The Government's own report says it all. The Northern Territory invasion is a failure.
Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory shows that far from reducing the major indicators of despair, the rates of violence, substance abuse and child abuse have increased. School attendance rates have not changed at all.
Labor's Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, says this is because of the higher police presence, ie saturation policing. That may partly be true.
An alternative explanation is that the invasion has removed any sense of control over their own lives that Aboriginal people had and has driven them further into despair.
The invasion imposes compulsory income management on many communities. The people there cannot spend their income on what they like.
The invasion imposes restrictions on alcohol availability, restrictions that if applied in any white suburb would have seen a revolt.
The invasion takes away the rights to land of some Aboriginal communities.
Liberal prime minister John Howard developed the invasion strategy in response to the Little Children are Sacred report. That report recommended comprehensive consultation with Aboriginal communities.
Howard ignored that recommendation, as have Labor in power.
The idea that you address the dispossession of Aboriginal people by micro-managing their lives and racially discriminating against them is a nonsense.
It flows from the racism the colonial settler state was founded on – that the land of Aboriginal people was ours for the taking. It also performs an important justificatory and reinforcing role for alienated labour – we are not the bottom of the pile; we have power over others.
The reality is the opposite of course — the more the capitalist state imposes itself on Aboriginal people, the weaker we all are and the easier it is for capital to continue its exploitative rule over us.
So the flipside is that many workers and unions express solidarity with Aboriginal people. The union movement has a long history of support for Aborigines in struggle.
Liberation from above – from Afghanistan to Iraq and now the Northern Territory – is a failed philosophy. Liberation of the oppressed flows from the struggles of the oppressed.
Northern Territory Aborigines are fighting back. As Jerome Small says in the Socialist Alternative: http://www.sa.org.au/index.php?option=com-content&task=view&id=2122&Itemid=125
In July, Aboriginal people walked off the government-controlled community of Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory. Protesting against years of racism and government neglect, the people of Ampilatwatja (pronounced "umblud-witch") have established a permanent protest camp, vowing not to return to a life under government control.
Richard Downs and Harry Jakamarra Nelson toured the country helping get the message about the racist invasion and Aboriginal resistance out to the wider Australian community.
The invasion is racist. Howard made sure that the Racial Discrimination Act didn't apply.
Labor promised it would remove that restriction by October this year (almost two years after they won power) but that deadline has come and gone.
The delay is because Labor wants to give the impression of removing racial discrimination while keeping its substance. Such sleight of hand is proving difficult to develop legislatively.
Here is what some community members are saying.
We were asked which brand of compulsory income management we would like, what kind of alcohol controls or police powers. But communities have said many times we want an end to all racist control measures.
Taking away what little power Aboriginal people have doesn't empower them; it furthers their disempowerment, dispossession and despair.
This article first appeared in En Passant with John Passant.
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