Aboriginal Rights Coalition
Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Affairs

Greens speech to Sydney ARC rally, July 14

On July 14, the Sydney Aboriginal Rights Coalition held a successful rally outside Redfern Centrelink, with around 50 people attending. The protest was addressed by members of the community, a representative of the Teachers Federation, and local Greens candidate, Irene Doutney. The text of her speech is attached below.

ARC rally 14 JULY 08

My name is Irene Doutney and I’m the Greens candidate for the City of Sydney Council elections,

I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and I have to ask has anything really changed since that first day when the English landed in Sydney and began the oppression of the Indigenous people of Australia?

We are out the front of Centrelink today because across the country our brothers and sisters are being treated like third class citizens…..if that word citizen really applies at all

What other citizens are treated in this way….no-one! and yet the first Australians are constantly punished and treated in a way that no other group has ever had to put up with.

In Australia when I was young we looked at South Africa with its apartheid and said how good Australia was, but in reality the racist plan here was to breed our indigenous Australians out of existence.

Well hey it didn’t work and the people are still here and growing stronger year by year and justice must be given to them at last.

We have to ensure that the great wealth of this country is shared out to all of its people especially the traditional owners of the land, and that they are given the resources they need to live a decent life.

The Greens are the only parliamentary party that has called for proper restitution and compensation for all the crimes committed against the Aboriginal people, we believe there should be more than just an apology, just words.

We believe that the indigenous Australians should be compensated for all the great crimes European Australians have put them through, from stealing their land and their children to making them work without payment and live with constant abuse and dishonor but what does this government give you?…..an apology that hides the extended quarantining of benefits and the acquisition of traditional lands for god knows what purpose and exploitation – be it mining or dumping toxic waste.

Over the past year, we have met a long line of aunties and uncles from the Territory telling us about the reality of living under the intervention and our hearts cry out for what is being done in our name…..shame, shame, shame…..and that is what these people were feeling was SHAME…..

Everyone in our country deserves respect, especially the traditional owners who have cared for the land over tens of thousands of years, but what we are seeing is disrespect of the highest order. The humiliation of having your payments quarantined is never really for the recipients benefit but ultimately for control of that person……it’s a form of abuse.

I have had my payments quarantined for not reporting to Centrelink on time and it’s totally undermining and degrading. Suddenly you don’t have any money, no independence, no ability to do anything or go anywhere or even buy food.

I’ve also had to use charity food vouchers and that is equally humiliating as all the people around you, shoppers and staff know your too poor to have any cash…..judgments are made about your character simply because your using vouchers not cash.

Why should anyone be branded like that? Imagine how much worse it is for the people in the NT when this is dictated to be your way of life…just because your indigenous. This is the big stick that the Government is using to continue a disgraceful white history of racism and exploitation, while they are pretending to help the communities they are really destroying them.

Even the most basic human need for shelter is not being met for all the promises of the government.

On Wednesday the ABC reported that:

Wednesday, 09 July, 2008 ABC News

A member of the Maningrida community in the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land says he cannot see any infrastructure changes as a result of the emergency intervention, and wants to know where the money has been spent.

San Munro says the intervention has failed to deliver on improvements in housing and health services.

He says the only visible change he can see is a few empty shipping containers where some of the intervention staff once lived, and no new houses.

Munro says he believes it is the same situation in all 73 prescribed Aboriginal communities.

“It’s disappointing for people who had hoped that the financial muscle of the Commonwealth Government would create significant improvements in the lives of these Aboriginal citizens” he said.

“Particularly in such prosperous times for our nation it simply doesn’t seem right to see Aboriginal people living 25 to a house and living in a certain level of despair about their futures.”

“Eight hundred additional Commonwealth public servants doesn’t seem to me like a good investment when Maningrida, the largest community in the Northern Territory, can’t have a dentist or a child protection worker or a youth worker”.

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin has objected to the claims.

Jenny Macklin says 750 new houses will be built in remote Aboriginal communities in partnership with the Territory Government, and 2,500 houses will also be upgraded.

The Federal Government has committed about $700 million to housing but the NT Minister for Housing says they will need at least $3 billion.

Promising words from the Minister but when is it actually going to happen…..its been over a year now and it appears no housing has been built….where are the training courses that will allow indigenous young people to learn the trade skills that would allow them to build their own housing…..where are the apprenticeships that will give the communities their own brickies, sparkies, mechanics and builders…..

And what about the safe houses, the rehabilitation and detoxification units, youth facilities, counselling, and all the other services that are needed and were identified by “The Little Children are Sacred Report”…..when are they going to be supplied to the communities?

But the sad truth is these communities are being destroyed as people drift into the towns and leave their homes to be near Centrelink offices, the big supermarkets that will take their vouchers and all the things denied them in the prescribed communities.

But it will get worse as the Federal Labor government extends the intervention system to other states like Western Australia and Queensland and Ministers like Peter Garrett talk about how good it would be to extend these powers to the aboriginal people in La Perouse.

Which brings us to the disgraceful racist behaviour of the NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor. Here in Redfern we have the same battle going on over building some decent housing on the Block. Minister Sartor quite openly showed his contempt for the local aboriginal community when he said there were too many black faces in Redfern. His answer was to redevelop the Block into white yuppie commercial high rises with no thought for the existing residents.

Thankfully he failed to get his hands on the Block but since then he has blocked every move by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation to build 62 new units of traditionally based housing. The Greens believe this should be a priority for the community and it should be given appropriate government funding.

We need justice for blackfellas not this racist paternalism and we need blackfellas making their own decisions and being involved in their own future development.

Now more than ever we have to fight against this interventionist mentality before it gets extended even further into our own communities. In standing up for the remote communities we are ultimately standing up for ourselves and we must continue the straggle for true justice and equality for the aboriginal people, before it’s too late and their traditional lands are stolen yet again.

Thank you for allowing me to speak today and I urge you to continue to support the work of ARC and the struggle against ongoing oppression, discrimination and racism against our aboriginal people..

The Greens will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this ongoing struggle.