South Sydney Herald story

Apology and Intervention – do they mix?

To mark the second anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generation the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney is participating in a national day of action beginning at La Perouse at 9 am for a walk against racism and finishing in a rally at The Block at 1 pm. As the organisers say: “Prime Minister Rudd committed the government to, ‘a future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again’. But ongoing NT Intervention policies reek of the same paternalism and commitment to assimilation that created the Stolen Generations.”

Speakers at the rally include Irene Fisher, Sunrise Health (NT), Pastor Ray Minniecon , Mal Tulloch from the CFMEU, Angeline Penrith and former foreign correspondent Jeff McMullen. There will be performances from The Black Turtles, Nadeena Dixon , Michael Donovan and others.

On Christmas Day I found myself with a strong supporter of the Intervention. Rather than argue (it was Christmas after all) I heard him out. He had been impressed by Mal Brough’s passion and sincerity, and that I could agree with. Whether what came next was the best strategy is another thing of course. I am sure South Sydney Herald readers won’t be of one mind on these matters either.

Sunrise Health Service in Katherine has been in the thick of it. CEO Irene Fisher summed up her concerns in March 2009.

“What evidence is there that the Intervention has directly assisted in caring for our children  — the premise on which the Intervention has been based? …

“Sunrise’s success rate is significantly higher than areas of the Territory in which the child health checks were carried out by visiting rather than local health professionals  — 95 per cent compared to 74 per cent of children.

“Anaemia in children generally leads to poor growth and development and is an accepted indicator of poor nutrition and children’s general health. Sunrise is able to make direct comparisons between pre and post Intervention data.

“In the six months to December 2006, the rate in our region was 20 per cent. This was unacceptably high but had been reducing. By December 2007, the figure had gone up to 36 per cent. By June 2008, this level had reached 55 per cent, a level that was maintained in the six months to December 2008.

“To be fair, there may be other factors involved, but we know the Intervention and its handmaiden of income management has had a direct impact on nutrition. As income management first arrived in Katherine in late 2007, we documented a number of instances where the roll out affected peoples’ capacity to purchase food at all…”

On the other hand Djapirri Mununggirritj, manager of the Yirrkala Women’s Resource Centre, spoke in favour of the Intervention on ABC Radio National in August 2009. “I think the system is working; I think there’s more food on the table for kids; I think there’s more clothing for the kids; I think it changes the mind of people, how to spend money rather than everything out on grog, card, I think the system is working, and I think I should congratulate the federal government or the Northern Territory government on what they did for the Intervention.

“OK there’s a few ups and downs with people, but these things that the Intervention has brought in has made things good in the community, making sure that there was food on the table, the place at nights were much quieter because of the alcohol restrictions and all that.”

The important thing is to show concern. Attending the march and/or rally would be a good way to do that.


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