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Ten years on, it’s time we learned the lessons from the failed Northern Territory Intervention

Diana Perche writes in The Conversation (26.6.17) that, a decade after the event, the Northern Territory Intervention implemented coercive measures to address reportedly ‘out of control’ sexual and domestic violence that would have been unthinkable in other, non-Indigenous communities.

‘Ten years ago this month, the then prime minister, John Howard, and his indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) into remote Indigenous communities.

‘With no warning, and no consultation, the federal government moved swiftly to seize control of many aspects of the daily lives of residents in 73 targeted remote communities. It implemented coercive measures that would have been unthinkable in non-Indigenous communities.

‘By deploying uniformed members of the Australian Defence Forces into the communities to establish logistics, the Intervention was designed to send a clear message of disruption and control. The government’s suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act raised further cause for concern.

‘… A decade on, the lack of engagement with Indigenous voices and knowledge in designing and implementing the Intervention has prompted renewed demands by many Indigenous people for meaningful change in the relations between First Peoples and the government. This is most evident in the debates about constitutional recognition and Indigenous policy more generally.

‘In the 50 years since the 1967 referendum, Indigenous affairs has been marked by many crises and panics – but rarely by substantive engagement between governments and First Peoples. A decade after the Intervention, it’s time for a new approach.’

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