Melbourne’s Anti-Intervention Collective organised a protest under the banner “Jobs with Justice, not Work for Rations”. After speeches at the State Library there was a march down Swanston Street to Federation Square, where the stage was occupied for more speakers and the formal handing over of a petition for delivery to the CFMEU in the NT…
The Melbourne anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) and its supporters will rally Friday at 5pm at the State Library in opposition to the government’s racist intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
MAIC spokesperson Liam Byrne said, “We will march today to support Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory who have been calling for an end to the Northern Territory Intervention for more than three years now. The Northern Territory Intervention is a racist project that has resulted in an apartheid system of discrimination and disadvantage becoming entrenched in the heart of Australia. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have seen no genuine improvements in standards of health care, housing or education and have had their rights stripped away. In particular, under the Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) scheme, some Aboriginal people work for as little as $4 per hour, and quarantining of welfare payments has resulted in even greater levels of poverty and hardship for communities.
Liam Byrne continued, “Since the Northern Territory Intervention began, the gap between the rights and living standards of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal Australians has widened. Julia Gillard’s recent attempt to blame Aboriginal people for this disparity is a disgrace and an example of just how low she is prepared to go to defend her government’s complicity in this racist attack on the rights of Aboriginal people. Gillards’s comments also opened the gates to the appalling racism of Mal Brough, who last week called for draconian detention camps to be built outside Alice Springs to incarcerate Aboriginal people.”
Friday’s rally will condemn Gillard’s racism and demand equal pay, jobs with justice and equal rights for Aboriginal people.
Signatures to a petition from the Construction Forestry and Mining Union, calling on the Labor government to pay Aboriginal workers award wages and back pay Aboriginal workers who have been exploited under the CDEP scheme, will be presented to union representatives.
Robbie Thorpe at the State Library
Long-time Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe provided a ‘Welcome to Country’ on behalf of the Wurundjeri people, about whom he asked – Victoria was a heavily populated area, but where now are the Wurundjeri people? ‘As rare as hens’ teeth.’ He called on people to ‘grow up’. ‘Why don’t we the people write out own constitution … decide who governs us and how?’
An unscheduled speaker was a representative of MOJO, in Australia as a guest of the MUA ‘a union that believes in fighting for social justice and human rights’. He said amongst other things that Australia had once helped lead the way towards democracy – noting the Eureka stockade and votes for women -but cases like that of Mr Ward demonstrated that htis democracy was really only a sham. He was interrupted for a time by an angry heckler apparently objecting to his being allowed to speak, but was enthusiastically welcomed by the rest of the crowd. (Note – this speaker was originally incorrectly identified here as Gerry Conlon of the “Guildford Four”. Apologies for the misunderstanding.)
Tim Gooden at the State Library
Tim Gooden from Geelong Trades Hall Council talked about the Basics Card. He had seen a sticker in the Safeways saying the card was accepted there, but doubted that anyone in Geelong would know what it was about. But he had been in the NT last year and could say that it only serves one purpose, that is, to control people. ‘It doesn’t help with health, it doesn’t help with wealth distribution … ‘ He cited the case of two young women down from the territory visiting in Geelong and finding that the Basics card wasn’t accepted anywhere, was useless. ‘This is in a country where most people think that we’re equal … that we have a safe and secure welfare system that looks after everyone’s basic rights … Aboriginal people in this country today, under Australian laws … are treated as second class citizens, and are treated like shit.’
Sue Pennicuik at the State Library
Sue Pennicuik of the Greens – The greens have always opposed the Intervention and want to see the Racial Discrimination Act restored and an end to welfare quarantining. ‘These measures are unjust, they’re discriminatory, they’re offensive, and they don’t work.’
Liam Byrne at the State Library
Liam Byrne of MAIC – amongst other things in a rousing speech before the march set off, highlighted the millions of dollars spent on housing in the territory without a single house being built, and the contrast between the huge amounts paid to bureaucrats and the $4 or so per day being paid to Indigenous workers….
Also at the rally:
CFMEU flag at the rally
The crowd listening to Gerry Conlon
… and on the march:
Musicians on the march
The march halted briefly at the intersection of Bourke and Swanston:
Sitdown at Bourke and Swanston
… where Jenna from the Tiwi Islands described her experiences with the Basics card in Melbourne – see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alDnl_1I2OE
At Federation Square:
Madeline Hudson from Friends of the Earth talked about the planned imposition of a nuclear waste dump on the people of Muckaty, something she saw as paralleling the Intervention. ‘The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill overrides all fundamental tenets of our so-called democracy – the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act, and of course it overrides state and territory laws that oppose it … Like the Intervention it is blatantly racist.’ (Read more about the Muckaty waste dump on FoE’s ACE website
Finally, Jasmine Ali from MAIC hands over to Jacob Grech a petition with thousands of signatures calling for justice for Aboriginal CDEP workers. He undertook to pass it on to the CFMEU Construction division in the NT for delivery to the Senate….