Thursday, June 25, 2009

Racism No! - Darlington Review column

Racism: NO

On June 20 there were rallies across Australia in support of Aboriginal rights. The Perth rally was about Warburton elder, Mr Ward, who died of heat stroke in the back of a prison van on January 27 last year. Despite searing temperatures, he was without air conditioning or pit stops for over 3 1/2 hours.

1,000 passionate people filled Forrest Place to demand an end to Deaths in Custody, no to racism, no to privatisation of prison vans and for the implementation of the recommendations of the WA coroner's report around prisoner transportation. The rally called for charging those whom the coroner concluded to have contributed to Mr Ward's death: the Department of Corrective Services, Global Solutions Ltd (now G4S), and the van drivers.

After hearing from the family, Nyoongar elders and members of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, the crowd marched through the centre of Perth.

While the rallies in other cities showed solidarity with the Ward family, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response (or "the Intervention") was the main focus. Introduced 2 years ago by the Howard government, nominally as a response to the Territory government's publication of Little Children are Sacred, it has implemented few of the report’s recommendations. It promised improved health, housing and education, but residents, health and community workers alike say it has undermined Aboriginal control and caused greater social problems. “A key aspect has been the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal township land for five years. Housing assets have been forcibly transferred from community councils to the NT public housing agency” (

We must all oppose the racism and land grabbing inherent in the Intervention. Community consultation, self determination and adequate resources are the only means of achieving healthy communities and human rights for Aboriginal people. View our Charter at