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An anthology with power to change

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Louisa L.

The power of anthologies arise from collective effort. Many eyes, ears, hands, hearts and minds create them. Never has this been truer than for The Intervention, an anthology, edited by Rosie Scott and Dr Anita Heiss.

Lists of names, communities and places rarely inspire, but from its birth this project, recorded in Rosie Scott's introduction, goes far beyond the 33 pieces included. Rev Dr Djiyini Gondara of Galiwin'ku, John Leemans at Kalkarindji, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks of Utopia, Harry Nelson from Yuendumu, Barbara Shaw in Alice Springs Town Camps, the Larrakia mob of Darwin, and others from Muckatty, Maningrida, Yirrkala, Wallaby Beach, Ramingining, Nauiyu, Millingimbi are some of the great majority of Elders in the Northern Territory who oppose the Intervention.

Behind the book, thousands of others, Indigenous and non-Indigenous contributed to the growing struggle that produced this crowd-funded collection.

The personal experiences, poems, research articles, group statements, short stories flow like blood through the veins of the country, far beyond the far-flung homelands which hold strong to law and culture, while “in terror of our languages, our ceremonies and our land being taken off us...” (Artente, Alyawarra elder, Rosalie Kunoth Monks.)

'We could almost taste it in our hearts'
Describing the unheralded arrival of the Intervention, in remote Utopia where few have access to news, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says, “the police and public servants arrived and we were ushered up to the basketball stadium...We really thought we were going to be rounded up and taken.”

“The shock, you could almost taste it in our hearts...And then the directives came like shots from these rifles anyway and we were told there was a new way that Aboriginal Affairs is going to be handled. And that was our introduction to the Intervention.”

Pat Anderson, co-chair with Rex Wild QC of the 2007 Little Children are Sacred inquiry which supposedly triggered the Intervention in June 2007, is scathing, “The Intervention did not address any of the recommendations from our Inquiry.” 

She debunks the “myth” that Governments didn't know about the conditions facing Aboriginal children. From the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, to the Bringing them Home report of 1997, “Our communities and organisations have been alerting the government to the facts and calling for action for years.” Problems were ignored because fixing them cost money.

Signs and resistance
Anderson raises recurring motifs of disempowerment and blame, “Our key recommendation about working with communities was ignored.

“Where we emphasised the need for resources and for flexible processes of engagement with Aboriginal families and communities, the Intervention emphasised external control and blanket provisions affecting all Aboriginal people.

“It was clear we were to blame, we were now going to be given a good shake, told to sit down, and that they would sort it out since we were obviously incapable of doing it ourselves.”  

Even more poignant perhaps is the statement from Gurindji spokesperson, John Leemans. “This is Aboriginal land, handed back by Gough Whitlam to Vincent Lingiari forever. Not to be taken away again by leases.” 

In Signs of the Times Brenda L Croft describes the hated prohibition signs “ a reminder that traditional custodians had no power, no say in decisions made by distant bureaucrats.” A reminder also of another recurring theme, shame felt by those unjustly accused, en masse, of child abuse  despite well-documented evidence of concocted allegations, lies and distortions.

The sign at the entrance to Dagaragu, “the place chosen by Gurindji Elders for their home settlement after they walked off Wave Hill Station in 1966” has been “almost concealed by John's (Leemans) customisation under the colours of the Aboriginal ensign - red, black and yellow. The central orb had been punched through by a sharp implement, revealing angry jagged edges like bared teeth, but still evident were the words: 'Prohibited material',” states Croft. This image forms the cover of the collection.

True Australian Heroes
This book brings together all the facts about the Intervention and Labor's so-called Stronger Futures extension of it. But its rhythms and motifs make you feel it too, and taste the solutions that have consistently been ignored.

Rosie Scott also writes of a smaller group of “true Australian heroes. They spend many hours travelling around Australia speaking and campaigning about what the Intervention actually means to the people who are suffering through it.” 

“We want to retain our language, we want to see schools remain, want to demand that our culture and continues to be secure,” says Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

The movement they lead is growing. 

'The Intervention an anthology' is published by Concerned Citizens Australia. It is available online through Booktopia


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