URGENT REQUEST FOR SUPPORT – ALICE SPRINGS TOWN CAMPS

This is a request to support a statement against the proposed compulsory acquisition of the town camps in Alice Springs by the Federal Government. A copy of the statement is appended.


We are calling for public endorsement of the Statement opposing the Commonwealth’s proposal to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps. It is planned to publish this Statement and endorsements in the national media on 30 July, on the first day of the Australian Labor Party’s national conference and one week prior to the government’s planned takeover date of August 5.

This is a crucial time for Aboriginal people, particularly in the Northern Territory. The NT Intervention has spent more than $1 billion, but led only to increased discrimination and hardship. While new layers of bureaucracy take control of communities, years of inadequate funding and support have left many Aboriginal organisations and programmes struggling to survive.

One of these is Tangentyere Council which is based in Alice Springs. Tangentyere provides services to the 1,600 people from most Central Australian tribal groups living on the 18 town camps around the town. Over the years the council has been a spearhead for the establishment of other organisations as the need arose, such as Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (medical services), Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Planning Unit (alcohol rehabilitation), Institute for Aboriginal Development (educational institution), Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, Yipirinye School (independent Aboriginal school), outstation resource centres and so on.

The NT Intervention took out compulsory 5-year leases over the town camps serviced by Tangentyere, along with outstations and other remote communities. The government said it needed powers to build housing quickly – but not a single house has been built for Aboriginal people through the Intervention. Communities across the NT have been told that no housing will be built until long-term leases are signed with government.

Town camps are now under threat of having their living areas compulsorily acquired permanently by the Federal Government and their housing stock given to the Northern Territory Government to manage. Most town camp residents have experienced tenancy under Territory Housing and know it doesn’t work for them. Tangentyere, on behalf of its client group, wants to embrace the move taking place nationally towards community housing models. With government support they have undergone the process of setting up the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company and are keen to move ahead with this. They have implored the government to work in partnership with them and respect their right to have a say in the plans for their lives and for future generations.

Town camps are special purpose leases in perpetuity and are set up as Aboriginal communal living areas. This is not nepotism: this is how Aboriginal people live together and support each other.

A campaign in support of Tangentyere Council, its constituent members (the Housing Associations) and retention of its autonomy is growing nationally. Many more people need to raise their voices against this injustice.

This letter is requesting:-

1. Your public endorsement of the support Statement;
2. A donation of at least $100 to help with the cost of publication.

Please email your endorsement to defendthetowncamps@gmail.com or phone Marlene Hodder from the Intervention Rollback Action Group (Alice Springs) on 0438816851 or Nicole Watson from the Stop the Intervention Collective (Sydney) on 02 95149711

Please forward your donation to: Intervention Rollback Action Group
PO Box 8488
Alice Springs
NT 0871

Or by direct deposit to: Bendigo Community Bank
A/c Name: Intervention Rollback Action Gr.
BSB No: 633-000
A/c No: 134 157 049

Please send a notice to defendthetowncamps@gmail.com when you have made a donation.

The cost of the public notice is expected to be around $15,000.

Background information on the proposed takeover is available from the website rollbacktheintervention.wordpress.com , together with the Statement of Support.

More information on the Council is available on http://www.tangentyerecouncil.org.au.
Audio interviews with William Tilmouth, Executive Director of Tangentyere Council, can be found on http://www.caama.org.au/radio

Your support for this important cause is very much appreciated.

Yours in the struggle,

Signed

Barbara Shaw
Mt Nancy town camp, Intervention Rollback Action Group

Larissa Behrendt
Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS

17 July, 2009.

Statement for endorsement:

Stop the Blackmail. Keep Aboriginal Housing in Aboriginal Hands.

We, concerned citizens, call on the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, to immediately end moves to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs Town Camps, represented by Tangentyere Council. Tangentyere Council is a democratic organization that has been the only service provider to the Town Camps since their inception. It continues to transport water to people forgotten by governments. It also provides 150 meaningful jobs for Aboriginal people.

For decades Tangentyere has called upon governments to address overcrowding and poverty in their communities. But their demands have been ignored. Tangentyere has rejected the blackmail that will make housing conditional upon Aboriginal communities signing leases that will relinquish control to the government. We call on the Commonwealth to immediately release funds for desperately needed housing.

In May 2007, Macklin criticized the Howard Government’s attempt to impose a 99 year lease on Tangentyere: “No other group of Australians would have their property rights treated this way … we do not want land tenure reform being made a condition of funding for basic services.”
We agree that infrastructure and services for Aboriginal people should not depend upon the surrender of fundamental rights.

We recognize the right of town camp residents to self-determination. We also endorse the Productivity Commission’s recent call for an end to ‘top-down’ directives from government and for the empowerment of Aboriginal communities. Closing the gap will not be achieved in any other way.

The use of coercive powers established under the Intervention threatens the existence of one of the most successful Aboriginal organisations in the country and sets a dangerous precedent for undermining all Aboriginal community initiatives. Such discriminatory action would be unlawful without the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act – an action condemned by the Human Rights Commissioner and international human rights bodies. We have no confidence in the Intervention. It has not delivered a house to a single Aboriginal family.

We stand behind Tangentyere Council’s refusal to capitulate in the face of racial discrimination.

All Australians will be diminished if the compulsory acquisition proceeds.