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Human Rights the Indigenous Australian and a Government Intervention

Updated on October 30, 2021
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Karanda lived and worked on remote communities throughout Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Land of the Indigenous Australian

Northern Territory, for most Australians holds a mystique, a sense of wonder from afar. It is a land that is far from the maddening crowd and a land of vast population. The majority of the people, may not be indigenous but it depends on where the statistics are collected. In one community there are 700 indigenous peoples, 20 non-indigenous Australians.

Many towns have reverse statistics and the only city, Darwin, boasts a population of 125,000 and while Aboriginals are in the minority, the overall statistics for the Territory are estimated at about 60,000 indigenous people or 30-38% of the population. But there is little doubt, nor argument, that the spirit of this northern land lies with the indigenous people.

It was midway through the year of 2007, a modern year as many before in this century. As the world progresses, Australia continued to move in her own slow pace, slightly behind the times, perhaps, but with a gentle movement that is the Australian way - don't rock the boat, don't make waves. But there was trouble afoot. There was seen to be a dilemma in the north central region of this great country.

Many aboriginal communities can only be accessed by dirt roads.
Many aboriginal communities can only be accessed by dirt roads. | Source

National Emergency Response, a Government Intervention

The politicians called it a ‘National Emergency Response’ but it was commonly referred to as a government intervention. According to the Prime Minister of the day, John Howard, it was a measure that had to happen to improve the living conditions of Aboriginals and to protect their children. There was no consultation with the Aboriginal population nor the territory and local governments.

Little Children are Sacred Report

How did the Intervention Come About?

Following reports of child abuse a board of inquiry was set up. The "Little Children are Sacred Report" was the outcome of that inquiry. At the presentation of this report the Australian Government of the time believed that something had to be done, and without delay. Move in, sort things out and move on.

Daily Life on an Aboriginal Community

Daily life on Aboriginal communities in the territory continues, much the same as it has, for many years passed. There has been a shift in terms of what can be bought at the general store, but for most, life goes on. There is still a definite lack in medical care for the sick, elderly and newborn compared to facilities offered in major towns.

Cultural commitments within the tribal system means the change in structure of the way an individual is allowed to access money, has had little effect. If another family member needs money and someone else has it, they have to share. That is the Aboriginal way.

Title Quote by a Senior Yolungu Lawman

Housing remains insufficient and overcrowded. The problems continue to grow on a daily basis. What are the benefits of living on a community under the rule of the government Intervention compared with the days before it? It seems nothing much has changed. Sub standard living conditions prevailed before the government stepped in with little obvious improvement since. Children continue to suffer illnesses. Excessive alcohol consumption continues but this happens outside the community boundaries. Violence, child abuse, it’s all still there.

Violation of Human Rights or Child Protection?

The government stepped in, the lives of ordinary people were intruded upon and the nation is affected by the ripples on the surface. The undercurrent will spread over time with the final repercussions not known, for years, or even generations to come. Is this a violation of human rights or is this a good thing in the name of protection and enforcement of children’s rights?


A Bandaid Solution to a Nation’s Gaping Wound

While the initial impact of the intervention may have made serious inroads to improving conditions for people living on Aboriginal communities, the reality is that it has had little more effect than placing a bandaid on a gaping wound.

One elderly woman from a community east of Alice Springs said that it has made a difference for her. She can now go to the store with money set aside especially for food and essential items for the benefit of her children and grandchildren. No other family member can take that away from her to pilfer for the purchase of alcohol.

There are some positive responses to the multi-million dollar operation from a national government. But there are plenty of negatives. The Aboriginal people are as divided on this issue as the non-indigenous.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Karen Wilton


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