A coalition of over 60 activists and community members gathered in Liverpool this Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against 12 years of the Northern Territory Intervention. The ongoing issue of Indigenous deaths in custody, which intervention laws and procedures only aggravate, was highlighted over the course of the protest.
The rally was the 16th silent march organised for the victims of the murders by the grassroots organisation Fighting In Resistance Equally (FIRE). The protest is also a part of a larger series of actions held by the Stop The Intervention Coalition Sydney (STICS) opposing the state-sanctioned violence, land theft and the prevalence of extrajudicial killings targeted to Indigenous communities.
Demonstrators gathered on the corner of Macquarie and Scott Street in the heart of Liverpool, next to the statue of the infamous colonial figure Lachlan Macquarie. There in the gloomy weather, Community leader Raymond ‘Bubbly’ Weatherall stressed the importance of the action noting that, “every single child in the NT [sic] locked up is a blackfella.”
The NT Intervention refers to a series of actions launched by the Howard Government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) program. The Australian Defense Force was moved into 73 remote Indigenous communities in an attempt to control large aspects of the population’s daily lives. Organisers predicate the importance of Saturday’s action on the baseless justifications of the governmental accusations, including pedophilia and child trafficking — found to be completely inaccurate. Human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the United Nations have labelled the Intervention as illegal.
The Intervention was tied into the systemic issue of black deaths in custody due to the pervasive nature of police and state violence against Indigenous communities. FIRE organiser Raul Bassi explained that, “[the] system does not care about Aboriginal deaths” motivating the urgency of widespread social movements to “prevent the system from taking another life.” Demonstrators carried placards that read “Indigenous people murdered in custody,”, along with information regarding the intervention and state violence.
Following an initial round of speeches, protestors engaged in a march through the streets of Liverpool, drawing in large numbers of onlookers supportive of the cause. While the initial progression of the march was to promote community engagement, the subsequent proceedings were intentionally silent. This was to pay respects to the victims of crimes against the Indigenous community and to acknowledge that voices of First Nations people are “systematically unheard.”
The Intervention has faced no serious challenge from the Australian Parliament since it was launched in 2008. Labor’s contribution was merely to rename the effort through the 2011 ‘Stronger Futures’ legislation, which continued to thwart self-determined government and consultative assistance, contributing to the increasing deterioration in social welfare indicators amongst Indigenous Australians.
Another rally, organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), will be held in Newcastle on July 5, protesting the recent killing of the 36-year-old Wiradjuri woman Rebecca Maher. Maher was killed in custody without having committed an offence. Maher’s death is yet another indication of the continuing governmental abdication of responsibility since The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report, released in 1991.