Protest at Jenny Macklin’s office – No to compulsory acquisition of Alice Springs town camps

Indigenous activists and supporters outside office of Jenny Macklin

Indigenous activists and supporters outside office of Jenny Macklin

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister apparently did a Ferguson when faced with a protest over her plan to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps – a notice bluetacked to the door announced the office was ‘closed for a meeting’. But perhaps it was a genuine coincidence.

Notice on door of office

Notice on door of office

For background to the protest the best source is the website Rollback the Intervention, from which this statement is taken:

Statement Opposing the Commonwealth’s Proposal to Compulsorily Acquire the Alice Springs Town Camps

We recognize the right of Tangentyere Council and town camp residents to self-determination. Town camp residents have called upon governments to address overcrowding and poverty in their communities over several years. More often than not, their demands have been ignored.

We support the recent decision by the Council to reject the Commonwealth’s proposal that would transfer control of housing and tenancy management to the Northern Territory Government. Representatives from all town camps voted to maintain community control. This is vital because of a long history of neglect and indifference to the needs of Aboriginal people by Northern Territory Housing. People rightly fear eviction and rent-increases that are beyond their capacity to pay. It is critical that Aboriginal people have the power to shape their own destinies.

We condemn Minister Macklin’s proposal for the Commonwealth to compulsorily acquire the town camps of Alice Springs. We call on the Commonwealth to respect the independence of the Tangentyere Council and to act in good faith in all of its negotiations with the Tangentyere Council.

We recognize the long struggle for land by both town camp residents and Aboriginal land holders throughout Australia. We condemn the Federal Government’s policy of withholding funding for desperately needed housing in Aboriginal communities, before Aboriginal people relinquish control of their land.

It is disgraceful that the party who championed the first land rights legislation in Australia is holding impoverished Aboriginal communities to ransom. This Government has lost its moral compass. We offer our full support to the Tangentyere Council in their struggle.
……………………………….

Media release 24 May

Takeover of Aboriginal Land marks Opening of Reconciliation Week

Today Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin marked the opening of
Reconciliation Week by announcing that Alice Springs town camps will
be compulsorily acquired. The announcement has been met with outrage
by town camp residents. The move comes after Tangentyere Council,
acting on behalf of town camp residents, rejected a 40 year lease deal
which precluded all Aboriginal control and management of camp housing
which would put decision-making and resources into the hands of
Territory Housing.

The community housing model proposed by Tangentyere Council and the
ability of residents to have input into housing management has been
flatly rejected by the government. The community housing model was to
be run by the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company, which
Minister Macklin helped establish in March last year but has now been
rejected in favour of a government takeover.

Residents represented by Tangentyere are opposed to Territory Housing
management of the camps due to the high rate of evictions and
predicted rent increases under government management. Many Aboriginal
people who have been former residents of NT Housing, have already
experienced evictions, with the most common reasons being for cooking
kangaroo tail in the backyard or for having relatives from the bush
visit. People are concerned they will have nowhere to go if evicted
from town camps under Territory Housing, which already has a three
year waiting list for new occupancy.

“This is an appalling decision by the federal government. It marks
the start of a takeover for all Aboriginal communities who reject
government leases. If the government were genuine about consultation
with communities it would not be blackmailing people with long-term
leases and the threat of compulsory acquisition” said Hilary Tyler
from the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs.

“You can’t take someone’s land without free, prior and informed
consent. It is very hypocritical of the Government to endorse the
United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when the
Intervention contravenes at least 26 articles. By keeping the Racial
Discrimination Act (1975) in place it goes to show the Government of
Australia is in fact racist.” says Barbara Shaw from Mt Nancy town
camp.

A rally of town camp residents targeting both the NT government and
federal government over its announcement of outstation closures and
the compulsory acquisition of Alice Springs towncamps will take place
later this week in Alice Springs.

Contact: Barb Shaw on 0401 291 166, Hilary Tyler on 0419 244 012 or
Lauren Mellor on 0413 534 125

…………………………………

Today’s protest involved activists not only from Australia but also Aotearoa (and from Latin America, but no banner…):

Solidarity from Aotearoa

Solidarity from Aotearoa

As part of the protest, a reminder was added to the coat-of-arms:

Sticker added to the coat-of-arms

Sticker added to the coat-of-arms

In Sydney, a similar protest was planned at the office of Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek, as well as other actions at Alice Springs and elsewhere. Reports from these will no doubt appear on the website in due course.

15 May – Al Nakba commemoration

Rally observes a minute's silence for the victims

Rally observes a minute's silence for the victims

Several hundred members of the Palestinian community along with supporters from all walks of life rallied at the State Library on Friday to mark the 61st anniversary of some see as the birth of the state of Israel, but others as the catastrophe that overtook the people of Palestine on that day. Also remembered was the ongoing struggle of Indigenous people in Australia, and the sufferings of Tamils in their homeland.

The rally began with an acknowledgment of Aboriginal ownership of the land, and a minute’s silence for the dead. There were several speakers, and a group of Palestinian dancers. Then a march to Federation Square, to join a vigil in protest at the current killings in Sri Lanka.

Links:
Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tamil Community portal – Melbourne

Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne

Some of the following images are included in a slideshow on YouTube:

Some of the banners and placards at the rally:

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Swinbourne Student Union/Students for Palestine

Swinbourne Student Union/Students for Palestine

LaTrobe University Students for Palestine

LaTrobe University Students for Palestine

Monash Students for Palestine

Monash Students for Palestine

Indigenous Social Justice Association - Melbourne

Indigenous Social Justice Association - Melbourne

One protester was wearing this patch on her back

One protester was wearing this patch on her back

(Sondos Ismael was on board the SIEVX, which sank on 19 October 2001 on route from Indonesia to Christmas Island, with the loss of 353 lives. She survived, and was eventually reunited with her husband in Australia, but her three young daughter drowned. See http://www.tonykevin.com.au/TheTragedy.html)

Some of the speakers:

Hisham Mustafa of the Islamic Council of Victoria

Hisham Mustafa of the Islamic Council of Victoria

The leaflet Hisham is waving is a key part of the campaign to boycott transport company Connex, which currently runs Melbourne’s train network and is tendering for a renewal of the contract. It has also won a contract for a light rail system connecting Jewish settlements on the West Bank – see the link to Dump Connex.

Pratheepan Balasubramanian

Pratheepan Balasubramanian

As already mentioned, the rally ended with a march to Federation Square, where it merged with a vigil held by the Tamil community. Pratheepan Balasubramanian spoke at the rally, tracing the history of the present conflict back to the end of British colonial rule and the creation of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1948, the same year as the ‘birth’ of Israel.

Alison Thorne of ISJA (see above)

Alison Thorne of ISJA (see above)

Here is the text of what she said:

On behalf of the Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne, greetings! On the occasion of the 61st anniversary Al Nakba we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We support this struggle as we support the Tamils, Maori, West Papuans and indeed all oppressed nations battling occupation, theft of land, suppression of culture and genocidal practices.

It is vital that we acknowledge that we too are standing on occupied land and that Aboriginal Australians experienced their own catastrophe in 1788.

Just as anti-Zionist Jews in Israel must take action to stop the atrocities of the Israeli State, every one of us has a responsibility to make the connections and integrate the struggle to win justice for Indigenous Australians into every aspect of our organising.

The apartheid state of Israel is not only a catastrophe for the Palestinian people, it is also a death trap for Jewish people who want to live in peace. Because there can be no peace without justice. And there can be no justice when Palestinian refugees have no right of return, live in crowded refugee camps and have their miserable fragments of territory divided by an apartheid wall, Zionist settlements and roads and restrictive checkpoints.

And there can be no peace in this country built on the theft of Aboriginal land when Aboriginal people continue to die in custody, have their incomes quarantined, see their languages disappearing, die too young and live in overcrowded and poorly maintained homes.

But what we do really does make a difference. When we build international multi-racial coalitions, draw the links and challenge land theft and occupation we are a force to be reckoned with. And our message must be clear — without real justice, there can be no damn peace!

Before the march set off, a group of Palestinian dancers took the ‘stage':

Dancers

Dancers

Dancers - another view

Dancers - another view

On the march:

On the march

On the march

Connex again

Connex again

At Federation Square, where the Tamil vigil is in progress:

Tamil vigil at Federation Square

Tamil vigil at Federation Square

Looking down at the combined protests

Looking down at the combined protests

Protest at G4S/GSL over Aboriginal death in custody – 14 May

The Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne organised a picket at the Melbourne headquarters of global security giant G4S, parent of GSL, which amongst other things provides transport of prisoners. On 27 January 2008, an Aboriginal elder from Warburton, WA, Mr Ward, was arrested for allegedly drink driving. “He was charged with one count of drink-driving and taken to the local lockup. He was then driven 570 kilometers to a courthouse, remanded in custody and driven a further 352 kilometers to a prison.
“As they approached the prison it was noted that he was unconscious. He died shortly after. He was Aboriginal. His death can be added to the eight black deaths in custody in 25 days in the Northern Territory already this year. If eight white teenagers died in custody in Victoria in 25 days there would be uproar.
“When wealthy white businessmen and sporting personalities are picked up for drinkdriving, they are charged and then allowed to go home. We know that some of them
have been abusive and non-compliant but they are still not locked up. Why was this man transported nearly 1000 kilometers in over 40-degree heat for a similar charge? It will likely be more than a year before a coronial inquiry. An apology is long overdue as is equality and justice for Indigenous Australians.”
(The Age, Feb. 2 2008, Letters: “Justice long overdue”, Pamela Curr)

The protest was in two parts: first a number of speakers, including a relative of the dead man, then Alison Thorne of ISJA read a statement of demands and invited those present to accompany her up to the offices of the company to present the letter, since no-one from the company had responded to her invitation to come down to the picket.

Placard at the picket

Placard at the picket

To view footage of the delivery of the letter, click on the above image.

Extracts from the speeches should be available soon.*

There is extensive coverage of the death of Mr Ward on the Safecom website.

This protest was held at the request of Mr Ward’s family, and coincided with a protest being held at the Perth office of GSL. Today was also scheduled as the final day of the inquest being held into the death of Mr Ward.

*See:

Click on this image for extracts from speeches at the protest

Click on this image for extracts from speeches at the protest

Fix the Solar Feed-in Tariff — Rally at Parliament House 6 May 2009

Rally on steps of Parliament House Victoria

Rally on steps of Parliament House Victoria

The organisers, Environment Victoria will have been pleased with the response to their short-notice callout for a protest at the Brumby government’s failure to deliver promised support for renewable energy in Victoria:

[Media release from Environment Victoria, Alternative Technology Association, Friends of the Earth, Moreland Energy Foundation];

“Now’s your big chance Ted”, solar protestors tell Victorian Liberals

More than 100 concerned Victorians will gather on the steps of Parliament today to condemn the Brumby Government’s proposed solar feed-in tariff as a fake, and to call on the Opposition and other parties to improve the flawed legislation when it is voted on in the Upper House.

Environment Victoria’s campaigns director Mark Wakeham said today’s protesters would be calling particularly on the Liberals and Nationals, to take the opportunity to deliver the support for Victoria’s solar industry that the Brumby Government has not provided.

“The Brumby Government has failed to deliver clean, affordable solar power for Victorians and new green collar jobs across the State. It’s now the moment of truth for Ted Baillieu’s Liberals and the other Upper House parties. It’s time to improve the scheme and ensure a sunny future for Victoria’s solar industry,” he said.

Damien Moyse, the Alternative Technology Association’s (ATA) Energy Projects and Policy Manager, said the government’s proposed ‘net tariff’ scheme would not make it economically attractive for Victorians to invest in solar panels because it did not value all of the energy they produced.

“The scheme we are advocating for, known as a gross feed-in tariff, involves premium payments to solar panel owners for all the solar energy they produce,” he said.

“Under the Premier’s scheme this won’t happen and community buildings and small businesses, including farmers, will be totally excluded – despite the government’s election promise to include businesses.

“A Sustainability Victoria report tabled in Parliament, found that up to 2000 jobs could be created under the gross feed-in tariff scheme that we’ve been calling for. Today we’re asking why the government is turning its back on 2000 new green solar jobs for Victorians during these tough economic times.”

Moreland Energy Foundation CEO Paul Murfitt said although the government’s tariff had been altered to lift the subsidy cap from a proposed 2 kilowatts to 3.2 kilowatts (kW) an hour, it would still not provide enough support for Victorians to invest in renewable energy.

“The scheme must value energy produced from systems up to 10kW if we are going to encourage families and organisations to invest in solar systems big enough to feed large volumes of energy back into the grid,” he said.

“If the government is serious about supporting community action on climate change, they’d be supporting a real feed-in tariff, and helping communities to make the solar switch.”

Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth said it was disappointing that the Government had missed this opportunity for real action on climate change.

“The ALP has failed to learn from the experience of over 40 nations in designing its solar scheme. Now it’s over to the Liberals, the National Party, the Greens and the DLP to improve the legislation and make it work,” he said.

“This is Ted Baillieu’s big opportunity to demonstrate his green credentials and create a thriving industry and new jobs.”
[end]

In the event it seems the vote had been put off, but the message was delivered, with speakers condemning the previous day’s budget for its missed opportunities to create green jobs, amongst other things.*

All ages were represented:

All ages in the protest

All ages in the protest

And there was even a solar dog:

Tintin the solar dog

Tintin the solar dog

For some environmentalist comments on the budget, see “Climate and environment missing from Budget” (Friends of the Earth) and “Retro budget forgets climate change” (Environemnt Victoria).

May Day on Sunday 3 May – the march and family day

Banner outside Trades Hall before the march

Banner outside Trades Hall before the march

The Melbourne May Day Committee held its annual march, concert and family festivities at Trades Hall on Sunday 3 May. Attendance seemed smaller than last year, to begin with at least, but still amounted to a respectable showing on the march through the city. Children were especially well catered for this year, with not only the usual rides and slides, but also a splendid miniature train to ride on the march. Most prominent was a large contingent of the Tamil community, but many others will be seen in the following images, and in this slideshow on YouTube:

History on the wall of Trades Hall

History on the wall of Trades Hall

This slide was tempting for grown-ups as well ...

This slide was tempting for grown-ups as well ...

Also for the children ...

Also for the children ...

Solidarity with workers of El Salvador

Solidarity with workers of El Salvador

This banner speaks for itself

This banner speaks for itself

One of the stalls - http://www.iww.org.au/

One of the stalls - http://www.iww.org.au/

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

The march sets off

The march sets off

Some rode on a truck ...

Some rode on a truck ...

 ... others on a train.

... others on a train.

Another reading of A(ustralian) B(uilding)& C(onstruction) C(ommission)

Another reading of A(ustralian) B(uilding)& C(onstruction) C(ommission)

Obstructing police?

Obstructing police?

Passing the State Library

Passing the State Library

MACG in the Bourke Street Mall

MACG in the Bourke Street Mall

Remembering the Eureka Stockade

Remembering the Eureka Stockade

This is Aboriginal land ...

This is Aboriginal land ...

Back at Trades Hall, the choir

Back at Trades Hall, the choir

Time to relax a bit

and time to relax a bit

Mayday at BHP Billiton – 1 May 2009

When the company chose this day for the release of the Environmental Impact Statement on the projected expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium/copper mine at Roxby Downs, were they insensitive to the symbolism of the date, or was it a challenge? Either way, opponents of the mine gave notice of their intention to visit the Melbourne headquarters of BHP Billiton, and both the company and the police were prepared for something. Whether they were prepared for what happened is another matter…
Click on the image for video from the action:

Protesters line up outside BHP headquarters in Melbourne

Protesters line up outside BHP headquarters in Melbourne

From a FoE callout:

May Day: Stop the Olympic Dam Uranium Mine Expansion – Protest at BHP
Billiton office.
Friday, May 1, 11am to 1pm
180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

On May 1, BHP Billiton will release the Environmental Impact Statement for
its planned expansion of the Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) uranium/copper mine
in SA. Come along to this May Day protest to voice your opposition.
* The mine operates under the SA Roxby Downs Indenture Act which exempts it
from key environmental and Aboriginal heritage laws that apply everywhere
else in SA.
* Billiton plans to make Roxby the largest open-cut mine in the world.
Export of uranium is expected to increase from an average of 4,000 tonnes
per year to 19,000 tonnes. In power reactors, that amount of uranium would
produce 2,850 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste each year and enough
plutonium to build 2,850 nuclear weapons each year.
* BHP Billiton proposes an increase in water consumption from 35 million
litres daily (from the Great Artesian Basin) to 150 million litres daily (up to 42 million litres
from the Great Artesian Basin, the remainder from a proposed desalination plant at Port Bonython).
The water take from the Great Artesian Basin has had
adverse impacts on the precious Mound Springs.
* The production of radioactive tailings, stored above ground, will increase
seven-fold to 70 million tonnes annually. The tailings contain a toxic,
acidic soup of radionuclides and heavy metals. There have been numerous
spills and leaks and large numbers of bird deaths have been recorded in the
vicinity of tailings dams.

May Day – Global Day of Action 1 May 2009

As usual, Melbourne’s observance of the International Workers’ Day is split this year between what turned out to be a disappointingly small rally on the day, and what remains to be seen will happen on Sunday. There was, of course, another ‘Mayday’ rally earlier in the day, a protest at the BHP Billiton office to coincide with the release of that company’s Environmental Inpact Statement regarding the planned expansion of its Olympic uranium/copper mine at Roxby Downs. That rally is being reported elsewhere. Also earlier in the day there was the annual Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation picnic at the Eight Hour Monument, and there were other celebrations on the day and following weekend. But it remains a cause for regret that the day is not marked here as elsewhere around the world, at least given what is considered not too much trouble on the first Tuesday of November … *

As a flyer distributed by the ASF-IWA pointed out, “[in] 2009 May Day is more relevant than ever … after the attacks on workers by the previous government’s criminalisation of the right to strike …[and] now the arrival of the Great Recession … it is of course workers everywhere in the world who are being asked to soak up the losses …”

Also at the picnic, but bannerless here, was the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, whose leaflet reads in part:

* Workers of the World, Unite!

In the face of this gathering catastrophe, the relevance of May Day is once more underlined. Workers around the world are finding the bosses of their country have proven that they are enemies, while the allies they need are amongst the workers of other countries. Capitalism, as well as being unjust, is inherently crisis-prone. Only a vast revolution of the working class, across the world, can throw it into the dustbin of history. Today, on May Day, we dedicate ourselves to this revolution, and the establishment of libertarian communism, a State-less society where each contributes according to their ability and receives according to their need.

Earlier this week saw a huge rally of construction and building workers opposed to the ABCC and related legislation, and that rally featured also the current dispute at the West Gate Bridge reconstruction. So it was only fitting that the first speaker of the evening should be one of the sacked workers, who was supported by his family:

Construction worker addresses the rally

Construction worker addresses the rally

The Socialist Party, which has been particularly active in gathering community support for exploited workers, had a stall concentrating on the ABCC issue:

Socialist Party stall collects signatures on ABCC petition

Socialist Party stall collects signatures on ABCC petition

Another speaker was Angelina Ladera, union and human rights activist from the Philippines:

Angelina Ladera

Angelina Ladera

LASNET was represented by Lucho:

Lucho addressing the rally

Lucho addressing the rally

See the LASNET website for details of current campaigns. Later in the evening LASNET held a special commemoration at the Che Guevara plaque in the foyer of Trades Hall, a “Tribute and Celebration of Immigrant Rights” – http://www.latinlasnet.org/node/266

Alison Thorne, for ISJA and the Freedom Socialist Party, spoke on the case of an Indigenous man, Mr Ward, who died while being transported in Western Australia by officers of security company Global Solutions (GSL). the inquest into Mr Ward’s death is due to end on 14 May, and there will be a protest at the head office of the parent company Group 4 Securities in Melbourne, coinciding with a community picket at the head office in Perth. (Details from ISJA, Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne on 03-9388-0062 or Alison Thorne 0411 080 031. E-mail: alison.thorne@ozemail.com.au)

Alison Thorne

Alison Thorne

Another event due to be marked by a protest in Melbourne is 15 May, Al Nakba/The Catastrophe, as explained by Omar:

Credit for organising the rally goes to AAWL, Australia Asia Worker Links, http://www.aawl.org.au, whose representative was the final speaker:

*In case anyone is reading this who doesn’t follow such things, that is the day each year when the country traditionally and proverbially comes to a halt for a horse race, the Melbourne Cup.