Federal Labor risks being reduced to a rump in the Northern Territory over its continuing commitment to the intervention, with Indigenous leaders urging Aboriginal voters to back the Greens instead.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin was booed and heckled off stage by Indigenous people last week at Hobart’s celebratory ball for National Aboriginal and Islander celebration week (NAIDOC) over a 10-year extension of the controversial program.
And respected Arnhem Land elder, traditional owner, former Uniting Church moderator and chair of one of the Territory’s largest retailers, Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, has launched a passionate attack on the Government at another NAIDOC gathering in Darwin.
The Reverend Gondarra described the intervention as deeply racist and urged his audience to abandon Labor in favour of the Greens.
The Reverend Gondarra is no radical, nor is he alone in his anger.
Three hundred kilometres southwest of Darwin, at the former Aboriginal-owned cattle station of Peppimenarti, leader Harold Wilson says he also feels betrayed
“(It is) very disappointing that Labor has extended (the intervention) because I thought Labor were the ones that were sticking up for the underdogs and underdogs are people like us, Indigenous people,” he told PM.
“We’re more sick and likely to die before any other race.”
Mr Wilson and his people found the Intervention deeply offensive, particularly the widely publicised suggestion that child abuse and paedophilia was rampant in Aboriginal communities.
“I thought the intervention was racist. If it was blanketed throughout Australia instead of just one specific race of people, I don’t think it’s right for the Government to say that or the way we took it as Indigenous people that we’re singled out and I thought that was wrong.”
“Before you can blame the Aboriginal people or Indigenous people, look at your own backyard.”
The calls fly in the face of former Labor party president Warren Mundine, who wants the Government to dump any alliance with the Greens on Aboriginal affairs – a call welcomed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
But Mr Wilson says the intervention championed by the Coalition and backed by Labor has robbed Indigenous communities of their autonomy.
“Ownership is not here anymore,” he said.
“A lot of the Indigenous people feel that after Arnhem Land, the bark petition, Wave Hill walk-off, Tent Embassy; a lot of those people had struggled and fought and blood, sweat and tears for land rights.
“I just thought that we’ve gone backward.”
Unfulfilled promises of new housing have also put noses out of joint.
“They said they was going to do renovation on the house and we said alright we’d like tile floors,” Mr Wilson said.
“They come in here, painted the outside and then painted the floors and did a few things on the windows and stuff like that and moved on.”
Ms Macklin would not provide the ABC with an interview, issuing instead a statement that said Peppimenarti has recently agreed to a long-term lease, and so now opportunities for further housing improvements will be determined.
She says the community was identified as “high need”, requiring the permanent presence of three police.
PM is still seeking details of police activity since the intervention.