what’s going on in australia

a couple of months ago, the howard government in australia declared a state of emergency in northern territory aboriginal communities, claiming that widespread child abuse required nothing short of massive state intervention – including confiscation of land – to ensure the safety of aboriginal children. this is the same government that, since its election in 1996, has been steadily eroding state assistance to these remote indigenous communities, including passing an amendment to the aboriginal land rights (northern territory) act last year which explicitly states that “The principal objectives are to improve access to Aboriginal land for development, especially mining”. most aboriginal leaders condemn these latest steps as a serious attack on their rights; it’s pretty obvious that once these people have been dispossessed of everything, they will have no choice but to agree to mining companies’ proposals to explore and exploit (and howard is busy dismantling australia’s ban on selling uranium to india in anticipation of more mining). what is even more concerning is the lack of outrage in the general public; as an election is approaching, people seem to be more concerned with the mortgage crisis and the impending APEC meeting in sydney. there is media coverage of this, but it seems scant given the significance of what this means to the indigenous people of this country.

i’m copying here an email which i just received, which has been sent to the major news media: Dear Kerry O’Brien and 7.30 researchers, I have just returned from the Northern Territory. I want John Howard to explain why house to house raids without warrants are being conducted by the AFP in all the Alice Springs town camps. I also want to know why at least two of the senior women who toured major cities speaking out against a uranium waste dump on their traditional lands have been raided by the AFP on warrants issued by a Federal Magistrate in Canberra, their furniture slashed with knives, belongings damaged, laptops and mobile phones seized, and phones tapped. I was told by one of the women that the warrant gave 12 hours access to her home, and that she was told that the measures were justified because of the security crackdown for APEC ministers. One of those women is an elderly grandmother. I have also been told by town camp residents that the AFP has set up surveillance on all households in the town camps, and have photographed without consent, every Aboriginal child in those town camps. In the 1990s the AFP were successfully taken to court for exactly the same violations in Redfern. Please report on this disgraceful conduct, and pursue a full explanation from the Howard Government. Regards, Jennifer Martiniello Member, Advisory Board Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University

i’m not sure what to do about this right now other than try to raise awareness of it. perhaps it ties in with ana’s post about the algonquins’ struggle …