Melbourne Aboriginal rights activists to protest the acquisition of Alice Springs town camps

In response to the announcement by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps, activists from the Alice Springs based Rollback the Intervention Group have called for national protests against the acquisition of the camps

Media release 26 May 2009

Melbourne Aboriginal rights activists to protest the acquisition of Alice Springs town camps and closure of outstations

In response to the announcement by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps, activists from the Alice Springs based Rollback the Intervention Group have called for national protests against the acquisition of the camps and the closure of homelands communities.

Speaking from Alice Springs Hilary Tyler from the Intervention Rollback Action Group said of the Government’s decision:

“This is an appalling decision by the federal government. It marks the start of a takeover for all Aboriginal communities who reject government leases. If the government were genuine about consultation with communities it would not be blackmailing people with long-term leases and the threat of compulsory acquisition”.

Minister Macklin announced the compulsory acquisition of town camps on Sunday, after the Tangentyere Council rejected her $125 million funding offer. The Government’s funding proposal included the signing of a 40 year lease over the town camps, and excluded all Aboriginal control and management of the camps, instead handing the camps to Northern Territory Housing. Jenny Macklin has made it clear that the acquisition of the town camps will not be temporary.

“It’s forever,” Ms Macklin said. “It’s not a 40 year lease, it’s a compulsory acquisition.”

The Tangentyere Council has proposed a community housing model that would give residents input into the management of the town camps. It was to be run by the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company which Minister Macklin had helped establish in March last year. The model has been flatly rejected by Minister Macklin who yesterday said that her offer was still on the table but “the time for negotiation is over.” And that she expects the acquisition to proceed.

George Newhouse, a lawyer who represents town camp residents, has argued that Minister Macklin’s plans are in reach of the Government’s commitments to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“The Government can correct poverty without resuming people’s land,” he said. “There is no other group or people in this country that has to give up their land to get basic government services.”

Town camp residents represented by Tangentyere have responded angrily to Minister Macklin’s announcement. They fear that management by Territory Housing will bring increased rent and a higher rate of evictions, as former residents of NT Housing have been evicted for cooking in the backyard and having relatives visit.

Demand for housing in Alice Springs has greatly increased as a result of the Federal Government’s Emergency Intervention into Indigenous communities. The Intervention started by the Howard Government and continued by Labour has pushed Aboriginal people from communities into Alice Springs in search of basic services and in order to use their quarantined welfare payments.

Joe Lorback from the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective said that this strain upon the town camps is likely to increase if the Northern Territory Government follows through with their plans to close Aboriginal homelands.

“On Thursday we will be outside Jenny Macklin’s office standing in solidarity with the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory in their struggle to hold onto their land and basic human rights,” he said. “Like the Howard Government before them Labour has disempowered and withheld funding from Aboriginal communities and blamed Aboriginal run organizations for the disastrous situations that inevitably follow.”

Aboriginal rights activists in Melbourne are holding a protest at Jenny Macklin’s office at 149 Burgundy St Heidelberg this Thursday at 11am. They will be demanding the Minister for Indigenous Affairs cease blackmailing Aboriginal people to trade their rights for funding, and that the Federal Government end the racist Northern Territory Intervention and recognizes the right of Aboriginal people to live on their traditional land and practice self-determination.

For details of the protest contact Joe Lorback on 0434 127 661
Marisol Salinas on 0413 597 315