John Leemans speaks
John Leemans, from the NT spoke on Wednesday March 23 at the University of Queensland at a meeting co-hosted by UQ Students for Indigenous Rights and the UQ branch of the National Tertiary Education Union.
After an acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners by Andrew Bonnell, the UQ Branch President of the NTEU, John addressed the meeting addressing key concerns around the ‘Intervention’, arguing that it was an attack on the human rights of Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory.
John attacked the threats and inducements to sign up to lease arrangements for land, and the lack of consultation over projects into which the Federal Government is pouring money.
He identified alcohol as a serious issue, and argued that the current response was inadequate, with a need for improved funding for on-the-ground education and rehabilitation.
John said that very few houses had been built since the intervention and that the discontinuing of funding for projects previously funded through CDEP was affecting the capacity of Aboriginal people to be self-sufficient. In Wave Hill these included a bakery, brick-making, horticultural projects and road-repairing.
He spoke about the issues associated with the BasicsCard, saying that, while supported by elders and women to stop people ‘humbugging’ for money, it was a confusing system which denied people control over their own income, and was no substitute for proper jobs and proper wages.
The attempts by the Federal Government to mainstream programs through the intervention was destroying cultural identity, language programs and links to land, through forcing Aboriginal people to leave their land in search of jobs elsewhere. So fundamental was this issue, John argued, that if links to land and culture were severed, people would die as a result.
In response to a question from the floor, John discussed the conflict between the prospects of employment offered by mining, and the destruction of cultural identity and sacred sites through development. He believed that the pressures associated with mining were too great, and it was in the best interest of Aboriginal people to resist mining developments.
He concluded by seeking support of those in attendance to participate in the campaign against the intervention, and inform others about the situation faced by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.