NT needs Intervention of Government bureaucracies

Arnham Land leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu loses faith in the NT Intervention

Natasha Robinson | The Australian | August 12, 2009

Arnham Land leader Galarrwuy YunupinguArnham Land leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu has withdrawn his support for the federal government's intervention into remote Aboriginal communities and condemned what he labelled as the federal and Northern Territory governments' joint inability to deliver Aboriginal housing.

Mr Yunupingu, one of northeast Arnhem Land's most senior custodians, called yesterday for an immediate end to the commonwealth intervention, labelling it "a form of apartheid" that had punished Aboriginal people while failing to deliver a single house.

"We have to call the present intervention to a close, and let's start again," Mr Yunupingu told The Australian yesterday. "We hope there is not going to be anything like the intervention ever again. It is discriminatory, it's a form of apartheid. It has never been any good to us."

The Arnhem Land leader's repudiation of the federal intervention represents a dramatic about-face from his position two years ago, and comes as the Rudd government struggles to keep its $700 million project in Aboriginal housing on track.

After initially labelling the intervention "worrying and sickening", Mr Yunupingu in October 2007 swung behind the initiative, joining leaders such as Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton in putting his faith in the biggest overhaul of indigenous policy in decades.

But Mr Yunupingu said yesterday that two years into the billion-dollar program, he had not seen conditions change for indigenous people on the ground and the promised reforms had been strangled by bureaucratic inertia.

"I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed with the intervention," Mr Yunupingu said. "I thought it was going to be for the good of the people, but I have been disappointed no end. The slowness has gone further than I thought. There have been delays and delays and more delays, particularly in the housing areas.

"Housing is a big promise, and people are still sitting there biting their fingernails waiting for their homes, and that's never come."

Mr Yunupingu's comments followed the formation of a new political force in East Arnhem Land, the home of many of Australia's most traditional indigenous societies.

Yolngu clan leaders from Northern Territory communities stretching from Maningrida to Nubulwar yesterday signed the constitution for the what is to be "the highest authority in Arnhem Land", to be known as the Dilak.

Senior Yirrkala man Djuwalpi Marika said the Dilak would operate as a "Yolngu parliament" and would be seeking direct input into the federal government's task of closing the gap in Aboriginal disadvantage. "We are looking to get a real voice for Yolngu, a Yolngu parliament," Mr Marika said. "We are seeking direct information from the government, not second-hand information. In the Yolngu world we have our own democracy."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the government had made it clear that indigenous engagement was the key to long-term effectiveness of intervention.

She said she understood Mr Yunupingu was frustrated "that decades of under-investment by successive governments cannot be reversed in 18 months".

"Mr Yunupingu's changed position is disappointing at a time when alcohol abuse, violence, crime and poor education and health outcomes are hurting NT indigenous communities."

Ms Macklin said she had instructed a senior official to go through the program "with a fine tooth comb" to make sure housing construction, rebuilds and upgrades were delivered as quickly as possible.

Mr Yunupingu said he would like to see an intervention in government bureaucracies, rather than indigenous communities.

Call for Indigenous to spearhead talks

PS News

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma has called for Indigenous people to play a central role in developing the policies that affect them.

Commissioner Calma made his call in the lead up to the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, held on 9 August.
He said Indigenous people needed to be involved to help find solutions to problems such as education, culture, health and human rights.

Calma urges role in policy making
“We are not immune from these challenges in Australia and I urge us all to keep our eye on the ball and continue to build on the giant steps forward we’ve recently taken as a nation in relation to our Indigenous people,” Commissioner Calma said.

He said the Government had taken a number of positive steps towards eliminating inequality such as saying ‘sorry’ and formally supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain marginalised in Australia and face entrenched poverty and ongoing discrimination on a daily basis,” Commissioner Calma said.

“We need to step up to the mark and put the Declaration to immediate use by ensuring it guides and articulates minimum standards for Governments to use in addressing those areas where Australia’s Indigenous people still face inequality.”

Commissioner Calma welcomed the establishment of a new national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, saying it followed the UN Declaration and would offer Indigenous people “a ray of hope” for participation in the decision-making process.

“Indigenous people must be involved in the policies and programs which impact on their futures,” he said.

“We will not have provided solutions to all the challenges we face until Indigenous people have true participation and are real partners in efforts to Close the Gap in health, education, housing and have access to the same human rights protections as other Australians.”