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Issue # 1425      26 August 2009

Open letter from the Alyawarr people calling for support and solidarity

Dear Trade Unionists and supporters of Aboriginal rights, we’re writing to you from our protest camp in the desert, asking for your support in our struggle for basic services and rights that many in the cities take for granted.

On July 14 we, elders from the Ampilatwaja community, three hours north-east of Alice Springs, walked out of our houses and set up camp in the bush. We are fed up with the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention, controls and measures, visions and goals forced onto us from outside. We felt we were an outcaste and isolated from all decision making – there has been no meaningful consultation.

We had been waiting with patience to see where this intervention was heading, hoping there may be some humanity and compassion towards our Indigenous people, some respect to bring us back into the discussion process to have a say in what is happening on our community. Instead our leaders and elders are treated with contempt, shown no respect, degraded, treated as lower class outsiders.

The NT intervention hasn’t brought any improvements to our people’s lives. It hasn’t brought us any new houses. And, despite the fact that in Ampilatwatja, many of us are living in tin sheds with leaking sewerage, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has told us Ampilatwatja won’t be one of the communities to get new houses built.

Instead, the NT intervention has meant more hardship and shame for our people. We’re suffering under the welfare quarantining system – 50 percent of Aboriginal people’s welfare payment is converted into Basics Cards, which we can only use at certain shops. Elders who have gone through earlier welfare days are feeling degraded – it’s same old ration days of flour, tea and sugar and some clothing.

We have written to Jenny Macklin with our concerns, and she has ignored us. A recent Intervention “consultation” session was an embarrassment, with our concerns being completely ignored. We no longer have confidence in her, her government, or the government business managers (GBMs) installed in our communities as part of the intervention. Under the GBM, our community fell into disarray and dysfunction.

For us, the last straw was when the government took over our independent, community-controlled store.

We therefore have no intention of going back there. We intend to stay here until our demands are met. We demand the federal government:

  • Stop the NT Intervention;
  • Genuinely consult with us on any plans that will affect our lives now and for the future;
  • Reinstate the full Racial Discrimination Act without conditions or measures;
  • Fund housing and community development, not intervention;
  • Stop the compulsory five-year leases and restore Aboriginal land rights.

Until these demands are met, we are asking for the help of trade unions and any other organisations to establish and maintain our new camp.

As well as solidarity motions supporting our struggle, these are the concrete things we need, and seek your assistance in obtaining:

  • $20,000 to get a bore running so we have drinking water at the camp;
  • $10,000 to set up toilets and showers;
  • Tents to provide shelter for the elders and families. We need 10 and they are $250 each;
  • Money and donations of food;
  • A long-term loan/donation of a marquee, chairs and table for an open day and public meeting we are planning.

Through our own savings and community grants we are currently able to contribute $8,000 towards these costs. For the remainder, we will be relying on the generosity of supporters around the country.

Donations to our struggle can be made into the following account:

Alyawarr Inkerr-Wenh Aboriginal Corporation, BSB 085995 A/C 821104317 National Australia Bank Alice Springs Branch.

Clothes, food and other supplies can be sent to:
PO Box 1360
Tennant Creek NT 0861.

If you make a donation, or to find out more please contact Richard Downs, Alyawarr language group spokesperson.

Email:
spiritualdesert@yahoo.com.au

Phone: 0428 611 169

From the Alyawarr people’s walk-off at Ampilatwatja

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