Garma message stick to Australia's Parliament (and people)

Senator Bob Brown, Monday 13 August, 2007:

“I bring to this Senate a message stick from the
Gulkula meeting at Garma in the Northern Territory on
3 and 4 August this year. It is to the Australian parliament.
It says:
Stop the legislation. Sit down and talk. No more dispossession.”

Read full text.

Hansard (Proof)
Australian Senate
Monday13 August 2007

http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/dailys/ds130807.pdf

Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania—Leader of the
Australian Greens) (6.22 pm)—The Australian Greens
oppose the Social Security and Other Legislation
Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007 and
related bills. They are an unprecedented and obnoxious
assault on the rights of Indigenous Australians, in the
run-up to this election, to advantage the Howard government
and to further disadvantage the first Australians.
I begin by recognising that this parliament, like
everything that we enjoy in this country, is on Aboriginal
land. I bring to this Senate a message stick from the
Gulkula meeting at Garma in the Northern Territory on
3 and 4 August this year. It is to the Australian parliament.
It says:
Stop the legislation. Sit down and talk. No more dispossession.
It comes with the signature of Galarrwuy Yunupingu,
and it was brought by Raymattja Marika and Olga
Havnen. I seek leave to table this message stick from
the Northern Territory Indigenous peoples.
Leave granted.
Senator BOB BROWN—I thank the Senate. I read
from the written message attendant with this stick. It most,
because of the widespread defamation of all Aboriginal
people that has resulted, is that Aboriginal people will lose
confidence in any intervention, such as regular visits to
medical services.
The Government’s decision to terminate the CDEP and replace
it with social security arrangements will affect a majority
of those people living on Aboriginal land. The detrimental
impact of this new policy will be to force people into townships
and communities where Aboriginal housing and services
are drastically inadequate and create further dysfunction
in those populations. Their policy of making social security
entitlements conditional on school attendance and other
factors will also contribute to a large transmigration with
disastrous potential.
Moreover because the homelands have served as safe havens
for families escaping alcohol, drug abuse, criminal behaviour
and related dysfunction there will no longer be the option of
the protection of their homelands. Thereby, the scale of the
problem that concerns us all will accelerate rapidly particularly
exposing women and children to greater risk.
We believe that the following steps are a pathway forward in
dealing cooperatively with these matters.
And the first of those steps that come with the message
stick is ‘Sit down and talk’; the second is ‘Stop the
legislation’; and the third is ‘No more dispossession’.
says:
Aboriginal leaders meeting at Garma this weekend have
called upon the Prime Minister not to introduce the proposed
legislative measures to give affect to this declaration of a
national emergency in our communities in the Northern Territory.
The safety and wellbeing of all our children is paramount.
We understand the need for tackling violence and abuse in
some of our communities. Aboriginal people have led the
way in addressing these issues in the absence of government
support.
If any measure is expected to achieve the desired outcomes,
there must be collaboration with community leaders
throughout the Northern Territory. However, the Prime Minister’s
unilateral action, without consultation or negotiation
with us puts in jeopardy our relationship with the Government.
It jeopardises the possibility of achieving any sustainable
outcomes. The leaders brought to the Garma meeting
messages from communities across the Territory expressing
our people’s continuing concerns and alarm at the way in
which the Australian Government’s intervention is being
used to do much more than the intended protection of our
children.
We are at a loss to understand how the removal of the permit
system and the introduction of compulsory acquisition of our
lands have anything to do with redressing the many complex
social issues afflicting our communities. It is more likely that
the Governments proposals will open the floodgates to illegal
alcohol, drug and pornography dealers and to those who
intend to prey on Aboriginal women and children.
We are deeply concerned at the severity and widespread nature
of the problems of child sexual abuse and breakdown in
our communities. But these are complex matters that occurred
due to the neglect of successive governments in Australia
that require a long term commitment of resources and
political resolve on all our parts if we are to achieve the sustainable,
positive changes that are so long over due.
We will continue to work collaboratively with Governments
and communities to ensure that children are protected, they
are our future and we will not compromise that for them.
Above all, the role of our families and the need to strengthen
and maintain our families must lie at the heart of any proposed
solution. The widespread fear caused by the deployment
of Defence Force personnel in our communities will be
a long—
Senator Scullion—Like bus drivers.
Senator BOB BROWN—You are intervening on a
message to the Senate from the Indigenous people of
the Northern Territory, Senator, and you are out of order.
Senator Joyce—Mr Acting Deputy President, on a
point of order: is this all contained in the message stick
that has been tabled or is this another speech?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Barnett)—My understanding is that it accompanies
the message stick, but what is your point of order?
Senator Joyce—My point of order is that, at the
start of his speech, Senator Brown said that this was
part of the message stick but it sounds like he is now
reading a speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT—That is
not my understanding. My understanding is that this
accompanies the message stick, but Senator Brown can
clarify that matter.
Senator BOB BROWN—Thank you, Mr Acting
Deputy President. For the information of Senator
Joyce, there is an English transcription of the message
stick with the message stick which has been tabled. I
am now reading from the message to this parliament
from the people who provided that message stick at
Garma. It continues:
The widespread fear caused by the deployment of Defence
Force personnel in our communities will be a long term obstacle
to achieving stable, healthy families and communities.
The Governments present intervention is not sustainable and
the personnel presently working in our communities will
inevitably leave. The impact of this intervention will have
serious negative consequences, and one which concerns us
most, because of the widespread defamation of all Aboriginal
people that has resulted, is that Aboriginal people will lose
confidence in any intervention, such as regular visits to
medical services.
The Government’s decision to terminate the CDEP and replace
it with social security arrangements will affect a majority
of those people living on Aboriginal land. The detrimental
impact of this new policy will be to force people into townships
and communities where Aboriginal housing and services
are drastically inadequate and create further dysfunction
in those populations. Their policy of making social security
entitlements conditional on school attendance and other
factors will also contribute to a large transmigration with
disastrous potential.
Moreover because the homelands have served as safe havens
for families escaping alcohol, drug abuse, criminal behaviour
and related dysfunction there will no longer be the option of
the protection of their homelands. Thereby, the scale of the
problem that concerns us all will accelerate rapidly particularly
exposing women and children to greater risk.
We believe that the following steps are a pathway forward in
dealing cooperatively with these matters.
And the first of those steps that come with the message
stick is ‘Sit down and talk’; the second is ‘Stop the
legislation’; and the third is ‘No more dispossession’.