International Women’s Day 2011 in Melbourne – 8 March (and Jenny Macklin picket)

Main banner - 'Pay up Now!'

Pay Justice Action, ‘a grassroots initiative of the Freedom Socialist Party‘ organised a rally and march to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. At about the same time, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, was due to address an IWD cocktail party at the Victorian Trades Hall …

The Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective organised a snap picket of the Trades Hall event, taking the view that ‘the hypocrisy of the Minister of Indigenous Affairs speaking at this event, whilst administering a program that is continuing the oppression of Aboriginal women, is not something we can let go without criticism…and action!’, and some participants in the rally and march later joined them. A police detail ensured protesters were not able to enter the building, but they made their presence heard, and there was a confrontation when the Minister arrived. See further below.

MC at the rally was Alison Thorne, Public Sector unionist and member of the FSP, who began by acknowledging the First Peoples of Australia and especially the ‘long line of women Aboriginal leaders.’ Having outlined the history of the Day she handed the microphone to Debbie Brennan, also of the FSP and an ASU delegate, who took up the theme of equal pay for women, and its implications – the bottom would fall out of the profit system if big business had to pay for women’s at present unpaid work.

Alison Thorne speaking

Alison Thorne

Debbie Brennan speaking

Debbie Brennan

Jasmine Ali speaking

Jasmine Ali


Jasmine Ali of the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective spoke next, attacking the Basics Card (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5nrW8sA6_Q) and particularly discrimination against Aboriginal women in the Northern Territory faced by the Intervention; she also read from an open letter sent to the Prime Minister from Indigenous women at the Defending Indigenous Rights Conference Alice Springs 6-9 July 2010:

Jasmine reading the letter

Reading the letter

Sally Goldner speaking

Sally Goldner

Last speaker before the march set off was Sally Goldner (see http://www.3cr.org.au/outofthepan), focussing on discrimination faced by transgender people, especially in the context of Centrelink, where absence of federal anti-discrimination legislation meant that outcomes were in effect a lottery dependent on the personal attitudes of staff.

More at the rally:

"Let the ruling classes tremble ..." banner at one of the stalls

At one of the stalls

Placards demanding equality for women in Iran

An Iranian contingent

Placard - Community sector wages stink!

One of many placards

The march set off down Swanston Street on its way to Parliament House, where there were to be more speakers…
Main banner at head of march

Behind the sound truck

In the meantime, at Trades Hall members and supporters of MAIC had been picketing the entrance and handing leaflets to people arriving for the cocktail party. As already mentioned, police were on hand to prevent any unauthorised entry, and protesters were forced to resort to chanting beneath the windows of the bar, but ironically after a while the party-goers were themselves forced out of the building by a fire alarm, and were then exposed directly to the protest. (It appears there was no actual fire, but a damaged sprinkler in the bookshop triggered the alarm, as well as causing considerable flooding in the basement.) Jenny Macklin herself had not arrived at this point, but was confronted when she did. Regrettably,there was no-one on hand with a camera at this stage.*

Picket at the entrance to Trades Hall

Copy of alcohol and pornography ban notice from NT

Closeup of one of the notices posted around the entrance

Handing leaflets to people arriving

Protesters shouting up to the open windows

Confronting the party-goers evacuated from the building

*A comment posted to Melbourne Indymedia describes what happened later, with some pointed observations on ‘the sorry state of the Australian union movement’ …

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.