Tag Archives: rally

‘Top-down’ policies in NT ‘destined for failure’

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 7, 1 April 2013.

Click here to see it online.

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 2.22.11 PM

Ada Lee

BROADWAY: On March 21, Labor was put under intense scrutiny – and not just for its infighting. National Close the Gap Day saw nearly 100 protesters voice their frustration over Labor’s continuation of “top-down” policies in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Blocking the Broadway footpath outside Labor MP Tanya Plibersek’s office, campaigners not only called for the repeal of Stronger Futures but also for the protection of suburbs like Bankstown from being swallowed into the system.

Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation will leave Aboriginal people “without a cultural future”, said Aboriginal activist, Ray Jackson. At the rally, he said: “We have no intention of being assimilated by this government, previous governments or future governments. We are Aboriginal and we are proudly so. We will not become a darker version of white Australia.”

Bankstown Aboriginal activist, Sue Gillett, believes “Stolen Futures” is “all about control and making people feel that they are hopeless, helpless and cannot make decisions to save their own lives,” she said.

Protesters are particularly dissatisfied with the expansion of income management beyond the NT into trial sites, including Bankstown NSW. Federal Greens candidate for Sydney, Dianne Hiles, criticised income management as ineffective. “To dictate where people can shop is … going to build up more resentment and be counterproductive.”

Income management places 50-70 per cent of welfare payments onto a BasicsCard, which disallows purchase of certain goods such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling products. It can be compulsorily implemented on people deemed vulnerable by a social worker.

However, the Department of Community Services (DoCS) has refused to implement the scheme in Bankstown. Robin Croon from the Public Service Association said: “Since the introduction in NSW, not one single family or person has been referred for income management from the Department of Community Services.” The crowd applauded. “That ban will remain,” Ms Croon confirmed. “If we are taken to court, then that’s my role to battle that out there.” Ms Hiles says she supports the move.

Key protest organiser, Paddy Gibson, advocates for the empowerment of community-run organisations in the NT through a “huge injection of resources into the [Aboriginal] communities”. Asked whether this may be seen as unfair special treatment, Mr Gibson said, “There needs to be a special treatment but not the sort of special treatment we get from the government [under Stronger Futures].”

“[Remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory] are denied what mainstream Australia enjoys,” Mr Gibson said. “They are literally living in third world conditions. The suggestion that [Aboriginal] people are asking for some sort of special treatment in terms of getting more than your average Australian, it’s just ridiculous, really, when you consider the oppression that [Aboriginal] people are living under.”

The Greens’ Ms Hiles suggests that funding should be redirected rather than increased. “We’re already spending an obscene amount of money on this. It’s just not producing any deliverables.”

Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Northern Territory Intervention in 2007. In June 2012, Gillard’s Labor government replaced it with Stronger Futures. Ms Hiles criticised Rudd and Gillard as failing to dismantle Howard’s “top-down, paternalistic” approach, which is “destined for failure”.

Ms Plibersek was at Federal Parliament in Canberra during the Stronger Futures rally on March 21.

For a previous story on this issue, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, South Sydney Herald

Stronger Futures ‘fundamentally racist’

Published in the South Sydney Herald, front page, 4 March 2013.

Click here to see it online.

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.54.16 AM

Ada Lee

On March 21, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) plans to rally outside Tanya Plibersek’s office in protest against Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation and the expansion of income management.

On February 13, the House of Representatives passed the Act of Recognition, a symbolic move to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as Australia’s first peoples. Sydney Labor MP, Tanya Plibersek, expressed her support: “Aboriginal rights should be an election issue for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Constitutional recognition of Australia’s first peoples is an essential next step in our journey towards reconciliation.”

On the ground, however, the detrimental effects of the controversial Northern Territory Intervention and now Stronger Futures legislation are felt by thousands of Aboriginal people.

In June 2012, the Gillard government passed the Stronger Futures legislation with a 10-year funding commitment of $3.4 billion, which Ms Plibersek said, “will help close the gap”.

According to Ms Plibersek, Stronger Futures “repeals in full” John Howard’s NT Emergency Response Act 2007. “Unlike the Howard government’s approach, the Stronger Futures legislation does not suspend the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act.”

However, President of the Amoonguna community near Alice Springs, Marie Ellis, has called Stronger Futures merely a “fancy new name”. “All the racist policies are still in place,” she said in a STICS press release.

Under Howard’s Intervention, government statistics show increased Aboriginal incarceration, increased suicide attempts and self harm, decreased school attendance and a loss of jobs. 

Ms Ellis has passionately testified to the damaging effects of the Intervention on her community. “Minister Jenny Macklin has us stuck in the welfare days, treats us like children being breast-fed by the government,” she said.

Under Stronger Futures, there are total alcohol and pornography bans on Aboriginal land. The phasing out of Community Development Employment Projects continues, blamed for the loss of thousands of jobs. Kids who miss school more than five times over two terms can cause their family’s welfare payments to be suspended under the expanded School Enrolment and Attendance Measure.

Founding member and organiser of STICS, Paddy Gibson, accused Stronger Futures of holding Aboriginal people in “apartheid conditions”. Mr Gibson says the mindset behind this legislation is “fundamentally racist”. “They’re essentially saying that Aboriginal people can’t take care of themselves,” he said.

In particular, the STICS rally will denounce the expansion of income management to five trial sites outside the NT including Bankstown, NSW.

Introduced under the Intervention, the government says income management is designed to help people manage their money to meet essential household needs and expenses. Welfare payments, stored on a BasicsCard, disallow purchase of certain goods such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling products. It can be compulsorily implemented on people deemed vulnerable by a social worker or child protection authorities.

Mr Gibson called on all people to join the protest against Stronger Futures outside Ms Plibersek’s Chippendale office on March 21. STICS condemns “punitive” methods and advocates for the self-determination and empowerment of community-run organisations through larger funding. “If things are going to change on the ground in those [Aboriginal] communities, it’s going to be the people themselves that actually lead those initiatives,” he said.

Ms Plibersek said, “The government is considerably increasing the number of local Aboriginal people we employ as Indigenous Engagement Officers.”

Click here for the follow-up story.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, South Sydney Herald

Student Housing Action Collective takes to the streets

Published in Honi Soit, p. 6, Week 12 Semester 2 Edition, 24 October 2012.

honi  wk12, 24 oct 2012, p6

Ada Lee reports from the front line

Last Wednesday October 17, around 100 campaigners marched from outside the Carslaw building to Sydney University Village (SUV), demanding affordable student housing. Accompanied by police, protestors carried ‘SHAME ON $UV’ banners, chanting “It’s not inflation, that’s a lie. The rent is too damn high!”

They demanded that SUV maintain current rent levels, provides greater transparency from administration, and that the University take over the Abercrombie Street housing project from a private company.

After the rally, campaigners sat on the lawns at SUV and discussed future actions. Undergraduate Fellow of Senate Patrick Massarani told protesters that to increase rent by 22 per cent over two years when inflation is at two per cent was “extortionate”.*

“It is unconscionable and we won’t stand for it,” he said.

Figures for September 2011 show an average rent increase of 11.6 per cent in Newtown, compared to SUV’s 2011 increase of 12.8 per cent. Sydney University Village’s General Manager Ron De Haan explained an independent market review indicated SUV was undercharging compared to the market. This year’s rental increases reflect management “catching up,” he said.

According to Mr De Haan, annual rents at SUV are set in consultation with the University as a minor financial co-owner. He believes the university’s presence on the management board has a positive impact in keeping increases lower than a totally privately operated facility.

But protesters are not satisfied. SRC Student Housing Officer, Eleanor Morley, told the crowd: “SUV proved what a disaster it is if the Uni sells to a private company.”

SRC Welfare Officer Rafi Alam told fellow campaigners their efforts must also be directed at the government, encouraging it to provide students with affordable housing.

Around campus, Mr De Haan points to a lack of beds driving the housing market. “If new facilities open up in the bracket of affordable housing,” he said, “people will gravitate towards the new beds whilst more expensive facilities will suffer.”

Not everyone is happy with the prospect of more university-provided housing. Residents’ concerns about the Abercrombie St Housing Project led the University into negotiations with community groups such as REDwatch (covering Redfern, Everleigh, Darlington, and Waterloo).

A spokesman for REDwatch, Geoff Turnbull, believes the negotiations haven’t been successful. Miscommunication had left residents with cold feet, he said. “Many residents feel manipulated rather than respected,” he told the South Sydney Herald. “The uni needs to revisit its approach if it really wants good neighbourly relations, not continued demonisation.”

Co-convener of the campus Greens and Student Housing Action Collective protestor Mr Wallin says something needs to be done about the situation. “University housing needs to go somewhere. The inner-west of Sydney is highly dense. There aren’t many free spaces. There is a way to strike a balance between [residents and students]… it certainly motivates us to do it better, to take into account their needs and rightly so.”

*Correction

For a previous story on the $UV movement, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Honi Soit, News