The Northern Territory Intervention and the liberal defence of racism

by Diane Fieldes • Published 12 August 2010

The moral panic they were central in creating to “justify” the Intervention resulted in the demonisation of Aboriginal people as paedophiles and child abusers. The middle-class liberals’ own pro-capitalist position, promoting individual solutions, seeing their own self-advancement as “proof” that those at the bottom of society are there because of their own incapacity, and looking to the state rather than struggles from below as the way to fix things, opened the door to support for the NT Intervention’s military invasion of Aboriginal communities – just as it did for similar social layers to support military interventions in “failed states” overseas. Underlying these attitudes was something more fundamental: the long-term hostility of pastoralists, mining companies, other capitalists and governments – the Australian ruling class, in other words – to Aboriginal rights. Again, the ruling class’s racism does not simply reflect mass racist attitudes. Instead it creates and reinforces them in an assertion of the capitalist class’s own interests.

A racist outrage – “The Intervention is rubbish and isn’t working in any way at all for us”

On June 21, 2007, the prime minister and the minister for indigenous affairs announced an intervention in the Northern Territory, ostensibly to

protect indigenous children from sexual and other abuse. The announcement was made in response to the Little Children are Sacred report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse of April 2007… [That report] contained 97 recommendations and was made public on June 15, 2007. It emphasised the need for real consultation with “and ownership by the communities of those solutions”. Six days later came the Howard government intervention. It came entirely without consultation with the indigenous people and ignored the substantive recommendations of the report to which it was purportedly responding… The government had been in office for 11 years at the time the initiative was launched and had done little or nothing for indigenous people.[1]

These are not the words of a left-wing activist, but of a former chief justice of the Family Court, Alastair Nicholson, after two years of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (better known as the NT Intervention). Every aspect of it damned the Intervention to anyone with an ounce of humanity.

The Intervention was explicitly racist from the outset. The operation of the Racial Discrimination Act had to be suspended so that a series of measures could be applied to Aboriginal people living in “prescribed areas” of the Northern Territory that would not apply to any other Australian citizens. Additional police (and army personnel) were deployed to affected communities, restrictions on alcohol and pornography (accompanied by demeaning signs at the entrance to communities) were imposed, townships held under the Native Title Act 1993 were compulsorily acquired through five-year leases, the permit system which gave communities control over who came onto their land was suspended, and the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), on which many Aboriginal people depended for woefully inadequate incomes, were abolished. Judges were now prevented from taking matters of customary law or practice into account in sentencing. Amongst the collective measures that would never be applied to non-Aboriginal people was what the government preferred to describe as “income management” but which was commonly known as “welfare quarantining”.[2] Irene Fisher, CEO of Sunrise Health Service, described how this particular piece of apartheid legislation functioned:

Half of welfare income is now effectively quarantined for the 70 per cent of the Aboriginal population of the NT on Aboriginal land as well as community living areas and town camps. One hundred per cent of baby bonus money is also quarantined and made available over three months – unlike its lump sum availability for other Australian mothers. Likewise, the Rudd government stimulus money is 100 per cent managed and again paid out over a period of months rather than a lump sum… Access to quarantined money is controlled through the issue of the Basics Card, a form of debit card which is only available to be used at approved stores, and for approved purchases.[3]

New criteria for the loss of benefits, such as unsatisfactory school attendance, were also introduced, despite the fact that communities like Wadeye, with 1,000 school-age children, had only 300 primary school places and still didn’t have a high school.[4]

Welfare quarantining revived another old insult. Eileen Hoosan, resident of Mt Nancy town camp, argued in 2007 that “These laws are like apartheid South Africa… It’s reintroducing the ration system from forty years ago.”[5] From their first employment by white bosses, Aboriginal people were deemed “unfit” to handle money. This was a very profitable arrangement that enabled millions of dollars of Aboriginal wages to be stolen, while the workers received demeaning amounts of “pocket money”. When welfare payments were eventually extended to Aboriginal people, the same rip-off occurred, justified by the same “they can’t be trusted to handle money” rhetoric.

One of the few changes made to the Howard government’s Intervention by the subsequent Labor government was to spread it, with the pretence that this would make it less racist. Suburbs or regions anywhere in Australia could then be declared “disadvantaged areas” and made subject to welfare quarantining, starting with the NT. But as Dr John Falzon, chief executive of St Vincent De Paul, said: “in a paltry effort to conceal racial discrimination, the government has simply gone down the path of class discrimination.”[6] Regardless of the threat of extension, it is Aboriginal people who will continue to bear the brunt of welfare quarantining. Aboriginal people living outside the “prescribed areas” will be the main group caught in the expanded net. The exemptions for people who can get work, start training or prove they are “good parents” will open up all sorts of new avenues for racist discrimination. And those living in prescribed Aboriginal communities will remain quarantined from their rights.

The Rudd government was so desperate to present the Intervention in a positive light that they even stooped to inventing support for it. After the Yuendumu swimming pool – a project which predated the Intervention – was opened, Peggy Napaljarri Brown took them on:

My name was used telling lies. I did not agree with the Intervention. I did not say anything about the Intervention at all. I only spoke about the swimming pool for the kids. They are lying. The Intervention is rubbish and isn’t working in any way at all for us.[7]

Despite government attempts to show Aboriginal people welcoming the Intervention, a common response emerges from its victims: “intense hurt and anger”,[8] “shock, frustration, shame and anger”,[9] “confusion, fear and anger”,[10] “betrayal and disbelief”.[11]

If that wasn’t clear enough, in October 2009, 40 Aboriginal people from “prescribed areas” including anti-Intervention campaigner Barbara Shaw and Ampilatwatja walk-off spokesperson Richard Downs released a statement: “We were asked which brand of compulsory Income Management we would like, what kind of alcohol controls or police powers. But communities have said many times we want an end to all racist control measures.” Their voices were ignored. Other voices were not.

Selling the Intervention – the role of the liberal, humanitarian do-gooders

The Howard government had itself been laying the groundwork for the Intervention from at least 2006. For example, the aptly-named article by then-Health Minister Tony Abbott, “The new paternalism”, spelt out some of the victim-blaming that would reach its height with the Intervention: “Regardless of people’s cultural or ethnic background, poorer health and lower life expectancies are generally associated with low educational attainment, high unemployment, poor housing and high levels of substance abuse.”[12] If only Aboriginal people would follow the wisdom of Tony Abbott, take fewer drugs, get jobs and go to school more often, they could fix themselves up.

But from the outset the government attempted to find other voices outside its own ranks to back its project. One of the first was an “anonymous former youth worker from Central Australia” who appeared on ABC TV’s Lateline on 21 June 2006 to substantiate Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough’s claims about “paedophile rings” operating in Aboriginal communities. He was in fact Greg Andrews, head of the Communities Engagement Branch within the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination in Canberra.[13]

This was not the only credibility gap that the Coalition government faced, however. The smell of hypocrisy was very strong. When the Howard government complained about three decades of “failed Aboriginal policy”, most found it easy to remember that they had presided over that policy for the last decade. Their desire to use the Intervention to boost their polling in the run-up to the 2007 election (eventually admitted by Alexander Downer on ABC TV’s Insiders on the day after the election)[14] was obvious enough that a week after the Intervention was announced, 58 per cent of those surveyed confirmed that they thought John Howard was addressing issues in Aboriginal communities because of the upcoming federal election rather than because he really cared about the problem.[15]

So it was important for promoting the Intervention that it have wider backing, in much the same way that it was of great service to the Bush administration at the time of the Iraq war that, in addition to the “shock troops of Christian fundamentalists, Israel sympathisers and neoconservatives, it could boast the support of many prominent liberal intellectuals, some of whom still claim an affiliation to the Left.”[16] The comparison with the role of liberals in backing the so-called war on terror is worth drawing out. Commentator Guy Rundle makes the point that in “the bizarre period of military humanitarianism… Australia has become the first member of the Coalition of the Willing to invade itself…[replaying] many of the political themes and manoeuvres acted out on a global scale in the years since September 11, now projected into a domestic space.”[17]

There is a general sense in which both conservative and liberal proponents of such “humanitarian interventions” agree. For both, “there is an ‘extraordinary threat’, hence the need for ‘extraordinary responses’. Failure to recognise this bodes ill for ‘civilisation’.”[18] As with the conservatives, the liberal intelligentsia’s support for such interventions is rooted in historic notions of the civilising influence of the Western capitalist state, and the incapacity of the mass of humanity to bring about change themselves.

However, there is a difference between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives have got form. So for them, the

liberal facade is important…because those claiming to draw on leftist traditions are not, like their militarist friends on the right, sullied by having espoused principles of inequality for decades. Liberals…can claim without embarrassment to support the empire because of their profound internationalism, because of their egalitarian commitments, because they hate fascism, and because they favour gender equality.[19]

As Richard Seymour, author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, points out, this is hardly a new phenomenon. The Surrealist Group of France’s 1932 manifesto, “Murderous Humanitarianism”, indicates the motivation: “The white man preaches, doses, vaccinates, assassinates and (from himself) receives absolution. With his psalms, his speeches, his guarantees of liberty, equality and fraternity, he seeks to drown the noise of his machine guns.”[20]

The Australian liberal intelligentsia was willing to play this role, and was feted for it by conservatives. For example, in 2007 playwright Louis Nowra produced his book, Bad Dreaming: Aboriginal men’s violence against women and children, which concluded “in essence, that Aboriginal communities, particularly men, and their cultures are the central problem.” That supporters of Aboriginal rights could then describe this argument as “undoubtedly well-meaning”[21] reflects perceptions of Nowra as sympathetic to Aboriginal people, perceptions which largely rested on his authorship of the play, Radiance, made into a feature film in 1998 by the Aboriginal director Rachel Perkins, and his co-authorship of the TV series The First Australians.

This credibility, which the conservatives themselves lack, has been capitalised upon by the right. The right-wing policy group, the Bennelong Society, gives an annual medal to those who have best upheld or promoted its paternalistic ideas. In 2007 the Bennelong Medal was presented to Nowra by John Reeves QC, a member of the government’s NT Emergency Response Taskforce, with praise for the “sorts of solutions canvassed in chapter 7 of Louis Nowra’s book – many of which, not surprisingly have found their way into the Commonwealth’s NT emergency response and intervention.”[22]

But the key role in the liberal apology for the NT Intervention was played by Alice Springs Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers and her facilitators on the ABC’s Lateline program. Regardless of whatever service Nowra had rendered (and his claims to even liberal credentials are now very thin after his sexist characterisation of Germaine Greer as a “befuddled and exhausted old woman” in 2010),[23] Rogers could offer more. As Reeves QC put it,

You needed to realise that when someone like Nanette Rogers from the “deep north” had the courage to break ranks and speak out about the mindless and endless violence on Aboriginal communities, that she was genuine, that she should be listened to and not treated as just another “racist redneck”, or as someone who is merely trying to demean Aboriginal culture.[24]

In similar terms, Tony Abbott had lauded Rogers in 2006 as “just the latest highly credible [my emphasis – DF] witness to attest to the gothic horror of aspects of life in some remote Aboriginal settlements.”[25]

The ABC current affairs program Lateline also has a liberal profile. In June 2006, a year before the Intervention began, Lateline journalist Suzanne Smith began reporting that the Aboriginal community at Mutitjulu, near Uluru, was a hotbed of sexual violence, drug trading and petrol-sniffing.[26] No matter that the Mutitjulu women claimed that the program reported from a distance, relying mostly on allegations by the aforementioned Greg Andrews.[27] Promoted by Smith and Lateline host Tony Jones, Rogers was a perfect candidate for the chief liberal advocate of the takeover of Aboriginal communities for their own good. She had been “committed to social justice issues since her days as a young solicitor in Redfern.”[28] She went to Alice Springs as an enthusiastic young woman full of well-meant intentions of helping the blacks, and worked for three years at the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service. But the experience led Rogers to conclude that Aboriginal people simply were not good enough to be the recipients of her help.

The notes supporting Rogers’ nomination as a Northern Territory finalist for 2006 Australian of the Year (presumably written by herself) observed:

The accumulated effect of defending men who abuse women and children weighed her down and Nanette became a prosecutor and coordinator of a Victims’ Support Unit. In doing research for her doctoral thesis, she identified the emphasis placed on customary law in placing the offender in the best light, at the expense of the voice of the victim… Nanette took the difficult decision to release her findings to the public so as to raise awareness of this crucial social and legal issue.[29]

The wounded tone, and the notion that Aboriginal people had somehow forced her to turn against them, was repeated by Rogers’ Lateline promoters:

The whole time, she’s been gathering information, documenting the shocking crimes routinely committed against Aboriginal women and girls. Now, she’s put it all together in a highly confidential paper, which has only been seen by a handful of senior Northern Territory police. She’s so worried about the future of Aboriginal children, she’s given Lateline her dossier. It’s entitled “Child Sexual Assault and Some Cultural Issues in the Northern Territory” and its contents spell out a level of human degradation and suffering that she believes can no longer be tolerated.[30]

Rogers, who has a PhD from Sydney University, is a classic example of the middle-class paternalistic do-gooder who starts out wanting to “help” oppressed people but ends up despising them. The Aborigines did not live up to her middle-class standards: “I ended up getting sick of acting for violent Aboriginal men and putting up the same old excuses when I was appearing for them.”[31] Rogers’ assault on Aboriginal communities was the first of a litany of attacks on Aboriginal people via the supposed nature of their culture – attacks which could do nothing but fuel racist prejudice and reinforce stereotypical and distorted perceptions of Indigenous peoples.[32] As Rogers herself summarised her prejudices:

[V]iolence is entrenched in a lot of aspects of Aboriginal society here. Secondly, Aboriginal people choose not to take responsibility for their own actions. Thirdly, Aboriginal society is very punitive so that if a report is made or a statement is made implicating an offender then that potential witness is subject to harassment, intimidation and sometimes physical assault if the offender gets into trouble because of that report or police statement.[33]

Lateline host Tony Jones drew out the implications ever further – that Aboriginal people are so evil they don’t even know they’re evil:

You might expect these kinds of incidents to literally tear apart a community, but it’s my understanding from what you’ve written, that there is a kind of a malaise in these communities that prevents that from happening. These incidents are taken as facts of life rather than things which would, in a way, cause the entire place to look at itself and change?[34]

This was then taken up with gusto by conservative commentators. For example, within three days of Lateline’s interview with Rogers, Miranda Devine was approvingly quoting characterisations of “traditional Aboriginal culture, with its inherent violence towards Aboriginal women.”[35] Without blushing about Western society’s inability to meet his supposedly “universal” standard, Tony Abbott joined the fray a month later. “To the extent that traditional Aboriginal culture enshrined exploitation and violence it must change. Freedom from rape is not a Western invention but a universal standard of decency.” [36]

With Aborigines suitably dehumanised, with humanitarian do-gooders willing to take risks with Aboriginal lives by urging intervention, sending the military into their communities became much more palatable. Just as in the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the themes of the NT Intervention was the oppression of women, supposedly alien to Western values, and the accompanying figure of the military as emancipators.[37] Again, the support of liberal do-gooders brought something extra to the table: they could claim legitimacy for the Intervention because they favoured gender equality.[38] Arguments about the urgency with which something must be done also pervaded the writings of the mouthpieces of the Intervention: “It is also an indulgent fantasy to require ‘consultation’ before intervening to prevent crimes being committed.”[39]

The black middle class

The liberal do-gooder approach also necessarily involves casting most Aboriginal people in the role of victims needing to be saved by the state. Yet Aboriginal resistance continues. Activists like Barbara Shaw from Mount Nancy town camp in Alice Springs continue to use every forum to protest the theft of their land. The residents of Ampilatwatja walked off their land in 2009 in protest at living conditions under the NT Intervention. A statement signed by 236 residents presented by Harry Jakamarra Nelson, former Yuendumu Council President, to Labor Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin in 2008 is another sign of continuing resistance.[40] But because they refuse to act like victims, these Aboriginal people are at best invisible to liberals, at worst, insulted as the dupes of the white left.

On the other hand, the liberal world view does recognise another, very small, category of Aboriginal people – those who are presented as examples of where self-reliance can get those who really want to succeed. In this latter category are what Aboriginal activist Gary Foley has called “the A-team, hand-picked, self-appointed Aboriginal spokespeople.”[41] Or, as former National Indigenous Times editor Chris Graham puts it: “Our shared past is not only littered with white people who thought they knew best for black people, but it’s also full of black people who white people thought knew best for other black people.”[42] Despite Marcia Langton’s talk of “noisy bullies” who dominate Aboriginal politics today[43] the “dominant Aboriginal voices in the Australian media are herself, Noel Pearson, Warren Mundine, and perhaps Ernie Dingo.” [44]

The last two decades have seen the emergence of a small but politically important Aboriginal middle class.[45] Its small size means it has little economic or political power within Australian capitalism in general, but it has influence in sections of the Aboriginal community, and in the broader community on narrowly-defined “Aboriginal issues”. Ruling class strategies of cooptation of this layer, already in evidence under the Keating government, went much further under the Howard government which cultivated

a group of Aboriginal leaders who embraced “practical reconciliation”. Lawyer and entrepreneur Noel Pearson became the most vocal spokesperson for this conservative trend. He identified “welfare dependency” as the primary cause of Aboriginal poverty… [His 2001] proposals included stepping up policing, legally enforced prohibition and cutting back welfare services to Aboriginal communities.[46]

Pearson’s role in driving much of the propaganda on the supposed “welfare dependency” of Aboriginal people has provided a long-term background of victim-blaming easily used to justify the Intervention.[47] Pearson has himself explicitly linked Aboriginal issues with Iraq, endorsing the pro-interventionist stance of once-were-leftists like Christopher Hitchens.[48] Former Aboriginal left-winger and now academic Professor Marcia Langton also occupies this territory. She too came out as an apologist for the Intervention (and the Howard government): “In 2006 and 2007, Howard government ministers and advisers made several decisions. They would no longer stomach a policy regime whose many failings resulted in endemic poverty, alienation and disadvantage, and sickening levels of abuse of Aboriginal women and children.” Her following paragraph concludes with the prediction that the Intervention, “whatever one may think of its shortcomings, may be the greatest opportunity we have had to overcome the systemic levels of disadvantage among Aboriginal Australians.” [49]

Langton and Pearson have proved invaluable in providing the Aboriginal back-up to Howard and now Rudd and Gillard. When Professor Langton dismisses opposition to the Intervention – “There is a cynical view afoot that the Intervention was a political ploy – to grab land, support mining companies and kick black heads, dressed up as concern for children. Conspiracy theories abounded; most were ridiculous”[50] – it is so much more difficult to disagree with than if the same unsubstantiated dismissal were coming from the mouth of a white bureaucrat or politician. Only an Aboriginal person could even contemplate responding to criticisms of them by Aboriginal people in this patronising way:

I appealed to the newly-elected Rudd government to continue the Emergency Intervention and maintain the strategies most likely to stop the horrors that plague Aboriginal communities. In response I was pilloried by Aboriginal people who responded with letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald with sentimental, blame-shifting nonsense.[51]

As this indicates, another very useful function performed by these members of the black middle class has been the denigration of the Aboriginal opponents of the Intervention. Once again, Langton and Pearson have played the key role in this. It is unlikely that any non-Aboriginal proponent of the Intervention could have got away with Professor Langton’s characterisation of Larissa Behrendt as “the glamorous professor”, one of those “who have rarely visited these communities or lost sleep and health in the degrading environments where the grip of alcohol abuse has shortened lives and brutalised all who live there.”[52] Pearson’s appallingly hypocritical article “More Uncle Toms than meet the eye” contains every racist term of abuse – “Uncle Toms, Aunt Jemimas, Stepin Fetchits, Jacky Jackies” – directed at “uptown blacks” who all just happen to be opponents of the Intervention. It is unimaginable that any non-Aboriginal person could have got away with this slander.[53]

As noted earlier, right-wing columnists like Miranda Devine were already blaming Aboriginal people for their plight as Lateline and others prepared the ground for the Intervention in 2006. Now they began to add, with the support of prominent members of the Aboriginal middle class, other causes of the poverty and anguish of Aboriginal lives:

White Australia has attempted to assuage its guilt about the awful state of many Aboriginal communities with inquiries such as the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Sir Ronald Wilson’s 1997 “stolen children” report. The resultant ostentatious hand-wringing has arguably made life worse for the most vulnerable, voiceless members of already disadvantaged communities.[54]

This argument was taken up by the right more confidently precisely because the trail had been blazed by prominent Aboriginal spokespeople like Langton and Pearson. Seeing his 2001 prescriptions being fulfilled, in 2007 Pearson summarised what he claimed were the main contributors to “the descent into hell” of Aboriginal society in the decades following the recognition of Aboriginal citizenship: equal wages leading to removal of Aboriginal stock workers to the fringes of towns; access to social security causing increasing dependence on welfare; and the right to drink leading to “a vortex” of alcohol abuse. He argued that policy changes to remove economic discrimination, improve access to social welfare and ensure that Indigenous Australians had equal rights had damaging consequences.[55]

Over two centuries of official racism against Aboriginal people has been magically disappeared in the course of defending the Intervention. Racism doesn’t get a mention any more – the new discourse is that self-determination was the problem after all. Those who know best for Aboriginal people have lined up to agree.

Clare Martin has just pinpointed the policy of self-determination as successive governments’ biggest mistake. As the NT Chief Minister said this week, “the heart of the failure” has been saying to small Aboriginal communities, “manage (your) own affairs”. The challenge faced by all levels of government is to go beyond acknowledging that a decades-old policy has largely failed and to build workable governance structures against the pressure of vested interests and the inevitable cries of racism.[56]

The vested interests of mining companies – and Australian capitalism in general – are nowhere to be seen. Self-determination is reduced to meaninglessness (and the Australian state let off the hook) by the argument that it is “wrong to expect small, remote communities to organise their own water supply, sanitation, home maintenance, road construction and retail services.”[57] As if any other communities are expected to provide their own road construction or water supply!

The Australian state – solution or problem?

Underlying all this is another fundamental reason for liberals to support the kind of punitive victim-blaming embodied in the NT Intervention. Middle-class liberals condemn socialists because we argue for mass struggle to win a better life for Indigenous people, and for linking up the fights of Aborigines with those of white workers and students in a united struggle against capitalism and its state machine. Instead, liberals champion individual solutions within the framework of capitalism. For them the capitalist state is not the problem for Aboriginal people but the solution.

Nanette Rogers’ career illustrates the trajectory of this political position. Following her three years with the Aboriginal Legal Service in the NT, she took a job as a Crown Prosecutor and went from trying to keep Aborigines out of jail to advocating locking up as many of them as possible. While sick of acting for Aboriginal people, evidently she is not sick of acting for the violent Australian state with its racist mandatory sentencing laws and its record of murdering Aborigines in custody and on the streets. Rogers prefers instead to blame the victims of this appalling racist violence, and for this she receives a very handsome salary.

Aboriginal people experience the state somewhat differently. Aboriginal people in remote communities [are]…anxious to protect family members from shame or harsh punishment.”[58] Do Aboriginal women not report what happens to them because of fear of Aboriginal men? No doubt sometimes. But the state is the real problem.

Aboriginal women have no faith in the criminal justice system. The core of the problem is summed up by Cape York women; “If a white woman gets bashed or raped here, the police do something. When it’s us they laugh. The fellow keeps walking around, everybody knows but nothing is done.” Urban women said, “How can we call the police in? They come with their guns drawn and an innocent person gets killed.”[59]

The violence of the Australian state was illustrated very well in the 1991 case of Mungkilli, Martin and Mintuma – Aboriginal community police aids who raped a woman they had in custody. Far from the woman’s community being uncaring about her suffering, the police had to

immediately [remove] the three Police Aids to Port Augusta “for their own protection”, because of the community’s anger, and the threat of customary law punishment for what Aboriginal people (both men and women) saw as unacceptable behaviour… Charges were laid against the three men. A non-Aboriginal police officer gave evidence that these were “good” police, and that forcing Aboriginal women to have sexual intercourse is not regarded by Aboriginal peoples with the same seriousness as it is by white people. He said Aboriginal women do not experience and are not hurt by rape in the same way as white women… [It is] the South Australian police not Aboriginal elders, nor the Aboriginal community generally [who] collude with the judiciary in defining violence as an aspect of “Aboriginal Customary Law Practice” and determine how Aboriginal women experience rape. They also define how a “good” policeman behaves.[60]

This case is useful in refuting another aspect of the liberal justification of the Intervention – the suggestion that Aboriginal culture is inherently violent towards women. As indicated earlier, it was raised by Rogers in her Lateline interview, and the cudgels were subsequently taken up by Marcia Langton: “After these reports a chorus of denialists jumped in to defend ‘Aboriginal culture’, accusing ABC journalists of racism.”[61] Langton particularly takes issue with National Indigenous Times reporter Brian Johnstone’s characterisation of Suzanne Smith’s Lateline report as “99 per cent fact free”. Langton claimed that Johnstone

trivialised Rogers’ evidence and Smith’s courageous reporting in a rancorous attack on their integrity, evidence and motives and provided various justifications for the violence they identified and sought to prevent. He suggested the ABC had vilified Aboriginal culture with racist and unsubstantiated reports by “journalists who cannot be bothered looking beyond the sensation and mistake a ‘conspiracy of silence’ for a journalistic conspiracy of disinterest.”[62]

According to the Mutitjulu women themselves, Johnstone was right. “The Mutitjulu women feel the report was neither fair nor balanced and contributes to a perception that violence towards women and children is part of, or sanctioned by, Aboriginal culture.”[63]

They are not the only Aboriginal women to oppose this racist attack on Aboriginal culture: a young columnist in the Koori Mail, Ruth Shinn, wrote on 24 May 2006 that “sexual abuse never has been and never will be a part of our culture. That is like saying alcohol is part of our culture and sexually transmitted diseases are part of our culture.” All of them were introduced to Aboriginal society via colonisation. They are all symptoms of social breakdown.[64] Commenting on the outpouring of commentary about Aboriginal violence since Nanette Rogers’s report and appearance on Lateline in May 2006, Judy Atkinson argued that “people’s supposedly authoritative claims are flimsy at best, and tainted, at worst.”[65] Clare Land and Eve Vincent give a very comprehensive rejoinder to the “evils of Aboriginal culture” argument. They also indicate the pro-Intervention uses to which it is put:

On 19 May [2006], Rosemary Neill argued in The Australian that, “it’s clear that some aspects of traditional Aboriginal culture are deeply inimical to women. French and British colonists and explorers recorded how Aboriginal men inflicted serious injuries on their women with seeming impunity.” Keith Windschuttle has made similar claims and offered similar evidence. Cultural historian and feted public intellectual Inga Clendinnen has also written extensively about Aboriginal male brutality, drawing on First Fleet-era journals. Clendinnen’s analysis is more sophisticated, but all three commentators draw on colonisers’ accounts.

Over the course of this debate, both legal academic Larissa Behrendt, on Lateline on 18 May and historian Jane Lydon, in The Age on 22 May, have raised the question of Western cultural assumptions in colonial definitions, descriptions, and understandings of Aboriginal gender relations. (Neill, as we see above, assumes Aboriginal men had a proprietorial relationship to “their” women.) Behrendt and Lydon point to the dominance of white, male views of Aboriginal culture in law, history and anthropology, and in the collective imagination. Behrendt refers to several examples of judges ignoring evidence put forward by “female anthropologists that supported Aboriginal women’s views that rape in Aboriginal culture was a serious offence,” instead happily accepting the stereotypes of Aboriginal women and culture put forward by defence lawyers [or cops! – DF]. These stereotypical views have become the authority, Lydon writes, and their periodic resurrection has “often helped governments to justify interventionist Indigenous policies,” be they colonisation, child removal, or, we might add, closing “uneconomic’ remote communities”.[66]

How do the government’s claims stack up?

That reference to “uneconomic” communities should remind us that the Intervention was never about helping Aboriginal people – except helping them off their land. Report after report (including the government’s own) gives the lie to all the claims that were made to justify the “emergency response”. The Australian Crime Commission reported in July 2009 that no “paedophile rings” operated in NT Aboriginal communities after all, yet the Intervention continued unabated. In early 2009 the Rudd Labor government announced it would continue the NT Intervention for a further three years, with a promise that the results of the Intervention would be monitored and that changes would be “evidence-based”.[67]

Yet all the evidence supports the demand to stop the Intervention. The government’s own review board “found no evidence of increased confidence in reporting child maltreatment in Aboriginal communities.” Indeed, sixty per cent of the children who received health checks were still waiting a year later for follow-up treatment and up to eighty per cent remained in need of follow-up dental treatment.[68] The Sunrise Health Service was able to make direct comparisons between pre- and post-Intervention data and concluded that “the Intervention and its handmaiden of income management has had a direct [negative] impact on nutrition.”[69]

The government now posts its “progress” reports very quietly. A series of analyses of them by Jon Altman, veteran researcher on Aboriginal issues, indicates why. The title of one of his articles – “After the NT intervention: violence up, malnutrition up, truancy up” – sums up the government’s problem.[70] The draft report by the government’s own hand-picked review board had to be rewritten to take out much of the condemnation and anti-Intervention vitriol.[71] Even the final review that was deemed suitable to see the light of day in late 2008 recommended that changes be made, including reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act and making income management voluntary.[72]

The Intervention has also failed to address the crying need for more housing. From 2002, the Howard government oversaw service delivery trials conducted by the Council of Australian Governments in eight remote Aboriginal communities. In three years, the trial saw the construction of just four homes.[73] The Labor government has also continued to make claims it is building houses in the NT. In one sense this is true – if you look at the houses for the non-Indigenous Government Business Managers imposed on the communities. Other than that, by February 2010 the $680 million Intervention housing program known as the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) had completed just two houses in the Wadeye community – and they were forced to sign a 99-year lease over their land in order to get them.[74] In any case, under SIHIP only 16 communities are slated to receive new homes, and that’s only if traditional owners first sign a 40-year lease. The remaining 57 communities will receive “upgrades”.[75]

Despite the support of liberal do-gooders, the government has found it very difficult to continue the fiction that Aboriginal communities support what is being done to them. So Jenny Macklin simply rejected the findings of the government’s own review, instead using as evidence anecdotal accounts by a few Aboriginal women and the endorsement of six community store-owners. Other evidence is simply denied or denigrated.[76] As Jon Altman points out, “Such statements are reminiscent of how Mal Brough used to construct his moral authority in order to support his pre-determined actions via shadowy anonymous anecdote.”[77]

Finding people to back the government has been difficult. A leaked document obtained by the National Indigenous Times in 2009 gave the game away. Jenny Macklin had been warned by her own department against formally consulting with NT Aboriginal communities over the compulsory acquisition of the land. According to the advice, which was signed and agreed to by the Minister, properly consulting with Aboriginal people would not lead to the outcome the government wanted. Instead, the government should just appear to consult. The problem then became that independent observers reported a lack of interpreters, a lack of explanation of complex legal terms as well as general concern about income management and leases, and that the meetings were not culturally appropriate. Reporters from the Indigenous community radio station CAAMA were escorted from one meeting by police. The outcome of over 500 often angry meetings was junked in favour of 444 private meetings between individuals or families and the Government Business Managers imposed by the Intervention. The government’s “consultation” was merely a response to advice on how to prepare for any future legal challenge about whether the Intervention could coexist with the Racial Discrimination Act – not that the government has any intention of reinstating that till 2011 at the earliest.[78]

Much was made in the early days of the Intervention that its supporters were the only ones who cared about the conditions of Aboriginal lives. For example, “If it were not for the efforts of these people [Pearson, Mundine, Gordon, Rogers] and others, the enormous problems on these Aboriginal communities would have gone largely unnoticed – as they had for decades past.”[79] Despite the claims of the Intervention’s advocates, plenty of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people had noticed Aboriginal dispossession and oppression – and organised to fight it – long before their shrill voices were heard. In any case, the Interventionists always got it back to front. While Marcia Langton could remark on the fact that Aboriginal men may be “sent to a prison where living conditions are often better than in the communities they come from” she saw this as a condemnation of the “good” conditions in the prisons rather than of the oppression at home. [80]

Other than that there was not a word from Rogers and her ilk about the endemic unemployment, the lack of even basic facilities, the day to day racism of police and white authorities. Was there a word from any of them in response to the murder of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward in January 2008, literally baked to death in a prison van in Western Australia? No, there was not. “Missing from these intermittent outbreaks of moral panic is recognition that deplorable events are connected to the circumstances in which they occur.”[81] But the links need to be made.

How capitalism benefits from anti-Aboriginal racism

Income management was clearly aimed at forcing Indigenous people to live in areas the government determines. Inability to access shops that accept the Basics Card, the cost of trips to bigger towns to use it, have all had the effect of pushing Aboriginal people out of remote communities. The 5-year leases over some community land introduced by the Intervention have been used to break up Aboriginal-controlled housing committees and pressure people to move.[82] The Australian government’s vested interest in promoting the idea that Aboriginal self-determination was a failed experiment and that assimilation is the only answer is clear. Making allegations of child abuse in an attempt to break down communities flowed from the same logic of getting hold of more profitable Aboriginal land.[83]

In blackmailing Aboriginal people out of their land the Rudd government was more successful than its predecessor. The National Indigenous Times points out that in 2007, before Labor was elected, Macklin “praised the Alice Springs town camps for telling the government they ‘knew how to wait’ when offered $60 million for basic services, in exchange for control of their townships.” In 2009 the National Indigenous Times revealed that Jenny Macklin had written to all state and territory housing ministers warning them that Commonwealth funds should not be used to build public housing in Aboriginal communities unless traditional owners first agreed to sign over their land for a minimum of 40 years. Macklin led by example, offering $138 million to the Tangentyere Council for upgrades to the Alice Springs town camps – with the proviso that they sign over the land on 40-year leases. In July, 16 of the 18 housing organisations agreed to the deal. They only did this because they had, in their words, “a gun to our heads”.[84]

So perhaps they will leave these communities – “of their own accord”, of course. Just as a further hint of what’s required, the NT Labor government unveiled its Working Future policy last year, outlining plans to make 20 “growth towns” into economic hubs and to freeze funding to the outstations, in the hope of driving Aboriginal people from them.[85]

At the heart of these government policies is the desire to roll back the gains that Aboriginal people have made in getting back some rights to what is, after all, their land. There’s nothing new in this. Whether it was warfare or the cultural genocide of assimilation – both designed to wipe them out – Australian capitalism has engaged in centuries of vicious racist policies against Aboriginal people. At the end of 2005, the then Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone declared that the outstations set up by many Aboriginal people on their lands were akin to “cultural museums” that should be shut. The same year, anti-Aboriginal campaigner Helen Hughes published a series of articles on the “unviability” of remote communities. Her book, Lands of Shame, was released a few days after the Intervention was announced.[86] Two months later, Mal Brough voiced his opposition to land rights in explicitly ideological terms: “We need to actually recognise that communism didn’t work, collectivism didn’t work.”[87]

Australian capitalism is founded on the theft of Aboriginal land. For over two centuries, the great fortunes made from wool, gold, meat and minerals relied on easy access to huge tracts of Aboriginal land. In decades-long struggles, Aboriginal people and their supporters won concessions. But that didn’t mean that Australian capitalists, and the governments who run the system for them, gave up. With profits to be made from mining, why would they? The Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association, for example, greeted the NT Intervention in 2007 with a familiar refrain. Claiming that of the 300 remote Aboriginal communities and outstations in WA, fewer than a third are “economically viable”, they proclaimed: “We’ve been advocating what Howard’s suggesting should happen now for the last 40 years. We’ve been suspicious of the way that Aboriginal affairs have been going ever since there was the equal opportunity and wage decisions made back in the sixties.”[88]

So the child abuse claims and the subsequent Intervention were a heaven-sent opportunity to build on the land grab already underway through amendments to the Land Rights Act in 2006 – all the more so because of the increase in world mineral prices and the plan for a nuclear waste dump in the NT.[89] With the largest uranium reserves in the world located on Aboriginal land in Central Australia, Aboriginal people themselves were just another obstacle to profits.[90] Governments and mining companies are still required to seek agreements with traditional owners to get their land, but the demoralising effects of the Intervention, and the economic pressure it places on already marginalised, deprived communities, will increase the likelihood that desperate communities will strike deals with them, or look to other industries such as tourism, merely to survive. Therefore it is no surprise, given these interests, that the Rudd/Gillard Labor government continued the Intervention begun by its predecessor. The government’s May 2010 Closing the Gap report claims that

To achieve this [i.e. meet the needs of communities], governments are working in partnership with Indigenous Australians because Indigenous Australians are the ones who are best placed to lead change in their own lives, in their families and in their communities. Governments can help, but closing the gap will not happen without the commitment of Indigenous people.[91]

In other words, the government both denied the basic premise of the Intervention’s takeover of Aboriginal communities with its lack of any consultation, i.e. that Aboriginal people cannot “lead change in their own lives” and should not be worked with, while at the same time placing the burden of closing the gap on them. The alternative – spending money on Aboriginal health, education, infrastructure – is simply not considered worth it (or “economically viable”). If profits can’t be made in some way from these communities, they should be eliminated. Aboriginal people are seen as a problem and this is capitalism’s “solution”. But “rather than self-determination having ‘failed’, as Pearson and the former prime minister would have us think, the majority of Aboriginal leaders and activists would say that real autonomy, real self-determination, has never been tried in Australia.”[92] The Intervention itself has produced evidence that it is lack of money not some tiny amount of Aboriginal control that’s the problem. While Brimblecombe and Thomas’s comprehensive health survey

found that spending on food and drinks and fruit and vegetables did not change with income management… The one time during income management that spending went up for all store commodities was when people actually had more money: at the time of the government stimulus payment. Telling people of low income how they can use 50 per cent of their income may make no difference to their spending, but giving a lump of cash does.[93]

Likewise, anthropologist Myrna Tonkinson calls for much more money to be spent. It is the profit-making priorities of Australian capitalism which mean that such money will never be available. Tonkinson concludes that

No amount of blame-shifting will erase Australia’s history of colonisation, dispossession, racism and discrimination. That history, including the “solutions”, policies and corrective measures that have been introduced over many decades, has included many harmful, even catastrophic errors.[94]

The NT Intervention is just the latest of them.


The racist outrages that have been visited on Aboriginal people via the Intervention are not the result of governments responding to working-class racism. They were carefully prepared by prominent members of the liberal middle class. Having promoted the “need” for the Intervention, they continued their role by justifying it as Aboriginal people were harmed and humiliated. Their liberal credentials were very useful in promoting policies that were so overtly discriminatory that they and the Racial Discrimination Act could not co-exist. Famous racists like John Howard needed their cover. Using the anti-racist credentials attached to working for the Aboriginal Legal Service or being prominent Aboriginal people themselves, the liberals made sure that the structures of capitalism and the inequalities it necessarily involves were ignored in favour of proclaiming the inadequacies of the mass of Aboriginal people. They advanced the interests of their small and privileged group at the expense of the oppressed.[95]

But of course, the middle class does not dominate capitalist society. Middle-class liberals are both dependent on the capitalist class for their position and also render them very valuable service. Their efforts benefit ultimately not just themselves but the Australian capitalist class. The assimilationist agenda of driving Aboriginal people from their land makes an obvious contribution to the profitability of the Australian mining and tourism industries directly. The divide and rule aspects of anti-Aboriginal racism benefit the whole capitalist class.

As Marx famously noted, the ruling ideas of an epoch are those of the ruling class – but human agents are still needed for this process. Middle-class intellectuals “provide a ‘service’ to society, that is, to the class whose interests are usually identified with the interests of society, and this service primarily consists of providing and manipulating ideas. Such a service, to be eligible for reward, must be necessary or congenial to the continued well-being of the dominant powers in society.”[96] Nanette Rogers, the Lateline gang, Marcia Langton and Noel Pearson have rendered this service very faithfully.

[1] Alastair Nicholson, “Indigenous intervention a costly flop”, The Age, 9 October 2009,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[2] Report of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) Review Board, October 2008, accessed 31/5/10.

[3] Irene Fisher, “How the NT intervention is harming children”, Crikey, 23 March 2009,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[4] National Indigenous Times guide reproduced by Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, “Fact vs. Fiction: The truth behind a bandaid solution”, 3 August 2007,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[6] ABC News “Welfare plan to be tested on Territorians”, 25 November 2009,;topic=latest, accessed 5 March 2010.

[7] Bob Gosford, “‘My name was used telling lies’: the media come to Yuendumu”, Crikey, 29 October 2008,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[8] Report of the NTER Review Board, October 2008.

[9] Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, Health Impact Assessment of NT Emergency Response, 12 March 2010,, accessed 3 March 2010.

[10] Claire Smith, “NT intervention: victims of avoidable tragedies”, Crikey, 20 October 2008,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[11] Report of the NTER Review Board, October 2008.

[12] Tony Abbott, “The ‘new’ paternalism”, ON LINE opinion, 28 June 2006,;page=0, accessed 5 March 2010.

[13] Chris Graham, Brian Johnstone and Amy McQuire, “OIPC’s ‘baby-faced assassin’: Senior public servant adopts bogus identity; backs Minister’s claims”, National Indigenous Times, issue 109, 13 July 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[14] Larissa Behrendt, UTS Speaks 19 March 2008,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[15] Galaxy poll published 2 July 2007,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[16] Richard Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, Verso, London, 2008, p.1.

[17] Guy Rundle, “Military humanitarianism in Australia’s North” in Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson (eds.) Coercive Reconciliation: Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia, Arena, Melbourne, 2007 (2nd edition 2009), p.37.

[18] Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, p.4.

[19] Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, p.218.

[20] Cited in Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, p.217.

[21] David Cooper, “Bad Dreaming, Cloudy Thinking”, Australians For Native Title and Reconciliation, 10 April 2007,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[22] Bennelong Medal presentation for 2007 to Louis Nowra on 31 August 2007,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[23] Louis Nowra, “The Better Self? Germaine Greer and ‘The Female Eunuch’”, The Monthly, April 2010,, accessed 6 July 2010.

[24] Bennelong Medal presentation 2007.

[25] Abbott, “The ‘new’ paternalism”, 28 June 2006.

[26] Marcia Langton, “Trapped in the Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[27] Kia Mistilis, “Mutitjulu women hit back at pedophilia claims”, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[28] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[29] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[30] Suzanne Smith interview with Nanette Rogers, “Paper reveals sexual abuse, violence in NT indigenous communities”, Lateline, 15 May 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[31] Tony Jones interview with Nanette Rogers, “Crown Prosecutor speaks out about abuse in Central Australia, Lateline 15 May 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[32] Terri Libesman, “Government neglect”, Indigenous Law Bulletin 12, 2007, accessed 5 March 2010.

[33] Tony Jones interview with Nanette Rogers, Lateline, 15 June 2006.

[34] Tony Jones interview with Nanette Rogers, Lateline, 15 June 2006.

[35] Miranda Devine, “A culture of violence that must change”, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[36] Abbott, “The ‘new’ paternalism”, 28 June 2006.

[37] Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, p.16.

[38] Seymour, The Liberal Defence of Murder, p.218.

[39] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008. For very similar comments by Sue Gordon, head of the NT Emergency Task Force, see Hinkson, Introduction, Coercive Reconciliation, p.7.

[40] “Yuendumu to Macklin: ‘We don’t want this intervention’”, Crikey 28 October 2008,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[41] Gary Foley, speech at Marxism Today conference, April 2007, at, accessed 17 May 2010.

[42] Chris Graham, “At large: Heroes: the great divide”, National Indigenous Times, issue 194, 5 February 2010,, accessed 17 May 2010.

[43] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[44] B.P. Johnson, “Your say: Hitting back at Marcia”, National Indigenous Times 21 January 2009,, accessed 17 May 2010.

[45] Mick Armstrong, “Aborigines: problems of race and class” in Rick Kuhn (ed.) Class and Struggle in Australia, Pearson, Sydney, 2005, pp.146-149.

[46] Armstrong, “Aborigines: problems of race and class”, p.148.

[47] Sarah Maddison, “National Indigenous Times forums: Scaring up some ALP courage”, National Indigenous Times, issue 170, 5 February 2009,, accessed 17 May 2010.

[48] Rundle, “Military humanitarianism in Australia’s North”, p.44.

[49] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[50] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[51] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[52] Marcia Langton, “Hostages to men’s business”, The Weekend Australian, 8 November 2008.

[53] Noel Pearson, “More Uncle Toms than meet the eye”, The Weekend Australian, 28-29 July 2007,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[54] Devine, “A culture of violence”, 18 May 2006.

[55] Noel Pearson, “White guilt, victimhood ,and the quest for a radical centre”, Griffith Review 16, 2007,, accessed 17 May 2010.

[56] Abbott, “The ‘new’ paternalism”, 28 June 2006.

[57] Abbott, “The ‘new’ paternalism”, 28 June 2006.

[58] Myrna Tonkinson, “Ways of reading sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities”, Eureka Street, 12 June 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[59] Judy Atkinson, “Violence against Aboriginal women: reconstitution of community law – the way forward”, Aboriginal Law Bulletin 46, 1990,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[60] Judy Atkinson, “Traditional violence and bullsh*t law”, New Matilda, 27 September 2006,*t-law, accessed 5 March 2010.

[61] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[62] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[63] Mistilis, “Mutitjulu women hit back”, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 2006.

[64] Clare Land and Eve Vincent, “Indigenous politics: clueless white males”, New Matilda, 31 May 2006,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[65] Atkinson, “Traditional violence and bullsh*t law”, New Matilda, 27 September 2006.

[66] Land and Vincent, “Indigenous politics: clueless white males”, New Matilda, 31 May 2006.

[67] Fisher, “How the NT intervention is harming children”, Crikey, 23 March 2009.

[68] Larissa Behrendt and Nicole Watson, “The NTER Review Board – an opportunity lost”, Crikey, 27 October 2008,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[69] Fisher, “How the NT intervention is harming children”, Crikey, 23 March 2009.

[70] For example, Jon Altman, “After the NT intervention: violence up, malnutrition up, truancy up”, Crikey, 9 November 2009,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[71]“The Big Read: The Black List”, National Indigenous Times, 10 December 2009,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[72] Jon Altman, “NT intervention: Macklin ignores review board in favour of anecdotes”, Crikey, 24 October 2008., accessed 29 May 2010.

[74] “SIHIP finally delivers”, Koori Mail No. 469, p.4, cited at, accessed 29 May 2010.

[75] Chris Graham, “The truth about the NT intervention and government consultation”, Crikey, 7 July 2009,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[76] Julie Brimblecombe and David Thomas, “Macklin’s twisting the truth on income management”, Crikey 17 May 2010,, accessed 17 May 2010; Graham, “The truth about the NT intervention and government consultation”, Crikey, 7 July 2009.

[77] Altman, “NT intervention: Macklin ignores review board in favour of anecdotes”, Crikey, 24 October 2008.

[78] Graham, “The truth about the NT intervention and government consultation”, Crikey, 7 July 2009.

[79] Bennelong Medal presentation 2007.

[80] Langton, “Aboriginal reality show”, Griffith Review 19, 2008.

[81] Tonkinson, “Ways of reading sexual abuse”, Eureka Street, 12 June 2006.

[82] Graham, “The truth about the NT intervention and government consultation”, Crikey, 7 July 2009.

[83] Pat Turner and Nicole Watson, “The Trojan Horse”, in Coercive Reconciliation, pp.205-212; Johnson, “Your say: Hitting back at Marcia”, National Indigenous Times, 21 January 2009.

[84] “The Big Read: The Black List”, National Indigenous Times, 10 December 2009.

[86] Nicolas Rothwell, Review of Lands of Shame, The Australian, 30 June 2007,, accessed 5 March 2010.

[87] “Brough questions worth of land rights”, The Age, 15 August 2007,, accessed 5 March 2010. Melinda Hinkson’s introduction to Coercive Reconciliation, p.6, elaborates this point.

[88] “WA pastoralists back Government. abuse plan for NT”, ABC News, 27 June 2007,, accessed 8 June 2010.

[89] For a sustained argument about this, see Waratah Rosemarie Gillespie, The Northern Territory Intervention and the Mining Industry, August 2009, available at,, accessed 29 May 2010.

[90] Johnson, “Your say: Hitting back at Marcia”, National Indigenous Times, 21 January 2009.

[91] “Closing the gap – strengthening indigenous communities” – joint media release 11 May 2010,, accessed 17 May 2010.

[92] Maddison, “National Indigenous Times forums: Scaring up some ALP courage”, National Indigenous Times, issue 170, 5 February 2009.

[93] Brimblecombe and Thomas, “Macklin’s twisting the truth on income management”, Crikey 17 May 2010.

[94] Tonkinson, “Ways of reading sexual abuse”, Eureka Street, 12 June 2006.

[95] Alex Callinicos, “The ‘New Middle Class’ and socialist politics”, International Socialism 20, p.112.

[96] Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: The Politics of Social Classes, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1978, p.502.

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