The Prescribed Area Peoples' Alliance

The Prescribed Area People’s Alliance is a group of Aboriginal people from communities affected by the NT Intervention. More than 130 people have joined Alliance over two meetings in Mparntwe – Alice Springs on September 29 and November 7.

Today, Friday November 7, the Prescribed Area People’s Alliance held its second meeting. We have issued the following statement:

We are outraged that today Lex Wotton, an Indigenous man from Palm Island, was sentenced for 6 years for protesting the murder of another Indigenous man by a white policeman. That policeman has since been promoted and given $100,000 compensation. Police brutality and harassment of Indigenous people continues throughout Australia, including here in Central Australia in our town camps and communities. It has gotten worse since the Intervention with new powers and military style raids.

The NTER* must be immediately repealed. The $1 billion that has been spent on rolling out this legislation has been wasted, and could have been spent supporting our communities, the services and programs that we have in our communities, that are owned and controlled by us. No one wants it.

We are tired of people who aren’t living this Intervention saying it is good for our people. They don’t have to line up for store cards, have police come through their house or fight to keep their homes or blocks of land.

Income management is not good for us. It’s too hard to access our money. Kids are crying all round for money for drink, for school, but nothing in our pocket. Kids are suffering under the Intervention. Income Management has to be voluntary. People can manage their own money.

The Intervention is racist. If this was about alcohol and children, why is it just Aboriginal people that have this legislation, and not everyone else? Problems exist everywhere. We are not all alcoholics and child abusers, we are strong First Nations people and we should not be treated like this.

The Intervention has demonised Aboriginal men. The government always says that all the women are for the Intervention and men are against it. But the majority of people in the Prescribed Area People’s Alliance are women and strong men are standing up behind them in support.

The Racial Discrimination Act must be immediately reinstated. It must never be suspended again to push through another government policy. Every time it has been suspended, it has been so the government can do something to hurt Aboriginal people. The Federal Government must also sign and ratify the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

These assimilation policies destroy our culture and our lives. It is the Stolen Generation all over again. The government just said sorry to us, but at the same time they are doing this Intervention. They will have to say sorry again.

The government is refusing to build us any housing unless we sign over control of our land for 40 years or more. We say NO LEASES. We will not sign. Why couldn’t they help us out with money for our housing and services? It is our right for these things. Since they took the 5-year leases with the Intervention, they have done nothing. Why do they need 40, 80 years more? The government having this control is no good. Our lives depend on our land. It is connected to our songlines, our culture and our dreaming.

We are angry they are threatening to close down outstations. People choose to live out on their land on outstations. It is their home, their country. The government must provide funding for outstations, not take it away so people have to move into town. Many people don’t want to live in town, they want to live on their land. In town, there is already a lot of over-crowding and problems. We had to fight hard for outstations, but now we are going to have to fight hard to keep them.

We are angry the NT government is trying to stop teaching of language in schools. We need to fight for our culture and our language. Schools must be Aboriginal way – we need bilingual schools, with two way learning. Our kids need to learn in our own languages. Culture must be kept strong.

Us mob from outstations, town-camps and communities are all subjected to this racist legislation. So we, the prescribed area people are going to stick on our decision to keep fighting. We are not going to give up until the government stops this Intervention, listens to us and starts working with us properly.

We call on other communities to take action, in their communities. We call for rallies here in Alice Springs and around the country to mark Human Rights Day on December 13, 60 years since the UN human rights charter was signed. We call for everyone who supports Aboriginal rights to converge on Canberra for the opening of Parliament in 2009.

For more information contact: Barbara Shaw 0401291166 or Valerie Martin 0429891861

our bits and play at climate camp

the night before we locked ourselves onto a coal loader i lay with a sleeping bag over my head, angry and tired to the point of muteness. sick of meetings, of planning and car troubles and people, scared and almost over it. we sleep all together on the floor and I try not to think too much in case I change my mind.

early early in the morning we pile in cars, with large metal tubes and small chains around our ready wrists. we drive to kooragang coal port as dawn threatens pale at the edges of the sky. at the entry to the port a streetlight reveals a car with police prop-legged around it, their feet in it’s open doors. i’m so scared our plans are about to stretch too thin and break. we get confused and drive past the site three times, u-turning in front of the police. i want to not be here now, i want to wake up when its over.

finally we pull up beside the fence and tumble out of the car. we go over the fence one by one. scrabbling with no foothold. an almost laugh. a hand scraped on barbed wire. we pass the heavy bits of pipe through the fence and walk quick across the bitumen together. no one comes to grab us, no one drags us down from the fence like i kept seeing in my head. we climb yellow metal steps, onto the machine that loads coal into ships, coal for burning in places distant. press with a flat hand all the big red emergency stop buttons, the conveyor belt winds slowly still and the sirens start. we keep frantically locking ourselves to bits of conveyor belt, changing our minds, changing place, and repeating. everyone else is calm now but i’m not. finally we are settled, feet dangling, knees brushing conveyor-belt rubber. we are locked with bits of pipe and now its easy, and i’m not scared anymore.

the machine is almost beautiful. draped with yellow lights in the almost fog and the sea sitting blackly close. the sun rises over the harbour and the cold air doesn’t sting. lib and me are wearing bike helmets. libby’s helmet is back to front. we are the hottest people ever. probably.

finally they find us. it’s a little awkard. some of them are condescending, tell us all the lies they said they’d tell. “this machine has been turned off for months. you’re not stopping anything.”

“we know it was on when we came,” i say. “whatevs,” i add. sort of undermybreath, sort of byaccident. lib laughs.

Dwayne comes and chats with us. he’s quiet and friendly and curious, it’s his first time with protesters. he tells us to be careful, follow the ritual and we’ll be okay.

the police are grumpy and not impressed. we smile politely, thank them, and refuse to do anything they ask. we wont lock off, thank you. we understand your concern, thankyou. good morning. etc. etc. they search libby haphazardly. out of her overall pockets come fifteen dirty tissues. meanwhile we stuff our faces quietly with chocolate. they lock off our friends. then they take apart the conveyor belt we are attached to. we apologise to the worker. he says its fine, smiling, he has nothing better to do.

we are no longer attached to anything, but the policeman is confused, and asks us to unlock ourselves. we point out we aren’t actually attached to anything. they make us walk down the steps. we stay locked together, yelling at oli that we love him, in case the police are being mean. finally they ask us to please unlock ourselves from the pipe. ok. then we take our helmets off. they tell us to put them back on.

they forget to search me, and put me in the paddywagon with a bag full of chocolate and an epi-pen. they recognise my novocastrian school jumper and chat with me about uni. i am lucky, processed by the nice cop, an ex youth worker. he makes sure we are ok, and never leaves us on our own. lib and sally dance in the back of the paddy wagon while they process me. they ask tony to put his number in front of his face so he does. the police man calls him a dickhead.

finally they are done and we get to ride home in an APEC bus. just the five of us, giggling up the back. it looks like my old school bus plus bars. it probably is. they take us back to camp, like school children, excited and back from a school excursion. a day well spent, and finally over.

Cranking Up Action at Climate Camp

When one thousand people took action against the coal industry’s role in dangerous climate change, they perhaps inadvertently elucidated an interesting debate about the realms of private and public property. In the ensuing weeks, whilst we were all recovering from ten long days of intense and anxious activism, debates raged online between activists and hecklers about the validity of such a demonstration. When I decided to attend Climate Camp, I had come to the conclusion that in order to solve the climate crisis it would take ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make the politicians do anything. Indeed, if you take a straw poll of many Australians most of them will tell you that politicians are usually reactionary; that is, they respond to crises, disturbances and blips that disrupt their pragmatic politics that allow them to straddle interest groups for decades whilst making little progress on the really difficult questions.

It was such that the Climate Camp project captured my imagination. It was a perfect juxtaposition, a group of committed members of the community potentially breaking the law and putting themselves in the firing line to protect something that is ours: the climate and our environment. In a rational world, police would have been instructed by the state to lock down the railway tracks so that the trains could not deliver another damaging load of coal – how dare they, the coal companies, show such disrespect for our property. Yet it couldn’t have been further from the truth. In reality, police were given the usual large powers that successive anti-riot laws have allowed them to aggregate. However, even to some police the whole exercise seemed irrational. When our affinity group of three students made it onto the tracks, most of the police were clearly frustrated that they were spending their entire Sunday in their huge riot suits as lackeys for corporations who continue to bleed the state of policing and economic resources to defend the indefensible. My arresting officer even admitted to me that he was uncomfortable doing this job. It had smashed the idealism that he had once had about being a police officer and serving the community, when in fact his labour was an accessory to the debasing of community property.

Who made the value judgement that private property eclipses social property? Economics students might argue it is a simple case of market failure, a case of not assigning property ‘rights’ to the air, but my contention is that even after we do this, won’t it be the same companies, the same rent seekers, the same interest groups causing the same political failures that predated this market failure? The only solution to this market failure is to fix the political failure that caused it. People power can beat climate change, but we have to be ready to non-violently break the law if that is what it takes to restore order in the biosphere.


Fences are the contours of dominance, power, control, oppression. Whether they are keeping people in or people out.

Baxter 05
We stood outside the fences and sent balloons up into the air. So that in their isolation the political prisoners could see that there was humanity. That there were people that deeply believed they should be free. We threw tennis balls over the fence with messages of support in English and Farsi. We threw a grappling hook over the perimeter fence. For which people were arrested and threatened with incarceration within prison walls. More fences. The further fences of prison walls.

…raging against fences. I feel hot. I feel suffocated. I feel all the injustice of the world raging through my body. And I feel terrified. The police remind me of the second assault, of the police inquiry into ‘aggravated sexual assault’. They remind me of that disempowerment. And their bodies pressing towards us, masked and faceless in their riot gear remind me of the faceless person fucking me. Feeling powerless. Feeling like they will always win in the end no matter how much you lash your body against them.

I sit now in Cipanas, a small village in West Java. It is past 7pm and I am locked in. But I am here out of choice. Working in a fundamental religious organisation. As a most passionate atheist I thought this would be selling out. But when I think about what is the most direct action I’ve done I think of here.

In jargon my position here would probably be best described as ‘consultant’ and I am accountable to no-one but myself. Which means being accountable to the community I’m working for. The place is a mental health and drug use rehab centre. In a country which views people as ‘setengah orang’ (half a person), this primarily means locking people up. My counselling and community development practice is based in a radical/anarchist perspective founded on ideas of empowerment, self-determination, resisting the pathologisations of people, and seeing well-being as a function of true freedom.

I have sat with people holding hands through the bars of the isolation cells. I have woken up every morning and spoken and laughed with people I love through the barbed wire fence which marks off the small yard connected to their dorms. And I regret not bringing my bolt cutters. But after a couple of months here, we have forged a relationship, a willingness, an understanding of ‘recovery’. And by hand, piece by piece, the fence comes down and the isolation cells become a store room for dusty cans of paint. This is only one drop in the ocean. But it is the first fence I have torn down. And it’s staying down. And we’ve planted vegie gardens where it used to stand. And inside I feel the deep secret warmth of solidarity with all those raging against fences with Molotov cocktails.

news from the ASEN network

Conveney Bites
Roll up, roll up and welcome to our fabulous and newly endorsed ASEN Convenors for 2009. Lian from Perth and Kristy from Brisvegas will step into their roles from February, and Dany from Newcastle will take on the role of Environment Officer for the National Union of Students. Hooray, we love you and good luck!

The ASEN website is back – beautiful, bewitching, bovine, bedazzling, bigger and better than ever. Check it out – www.localhost/

Coalture Jam
ASEN Climate Pirates have been stepping up attacks on the mighty (and rising) seas this last few months. A series of coordinated cannon-like bangs went off in the first week of November, when there were direct actions on nasty, polluting coal-fired power stations. Brave and wonderful climateers around the continent locked onto four power stations in one week. WA crew even got to share their day of glory with Obamarama Mania (ie, the death of G.W.B.).

But the fearsome attacks didn’t stop there – Queenslanders braved solid ground and hit the road for a Coal Communities Listening Tour. They spent two weeks listening and engaging with locals who, quite literally, live at Queensland’s coal-face. The listening tour was initiated to bridge the gap between communities, government, business and climate campaigners by listening to and documenting the concerns of community stakeholders, without judgment or debate.

The icing on the action cake was served in December. ASEN crew coal-laborated with outstanding community climate action groups to ‘step it up’ on climate change when the Krudd Government delivered a suicidal 5% emissions reduction target as part of a reprehensible Carbon Pollution Reduction Or Orwellian Sounding 95% Emission Capping Scheme. We sailed into police barricades at MPs offices across the country, sandbagging ahoy and dancing sorrowfully to the last tunes of the Great Barrier Reef. R.I.P.

Now we’re full [green] steam ahead into 2009. In 2009 the world will see the biggest, most powerful movement of millions of people standing up for climate justice. And we will start with a bang in February at Australia’s Climate Action Summit. Be there or sandbag your house.

In September, nukes activists in Sydney told Peter Garrett to keep the toxic trash in the 90s. Dressed as characters from appalling TV series ‘Beverley Hills 90210’ (which is threatening to make a ghastly comeback), activists converged at his electoral office to say 9021[NO!] to his approval to expand Beverley Uranium Mine from 8km2 to 100km2! A far cry from headlining a gig at the famous Jabiluka blockade, Peter has clearly changed his tune. Approval papers for more mines and mine expansions, for projects that will still be radioactive in 90210 years, are oozing like oil onto his desk.

Further on in November, twelve people attended the senate inquiry into whether the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management (CRWM) Bill should be repealed, as was promised by the Rudd Governmentt pre-election. After an inspiring session in Alice Springs, Mparntwe, where opposition to the dump and the draconian legislation was clear, this session in Canberra was mainly attended by pro-nuclear groups such as ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) and FAST (Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological societies). While representatives from FAST were presenting, activists in the audience covered their mouths with black bands proclaiming ‘repeal CRWM’. This was to represent the exclusion of many Traditional Owners from the process of deciding to build a nuclear waste dump on their lands.

The organising crew for the Students of Sustainability Conference made great links with local sovereign owners in Newcastle this year, starting conversations at the same time as organising was started and continuing communication throughout and beyond SoS. Organising together with local Indigenous people meant learning about protocol and collaboration and led to a great conference with lots of meaningful and inspiring content.

The strengthening of local links with Indigenous people around Australia was identified as one of the priorities of the Indigenous Solidarity working group, and different states are engaging in local campaigns as well as national initiatives such as the convergence in Alice Springs, Mparntwe, in October. Activists from across Australia converged on Mount Nancy town camp to hear from people suffering under the continuing draconian racist intervention. We visited town camps and communities, listened, talked, made friends, and learnt – and went back to our states with new inspiration in the continuing struggle against the NT intervention.

In Darwin people have been working with local Ylongu people, learning the language and getting to know people from communities, finding people who wanted their voices heard and helping that to happen. Students organised a community review of the Intervention in Darwin with people coming from Arnhem Land and Darwin town camps.

Land Ahoy!
And that’s all for ASEN news in this stinking hot summer’s day, which is a whole lot stinkier in a room full of activists. Except stinky like roses in the springtime of grassroots revolution. Happy 08/09. Checkout the busy bee ASEN calendar and get involved in your mind-blowingly amazing campus collective!