On this day, 10 years ago, the Federal Government implemented what has become known as The Intervention – sweeping powers aimed at Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, ostensibly based on unsubstantiated rumours of pedophile rings and wide spread drug use in Aboriginal communities. Much of the resulting panic was generated by the mainstream media. As a result, the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended - the Australian armed forces and Federal Police were sent into these communities and methodically enforced these extraordinary new laws. Since then, not one pedophile ring has been discovered in any Aboriginal community.
Today, on this 10th anniversary, a forum and discussion was held at the Redfern Community Centre, organised by STICS (Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney). The panel was chaired by Jeff McMullen and consisted of Steve Gumerungi Hodder Watt, Amelia Pangarte Kunoth-Monks and Nicole Watson.
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After the discussion, several community members spoke, including Aunty Jenny Munro, Uncle Lyall Munro Jnr, Aunty Shirley Lomas, Aunty Deborah Campbell and Kaleesha Morris.
Some resonating comments during the evening included:
“The evidence showed there was more sexual abuse here in New South Wales than what was happening in the Northern Territory… yet the stigma remained with Aboriginal people” – Jeff McMullen
“The women ran into the bush – it was like another Stolen Generation all over again” – Amelia Pangarte Kunoth-Monks
“There was a fear that if I gave my children a hug they’d take my children away from me.” - Amelia Pangarte Kunoth-Monks
“As an Aboriginal man, [The Intervention] made me feel ashamed of being around my own children in case they thought I was abusing them.” – Steve Gumerungi Hodder Watt.
“Rates of imprisonment have increased by 41%... it was implemented in a way that demonised and strangled the hopes of Aboriginal people.” – Nicole Watson
“ We have a renaissance of men and women as our leaders… but one thing we lack is respect.” – Nicole Watson
“It’s time for an intervention by us black people because our sovereignty has never been ceded” – Aunty Shirley Lomas