Monday, 31 August 2009


Click on picture above to enlarge

Reports are coming through from contacts in the Northern Territory that a review of SIHIP (Strategic Housing and Infrastructure Program)may be about to be released.  The short version is that the document does not give the program a good report.  Does this mean the Project Managers, Parsons Brinkerhoff, are regarding as not having a good report as well?  It is to be hoped that the report (if the Minister releases it publicly) gives us reasons for the failure.  The housing delivery model is through a series of "Alliances" a model favoured by Parsons Brinkerhoff.  I just hope that it is not an opportunity for scapegoating by either the Federal or NT Governments.  Parson Brinkerhoff has already taken its scalp.

From Koori Mail

Remote housing scheme struggling: report

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.31 August 2009
A REPORT into a $672 million scheme to build houses for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory has found it was behind schedule, over-administered and unlikely to produce the promised number of houses. Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin released the review of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) today, saying improvements were already underway.
From the ABC

'Lack of effective oversight' in Aboriginal housing

13 August 2014

Seems that Parsons Brinckerhoff has form in ripping off taxpayers money.  Please see this report.  Aren't these bastions of free enterprise and unfettered capitalism marvellous.  If they are so marvellous, why do they need taxpayers money to keep themselves in the style to which they, clearly, have become accustomed.  And what price our governments who are incapable of challenging these people and their tender information?



Using the search term "Bonhoeffer" you will, dear Networker, find quite a few posts about the activism of the Bonhoeffer 4 at the recent Talisman Sabre Military Training Exercises at Shoalwater Bay in Cental Queensland.  

Now Networker Jessica Morrison advises as follows:

Tuesday 1 September, 6 pm – 8 pm
Stories from Talisman Sabre resistance
"hear the stories behind the headlines." 
Many friends have asked us to share our stories 
from the Peace Convergence 
and broader resistance to the 
Talisman Sabre military Training Exercises. 
So come hear about the mass actions, 
affinity group actions, 
and what happened when we went into the base. 
Photos, video footage & stories....
with heaps of time for discussion....
Hosted by Jessica Morrison. 
Evatt Room, Trades Hall, 
Corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets, 
More info: Jessica Morrison 0431 519 577.

Doctor's order: how do you get your medication in the bush?

This picture comes from here
We will from time to time, Networkers, hear of shortages of doctors in regional, rural and remote Australia.  How often do you hear of the availability of pharmacists in these same areas?  

So much is taken for granted in the urban populations which dominate our political processes.  But out there, at the back of beyond, there are people - people who are citizens just like the urban populace but who have a difficult time accessing the most basic of services to which they should have an entitlement.  Unsung in this battle for services is access to having prescribed medication in the community in which you live.

You can get insights into this issue if you read the experience of Robbo over at Biting the Dust.  Robbo is in such a remote area it is not even one of the dots on the map above.  .

Saturday, 29 August 2009


My forty-five year old daughter arrived back in Australia on Thursday night from a beautiful ten-day holiday in Malaysia. She had become ill on the day of departure with what she believed was food poisoning. She didn't emerge from her bedroom yesterday. Then, about 4pm yesterday, Friday, I am sitting in my office next to her bedroom. I could hear her shivering and groaning. The short version is that I got her to the Emergency Department of one of Melbourne's major public hospitals just fifteen minutes from our home.

I won't bore you with a blow by blow description but her illness was treated seriously. In fact she did not make it into a hospital bed until 8.30am this morning because her condition was difficult to stabilise and at one stage it was thought that she would have to be prepared for surgery. Finally, she made it to the ward and, because of her condition, was placed in a private room with ensuite. The majority of the beds are in four-bed rooms. At this stage, I don't see my daughter coming home before Monday at least. She is still very, very ill and is receiving drip after drip with anti-biotics and the nurses continue to take heaps of blood from her for testing.

My daughter and I believe that she is receiving the best of treatment appropriate to her condition. Over her bed is a list of four streams of medics who work in this ward. The streams comprise teams of four doctors, two of whom are Associate Professors. Clearly, there are experienced people on hand for consultation.

And all of this will not result in a bill - not for the hospital bed; not for the medical and nursing care; not for the pharmaceuticals. My daughter carries no health insurance. She, like all tax-paying Australians, pays what is known as the Medicare Levy. This is paid annually when individuals submit their income tax return and is calculated as a percentage of income. Australians receive a green plastic card with an identifying number. All that had to happen at the hospital is that my daughter presented her Medicare Card.

Australians can also take out medical insurance which will cover them over and above Medicare for treatment by a private practitioner in a private hospital. My daughter choses not to carry private medical insurance. And the majority of Australians have to be cajoled, encouraged, and all but co-erced into taking out private insurance - because Medicare meets adequately the needs of the majority of Australians. In fact, it is often stated that should individuals need emergency care such as being involved in a road accident, they will be taken - irrespective of private insurance - in the first instance to the emergency department of a public hospital and their care from then on will be all that could expected - and all on Medicare.

PBS logo
In addition to Medicare, Australia also has the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The elderly in this country do not have to make criminals of themselves by smuggling in cheap pharmaceuticals because otherwise they would be deprived of adequate medication. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme provides prescribed medication (not all, but most medication needs by most people) at reasonable prices to Australians.

As a person in receipt of the Aged Pension, I pay a small co-payment only. For instance, I can purchase Ventolin for my asthma over the counter. But my medical practitioner writes me a script for this pharmaceutical and its costs me only the co-payment. This makes a lot of difference for me.

It is important for procedures to have a Medicare number. A major development in the last few years under the Howard Government (the Conservative side of politics in Australia known as the Liberal-National Party Coalition) was the introduction of a process of Health Care Plans in Australia. Health Care Plans were open to individuals who suffered from two or more chronic conditions and was worked out with the patient and their medical practitioner.

It means that the services of allied health care professionals can now be accessed under Medicare when previously the cost of these services would be met entirely by the individual. I can now access, should I wish or need them, podiatry; psychology; dietary and nutrition; and dental services. Dental services were the most important to me. Dentists have dodged any Medicare involvement. This has been of increasing controversy as it has become clear what impact poor dental health has upon overall health of individuals.

The Howard Government adopted a health care plan which I could access through my local Community Health Service. These Services are widespread in my home state of Victoria. The new program entitled me, on referral from my medical practitioner under my Health Care Plan, to $4,250 in dental care. This came at a time when I need a lot of dental work which I could not afford. I was able to get all that I needed done. Although my wonderful young dentist (my own choice from a list available) did say that he did exceed the $4,250 cost. By how much, I don't know. Needless, to say I was impressed by the new program. Not only for myself. I felt a young dentist starting out in his own practice was able to get a boost in business as well.

I have written all this for citizens of the USA to read. Australians know all this stuff and have lived with it for a long, long time. A lot of the medical profession whinge about it. Many on the conservative side of politics would like to alter it if not eradicate it. However, they know that Australians are in favour of Medicare and they dare not tinker with it. In fact, years ago - when the conservative politicians used to try to tinker with it - their attitudes failed in practice and cost them votes. So Medicare is here to stay in Australia. As for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Big Pharma works to get its stuff on the PBS lists so it can make a killing. However, in an attempt to balance this, consumers have the opportunity to specify a cheaper generic brand when one is available.

At this time, those of us outside the USA are hearing the most stupid, lying things being said against Public Health Care in the US debate. All this fulfil's one's worst prejudices about Americans. The USA is the only developed country in the world that does not have public health care. Not only that, through work related medical insurance, it adds an impost to the cost of doing business. Strange that, in such a capitalist country.

I once heard that, averaged out on production units, at General Motors the cost of medical insurance per vehicle came to more than the cost of steel in each vehicle. How silly is that! Then was there no competent actuary to draw attention to the fact that, with retirees continuing as members of industry based medical insurance companies, there would come a time when there were more non-productive than productive members of the insurance plans? How strange is that!

So citizens of the USA, do you really think the citizens of Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand are prize idiots? Do you think we don't know a good deal when we see one? Do you think that we lack compassion for those on lower or no incomes?

And do you really think this is a socialist or communist idea? Well, only if you are an ignorant bigot. In Australia, we wanted a system that was fair for all; where health care would not be just for those who had sufficient resources to afford it. We wanted young families stricken with winter illness to front up for medical care without a thought about how or if they could afford it. We wanted young families to be able to go to the pharmacy and get the medication they need. That's socialist? That's communist? No. It's compassion. The compassion of Christ. The compassion of Buddha. The compassion of a shared and common humanity.

So, citizens of the USA, you - as with all of us - are accountable for your actions. You will be accountable in relation to the compassion you demonstrate; the lack of knowledge and stewardship you exhibit in relation to your ability to have both; the lies you accept and promulgate. Please consider and re-consider.

In this wonderful Land of Oz, we have a phrase - the fair go. We want to see everyone have a fair go. We don't like people who get in the way of people having a fair go. In fact, we do our block. (Loose our cool, get angry.) So Americans, give your fellow citizens a fair go with medical and dental care and pharmaceuticals. Take the load away from business and put it squarely across the taxpaying public (at the same time considering whether you have a fair taxation system). You won't regret it. You will free up a lot of human resources who are now hamstrung by debt and poor health. So get over the bigotry; forego the lies and give yourselves a healthy future.

Friday, 28 August 2009


Networkers, it sure made me wonder when I read this article.  Is the Rudd Government failing in service delivery on its social agenda?  First, we have the failed public policy that is housing under The Intervention (Northern Territory Emergency Response), SIHIP.  Now we have this report

If this keeps up one will have to ask if the Rudd Govt's social agenda is just spin and spin used to cover up failed spin.  I, for one, want to have confidence in the Federal Government and its ability to deliver for all Australians.  We are fast heading for the two year mark - and perhaps an early election.   About time we had some touch and feel and see runs on the board for Australians suffering disadvantage.


Thursday, 27 August 2009


Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the situation 
of human rights and
fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, 
as he concludes his visit

to Australia
Canberra/Geneva, 27 August 2009

Below is the text

The Government of Australia is to be commended for taking significant steps to improve the human rights and socio-economic conditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, as well as for its recent expression of support for United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for its apology to the victims of the Stolen Generation. After several days in Australia listening and learning, however, I have observed a need to develop new initiatives and reform existing ones— in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples—to conform with international standards requiring genuine respect for cultural integrity and self-determination.
Over the past 11 days, I have met with Government authorities, representatives of indigenous communities and organisations, and others, in Canberra, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. I have visited a number of indigenous communities in both remote and urban areas, and have collected information from several sources. I would like to express my appreciation for the support of the Government and to the indigenous individuals and organisations that provided indispensible support in planning and coordinating the visit. I would also like to express my appreciation to the United Nations Information Centre. 

While I must now take some time to review and analyse the substantial amount of information I have received, and to follow up with further exchanges of information with the Government, indigenous peoples of Australia, and other sources, I would like to provide here a few preliminary observations.

During my time in Australia, I have been impressed with demonstrations of strong and vibrant indigenous cultures and have been inspired by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move toward a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism. It is clear that these historical forces continue to make their presence known today, manifesting themselves in serious disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous parts of society, including in terms of life expectancy, basic health, education, unemployment, incarceration, children placed under care and protection orders, and access to basic services. Given these disparities, the Government has developed and implemented a number of important initiatives in order to “close the gap” of indigenous disadvantage within a wide range of social and economic areas, with a stated emphasis on women and children, and these programmes must continue to be improved and strengthened. 

I would also like to stress that I have learned of numerous programmes in place by indigenous authorities and organisations at the local, regional and national levels that have been working effectively to address the many problems that their communities face.
Aspects of the Government’s initiatives to remedy situations of indigenous disadvantage, however, raise concerns. Of particular concern is the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which by the Government’s own account is an extraordinary measure, especially in its income management regime, imposition of compulsory leases, and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography. These measures overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities.  
I would like to stress that affirmative measures by the Government to address the extreme disadvantage faced by indigenous peoples and issues of safety for children and women are not only justified, but they are in fact required under Australia’s international human rights obligations. However, any such measure must be devised and carried out with due regard of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to be free from racial discrimination and indignity.  
In this connection, any special measure that infringes on the basic rights of indigenous peoples must be narrowly tailored, proportional, and necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives being pursued. In my view, the Northern Territory Emergency Response is not. In my opinion, as currently configured and carried out, the Emergency Response is incompatible with Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties to which Australia is a party, as well as incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia has affirmed its support.  
I note with satisfaction that a process to reform the Emergency Response is currently underway and that the Government has initiated consultations with indigenous groups in the Northern Territory in this connection. I hope that amendments to the Emergency Response will diminish or remove its discriminatory aspects and adequately take into account the rights of aboriginal peoples to self determination and culture integrity, in order to bring this Government initiative in line with Australia’s international obligations. Furthermore, I urge the Government to act swiftly to reinstate the protections of the Racial Discrimination Act in regard to the indigenous peoples of the Northern Territory.  

Beyond the matter of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, I am concerned that there is a need to incorporate into government programmes a more holistic approach to addressing indigenous disadvantage across the country, one that is compatible with the objective of the United Nations Declaration of securing rights for indigenous peoples, and addresses not just social and economic wellbeing, but also the integrity of indigenous communities and cultures, and their self-determination.  
This approach must involve a real partnership between the Government and the indigenous peoples of Australia, to move towards a future, as described by Prime Minister Rudd in his apology to indigenous peoples last year, that is “based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility,” and that is also fully respectful of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples to maintain their distinct cultural identities, languages, and connections with traditional lands, and to be in control of their own destinies under conditions of equality.  
Given what I have learned thus far, it would seem to me that the objectives of the closing the gap campaign, the Emergency Response, and other current initiatives and proposed efforts of the Government will be best achieved in partnership with indigenous peoples’ own institutions and decision-making bodies, which are those that are most familiar with the local situations. 

It is worth stressing that during my visit, I have observed numerous successful indigenous programmes already in place to address issues of alcoholism, domestic violence, health, education, and other areas of concern, in ways that are culturally appropriate and adapted to local needs, and these efforts need to be included in and supported by the Government response, both logistically and financially. In particular, it is essential to provide continued funding to programmes that have already demonstrated achievements.  
I did observe a number of Government partnerships with local initiatives that appear to be succeeding, but I also heard many accounts of situations in which Government programmes fail to take into account existing local programmes already in place, hampering their ultimate success. In this connection, I am concerned about any initiatives that duplicate or replace the programmes of Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders already in place, or that undermine local decision-making through indigenous peoples’ own institutions. In addition, international human rights norms, including those contained in the United Nations Declaration, affirmatively guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to participate fully at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies, as well as to maintain and develop their own decision-making institutions and programmes.   

Further, adequate options and alternatives for socio-economic development and violence prevention programmes should be developed in full consultation with affected indigenous communities and organisations. It is also necessary to ensure the meaningful, direct participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the design of programmes and policies at the national level, within a forum that is genuinely representative of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples. In this regard, I welcome the initiative that is supported by the Government to move towards development of a model for a new national indigenous representative body and emphasise that indigenous participation in the development of this body is fundamental.  
At the same time, I would like to echo the statements I have heard from indigenous leaders of the need for indigenous peoples themselves to continue to strengthen their own organisational and local governance capacity, in order to meet the challenges faced by their communities, and in this connection I note the importance of restoring or building strong and healthy relationships within families and communities.  
I would also note a need to move deliberately to adopt genuine reconciliation measures, such as the proposed recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a charter of rights to be included in the Constitution. I am pleased that the Government has expressed its willingness in this regard, and I urge it to provide a high priority to this initiative. As has been stressed to me by the indigenous representatives with whom I have met, constitutional recognition and protection of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would provide a measure of long-term security for these rights, and provide an important building block for reconciliation and a future of harmonious relations between indigenous and non-indigenous parts of Australian society. 

Furthermore, it is important to note that securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socioeconomic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity.  
Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands and resources should be made. In this regard, government initiatives to address the housing needs of indigenous peoples, should avoid imposing leasing or other arrangements that would undermine indigenous peoples’ control over their lands. I also urge the Government to comply with the recommendations concerning indigenous lands and resources made by the treaty-monitoring bodies of the United Nations, including the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to advance in discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders about possible amendments to the Native Title Act and finding solutions acceptable to all.  
Finally, I would like to reiterate the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for framing and evaluating legislation, policies, and actions that affect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples. The Declaration expresses the global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and corresponding state obligations on the basis of universal human rights. I recommend that the Government undertake a comprehensive review of all its legislation, policies, and programmes that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in light of the Declaration. 

Further reading:
To read previous posts on this blog
referring to Professor Anaya's visit,
please click on this link.


How to stop making laws based on race.

Denis writes that Brigid is on the money with what she has written about the Northern Territory Intervention.
Go to the "Statements" section of the "Intervention Walkoff's Blog" and you will find this profound and direct statement:

The only way to stop making laws because of race is to stop making laws because of race

The government cannot by bald assertion adopt by law under the cover of being a “special measure” pursuant to the Racial Discrimination Act in attempt to protect an activity targeted to a race and no others as a legal shield.

Nor can the government’s characterization as being a purpose and object to ameliorate conditions of disadvantage because of race justify the use of racial discrimination.

The social needs of Australians are not based on race as one of the criteria; it remains need.

Such naked declaration disguising the true nature of unnecessarily racial discrimination to enforce a government policy affecting no other Australian does not ipso facto meet the international requirements to justify separate racial treatment under the special measure of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

George Villaflor

How can the intelligent people in the Labor Federal Government, and even Jenny Macklin, not see the truth of those simple statements?

Denis Wilson

(White) Australian Citizen, and former supporter of the Labor Party

Robertson, NSW

THE DESERT GOES TO NEW YORK: Papunya Tula on display

That remotest of remote Networkers, Robbo over at Bite The Dust has a wonderful post with wonderful links  on the works of Papunya Tula going to New York.  Don't know a dot painting from Morse Code?  Well, click on the links and you will be able to do the tour and find out.

LIFE IN REMOTE AUSTRALIA: Australia's Governments just don't get it

Click to enlarge
Diagram from here.

Australian governments, whether State or Commonwealth, whether elected politicians or non-elected bureaucrats don't get it.  What don't they get?  The don't get their own neglect of Remote Australia.  Australians romanticise The Outback.  The love to get on a plane or a bus and go to Uluru - but most of them don't give a fig for Aboriginal wishes and climb Uluru.  Grey Nomads tootle up the Stuart Highway in their caravans trying to avoid the caravan parks and avoid leaving any economic sustenance in small Outback towns.  

A lot has been said by me on this blog about Tennant Creek and the failed public policy on housing that is the SIHIP program.  This has to do with Aboriginal housing.  However, Tennant Creek has long had a housing problem and is currently suffering overcrowding in the general community as people huddle up because houses are either available or the rents are too high.  And why would the rents be too high?  Because there is not enough housing to go around.

You see, building houses in remote Australia is not easy nor is it cheap.  As well, governments can manipulate land release and planning issues.  In Tennant Creek, right across from the Council is a subdivision of long-standing with full channelling and kerbing.  No houses, though.  A memorial, I would say, and a reminder.  

And it needs to be a memorial and a reminder and I would suggest that Gerry McCarthy, the Member for Barkly take a short walk from his office and stand and look at this ghostly subdivision and meditate on it.  What does that housing layout that never was have to say for his black and white constituents?

You see, Gerry wrote this Opinion piece in the Tennant & District Times last week.  This was a week of damage control by the NT Labor Government and the relevant Minister, Jenny Macklin, in the Federal Parliament.  Now, I don't know whether Gerry's Opinion piece just went from his computer across the road to the TDT office or whether it had to be vetted by the Govt Media Office in Darwin first.  Because the GMO really would be remote from Remote Australia.

Please note, Networkers, not only the damage control mode of the piece but that addresses only Julalikari Council and the matter of Aboriginal housing.  It is as if neither the wider community of Tennant Creek nor the electorate of Barkly mattered in this whole failed public policy stuff-up.

But, Networkers, the wider community of Tennant Creek and the electorate of Barkly do matter.  The whole community and people across the electorate are affected by this failed public policy.
Betty Tennyson of Corella Creek has spoken out about how things are for her community.  Where is Corella Creek a lot of you will ask?  You will find it on the map below, click to enlarge.  Corella Creek is an Aboriginal community living area which is off the Tablelands Highway on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory.  It has been excised from the famous, historic and extensive Brunette Downs cattle station.
Meanwhile, in Tennant Creek it will be interesting to know how much money local businesses will see when and if the Tennant Creek housing is built under the failed public policy that is the SIHIP program.  The tenders relating to the housing program are broken into two parts: Housing and Civil.  Civil covers the infrastructure works that go on around and in support of the housing.  It would appear that on the Civil side of things no local business has been successful.  And not surprising.  If you have a look at this brochure from New Future Alliance not a thought has been given to the economy of a small town in remote Australia.  Professional urban hobnail boots have ridden over and past that idea.

Now the sort of money involved in the award of work to local business in Tennant Creek is a dot on a balance sheet to the Commonwealth and NT Governments and to Leighton Contractors who are involved in New Future Alliance.  However, to a place like Tennant Creek that dot on a larger balance sheet can take on greater significance.  Every bit of business that comes to Tennant is valued.  I have had direct experience of that across the years.  Business people in Tennant Creek are all ears in trying to find out about new opportunities.  The newly revamped and energised Chamber of Commerce in Tennant Creek is keen to assist.  Yet, it would appear that no one gives a fig about them and their local Member of Parliament has not given any assurances to business in his latest round of damage control.

Just like it is doubtful whether government gives a fig for Desert Knowledge whose CRC funding has been knocked on the head and it continues to seek further funding.  This in spite of the fact that the CSIRO has shifted on to the Desert Knowledge campus in Alice Springs.

If remote communities were vivified, it would have far reaching effects.  These communities, in turn, would have the capacity to lift nearby Aboriginal communities and the services that could be provided to them and the interaction with them that could assist in bringing economic activities into clear focus - if ever governments would provide all weather roads into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

Further Reading:
Sanderson speech

WGAR: News of Intervention walk-off by the Alyarwarra Nation at Ampilatwatja Community


WGAR website:

Intervention Walk-off Community seeks UN support
Welcome to the Ampilatwatja walk off blog site
Updated NT Intervention complaint sent to United Nations
Visit by UN Expert, James Anaya
Alice Springs Aboriginal Town Camps takeover
Stolen Wages Campaign - Petition of Support
Other Aboriginal articles


- Media Release

Intervention walkoff's Blog:
We are refugees in our own country
23 Aug 09: "Formal request made to the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights to register us as
refugees with the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner,
under the International Refugee Convention. ... Aboriginal
people had no other option but to walk off the Prescribed
Area, thereby removing them from being subject to the NTER
legislation, and which additionally accords them the status
of being internally displaced refugees. “We no longer have
any rights to exist as humans in our own country and are
outcasts in our own community”, says Richard Downs,
spokesperson for the Alyawarra elders. ... "

- Letter

Intervention walkoff's Blog:
Dear Professor Anaya
[scroll down page]
20 Aug 09: "Dear Professor Anaya. Today, across the
Northern Territory, and since 2007, Indigenous people are
facing a path of destruction through the denial of our
basic human rights under the Federal government’s
intervention. The Aboriginal people of Ampilatwatja,
comprising 30 elders and members of the Alyawarra nation,
walked off their community in July in protest against, and
to remove themselves from, the Australian governments
Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation,
which has subjected them to martial law, exercised by a
military junta, since its enactment in 2007. ... " Richard

- Statement

Intervention walkoff's Blog:
Richard Downs, August 23, 2009
[scroll down page]
23 Aug 09: "We seek the support of the UN Special
Rapporteur, Prof. James Anaya, and other international
human rights bodies, to advise the Australian Government to
recognize that, under Article 1, Indigenous people have the
rights to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as
individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms
as recognized in the charter of the United Nations, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international
human rights law; and Article 27, ... "

- Radio

CAAMA Radio afternoon news
(Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association):
25 Aug 09: "Aboriginal people in the N.T. claiming refugee

- News

ABC: Aboriginal people seek refugee status
26 Aug 09: "A group of Aboriginal people has asked the
United Nations to register them as refugees, saying the
Northern Territory intervention has made them outcasts in
their own country. Richard Downs, a spokesperson for the
Alyawarra Nation, which represents about 4000 people in
central Australia, says the request was handed to the
United Nations special rapporteur, who was visiting the
Northern Territory last week."

Reuters [US]: Australia Aborigines ask UN for refugee status
25 Aug 09: "A group of Australian Aborigines asked the
United Nations on Wednesday for refugee status, claiming
special emergency laws to curb alcohol and sexual abuse in
the remote outback have turned them into outcasts at home.
... "We've got no say at all. We feel like an outcast in
our community, refugees in our own country," Downs told
state radio."

- New website

Intervention walkoff's Blog
August 24, 2009: "This blog will be continually updated,
so keep checking for more news and information, including
photos and video of the walk off camp."

- Support Alyawarr people’s walk-off at Ampilatwatja

Intervention walkoff's Blog: Support us
August 24, 2009: "We’re writing to you from our protest
camp in the desert, asking for your support in our struggle
for basic services and rights that many in the cities take
for granted. ... "


National Indigenous Times:
NT intervention complaint sent to United Nations... again
20 Aug 09: "A group of Aboriginal people have again taken
their fight overseas, this time condemning the federal
government for its deceit on its intervention consultations
and Alice Springs town camp takeover in an updated
complaint to the United Nations. ... Written on behalf of a
group of Aboriginal people living in prescribed areas under
the intervention, it says that the promised consultations
had been limited and inadequate, that there had been
"little progress" in drafting the redesigned intervention
measures and that the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA)
remains suspended. It also mentions the Rudd government's
compulsory acquisition of the Alice Springs town camp,
saying that it is obvious the Commonwealth would have been
unable to stage the move after the RDA is reinstated."

- Background

WGAR News:
UN Expert visits Australia to report on Aboriginal Human Rights (18 Aug 09)


Is Australia's military a law and power unto itself?

"The military justice system is a shambolic, dysfunctional mess and it is failing the young men and women who enlist to serve their country. This report is a damning indictment of a system that fails 21st-century standards of justice. It comes after some 20 months of evidence gathering. It details flawed prosecutions and failed investigations into suicides, accidental deaths, major illicit drug use and serious abuses of power in training schools and cadet units.
"The major recommendations call for a major overhaul of the system. This report demands action, not at the edges but at its centre. It demands military justice be taken out of the hands of the military and replaced with a transparent, independent system which ensures our service people have the same rights to justice as all other Australians - a system based on impartiality, transparency and accountability …"  From here.

This was 2005.  The Parliamentary Committee who produced this report had heard, most sadly, from parents whose children had been treated shabbily and shamefully by the Australian Department of Defence to the extent that they died - either in severe preventable accidents or, in deep distress, by their own hands.

Here is what the Military Justice section
I wonder if it will be altered?
A robust and dynamic military justice system underpins our discipline and command structures. It provides the appropriate balance between discipline and the rights of individuals, and ensures our personnel work in an ordered but equitable environment. It is critical to maintaining command, retaining our people, our reputation and is ultimately critical to operational effectiveness.

Defence has been working to fundamentally change almost every element of the military justice system. This follows the 2005 Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee report, 
The Effectiveness of Australia’s Military Justice System. The changes being made to the military justice system are the most significant since the current Defence Force Discipline Act was introduced more than two decades ago.
Well, Australia's military justice system has turned out to be neither robust nor dynamic.  As for underpinning, the foundation was faulty and has collapsed. The High Court unanimously declared the Australian Military Court unconstitutional yesterday, saying the legislation that created it in 2006 was flawed.

There are suggestions that the Howard Government went against its own advice and allowed Defence to have its own way when drawing up the new system of Military Justice which was the outcome of the 2005 Parliamentary Committee Report.

Which brings us back to the culture of Defence and its penchant for having its own way for a long time. Take a look, fellow Networkers, at Laura Tingle's article here. Consider the events of earlier this year when there was every appearance of Defence itself politically undermining its Minister with its own dirty tricks campaign.  

Defence should ask itself - is it the master or the servant?  My view is that Defence is the servant of the people.  It is not a department of privilege.  It is not an organisation that rises up against the realm who gives it life, breath and budgets.  Australians spend a lot of money on Defence - and a lot of it is wasted in failed and faulty procurement.  If the boys want the toys, dear Networkers, then let them pull their horns in and deliver professionally and put the politics aside.  

Clearly, Defence has got away with too much success in special pleading - as police forces frequently do.  We appreciate the service provided by Defence and Police in undergirding our security.  However, it is quite clear that justice and Defence are not easy bedfellows and no amount of special pleading can paper over the cracks.  

Clearly, the Rudd Government recognises the problems of Defence.  One wonders - did they see this problem coming, too?  At least one knows that the right person is in the right place this time: someone knowledgable; someone with Defence experience; political knowledge, clout and nous; someone who is a wake-up to Defence.  Defence has met its match in Senator John Faulkner.

One looks forward to seeing this mess, this writhing can of worms that is Military Justice, cleaned up and the Masters of Defence becoming true Servants of the Nation.


Vale Ted Kennedy. Vale Eunice Shriver.

Click to enlarge
To have "the feel" of memorialising Ted Kennedy,
I turned to - where else - The New York Times.
To watch the video, please go here.
The Kennedys were far from perfect 
but overall, in spite of all the imperfections
and father Joe who was a crook,
the kids were a class act.
I have always identified with Bobby .
I watched for hours the live coverage of his funeral train
and I still, after forty-one years, have vivid memories
which bring tears to my eyes.
Two weeks before Ted passed from us,
his sister Eunice completed her earthly sojourn.
My view is that we should be contributors
during our time on this planet.
And I am sure we all know contributors
and we know people who seem to be taking up space
through laziness, negativity, destruction.
Some of us contribute on small stages and platforms.
Some of us are completely unseen.
Some of us contribute on a national or world stage
for all to see.
These people inspire us.
They show us what it is to make a difference.
They enhance our humanity
and make life better for those who struggle.
Vale, Ted and Eunice.
In appreciation.

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