Call to set up a welfare camp in Canberra

Goodooga, northwest NSW, 28 February 10
Aboriginal activist Michael Anderson calls on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal welfare recipients to set up a welfare camp in Canberra.

Dianne Stokes
Image: Social Policy Connections
Dianne Stokes
The Basics Card, used to access quarantined welfare payments.

Press Release:
I'm calling on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who are welfare recipients to gather in Canberra and set up a welfare camp.

The Prime Minister needs to understand that Minister Jenny Macklin and other incompetent ministers in his cabinet will ensure that the Labor Party will be decimated in this year's Federal election.

We are all sick and tired of the Prime Minister avoiding the real issues by making apologies and accepting responsibilities for his government's wrongdoings. If he knows that what they are doing is wrong, then he needs to show leadership and change the way they are doing business.

The Labor Party once stood for the poor and working class; now they are only a pinch of sh-salt away from being a replica of the Liberal Party. Now the working class and the poor need to show all the major parties that we won't stand for their B.S. anymore and what better way than to vote for independents. We need a government for the people by the people and what we have now is neither nor.

My call for as many people as possible to gather in Canberra to establish the Welfare Camp is a serious call to action. Show Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Macklin that enough is enough. I would expect a Federal election to be called in October or November and that the politicians need to know well in advance of the people's displeasure at how they are being governed.

The camp should be established around mid-April before the Canberra cold sets in. This government and anyone else who is thinking of trying to win government need to understand that the poor and working class do vote and the numbers of welfare recipients need to show their faces.

I also recommend that welfare recipients should start to picket the local offices of their politicians to inform them that they do not want the Federal Government's proposal to change the welfare and other related Acts that would see their welfare quarantined. We cannot have any Government attack the poor because of their life's circumstances. It is cowardly act of very irresponsible people.

We must also be aware that the virgin promoter Tony Abbot will apply greater pressure to the poor and the working class and it is from this knowledge that the poor and working class need to stage a revolutionary act by voting independents no matter the outcome. At least we need to let the two political parties know that they should not take the voters for granted.

'Shame on Australia for making us work for that Basics Card!' 26 February 2010

Under the Northern Territory intervention, in the "prescribed areas" the government has taken control of communities, acquired compulsory leases of Aboriginal land and introduced "welfare quarantining" - in which half the income of social security recipients is replaced with a "Basics Card", which can only be spent at specified shops on specified items.

Valerie Martin
Valerie Martin

jthommo101's photostream (Flickr)

Valerie Martin speaking in Melbourne at the 2nd anniversary of the NT Intervention

Anti-intervention campaigner and Warlpiri language interpreter Valerie Martin spoke at the Prescribed Area People's Alliance meeting in Alice Springs on February 12. An abridged version of the speech is printed below. It was transcribed by Intervention Rollback Action Group. For more information, visit

Abridged transcript

We need to stick together because it's coming down now, hammering down on us really hard. We should be able to get together and be strong about it though, because I heard what's happening over there at Ampilatwatja [where elders have walked off the prescribed area] and I'm proud about it. It made me cry when I heard it.

It's really sad what's happening to our land. Our culture is connected to the land. And now this invasion coming, another invasion. They're not even for a minute thinking, they just want to go ahead and do it whether we like it or not. I'm still talking to people and everyone tells me it's getting harder. We need to come together strong now.

I'm living where it all started: Wave Hill [scene of the 1966-75 Gurindji people's walk-off]. It reminded me of where the things are happening now, the walk-off there, sitting down with your people there, especially old people getting their history.

It seems to us we're going backwards. They're going to take everything away from us. The way the government is trying to overrule us now [shows] they don't understand at all in the parliamen what the land means to us and our culture . It's really sad.

Because I sometimes sit down at night and think: "What's going to happen next to our kids?" It's going to be really sad for our kids in the future, harder and harder. All these rules they're creating, hammering down on us. Not for a minute do they think: "let's ask them, communicate". None of that. They just throw the rules down onto us: the Basics Card, do this, do that.

It's supposed to be a free land, this place, but it's not. We're struggling. They treat us with no respect. How are our kids going to grow up knowing what to do with their lives when rules are being thrown from all sides.

Everyone needs to stick together and talk up [not] sitting back and letting other people talk. We've all got to talk, together.

This is the time, now, because it's really hard for us. Our law doesn't change. Through the ceremony, we don't change it and it makes us strong.

My knowledge and my ceremony that I went through, I'm now teaching my kids and grandkids. I'm out there but I'm still joining in. I feel really strong inside.

The way the Basics Card is now, you've got to deal with Centrelink [and] it's a headache how the government talks. You've got to do this and that, you've got to work for that dole. Shame on Australia for making us work for that Basics Card!

A lot of people were surprised and I was surprised too. People were working and they were expecting money but were told: no, you've got to work for this. [The] Basics Card is working [but] not for money.

People are really angry. They are saying: we can't work for this! How can they feed their families? What's wrong with this government of ours? It's disgusting. This government of ours is treating us just like mild people, expecting us to get on the Basics Card and work for it. It's a shame job: they make up new rules, and say they're good for Aboriginal people, but they're not.