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UPCOMING EVENT: 13 Years of Failed Intervention



21st June 2019


Note: This article contains distressing data about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory.

In 2007 the federal Intervention, together with the NT government’s dismantling of community councils in Aboriginal communities, combined to strip away Aboriginal people’s autonomy at both the individual and community level.  The Intervention was later rebranded ‘Stronger Futures’ by the Labor federal government, with minimal changes made.

The Intervention took control of Aboriginal land, brought in the Basics Card which controlled people’s welfare payments and what they could spend their money on, inserted “Government Business Managers’ into communities, dismantled CDEP and replaced it with ‘work for the dole’, discarded the permit system, controlled who can operate a community store, banned alcohol and pornography in communities (further demonising Aboriginal men particularly) and legislated  that customary law cannot be taken into consideration in determining bail or sentencing.

The replacement of community councils by the NT government with ‘MegaShires’, run by non-Aboriginal people from far away, inserted external control into the lives of people living remotely.

The federal Intervention and the creation of MegaShires have together ripped control from people and continued the colonial diatribe that Aboriginal people are incapable of managing their own affairs.

The federal government stated that the Intervention was to

  • protect children and make communities safe, and
  • create a better future for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

So how has it gone?  Has there been an improvement in the lives of people in the NT in the last twelve years?  Or has it been an abject failure?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) published the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework of 2017.[1]  It found that over the past 10 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NT have worsening health, with a widening gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and worse health compared to other Indigenous people in Australia.

The following data is from this report.

Life expectancy:  In the NT, the gap in life expectancy at birth between 2007 and 2012 increased from 14 to 14.4 years, while the gap nationally decreased. During this time, the life expectancy for Indigenous NT females FELL from 69.4 to 68.7 years.

Infant and child mortality:  While infant and child mortality remains higher in the NT amongst Indigenous populations, the gap is closing both in the NT and nationally.  Wow, we have a success!  We note, however, that while perinatal mortality (deaths in the womb, and up to 1 month old) has continued to decrease nationally amongst Indigenous populations, in the NT this rate has remained static between 2006 and 2015.

All-cause mortality:  The gap in ‘All cause age-standardised deaths’ has not changed either nationally or in the NT.  While the NT was on trajectory to close the gap until 2011, this has now changed.


Low birth weight:  The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous low birth rates in the NT is not improving, while nationally there is a closing of the gap.

Hospitalisations:  Hospitalisation rates in the NT are increasing for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; however, there is no decrease in the gap between the two. Specifically, the gap in the NT is widening for hospitalisations for injury, respiratory disease and circulatory disease.

Acute rheumatic fever: is a leading cause of heart disease in Indigenous populations in the NT, and is largely unseen in the non-Indigenous populations (98% of cases are seen in Indigenous people).  It is a consequence of overcrowding in sub-standard housing.  In the NT the rate has continued to increase, more than doubling between 2010 and 2015.  Nationally there was a small increase in the rate amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  This following quote from 2007 remains saddening:

“It is unlikely that such a stark contrast between two populations living within the same national barriers exists for any other disease or on any other continent”[2]

Diabetes: is a disease of poverty.  The rate of diabetes in Indigenous people in Australia is the highest in the NT.

Kidney disease: 40% of Indigenous adults in the NT have chronic kidney disease. Between 1996 and 2014 the rate of End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) in Indigenous people in the NT increased from 73 per 100,000 to 140 per 100,000, while nationally the rate in Indigenous people increased from 22 to 36 per 100,000.  The age-standardised incidence rate of treated ESKD for Indigenous people in the NT was 26 times the rate for non-Indigenous people.

Dental disease: in Indigenous children has remained the same in the NT, despite the massive input of resources, while nationally it has decreased.

Risky alcohol consumption: Age-standardised hospitalisation rates related to alcohol use more than doubled in the NT for Indigenous people between 2005 and 2015, compared to no change for non-Indigenous people in the NT, and a small increase for Indigenous people nationally.

Mental health admissions: more than doubled for Indigenous people in the NT between 2005 and 2015, compared to no change for non-Indigenous people in the NT, and a smaller increase for Indigenous people nationally.

Self-assessment of health: It is not surprising therefore that the proportion of Indigenous adults in the NT who assessed their health as excellent/very good decreased between 2002 and 2015, whereas nationally the proportions remained stable.

The determinants of health include autonomy, housing, employment, wealth, and education.

AUTONOMY:  We have described already how autonomy has been ripped from peoples’ lives, both at a community and individual level.

HOUSING:  is important to people’s health in many ways.  In the NT, there are the highest reported rates in the world of diseases such as rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, bronchiectasis, post-streptococcal kidney disease, and glue ear. These diseases are a direct result of overcrowding in substandard housing.

AIHW reports that in 2015 46% of Indigenous people in the NT lived in government housing.  53% lived in overcrowded housing, compared to 8.7% of non-Indigenous people and 21% of Indigenous people nationally.  There has been a decrease in those who report they live in overcrowded housing from 66% in 2005. However more Indigenous households live in houses of an unacceptable standard in the NT in 2015 compared to 2008.

EDUCATION:  Education is a key determinant of the future health of a population. The dismantling of bilingual education by the NT government in 2009[3], as well as the Intervention related SEAM programme (ceased 2017) which allowed suspension of parents’ welfare payments if their children didn’t attend school[4], have both negatively impacted on school attendance and the wellbeing of communities.

In 2015 only 30% of Indigenous adults in the NT aged 20-24 reported that they had attained Year 12 or Cert II or above, compared to 62% of Indigenous adults nationally.  Less children are going to school compared to before the Intervention, and attendance rates for Indigenous students in the NT are the worst in the country.[5] [6] [7]

EMPLOYMENT is another key determinant of health.  According to the Australian government[8], in the 10 years after the Intervention employment of Indigenous adults fell, and unemployment rose.  This is despite the government excluding from these figures those who were working in CDEP before the Intervention.  CDEP was progressively dismantled in the years after the Intervention.  However in the decades it existed, it allowed flexibility in work hours and top up wages, and promoted service provision in communities that since its cessation have not been funded.  Research demonstrated improved socio-economic outcomes on a range of measures[9] compared to those unemployed.  Now, in Work for the Dole schemes that have replaced CDEP, participants must work longer hours, with increased penalties such as welfare payments being withheld if hours are not worked.  As a consequence there are now significant numbers of people who are receiving no payments at all, increasing the financial vulnerability of both individuals and families who are supporting these people.  In the NT in 2015 37% of the Indigenous working age population reported they were employed (23%FT, 14% PT), compared to 83% of the non-Indigenous population in the NT, and 48% of the Indigenous population nationally[10].

INCOME: There is growing evidence that Indigenous people living in remote communities in the NT have become more deeply impoverished since the Intervention[11]. Over the past decade adult median income has dropped significantly, and people who survived with income under the poverty line in 2006 are now deeper in poverty after 10 years of Intervention[12].  The economic disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members has also increased: from 4.8 to 5.9 times at Papunya and 3.1 to 6.9 times at Maningrida.  At the same time, the census indicates that poor Indigenous community members are paying more rent than relatively well-off non-Indigenous people.[13]

“The decline in median personal income everywhere provides hard evidence that the abolition of the Community Development Employment Projects scheme has been an unmitigated disaster redirecting people from part-time community-managed waged work to below award, externally monitored work-for-the-dole that more deeply impoverishes the jobless.” Altman[14]

Furthermore, income management – ‘the Basics card’ –  has not been beneficial, as indicated by studies comparing food purchases with and without income management[15].

In 2015 the median equivalised gross weekly household income for NT Indigenous adults was $430, compared to the non-Indigenous equivalent of $1,247 and nationally the Indigenous income of $542.  Non-Indigenous NT incomes benefitted from the Intervention, with a sustained jump in income between 2005 and 2008[16].


The Intervention was said to be about the children.  So how have they fared?

CHILDREN IN ‘WELFARE’:  There are more children under ‘Welfare’ now than ever before.  Between 2009 and 2015 care and protection orders more than doubled.  In 2015 3.3% of Indigenous children in the NT were in out of home care, compared to 0.34% of non-Indigenous children in the NT, and 0.5% of Indigenous children nationally[17].

CHILD INCARCERATION IN THE NT:  There are more children in prison in the than ever before. Generally, 100% of children in prison are Indigenous, and the clear majority have not yet been sentenced.  While the rate of young people aged 10-17 (per 10,000) in detention on an average night in 2018 nationally was 3.47, in the NT the rate is 16.06.[18].  The yearly daily average population in detention has increased from 29 in 2006–07 to 49 in 2015–16, while the number of individual admissions into detention doubled in the ten years between 2006 and 2016[19].

The following graph shows the number of youth per 10,000 who were under supervision on an average day[20]:

graph children in prisonAdults in Prison:  Similarly, the age standardized imprisonment rate more than doubled for Indigenous adults between 2000 and 2016, while the non-indigenous rate more than halved.

SUICIDE IN CHILDREN:  Suicide is the leading cause of death for children in the NT. The NT has Australia’s highest child suicide rate per capita for nine out of the last 10 years leading up to 2017 with the NT reporting 13.9 deaths per 100,000 persons. All other states and territories reported rates ranging from 1.7 to 3.6 deaths per 100,000.[21]

Suicide overall in the NT:  In 1991 5% of suicides in the NT were of Indigenous people compared to 50% in 2010.[22] The NT appears to have the highest rate of suicide nationally. [23]


The Intervention/Stronger Futures legislation has been an abject failure, with living conditions and health negatively impacted since its introduction.

As the AIDA (Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association) Health Impact Assessment of the Intervention[24] stated: “It is simply not possible to fight oppression with oppression”

They predicted that “the intended health outcomes of the NTER (improved health and wellbeing, and ultimately, life expectancy) are unlikely to be fully achieved through the NTER measures.  It is predicted that it will leave a negative legacy on the psychological and social wellbeing, on the spirituality and cultural integrity of the prescribed communities.”

Unfortunately, their predictions have come true.

People’s health and living conditions are in many cases worsening, and the gap is widening.  More children than ever before are being taken from their families, in prison, and taking their own lives.  Less children are at school.

When will governments learn that punitive interventions that target Aboriginal people still suffering from the intergenerational impacts of colonisation will not only fail, but further impoverish people?

The Intervention was said to be a response to the “Akelyernemane Meke MekarleLittle Children are Sacred””[25] report.  However, the first recommendation which is continuously ignored ended with the following statement:

“It is critical that both governments commit to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people in designing initiatives for Aboriginal communities”

 Until this is done, and Aboriginal people manage their own affairs, there will be no closure of the gap.

[1] Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, AHMAC, Canberra.

[2] Brown A, McDonald M, Calma T. Acute rheumatic fever and social justice. Medical Journal of Australia. 2007;186(11): pp. 557-8.

[3] No Warlpiri, no school? A preliminary look at attendance in Warlpiri schools since introducing the First Four Hours of English policy. Greg Dickson. Ngoonjook: a Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, no. 35, 2010, pp. 97–113


[5]AIHW, 2018, and School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian students Issues Paper No 1 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse Nola Purdie and Sarah Buckley, September 2010




[9] Better than welfare? Work and livelihoods for Indigenous Australians after CDEP. Edited by Kirrily Jordan. ANU Press. 2016

[10] Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, AHMAC, Canberra

[11] Altman,J. The debilitating aftermath of 10 years of NT Intervention, Land Rights News. Northern Edition July 2017

[12] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

[15] Brimblecombe, J., McDonnell, J., Dhurrkay, J. G., Thomas, D. P., & Bailie, R. S. (2010). Impact of income management on store sales in the Northern Territory: after the intervention. Medical Journal of Australia, 192(10), 549-554.

[16] Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, AHMAC, Canberra

[17] Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, AHMAC, Canberra


[19] Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory Chap 9, p 47

[20] derived from (i) Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, AHMAC, Canberraand (ii)

[21], and



[24] Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation, UNSW. Health Impact Assessment of the Northern Territory Emergency Response. Canberra: Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, 2010

[25] Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle “Little Children are Sacred”, Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. (2007) NT Government

This article was written by Hilary Tyler, a Pakeha from Aotearoa, living in Mparntwe for the past 14 years. A member of the Intervention Rollback Action Group and Shut Youth Prisons Mparntwe, and a doctor.



21st June 2019 marks 12 years since the start of the Northern Territory Intervention (now called Stronger Futures).  Although Aboriginal people have become conditioned to the detrimental impacts of those racist laws, the trauma is deeply entrenched and continues.

The Intervention has been devastating in many ways:

  • Loss of community control, governance and assets
  • Closure of community organisations
  • Pressure to sign over land
  • Imposition of income management which publicly humiliates and “marks” people when shopping, particularly in supermarket queues.
  • Increase in racism and negative stereotyping
  • Denigration of Aboriginal men
  • Labelling Aboriginal men as child abusers
  • The intervention has taken away people’s control over their lives and is insidiously and seriously affecting health. A sense of control now and in the future is known from wellbeing research to be a fundamental factor in both physical and mental health.
  • Rise in suicide rates
  • Excessive policing
  • Increasing rise in incarceration rates
  • Increase in number of children removed from families and communities
  • Entrenching a sense of helplessness in future generations




This situation in the Northern Territory is untenable.

All reports, recommendations and findings state that the situation for Aboriginal people will not improve until they are the ones at the forefront in tackling the issues impacting on them.  The first recommendation of the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle (Little Children Are Sacred) report emphasised “the critical importance of governments committing to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people in designing initiatives for Aboriginal communities.”

Mr Fred Chaney (quoted in the report):   “…. you need locally based action, local resourcing, local control to really make changes …. I think governments persist in thinking you can direct from Canberra, ….  that you can have programs that run out into communities that aren’t owned by those communities, that aren’t locally controlled and managed, and I think surely that is a thing we should know doesn’t work.”

What needs to happen

Repeal of Northern Territory Intervention/Stronger Futures laws

  • Empowerment of Aboriginal communities through local governance
  • Support for people to live on their homelands
  • Inclusion of First Nations history and learning of local Aboriginal languages in all education systems; encouragement and support for bilingual education
  • Justice reinvestment; shut youth prisons
  • Increased and ongoing funding for housing; community control over housing and local employment on building programmes
  • Jobs programmes to suit community needs devised by communities
  • Scrapping of income management – transition to voluntary basis
  • Veto on removal of Aboriginal children; bringing back children already taken; working with communities and families and supporting community initiatives to care for children at risk
  • Lifting the ban on customary law
  • Action on Alcohol Management Plans which have stalled in Canberra for years
  • Restoration of funding taken from Aboriginal organisations; cease funding non-government organisations to do the work that Aboriginal organisations can do
  • Recognising that sovereignty has never been ceded; enabling Treaty processes to be set up and run by First Nations people
  • Incorporating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law and using it as a tool for working with First Nations people

Article 38 (Nation) States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.”

Article 43 The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”

We wish you as the new Minister working with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all the best for the future and look forward to the situation improving for Aboriginal people in Central Australia, particularly those still struggling under the Northern Territory Intervention.

Elaine Kngwarraye Peckham, Barbara R Shaw on behalf of the Intervention Rollback Action Group

21st June 2019

AFTER THE APOLOGY:  Report on the visit to Central Australia by women from Grandmothers Against Removals groups

In March 2018, members of Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) visited Mparntwe to build relationships with the local Grandmothers Group and Anangu families in the movement against ongoing Stolen Generations. Aunty Hazel Collins, Gomeroi-Birripi Grandmother and founder of GMAR on Gomeroi Country (Gunnedah, NSW) was joined by her daughter Helen Eason (GMAR Sydney) and grandson Tyson Wortley alongside Aunty Karen Fusi, Kuku Yalangi Grandmother, from the Sovereign Grannies Group of the Brisbane Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

The trip was sparked by the launch of the film ‘After the Apology’, a documentary by Larissa Behrendt, exposing the unprecedented numbers of First Nations children being forcibly removed by state agencies nation-wide. The film features many testimonies from around the country including the local battle of Warlpiri Grandmother Aunty Audrey Napanangka Martin for her grandchildren as well as the GMAR story.

A series of events and meetings were held over the two weeks of the visit and strong relationships were built between local activist families and GMAR.

21st March: Press conference at Yarrenyty Arltere (Larapinta Valley) Town Camp Community Centre 

On Wednesday 21st March, a press conference was hosted by Tangentyere Council to announce the launch of ‘After the Apology’ and the GMAR visit. The press conference featured members of GMAR alongside members of the Mparntwe Grandmothers Group, Tangentyere CEO Walter Shaw and Paddy Gibson, member of the production team for ‘After the Apology’.

(Pictured above right to left: Nana Doreen Carrol, Helen Eason, Aunty Christine Palmer, Aunty Hazel Collins, Aunty Elaine Peckham, Aunty Karen Fusi. Behind: Walter Shaw).




The press conference was attended by local community media the Tangentyere Indigimob Digital Access team, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), the Centralian Advocate and the ABC.

The following is a list of media coverage throughout the trip with links.

CAAMA coverage (throughout):

19th March. Interview with Aunty Hazel Collins.

20th March. Interview with Aunty Audrey Napanangka Martin:

23rd March. Interview with Paddy Gibson:

27th March. Interview with Aunty Karen Fusi:

28th March. Interview with Barbara Shaw:

4th April. Interview with Helen Eason:

ABC Coverage (21st March)

Radio: Interview with Aunty Audrey Napanangka Martin on the Morning Program. No link available.


TV report: No link available.

Centralian Advocate (23rd March)


Interviews with Aunty Karen Fusi, Nana Doreen Carrol and Aunty Hazel Collins also featured on community radio in Brisbane and Melbourne. No links available.

21st March: Launch of After the Apology

There was such overwhelming community interest in the launch of ‘After the Apology’ that a second cinema theatre was booked the day prior to screening and two theatres sold out excepting 19 seats! A panel was hosted by Arrernte activist Barbara Shaw featuring Aunty Sabella Turner Ross, Aunty Audrey Martin, Aunty Hazel Collins, Aunty Karen Fusi, Helen Eason and Paddy Gibson. It was a heartfelt and powerful evening with many strong connections made. A huge thank you to everyone involved behind the scenes in organizing community transport, ticketing and food.

24th March: Meeting at the Institute for Aboriginal Development


On Saturday 24th March, a space was organized at IAD to facilitate local families and activist grandmothers to sit down with visiting GMAR mob to share stories and strengthen relationships. There was discussion about local struggles against racism, the police and welfare as well as how GMAR and the Mparntwe Grandmothers Group can continue to work together. GMAR mob briefed people on the ‘Guiding Principles’ – a resource developed by the movement to demand decision making power for First Nations families in child protection matters.

The ‘Guiding Principles’ can be downloaded here.


Meetings with local organizations

Throughout their stay, GMAR mob were invited to visit and learn about the work of the Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program, Children’s Ground and Akeyulerre Healing Centre as well as share the work of the movement and the GMAR Guiding Principles resource. Strong relationships were developed and an ongoing exchange of different working models for First Nations families and organizations on the child protection frontline. Akeyulerre is interested in organizing a screening of ‘After the Apology”.

Hamilton Downs trip.jpg

On Monday 26th March, Aunty Hazel was invited to a healing camp for kids in care that was co-hosted by Akeyulerre and Relationships Australia on Nana Doreen’s Country at Hamilton Downs. It was a beautiful day on Country with the kids and Elders, learning about Nana Doreen’s family and stories, making bush medicine and cooking damper and kangaroo tail at sunset.



After the Apology Poster

This documentary gives a voice to the Aboriginal families dislocated during the Stolen Generations. It also puts a face to contemporary statistics, as four grandmothers take on the Federal Government in hope of reuniting with their grandbabies. By doing so, they spark a national movement to protect Indigenous communities from brutal and biased child removal practices, giving promise to thousands of families nationwide.

The film will be followed by a short Q&A with some of the grandmothers featured in the film, together with local grandmothers who are also fighting against removal of children from their families.

For more information about the film visit:

To make bookings go to the special page on this site:  After the Apology Film Bookings ____________________________________________________________________________________________


International Human Rights Day and the International Declaration of Human Rights

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all.
  • Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day.
  • Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values.
  • Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace.
  • Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk.
  • We need to stand up for our rights and those of others.

Aboriginal people’s rights are not being respected.  They are discriminated against.  They are not treated equally.  They are not free to be who they are.  Others are given support in their fight for rights but Aboriginal rights are abused.  People have always been willing to share their country and their culture with others.  They ask for respect in return.

In the coming year IRAG Alice Springs will be calling on people all around the country and overseas to support us in our stand to have people’s human rights upheld, and their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This will be a campaign to have the Stronger Futures laws repealed as this is destroying people and our culture.  We are working on strategies to call on all politicians to listen to what we are saying.  Governments need to work with us instead of treating people like children.

IRAG is grateful for all your support in the past and we look forward to working with you in the future.


IRAG group is meeting regularly to plan a strong campaign for the next year.  We need more people to join us as there is much work to be done.  Please send us a message via our Facebook page if you are interested in joining us.


Follow up to the Stand Up 2017 Conference held in Alice Springs at the end of June, there will be a workshop on Saturday 21st October from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. to formulate a plan of action based on the Stand Up Statement from conference participants.

For more information about this workshop please phone 043 881 6851.


Blue and white sign somewhere compressed


Stand Up 2017 Report Final Amended 10.8.17 



Planning is now under way for a gathering in Mparntwe-Alice Springs in June to give people living under the NT Intervention or are affected by these and the Stronger Futures laws the opportunity to discuss these laws and to discuss how to proceed into the future.

Meetings are held every Sunday at 5 pm at Barbara Shaw’s place, Mount Nancy Town Camp (unless otherwise notified, if Barbara is out of town).

We are now fundraising as bookings need to be made for meeting venue/s and to cover travel costs for people from communities.

Stand Up Crunch Time Information Leaflet

Our bank account details for bank transfers/direct deposits are:

Bendigo Bank Alice Springs

BSB 633-000

Account No: 134 157 049

Account Name:  Intervention Rollback Action Group

Media Release 22nd June 2015

Stand Up for People, Country and Culture

End the Intervention

Stop Forced Community Closures

Black Australia is now in a state of emergency, with devastating and unacceptable rates of poverty, incarceration, suicide and child removal – the result of a long history of dispossession, genocide, linguicide and neglect by government.

Strong communities and culture have been proved to be the way for a healthy life, so it is vital that Australia’s First Nations people be supported and enabled to continue to live on their land with the same access to clean water, housing and essential services that the wider community takes for granted.

Global protests against forced community closures and funding cut-backs have reached close to one hundred cities with tens of thousands of people taking part, but we need to see people on the streets in their millions to defend justice and freedom for First Nations communities.

Aboriginal people, communities, land and culture are under unprecedented attack from Territory, State and Federal Government policies.

In Western Australia many communities are under threat of closure as ongoing federal funding for remote Aboriginal communities has been withdrawn.   Communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in the far north of South Australia are also under threat.  Federal funding is now being withdrawn from Northern Territory communities in the same way as has happened in Western Australia.

It is now eight years since the start of the Northern Territory Intervention. The numbers of Aboriginal people incarcerated have more than doubled, reported rates of attempted suicide and self-harm are have increased almost 500%, child removal rates have increased more than three-fold, and there is more alcohol-related domestic violence.

The federal government’s new Indigenous Advancement Strategy is a debacle that has cut hundred of millions of dollars of funding from Aboriginal organizations and services and has led to further job losses in Aboriginal communities and organisations.

Federal Budget measures taking funding from Aboriginal housing and putting it into degrading and exploitative Work for the Dole measures will further disempower and humiliate people and drive them from their communities.

These measures are seen as an overt strategy to further dispossess some of the most vulnerable people in Australian society and destroy culture and hard fought land rights in direct contravention of Australia’s obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This is a call to the Alice Springs community to join national and international actions and Stand Up for Aboriginal Communities, Land and Culture at a rally at 12pm Sunday 28th June 2015 at the Courthouse Lawns, Alice Springs.


Kenny: 0447 497 748

Marlene Hodder: 0438 816 851

Barbara Shaw: 0499 494 363

JUNE 28 small flyer

IRAG story updated Feb 2012

The Intervention Rollback Action Group is made up of volunteers from community groups and organisations who meet regularly to discuss issues that arise from the impact of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (Intervention/Invasion).

The group supports individuals and community groups to deal with those issues and take appropriate action.

Actions in the past have included conducting surveys at Centrelink, tackling Centrelink about segregated queues for clients needing “Income Management” cards, giving advice about complaints mechanisms, visits to communities to hear and record people’s stories of their experiences, organising meetings, rallies and workshops including the First Meeting of the Prescribed Area People’s Alliance; organising people from prescribed areas to travel to major centres including attendance convergences at the Tent Embassy in Canberra and protests at the opening of Parliament in February 2008 and 2009; lobbying politicans; fundraising; organising petitions and submissions.

In 2009 we met with Irene Khan, General Secretary of Amnesty International, when she visited Alice Springs.  IRAG was asked to host the visit to Central Australia of Professor James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we organised a series of meetings with various community groups, town camps, and a visit to Yuendumu.

We have supported town camp residents in their challenge to the takeover of their homes.  We are supporting the Ampilatwatja people in their walk-off protest and in their efforts to maintain their inherent rights.

The group meets regularly and consistently works  to increase Aboriginal involvement in the meetings and to raise awareness amongst prescribed area people of how their rights are being infringed.

IRAG networks with other support groups around the country and together we work to increase awareness throughout the wider community of the true impacts of the racist intervention.

Contacts are:  Barbara Shaw   0401 291 166  or Marlene on 08 8952 5032.

Prescribed Area People's Alliance March Mparntwe-Alice Springs 30 Septemer 2008

Prescribed Area People


Discussion Paper for Minister Jenny Macklin

Alice Springs, July 10, 2008


1. Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to participate in this round table discussion about the Intervention.

Thank you Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Jenny Macklin for the apology to the Indigenous people of this country, to the Stolen Generations. This was a long overdue acknowledgement of the devastating impact of previous governments’ racist, colonialist policies.

However, in the shadow of the apology, we are still living and suffering under the racist Intervention legislation imposed by the Howard government before the federal election.

Parliamentarians are elected representatives of the people; therefore you should be representing our needs. If your government is genuine about ‘closing the gap, you must undertake genuine community consultation to determine appropriate service provision for Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

2. The Intervention is hurting people

Our working group[1] in Alice Springs has been conducting surveys outside Centrelink offices in the Northern Territory, asking people from prescribed areas to comment on how the Intervention is impacting on them. Over 90% of respondents expressed opposition to income management provisions and the overwhelming majority are opposed to all Intervention measures.

Elaine Peckham from Golden Mile said, “Young people are angry, they see how the Intervention is hurting, shaming old people, they have no way of expressing themselves”. Barbara Shaw from Mt Nancy Town Camp in Alice Springs said, “The Intervention is causing conflict within families”. The added burdens that come through negotiating income management, being disempowered within our communities and consistently experiencing racist treatment have made lives harder. This is having negative impact on child and community welfare.

3. Not evidence based

The new Labor government has made a key commitment to evidence based policy making in Aboriginal Affairs. However the Northern Territory Emergency Response Intervention legislation and Taskforce recommendations cannot be considered evidence based. There is no evidence that any of the punitive controls support the wellbeing and safety of children, encourage healthy and strong communities or to support communities to ‘close the gap’. Many international studies demonstrate that only approaches that respect self-determination will lead to improvements in community life.

As Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma has said, “I am a firm believer that many of the answers to Indigenous problems can be found in Indigenous communities. Please remember, from self respect comes dignity, and from dignity comes hope.” (HREOC speech made at the Launch of the Social Justice Report 2007 , 31 March 2008, Sydney).

4. Lack of information on the Intervention

Communities are not aware of all aspects of the Intervention, and there has still not been sufficient information provided in language for people to fully understand all of the Intervention measures.

If someone is in support of increased housing or alcohol restrictions, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are for the Intervention. People should not be forced to give up their basic human rights in order to have access to services.

Many people are still unaware of other parts of the Intervention, for example General Business Managers’ powers. Placing GBM’s in communities is disempowering to the elders and community leaders, and leases are taking away people’s rights to negotiate for their country. The government should be supporting local people to develop and retain the skills to manage their communities.

From the surveys conducted in Alice Springs, it was identified that many people don’t understand what the changes to the lease arrangements for their communities entails. People don’t know if they will get their country back. Many people are concerned there is a hidden agenda with these lease arrangements.

5. Viability of communities

We had long thought that moving people from their country into urban centres was a key intention of the Intervention. Cuts to CDEP and the imposition of income management have already forced many people into Alice Springs. There are not the resources to cope with this influx, creating new social problems in major urban centres.

The Intervention Task Force report and Minister Jenny Macklin’s comments to media on June 21 suggest that an agenda of population transfer will now be more directly pursued. It has been indicated that numerous communities, if deemed “unviable”, will be denied access to basic services through the Intervention process. Research shows that people on country live more healthily. Off country, people lose power, people get sick. Is that what government wants?

This policy is tantamount to assimilation. ‘Prescribed area’ people have their connection to the land. The government can’t move people off the land; they have their connection through stories. People who are custodians, they belong to that country. Our ancestors fought long and hard to live on their country.

Under this paternalistic control the government is telling us how to shop, where to shop and now the Taskforce report is telling us Aboriginal people on ‘prescribed areas’ where to live. We cannot accept this. People have been here for a long, long time, and will be here for a long, long time.

Communities are viable. Racism is not.


1. Immediate repeal of the NT Emergency Response Intervention Legislation

2. Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and the NT Anti-Discrimination Act and guarantee their operation in all future legislative decisions.

3. Implementation of the 97 recommendations of the Little Children Are Sacred Report.

4. Consultation with individual communities to determine what infrastructure and services are required at each discrete Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory and across Australia.

Barbara Shaw

Mount Nancy Town Camp

Mparntwe-Alice Springs

Phone: 0401 291 166

July 7, 2008


[1]Intervention Rollback Action Group

7 Responses to “IRAG”

  1. kirsten murray January 23, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    I thouroughly support the action against the govt intervention in NT and would love to give my voice to the cause if it will help. I believe that the only way to solve the social problems existing in communities – not just in the NT – is for people to stop blaming the men for all the trouble and see the trouble in the context of hurdles formed by prior abuse… Forgive the perpetrators for continuing domestic violence and give them room to self adjust, by giving them no more shame for their actions… If women and other victims of lateral violence by their own mob can be strong enough to put aside their own personal disappointments with their respective partners and ‘big bunga’ chiefs, and rally around them in spite of their grief, and keep up open communication with each other, no more people should be hurt and the big chiefs might start being less defensive and cooperate more, once they realise that they are not hated… I have been a victim of reverse racism and lateral violence by my man, who is a front line spokesman… But although I cannot live with him anymore, or not til he stops his behaviour, I dont want to run him down as a criminal… He is just another ’emotional cripple’ statistic who needs love, not a death sentence… Its more important to keep the mob together, and for women to regain their cultural influence over the mob than to let the men keep splitting up the mob.

  2. Pelican Press March 26, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Do you send out media releases, or only post them on the site?

    Pelican Press is a new community newspaper starting in Newcastle, dedicated to presenting a people’s and community’s perspective on news and events. We are very interested in stories that are about people engaging in democracy and change and written from the perspective of those most affected by the events.

    We will check the site for news but it will be easier for us if you have a media contact list that you can add this email address to.

    Thanks for your time
    Paul Spencer
    Pelican Press

  3. Immigration Lawyers in Barking March 6, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Awesome article.


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    […] Rollback the Intervention: IRAG […]

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    […] IRAG (Intervention Rollback Action Group): Mparntwe – Alice Springs: […]

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    […] IRAG“The Intervention Rollback Action Group is made up of volunteers from community groups and organisations who meet regularly to discuss issues that arise from the impact of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (Intervention/Invasion). The group supports individuals and community groups to deal with those issues and take appropriate action.” […]

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