated that customary law was irrelevant in sentencing;
- Took away community-based jobs programmes (CDEP);
- Gave police 'star chamber' interrogation powers, normally reserved for suspected terrorists;
- Removed the permit system, opening up homelands and removing Aboriginal people's power to protect their sacred sites.

The new federal government (elected in November 2007) is still implementing and expanding the Intervention to other Aboriginal communities and has not committed to reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, nor has it endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, even though it made an election promise to do so.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released a report in March 2008 damning the 'Northern Territory National Emergency Response' and recommended, amongst a raft of other changes, the reinstatement of the RDA.

Our people believe that the intent behind the Northern Territory Emergency Response was and is a land grab to secure our natural resources and minerals in the national interest of the colonial Australian government.

We recommend that the United Nations 7th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues;
* Recognises that the Australian 'Northern Territory Emergency Response' legislation contravenes the International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD);
* Requests a response from the Australian Government, in this 7th Permanent Forum, to the following demands:
- We recommend that the Australian Government implement Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- We recommend that the Australian Government immediately reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act 1975;
- We recommend that the Australian Government repeal the 'Northern Territory Emergency Response' legislation 2007;
- We recommend that the Australian Government implement the 97 recommendations of the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle-Little Children Are Sacred Report (Anderson & Wild 2007)
* Requests a report on Australia, before the 8th Permanent Forum, from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, identifying breaches of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the domestic Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

We recommend that the government extend a formal invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to report on the Northern Territory Emergency Response Intervention.

And finally we support the statements made by Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma in his report released on 31 March 2008.

Barbara Shaw Calls for Intervention Review

ONLINE ARCHIVES | | February 6th, 2008

Barbara Shaw was the Northern Territory resident who lead the Convergence on Canberra on February 12th 2008 calling for an immediate review of the NT intervention by the Government. Here is her blog she wrote in the lead up.

My name is Barbara Shaw and I live in a community that has been 'prescribed' under the Federal intervention into the Northern Territory called Mt. Nancy Town Camp. I'm an executive member of the local Tangentyere Council. I'm helping my community. I'm a self-determined person, but with the intervention this government is trying to take control of everything. I am very concerned for my people.

One massive problem is the welfare reforms, which see 50% of Centrelink payments for all people in prescribed areas 'quarantined' and distributed as store vouchers. There is no process of review for this.

People don't want the quarantine. It is making everyone poorer. Centrelink is never organised to get our food vouchers in on time. We went the last long weekend without food, I was lucky to get a donation of cold meet from a journalist.

I look after not only my own kids, but others as well. It would be much easier to look after the kids if I had that Centrelink money in my pocket. I don't want to be controlled by a government department. They don't know my situation at home, how many mouths I've got to feed. There are a lot of parents out there like this.

Work for the dole is forcing people to work for their food vouchers. That's what Vincent Lingiari walked off the cattle stations for in the 60's. We need that kind of fight again.

Centrelink is not providing proper services for remote communities, so people are being forced into town. Wallace rock-hole is shutting down, which community will be next? . We don't have the services to cope with the urban drift.

Under Howard we have consistently put up programs, crying out for help, and always been knocked back. Labor must be different.

I am trying to raise funds to take a group of Aboriginal people from Central Australia to Canberra for the opening of Parliament, to join with others from around the country in solidarity to make a strong statement to the new government that there should be a immediate review of the NT Emergency Intervention Legislation, restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I am writing to request a donation to help cover the cost of hiring a bus to travel to Canberra and food and accommodation for the trip. Our total costs are going to be close to $35,000 and so far we have raised a quarter of this.

Community members have very little spare money especially those whose incomes have been quarantined. We are hoping to raise some funds through art sales, and some communities are asking members to put in so much per week out of their limited money. Any donation you are able to make would be a great help.
We have limited time as we hope to leave for Canberra in less than a week. CAAMA (Central Australia Aboriginal Media Association) is our sponsoring organisation and has kindly agreed to deposit funds in a special account.

Audio - Barbara Shaw
Barbara Shaw – A Kaytetye-Arrernte woman from Central Australia talks to Meri Fatin about the current government intervention in the Northern Territory.

Barbara is the responsible carer of her own two biological children as well as her extended family of nieces and nephews. Barbara has also taken it upon herself to enforce her own intervention, throwing open her doors to care for the children of more remote Aboriginal communities to ensure they have access to proper health and medical care.

She also talks to Meri about the initial reaction to the intervention by people within the community.

AUDIO DOWNLOAD: Barbara talks about the NT Intervention Interview by Meri Fatin from RTR-FM