Recognising the Police State in Israel

David Grossman’s piece below is translated from the Hebrew original in Haaretz by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia. [Source, with introduction]

Why? Who died?

All said and done it is merely a minor story about an illegal alien who stole a car, was injured in an accident, then released from hospital to have cops dump him, still injured to die the by the roadside. What are the building blocks that lead to such an atrocity?

David Grossman

Omar Abu Jariban, a resident of the Gaza Strip, staying illegally in Israel, stole a car and was seriously injured while driving it. He was released from the Sheba Medical Centre while his treatment was still ongoing and handed over to the custody of the Rehovot Police station. The police were unable to identify him. He himself was bewildered and confused. The Rehovot Police officers decided to get rid of him. According to Chaim Levinson’s account, they loaded him onto a police van at night accompanied by three policemen. He was still attached to a catheter, was wearing an adult nappy and a hospital gown. Two days later he was found dead by the roadside.

It’s a minor story. We have already read some like it and others where even worse. And when it is all said and done who is the subject of this story: an illegal infiltrator, from Rafah and a vehicle thief to boot. And at any rate it happened as long ago as 2008, there is a statue of limitation to consider. And we have other, fresher, more immediate matters which are more relevant for us to consider. (And beside all that, they started it, we offered them everything and they refused and don’t forget the terrorism.).

Ever since I read the story, I find it difficult to breathe the air here: I keep on thinking about that trip in the police van, as if some part of me had remained there, bonded on permanently and impossible to be prise out. How precisely did the incident pan out? it? What are the real, banal, tangible elements that coalesced together make up such an atrocity?

From the newspaper I gather that there were three cops there alongside Omar. Again and again I run the video clip mentally in my head: Was he sitting like them on the seat or was he lying on the floor of the van? Was he handcuffed or not? Did anybody talk to him? Did they offer him a drink? Did they share a laugh? Did they laugh at him? Did they poke fun at his adult nappy? Did they laugh at his confusion or at his catheter? Did they discuss what he was capable of while still attached to the catheter or once he would be separated from it? Did they say that he deserved what was coming? Did they kick him lightly like mates do, or maybe because the situation demanded a swift kick? Or did they just kick him for the heck of it, just because they could, and why not?

Besides, how can someone be discharged just like that from medical treatment at the Sheba Medical Centre? Who let him out in his condition? What possible explanation could they put down on the discharge papers which they signed off?

And what happened when the van reached the Maccabim checkpoint [not far from Jerusalem -tr]? I read in the newspaper that an argument ensued with the Israeli checkpoint commander, and that he refused to accept the patient. Did Omar hear the argument about him from within the van, or did they drag him out of the van and plonked him in front of the commander, replete with catheter, nappy and hospital gown for a rapid overall assessment by the latter? And the commander said no. And yalla! We are on our way again. So they returned to van, and they kept on going. And now the guys in the van are perhaps not quite as nice before, because it is getting late and they want to get back and wonder what have they done to have deserved copping this sand nigger and what are they going to do with him now. If the Maccabim checkpoint rejected him, there was no way in which the Atarot checkpoint will take him. It is now pitch black outside and by the by, while traveling on Route 45, between the Ofer military base to the Atarot checkpoint, a thought or a suggestion pops up. Perhaps someone said something and nobody argued against, or perhaps someone did argue back but the one who came up with the original suggestion carried more weight. Or perhaps there was no argument, someone said something and someone else felt that this is precisely what needs to be done, and one of them says to the driver, pull over for a moment, not here, it’s too well lit, stop there. You, yes you, move it, get your arse into gear you piece of shit – thanks to you our van stinks;, you ruined our evening, get going! What do you mean to where? Go there.

And what happens next? Does Omar remain steady on his feet, or are his legs unable to carry him? Do they leave him on the side of the road, or do physically take him there, and how? Do the haul him? Do they drag him deeper into the field?

You stay here! Do not follow us! Do not move!

And then they return to the car, walking a little bit more briskly, glancing behind their shoulder to ensure that he is not pursuing them. As if he already has something infectious about him. No, not his injury. Something else is already beginning to exude out of him, like bad tidings, or his court sentence. Come on, let’s get going, it’s all over.

And he, Omar Abu Jariban, what did he do then? Did he merely stand on his own feet or did he suddenly grasp what was happening, and started running and shouting that they should take him with them? And perhaps he did not realise anything, because as we said, he was confused and bewildered, and just stood there on the road or in the field, and saw a road, and a police van driving away. So what did he do? What did he really do? Started walking aimlessly, with some sort of a vague notion that somehow being a little further away would turn out somewhat better? Or maybe he just sat down and stared blankly in front of him and tried to figure it, but it was clearly beyond his comprehension for he was in no position to understand anything? Or perhaps he lay down and curled up on the ground and waiting? Why? And whom did he think about? Did he have someone, somewhere, to think about? Did the thought occur to any of those police officers, at any time during that whole night that there was someone, a man, a woman or a whole family for whom Omar was important? Someone who cared about him? Did it occur to them that it was possible, with a little bit more of an effort to locate this person and hand Omar to them?

Two days later they found his body. But I have no idea how much time had elapsed from the moment they dumped him by the roadside until he died. Who knows when it dawned on him that this was it; that his body did not have enough strength left to save himself. And even if could have summonsed the energy, he was trapped a situation from which there was no exit, that his short life was about to end here. His brother Mohammed, said by telephone from Gaza, “They simply threw him to the dogs”. And in the newspaper it says, “Horrible as it may sound, the brother accurately described what happened.” And I read it and the image turns into something real, and I try to wipe that image from my mind.

And in the police van, what happened there after they dumped Omar ? Did they talk among themselves? About what? Did they fire each other up with hatred and disgust at him, to retrospectively justify what they did? To justify what in their heart of hearts they knew stood in contrast to something. Maybe that thing was the law (but the law, they probably imagined, they could handle). But maybe it was contrary to something deeper, some deeply ingrained memory in them which they found themselves in, many years ago. Maybe it was moral tale or a children’s story in which the good was good and the bad was bad. Perhaps one of them recalled something they learnt at school — they did pass through our education system, didn’t they? Let’s say it was S Yizhar’s HaShavuy (the captive).

Or maybe the three of them pulled out their mobile phones and spoke to the wife, the girlfriend the son. At such times you may want to talk to someone from the outside. Someone who wasn’t here who did not touch this thing.

Or maybe they kept quiet.

No, silence was perhaps a little bit too dangerous at that point. Still, something was beginning to creep up the van’s interior; a sort of a viscous dark sensation, like a terrifying sin, for which there is no forgiveness. Maybe one of them yet did suggest softly, let’s go back. We’ll tell him that we were pulling his leg. We can’t go on like this, dumping a human being.

The paper says: “As a result of the police Internal Affairs investigation, negligent homicide charges were filed in March 2009 against only two of the officers who were involved in dumping and abandoning Abu Jariban. Evidence has yet to be submitted in a trial of the pair but in the meantime, one of the two accused has been promoted.”

I know that they do not represent the police. Nor do they represent our society or the state. It’s only a handful or bad apples, or unwelcomed weeds. But then I think about a people which has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years, all the while having not a bad life at all, thank you. I think about a people which has been engaging in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation. I think of a people, which has managed to ignore the warping and distorting of its own society and the madness that the process has had on its own national values. Why should such a people get all excited over a single such Omar?


Kadaitcha Comment

Grossman is blithe – brutality against Indigenous Palestinians by Israel is rife and endemic, not a matter of isolated incidents or a few bad apples – recalling practices past and present of abuse of Indigenous Australians, most particularly under the corrupt police state of Joh Bjelke Petersen in Queensland. As Andrew Bartlett recounts:

The worst aspect of the police corruption was not the kickbacks for illegal brothels and casinos that eventually dominated the media coverage – it was the gross abuse of police powers to intimidate, harass and bash political opponents. The fierce suppression of political dissent generated a real and legitimate fear amongst a whole sub-section of the community, with the most powerless such as aboriginals bearing the biggest brunt. When police can get away with physically assaulting people at will with almost total immunity, you are literally in a police state – maybe not as serious in scale as the South African regime of the time, but a police state none the less.

However, in my experience it was the intimidation and harassment in so many individual people’s daily lives that was the worst aspect of the police force of the time. Political activists were continually having their houses raided and searched (with the constant fear that drugs might be planted), cars were followed and often stopped and occupants questioned or searched for no particular reason. Racist behaviour by law enforcement agencies has a long history in Australia, but the mistreatment of aboriginal people in this era was extreme – all creating a suspicion and resentment which will burn deep amongst many aboriginal people for years to come, making it much harder for modern day police to do their job effectively.

Palestine / Israel Links

Ahmed Moor “One state for Palestinians and Israelis”:

It was awareness that there will never be a viable Palestinian state that prompted me to work with other Harvard students to organize a one-state conference this weekend. Our work has been informed by the uncontroversial view that all people are created equal. Assessing an environment in which Israel controls the lives of 4 million people and deprives them of basic human rights, we ask whether there is an alternative: Can the one-state solution deliver equal rights to everyone?

Getting Australia’s History Right

Calling on Indigenous Young People to get involved in the Constitutional Recognition debate
Call to investigate police after tent embassy protest

“Aboriginal people want to talk about many issues, including economic development, sovereignty, land rights and treaty. These may be uncomfortable issues for the Australian people, but they are issues that must be resolved, sooner rather than later.”

Arrest the real criminals – Gillard and Abbott

Genocide is not just wiping people out in concentration camps, or forcing them to assimilate.

It is also stealing their land so they can no longer exist as a people, Tony. Dispossession is genocide. And that is what the Northern Territory intervention is about, tony. Driving aboriginal people off their land. That’s happening too in the major mining areas of Australia.

Too tolerant of ugly racism
The current state of the Northern Territory intervention – On Line Opinion – 31/1/2012
The National Riot Mismanagement Squad

Protest at the Lobby Restaurant, Invasion Day 2012

Protesting against politicians who rudely and publicly suggest to Aboriginal Australians that they might abandon one of the means of their ongoing struggle – the 40 year old Tent Embassy – seems unacceptable to white colonial Australians and their housies who demand politeness from those whom they oppress. At the Lobby restaurant, protesters from the Tent Embassy were angered by Tony Abbott’s comment made earlier in the day that it was “probably time to move on from that”. In the context of Invasion and Survival Day, nationalist white colonial chest-thumping and four year long criminal Northern Territory Intervention whereby basic human rights of Aboriginal Australians are withdrawn, Abbott’s comment predictably was regarded as offensive.

Mr Anderson said the comments were disrespectful.

“He said the Aboriginal embassy had to go; we heard it on a radio broadcast,” he said.

“We thought no way, so we circled around the building.”

He said the protesters wanted the leaders to clarify their position and whether Mr Abbott was serious about removing the embassy.

“You’ve got 1,000 people here peacefully protesting, and to make a statement about tearing down the embassy – it’s just madness on the part of Tony Abbott.

“What he said amounts to inciting racial riots.

Barbara Shaw, who told Aboriginal Tent Embassy protesters the whereabouts of Opposition leader Tony Abbott at the Lobby, said she did not realise Prime Minister Julia Gillard would be present at the restaurant which protesters later picketed.

Ms Shaw says she couldn’t predict what would happen.

“I don’t regret it at all because nothing came of it,” she said.

“People wanted to make a little bit of noise and that is what they did.”

Ms Shaw says she did not realise the Prime Minister was with the Opposition Leader until after the restaurant incident.

But she says she does not regret telling people where Mr Abbott could be found.

“I basically informed the crowd of his whereabouts and they went,” she said.

“So I’m not responsible for people’s actions.

“It is up to people to do what they want to do.”

An eye witness relates the affair at the Lobby Restaurant.

A contingent of about 100 protesters made their way up the road to The Lobby and surrounded it. Though they were loud and noisy they were non-violent. Security blocked the protesters from getting close to the restaurant for a while but it didn’t take long for a few protesters to break the line and soon the rest had gotten close up against the restaurant’s walls. As the walls of The Lobby are made of glass the protesters could look in and see Mr Abbott and the others pretending not to hear them and, after about ten or fifteen minutes Julia Gillard’s white jacket was recognised and the protesters realised that she was in there along with Mr Abbott.

The aim of the protest had been to get Mr. Abbott to come out and talk to the crowd – now it wanted to get Ms. Gillard to come out and do the same as well. Yet they continued to ignore the protesters, drink champagne and take photos of one another while their constituents tried to get their attention.

A short time later a contingent of riot police and protective service officers arrived at the restaurant. All up there were about 50 to 60 officers there and protesters watched on as a group of about 20 riot police hurtled past them in V-formation, bursting into the restaurant and then locking themselves inside.

When I spoke to Sam she said that the protesters thought the riot police were arranging to form a sort of guard around the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader so that they could come out and talk to the crowd but, as the rest of the media has shown, the riot police’s real objective was to ‘escort’ the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to their cars.

As more protesters made their way to the restaurant, the riot police charged out the doors, practically dragging Ms Gillard along, while the onlookers began to shout “where are you going?” and “why won’t you talk to us?” As the cars drove off, some people threw plastic water bottles and water at the cars.

At this point things began to get fairly nasty; one protester was knocked into the rose bushes and one gigantic cop started brandishing a can of tear gas or capsicum spray (reports differ on this point) in people’s faces and shoved Sam, another girl and a female photo-journalist in the head. When Sam told him to calm down he reportedly bared his teeth and grinned so widely his eyes nearly popped out of his head; to many on site it was fairly clear that the officer was barely under control.

Then the police began to link arms to form a line against the protesters and the protesters followed suit, ending up with a Mexican standoff. Some of the Indigenous Elders called for the protesters to return to the Tent Embassy but a female Elder began a non-violent sit-down protest in the road just down from the café and soon a line of Indigenous women, female Elders and non-Indigenous women had been formed across the road.

The women declared that they were not going to be intimidated by the police and that they would not move until the police stood down. While some of the other protesters returned to the Tent Embassy, a large group (including some of the Occupy Melbourne contingent) remained to watch on and support their fellow activists until the police eventually gave in and stood down.

As the remaining protesters made their way back to the Tent Embassy they were greeted by applause and the female protesters went through a cleansing smoke ceremony.

Several eye witnesses in the report above confirm there was no violence amongst the protesters, and it was the police who were violent. The white colonial Gubbahs have failed to sanction their own, instead blaming the protesters.

John Passant, another eye witness says:

The cops reacted as they always do when confronted by angry Aboriginal people.

The riot squad and the Prime Minister’s protection unit brutalised the crowd to clear a path for Gillard and Abbott, the two politicians of the Northern Territory invasion, the two politicians of hate, the two politicians of dispossession, the two politicians of aboriginal genocide.

Why is non-violence never expected of settler colonial oppressors?

Abbott now claims he was misconstrued yet his words retain the implication that there is no longer a need for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Mr Abbott said he never suggested it was time for the Aboriginal tent embassy itself to “move on”.

“I was asked a question (and) I made the point, a lot’s happened in 40 years and I think we have moved on from the issues … that caused the Aboriginal tent embassy to be setup,” he said

However, the goals of the Tent Embassy are far from being met.

According to Channel 9 hyperbolic reportage, Australia’s leaders were “shoved” and “pushed” “in a mad dash” to safety.

The only ‘violence’ was caused by police, captured below as police assaulted protesters, despite the reportage playing up a ‘security threat’:

Gingerella shoe

Aboriginal Australians have a long, proud and often ignored tradition of resistance to white settler colonialism.

‘Aboriginal Australians have been no different from the Palestinians in fighting back against ethnic cleansing and settler-colonisation. Our people actually carried out an extensive armed resistance to European settler colonialism. This resistance began the moment Cook set foot on Australian soil in 1770 – the Gweagal people attacked Cook’s landing party with spears and woomeras. From that moment on Aboriginal resistance never ceased.

Prior to Invasion Day 2012, Michael Anderson, the “last survivor of the four young Black Power men who set up the Aboriginal Embassy in 1972” said he had “received intelligence that there is a move to destroy him personally and the Aboriginal sovereignty movement in which he plays a large role”.

Recently, during a visit by my mother and sister to Goodooga, my mother warned me that I need to be very well protected, because the government will find Aboriginal people to cause disruption to the sovereignty movement and threaten my life.

I have a very good idea of where the trouble will come from, as police intelligence is aware of the threat to my life and the sovereignty movement and that the people involved will commence a campaign to first character assassinate me to win support to reject me, thereby nullifying the sovereignty movement, by creating enormous divisions; which would permit the Australian government to say publically: Aborigines will never come together as a united body to fight for their sovereign status.

The First Nations Parliament wishes to return Julia’s shoe, lost during the rush to her vehicle.

Paul Coe, spokesperson for the First Nations Parliament, an organisation which has been re-established as a result of the anniversary celebrations, said Embassy activists were disgusted at the behavior of police.

“We’re appalled at the violence we saw today directed against the Prime Minister, and the tactics police employed to try and intimidate members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, who were peacefully protesting at a family gathering.

“There was no need for that number of police to be there, or to have that level of menace or intimidation.

“They overreacted without assessing whether or not there was any risk to the Prime Minister. The only violence came from police.

“There was no risk to the Prime Minister of Australia. No-one here would have hurt the Prime Minister. Even the Opposition leader was safe.

“I’d remind the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader that in 1972 the then leader of the Opposition Gough Whitlam and the late Lionel Murphy came and met with us in the tents. They never felt threatened.

“We wish to return the shoe to her as a gesture of friendship and in the spirit of cooperation. We hope she will turn up here tomorrow to accept it in the same spirit.

“It’s to show we mean no harm and will not tolerate any threats or intimidation against the Prime Minister of Australia.

“I am appalled that the Prime Minister felt intimidated or threatened in any way because the Prime Minister of Australia should not have to endure or tolerate any of those kinds of behavior directed at her, be it from police or anyone else.

“The shoe is now a symbol of trust between two nations of people.”

Mr Coe said the First Nations Parliament would be established with a year.

“We’re sending letters out to our lawmen and women asking them to meet with First Nations to convene our parliament and to draft our constitution.”

The organisation came about after meetings at the Tent Embassy celebrations.

“We have re-asserted our First Nation sovereign rights through the re-establishment of the First Nations Parliament (the AP was first formed in 1972),” Mr Coe said.

Julia may have lost a shoe, but Tony lost everything, with his fearful, racist paternalism exposed.


Julia’s shoe has been returned to her via a security guard at Parliament House.


Michael Anderson may not have been too far off the mark, considering the tenor of today’s Australian Editorial, extolling colonial-friendly Aboriginal ‘leaders’ and minimising present Indigenous disadvantage and demands. The editorial censuriously accuses protesters of bullying while tutting about free speech, which the protesters were exercising:

“In short, as Mr Abbott suggested, events have moved beyond the grievances of the tent embassy. The former Labor premier of NSW, Bob Carr, wrote bluntly yesterday that it should be “packed up”. Brave and sensible indigenous leaders such as Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda have observed how the protest has been a blow against free speech. The bullying antics are aimed at silencing opponents. Even if someone had called for the tent embassy to be “torn down”, they should not be met with intimidation. “

Thus do the rightwing appropriate righteous victimhood. The Australian editor bleats blithely onward:

“As Meryl Tankard Reist, Ian Plimer or even Andrew Bolt can attest, the modern illiberal Left seems to care little for free speech unless that speech echoes their views. This is a disturbing tendency that The Weekend Australian will always seek to expose and counter. If Australia Day is to mean anything, we must embrace open minds, free speech and common sense. “

Yet who is responsible for this misleading headline which an average Australian might consider an incitement?

Comment has been sought from Ms Sattler.

Mr Anderson said the Tent Embassy would pursue a legal challenge against the British Government.

He said the embassy had lawyers in London who would take their concerns to the European Court of Human Rights and possibly the International Court of Justice.

”England still has some residual obligation in Australia.

”So what we’re doing now is we’re investigating the legal ramifications of that 1875 Act which recognises when Queen Victoria said she did not claim sovereignty or dominion over Aboriginal lands of this country and the people.

”Our objective is to go after England because they failed to implement their law in this country.”

Mr Anderson said he had been advised that the Tent Embassy had the capacity to sue the British Government in the court system.

Ms Sattler, who was present at Thursday’s protest at the Canberra tent embassy, is yet to address claims she was Mr Hodge’s mystery contact.


Mr Abbott yesterday tried to distance himself from his remarks, saying he did not advocate tearing down the tent embassy.

But conservative think tank Menzies House, co-founded by Mr Abbott’s colleague Cory Bernardi, has set up a petition calling for the embassy’s closure.

Some Aboriginal leaders have condemned the tent embassy activists, describing their behaviour as “appalling”.

But tent embassy co-founder Michael Anderson defended the violent protest and said the embassy was still important to promote Aboriginal rights.

Ms Gillard slammed the ugly scenes on Thursday.

“What I utterly condemn is when protests turn violent the way we saw the violence (on Thursday), and particularly disrupting an event which was to honour some extraordinary Australians,” she said.

Opposition attack dog Christopher Pyne said he would be surprised if Mr Hodges acted alone.

Activists from Canberra’s tent embassy were furious with Mr Abbott after wrongly believing he had called for the protest camp to be disbanded.

They rushed a nearby restaurant upon hearing Mr Abbott was inside.

Earlier, radio presenter Ray Hadley reported a staffer to Ms Gillard had rung Aboriginal tent embassy protester Barbara Shaw, or another protester, that Mr Abbott had called for the embassy to be torn down.

“Once she was told that, she was also told Mr Abbott was across the road (and) ‘maybe you can give them a bit of a liven up’,” the 2GB presenter told his audience.

The statement from Ms Gillard’s office did not address the allegation that Mr Hodges sought to inform tent embassy activists of Mr Abbott’s alleged comments.

Mr Abbott earlier declared he’d been “verballed”, saying he had not said the tent embassy should be removed.

“I never said that and I don’t think that,” he said.

“I made the point that a lot has happened in 40 years and I think that we have moved on from the issues of 40 years ago which caused the Aboriginal tent embassy to be set up.”

Ms Shaw, who told the protesters Mr Abbott wanted the tent embassy disbanded, said she heard of Mr Abbott’s comments from “a fly on the wall”.

Related Links

Australia Day shame

After Ms Gillard was bundled into a waiting car and whisked away, a protester displayed one of Ms Gillard’s blue high-heel shoes, which had fallen off during her hasty exit, and shouted: ”Gingerella, come get your shoe!”

A day for celebration, not a day to dwell : vacuous patronisation by a Gubbah or migaloo sharing Abbott’s mindset

White supremacist alert – Darrin Hodges touting housie Mundine as a valid representative of Indigenous Australians.
It is right to be angry; it is right to protest – land rights now!
Abbott says Tent Embassy should remain

Senior indigenous leaders such as social justice commissioner Mick Gooda and Warren Mundine are dismayed at what happened on Thursday,

but a tent embassy organiser called them “handpicked puppets” who did not represent grassroots Aboriginal people.

Michael Anderson, the last surviving member of the original four that established the tent embassy in 1972, denied the ugly protest had set back the indigenous movement.

“You fellas can … dwell on that and stay there, but right now we’re passed that,” he said.

“We’re over it, so get over it and move on.”

Davies’ article marred by incorrect designation of Australian Aboriginals as ‘Aborigines’ – (see Luke L. Pearson’s article) Aussie Day ‘riot’: perspective and balance hard to find

The protest was not violent. It was certainly rowdy and confronting. The protesters chanted loudly and angrily, and some beat time on the glass walls of the restaurant. There was some pushing and shoving as the VIP cars finally moved out. Police on the day said there were “scuffles” and no arrests would be made.

You know there has never been any compensation, nor has the legal situation fundamentally changed. The contemptuous white attitude of the past persists today in the intervention in the Northern Territory, which was imposed by Tony Abbott’s party and continued by the Prime Minister’s party.

The intervention blatantly belies Abbott’s and Gillard’s claims that things are better than 40 years ago and that most Australians have respect for Indigenous people. Respect would involve looking together for a way forward, not draconian and racist income management and displacement from traditional country.

Change Australia Day: Mansell Mr Mansell said Aboriginal people would support any date other than January 26.

‘No evidence of criminal act’: AFP will not investigate disclosure of Abbott’s location

In a statement issued today, Ms Sattler said the News Ltd reports were “inaccurate”.

“As I said in my statement yesterday, Tony Hodges from the Prime Minister’s office told me what Tony Abbott had said – that people should ‘move on’ from the tent embassy,” she said.

“Yesterday the Prime Minister gave an accurate account of my role.”

End the Racist Intervention Insist Northern Territory Elders and Community Representatives

Statement by Northern Territory Elders and Community Representatives – No More! Enough is Enough!

Melbourne 4 November, 2011

United First People’s Law men and women who are born leaders representing people of Prescribed Areas in the Northern Territory make this statement. Once again, they have gathered to openly discuss the future of our generation who have been subjugated by the lies and innuendo of the Federal Government, set out in the Stronger Futures document (October 2011).

The Stronger Futures report has created a lot of anger and frustration due to the lack of process and the ignorant way in which the views of the people have been reported. We therefore reject this report.

We will not support an extension of the Intervention legislation. We did not ask for it. In fact we call for a genuine Apology from the Federal Government for the hurt, embarrassment, shame and stigma, and for the illegal removal of the Racial Discrimination Act. It is our intention to officially call upon Government for reparation.

The recent consultations report shows that Government has failed to take seriously our concerns and feelings. This report is simply a reflection of pre-determined policy decisions. This is shown clearly by the absence of any commitment to bilingual learning programmes as well as the proposal to introduce welfare cuts and fines to parent of non-attending school children. Once again a punitive policy that is neither in the best interests of the child or the family.

Blanket measures have been central to the Northern Territory Intervention and have been the source of much distress. Where there are problems, they must be addressed on a case by case basis and preferably with the assistance through the appropriate community channels.

Since August 2007 till 2011, more than 45,000 First Nations Peoples living in the Prescribed Areas were traumatised when a Bill was passed through both Houses of Parliament (The House of Representatives and the Senate).

This legislation suspended the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to put in place the Northern Territory Emergency Response. The Australian Greens were the only party to oppose the legislation.

These actions have placed Australia in breach of its international treaty obligations to the First Nations Peoples. Respectful discussion and negotiation with community elders did not take place before the introduction of the Intervention.

Discussions on a diplomatic basis are essential. There are elders in every Aboriginal Nation invested by the authority of the majority. These are the people with whom Minister Macklin should be negotiating, rather than with the chosen few, as has been her habit.

There has NEVER been acquiescence in the taking of our lands by stealth. Aboriginal people are sovereign people of this Nation. The process that will lead to legal recognition of customary law should be immediately commenced.

We believe that there should be an honest and comprehensive treaty negotiation with the Australian Government and facilitated by the United Nations.

We have a right under international law to self determination and after almost five years of the oppression of the Intervention, we demand that Government hand back to us control over our communities and provide adequate Government, long-term funding to ensure the future of Homelands.

Community Councils have suffered from years of underfunding. The same is happening today with the Shires that have been imposed on us. There is a lack of funding for our Core Service.There is no capacity for Aboriginal communities to engage in long-term services planning without the certainty of long-term funding.

We have had enough! We need our independence to live our lives and plan our futures without the constant oppression and threats which have become central to the relationship between Government and Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. We will not support policies that have not been negotiates with all elders of Prescribed communities and we will not support an extension of the Intervention, or an Intervention under other names.

Since the Apology and since reconciliation, the level of incarceration of Aboriginal men has increased three-fold; our families are being punished for failure to attend a foreign school design; our capacity to govern our own lives has been totally disempowered; Aboriginal youth suicide rates in the Northern Territory are higher than anywhere else in Australia; and our people have been demonized, labelled and branded. This is not what an apology is and it is not reconciliation. These outcomes are the very opposite to their intent.

Australia is in breach of its international treaty obligations to the first nation’s people through it membership to the United Nations in the elimination of racial discrimination.

We as leaders of the Northern Territory acknowledge other peoples’ views. We acknowledge that some may agree and some may disagree with parts or all of the ‘intervention’; whatever the name the Government chooses to call it. The only right we now have left is to remain silent.

We as Aboriginal people call on the international community to hold Australia to account for its continuing crimes against humanity for its treatments of its first nation’s people. Again, we say to our visits by the Minister’s department; this is not consultation. Proper consultation is about listening and inviting and including the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Consultation is about outcomes that are progressive and agreeable to all parties.

The future is based on our children having a quality education, but to date this continues to be a systemic failure. A quality education for our people needs to include:
• Bilingualism in schools to be returned and strengthened to ensure our children learn their traditional languages, dialects and cultural knowledges.
• Attendances need to be rewarded, rather than children and families being punished for non-attendance.
• Aboriginal teachers in classrooms and school educational leadership roles are essential to building quality, localized schooling programs. This means also equal pay and entitlements, rewards and opportunities consistent with their important roles.
• Curriculum needs to change and reflect traditional knowledges not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but importantly for the broader Australian population who know very little about their own first peoples.
• Aboriginal teachers need to be treated fairly and equally to their non-Aboriginal counterparts in delivering quality education to our children. This includes the opportunity to tell oral stories of Kinship, Creation Stories, and about important cultural knowledge and skills.

Failure to accept these views and work seriously toward their inclusion will simply mean more of the same.

Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM
Japata Ryan
Harry Nelson
Djapirri Murunggirritj
Barbara Shaw
Yananymul Mununggurr


Greens Senator Rachel Siewert: “The Government’s Stronger Futures Consultation Report wasn’t surprising, but it was deeply disappointing.”

Other relevant Statements.

Aboriginal Elders statement: 7th Feb 2011



Basic Rights not BasicsCard – Address to the Say No to Income Management Rally, Bankstown, 6th October 2011 Dr John Falzon – or watch the Video

Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra full response to Minister Jenny Macklin

Joint letter by Alastair Nicholson QC and others full response to Minister Jenny Macklin

Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser full response to Minister Jenny Macklin

Related Links

SBS: Elders voice anger over NT intervention
“Statement by Northern Territory Elders and Community Representatives – No More! Enough is Enough!”