On Sunday May 24 Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs put a gun to the head of the Tangentyere council, which represents town camp residents in Alice Springs. The Rudd government is currently denying funding for badly needed housing in Aboriginal communities across Australia, until control of the land and housing is signed over to the government.
The Tangentyere Council had refused to sign a 40-year lease that would transfer camp management from Aboriginal housing associations to NT Housing, the mainstream public housing agency.
Macklin responded by announcing her government’s intention to compulsorily acquire the town camps in Alice Springs, using NT Intervention powers.
The following speeches were made at a protest rally of town camp residents and supporters a few days after the announcement.
Walter Shaw, President of Tangentyere Council, Mt Nancy town camp
We rejected an offer that was put on the table that was drawn out with arduous processes.
We always expected that compulsory acquisition was on the table from the federal government.
We didn’t believe that the federal minister would be driving a freight train towards acquiring Aboriginal land so quickly.
Aboriginal people in Alice Springs know all too well that NT housing has failed us immensely. The town campers have had to bear the brunt of Aboriginal people going through the rotating door system of public housing.
The moves made by the Minister and the Rudd government goes against the grain of closing the gap. They should work in true consultation and true partnership with Aboriginal people.
The move from the Minister to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal land will totally and completely dispossess Aboriginal people, it will dispossess Aboriginal people yet again in this country. What the government is trying to achieve is assimilation and mainstreaming of Aboriginal people.
I think that the Aboriginal community at a national level should show some form of cohesiveness and solidarity right across Australia. Aboriginal people have fought long and hard over the last 40 odd years towards self-determination. This is undermining the fight and struggle.
When self-determination was established back in 1972 it clearly stated that self-determination was about self-management, self-sufficiency and the choice for Aboriginal people not to assimilate.
The entirety of the Intervention is a rollback to the assimilation policy days.
I’ve always had a strong belief in politics. That politics can brings some strong forthcoming change for Aboriginal people. But I’ve also had a stronger belief in the power of the people. And the Aboriginal people need to stand up. We are being given ultimatums and being backed into the wall. Its time for us to push back with the government.
Myra Hayes, traditional owner of Mparntwe (Alice springs), supports Tangentyere’s stand against the takeover. She is from Whitegate town camp, where there is no running water and people are forced to live in tin sheds.
Tangentyere is the only one taking the water out there for us.
Every time when we have no water out there I’ll ask Tangentyere to fill our water for us. No other organisation does it, only Tangentyere. I’m not lazy, when somebody asks me to come work with them I go with them.
I need my pension, all of it. Not Income Management (under the Intervention, 50 per cent of pension payments are quarantined). We’ve got to talk up. It’s disgusting. Old tin sheds we have for our homes, even in the rain. Nobody in Alice Springs helps us.
My grandfather lived here, born in Alice Springs. I brought some blankets for him, he was real sick. I didn’t know what to do. I came to Congress (Aboriginal Health) and I got some medicine for him but he was still a bit weak. I got him up, little boys carried him, little grandsons and took him home.
Only Tangentyere help us with wood for fire and with water. And food for the old people and all of that.