Will they be heard? – independent report on NTER “consultations”
Alice Springs Aboriginal Town Camps Court ruling


– Report

Will they be heard? – a response to the NTER Consultations
– June to August 2009
Introduction by the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Prepared by Alastair Nicholson, Larissa Behrendt,
Alison Vivian, Nicole Watson and Michele Harris
Research Unit, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning
Nov 2009: “II. Summary Points
37. The consultation process undertaken by the Department
of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs (‘FaHCSIA’) in relation to the Northern Territory
Emergency Response (‘NTER’) is insufficient to qualify as
indicating consent by Aboriginal people in the Northern
Territory to special measures for the purposes of the Racial
Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).
38. The deficiencies in the process include:
a. Lack of independence from government on the part of the
people undertaking the consultancy;
b. Lack of Aboriginal input into design and implementation;
c. Lack of notice;
d. An absence of interpreters;
e. The consultations took place on plans and decisions
already made by the government;
f. Inadequate explanations of the NTER measures;
g. Failure to explain complex legal concepts; and
h. Concerns about the government’s motives in implementing
consultation. … “

– Media Releases

Melbourne Law School: The University of Melbourne:
The Hon. Malcolm Fraser launches “Will they be heard?” report
23 Nov 09: “Former Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Fraser,
has joined legal experts and community group “concerned
Australians” in calling for the Rudd Government to
reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act, in line with human
rights principles, as he launched the “Will they be heard?”
report at Melbourne Law School, today. In launching “Will
they be heard?”, the Hon. Malcolm Fraser, said the report
provided detailed evidence that the Government’s
consultation with Aboriginal communities was significantly
flawed and had a predetermined end, that resulted in the
views of Aboriginal communities not being heard, even
though the imposition of “special measures” such as income
management, would have a profound and direct affect on

Greens: Independent report suggests Macklin’s attempts to
restore the RDA will fail
23 Nov 09: “An independent report released today on recent
Northern Territory reform consultation undermines any
attempt by Minister Jenny Macklin to restore the Racial
Discrimination Act by appealing to ‘special measures.’ The
independent report is at odds with the FaHCSIA consultation
report and media statements today by Minister Jenny Macklin
– who claims the consultations were ‘comprehensive’ and
highlighted comments supporting the NTER. “The independent
report concludes that serious deficiencies in FaHCSIA’s
consultation process mean that it cannot be legally
considered as indicating consent to the use of
discriminatory measures for the purposes of the Racial
Discrimination Act,” said Greens Aboriginal Issues
spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert.”

STICS – Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney
RDA reinstatement masks continuation of racist laws
24 Nov 09: “The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney
(STICS) has condemned Minister Jenny Macklin’s plans to
introduce legislation this week, which characterise NT
Intervention controls as “special measures” under the
Racial Discrimination Act (1975). … “The government
claims to have held over 500 consultations – as though
Intervention policies have the support of effected
communities. However, the results of these consultations
were exposed as a farce the same day they were released.
The consultations were subject to devastating criticisms by
scholars like Alastair Nicholson and Larissa Behrendt.
They’ve shown that the decision to continue the
Intervention was made before the process started, and the
government structured meetings to stifle opposition.” “

Greens: NTER reform consultation meeting transcripts
denied public scrutiny
26 Nov 09: “The Senate today refused an Australian Greens’
motion to make available transcripts of the Government’s
Northern Territory reform consultation meetings. … “An
independent report has shown that deep flaws exist in the
Government’s consultation process. Yet the Government is
claiming there is support for continuing the use of
discriminatory measures, which is not consistent with the
findings of the Independent Review.” … “The independent
report identified significant problems in the manner in
which the consultation meetings they attended were
conducted, and released full transcripts that support
these claims,” said Senator Siewert.”

– Opinion

ABC Unleashed: Will they be heard?
26 Nov 09: “The Government plans to introduce amendments to
Parliament that have the effect of reviving the Racial
Discrimination Act in those NT Aboriginal communities
affected by the Howard Government’s 2007 Intervention.
While this is to be applauded, it appears that the
Government also wants to preserve aspects of the
Intervention and has held ‘consultations’ with the
communities which it hopes will enable it to characterise a
number of measures, including compulsory income protection
as ‘special measures’ under the Act.” Alastair Nicholson

Crikey: Jenny Macklin turns a deaf ear to intervention gripes
24 Nov 09: “Yesterday a group of well-qualified
commentators released a report called Will they be heard?,
which involved a detailed analysis of more than nine hours
of consultations between FaHCSIA and Aboriginal communities
at Bagot, Utopia and Ampilatwatja, plus government
summaries of all consultations held.” Eva Cox

New Matilda: The Government Wants A Word With You
23 Nov 09: “The Rudd Government seems to have a very
interesting idea of what ‘community consultation’ actually
means, writes Sarah Burnside … Tomorrow, at Melbourne Law
School, speakers including former prime minister Malcolm
Fraser and retired Melbourne bishop Hilton Deakin will
launch a report entitled Will they be heard? A response to
the NTER consultations June — August 2009. The report is
based on independent records of recent consultations held at
the Northern Territory communities of Utopia, Bagot and
Ampilatwatja.” Sarah Burnside

– Video

Vimeo: NT Intervention “consultations” at three communities
by Eleanor Gilbert
26 Nov 09: “Recordings of the “consultations” at
Bagot Community, Ampilatwatja and Arlparra/Utopia
– 5 minutes from each community”

Vimeo: “Will They Be Heard”: Malcolm Fraser launches
independent report on NT Intervention “consultations”
by Eleanor Gilbert
26 Nov 09: “Malcolm Fraser, former PM’s speech at the
launch of the independent report “Will They Be Heard?” “

Vimeo: Alastair Nicholson’s critique of NT Intervention
by Eleanor Gilbert
27 Nov 09: “Alastair Nicholson, Former Chief Justice of the
Family Court delivers his critique of the FHCSIA
“consultations” and introduces Shane Charles, Prof Larissa
Behrendt, Theo Mackaay”

– Radio

ABC Life Matters:
Northern Territory consultation process ‘flawed’
24 Nov 09: “The Australian government has recently
consulted with Aboriginal communities about the Northern
Territory Emergency Response, known as ‘the Intervention’,
launched by the previous government. An independent report,
Will They Be Heard?, has called the consultation process
‘wasteful’ and ‘flawed’. It’s identified a lack of
independence and transparency with the process, and a
failure to properly explain the ‘special measures’ and
legal concepts. …
Guests: Alaistair Nicholson, Co-author, Will They Be Heard?
Former Chief Justice of the Family Court”

NT intervention deliberately ignored Indigenous views: report
23 Nov 09: “A new report accuses the Federal Government of
deliberately ignoring the views of Aboriginal people on the
Northern Territory Intervention. The former Prime Minister
Malcolm Fraser is launching the report this evening. The
former Chief Justice of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson
is one of the report’s authors. It concludes that the
government’s “consultation” sessions were a sham, which
offered the communities no choice on the Intervention’s
[includes interview with Alastair Nicholson]

ABC PM: Minister defends intervention consultations
23 Nov 09: “The Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny
Macklin says the report is wrong. Releasing the results of
the government’s consultations on the intervention today,
she said that generally people had reported benefits from
compulsory income management. She says the consultations
were comprehensive and were also monitored by an
independent agency.”

– News

ABC: ‘Inept’ consultations ignored Indigenous views
24 Nov 09: “A new report accuses the Federal Government of
deliberately ignoring the views of Aboriginal people on the
Northern Territory Intervention. It concludes that the
Government’s “consultation” sessions were a sham, which
offered the communities no choice on the intervention’s
future. … The “Will They Be Heard” report has been put
together by a community group called Concerned Australians.”
[includes 72 comments]

National Indigenous Times: Report revealing “fundamentally
flawed” consultations backed by Australian Greens
24 Nov 09: “The Australian Greens have seized on the
findings of an independent report as proof the Rudd
government’s consultations with Aboriginal communities over
the Northern Territory intervention were flawed. Greens
Indigenous spokeswoman Senator Rachel Siewert says
discriminatory elements of the scheme must now be scrapped.
“For all intents and purposes there has been a failure to
consult,” she said in a statement. “Claims of alleged
support for the proposed measures are not credible, and the
minister cannot use this process to claim genuine informed
consent.” “

Koori Mail: NTER reports diverge
[scroll down page] http://www.koorimail.com/index.php
24 Nov 09: “TWO divergent reports have been released on
community consultations over the ongoing NT Emergency
Response (NTER). Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser
yesterday launched a report that argues the inadequacy of
consultations held at Bagot, Ampilatwatja and Utopia, while
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin released
a report on 500 meetings and workshops she said were
‘extensive’ and welcomed by many people as genuine.”


– Media Release

Rollback the Intervention: Media Releases
26 Nov 09: “On behalf of my fellow applicants I am making a
brief statement in relation to the court findings. We were
pleased to hear we won the two court injunctions back on
6 August, today we are sadden by the court’s rulings. With
the case, we were trying to give Aboriginal people affected
by the government’s policies a chance to take part in the
decision-making processes. We exercise our right under the
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which this
government finally supports.” Barbara Shaw, Mt Nancy Town
Camp, Mpartnwe-Alice Springs

– News

National Indigenous Times:
Aboriginal pleas fall on deaf ears over town camp takeover: Shaw
27 Nov 09: “A Federal Court decision to allow the federal
government to take over town camps in Alice Springs is
further proof Aboriginal people are not being listened to,
a town camp resident says. Mt Nancy town camp resident
Barbara Shaw in August won an injunction to halt the
activation of the leases of 16 Northern Territory Indigenous
housing associations. The federal government said it wanted
secure land tenure before spending money on new housing,
refurbishments and other works. Ms Shaw argued the 40-year
leases weren’t in the interests of the Aboriginal people
living in the camps and said there was no guarantee $100
million in promised funding would actually be spent.”

National Indigenous Times: Town camp takeover will allow
work to start by Christmas: Henderson
27 Nov 09: “Work will begin before Christmas to improve the
living standards of Aboriginal people in Alice Springs,
following a federal court decision allowing the federal
takeover of town camps. Northern Territory Chief Minister
Paul Henderson made the promise in Parliament in Alice
Springs on Thursday. He said he welcomed the Federal Court
decision, handed down in Adelaide on Thursday, to dismiss
an appeal against the planned takeover.”

Australian: Court win paves way for camp upgrades
27 Nov 09: “THE federal government will urgently move to
clean up Alice Springs Aboriginal town camps ahead of a
$100 million package of housing upgrades, after a court
rejected a last-ditch bid by residents to halt long-term
lease deals.”

Age: Town camp residents lose court challenge
27 Nov 09: “THE Federal Government will proceed with its
$100 million plan to improve conditions in Alice Springs’
decrepit town camps after a court yesterday rejected a
legal challenge by indigenous residents. Led by Barbara
Shaw, the camp residents argued that housing associations
that control the camps had signed new 40-year subleases
with the Government illegally, … “

National Indigenous Times: Rudd govt can proceed with
Alice Springs town camp takeover: court ruling
26 Nov 09: “The federal government can take over town camps
in Alice Springs after the Federal Court dismissed an
appeal to the deal. Justice John Mansfield today dismissed
an appeal against the planned takeover, launched by town
camp resident Barbara Shaw.”

Koori Mail: Alice Springs camps challenge fails
[scroll down page] http://www.koorimail.com/index.php
26 Nov 09: “ALICE Springs town camp residents have lost
their legal bid to stop the Federal Government from taking
over the leases on their land. The case, brought by town
camp resident Barbara Shaw, was rejected by the Federal
Court, but the judge has granted a temporary stay to allow
for an appeal.”

ABC: Alice town campers lose bid against takeover
26 Nov 09: “Alice Springs town camp residents have lost
their case against a Federal Government plan to impose new
lease agreements on their land. About 3000 people live in
town camps on the outskirts of Alice Springs. The
Government said it would compulsorily acquire the town camp
land if residents did not sign new 40-year leases in
exchange for the promise of housing upgrades.”

ABC: Residents fail in town camp challenge
26 Nov 09: “The Federal Government says it will soon be
able to start work cleaning up impoverished Indigenous town
camps in Alice Springs after winning a vital legal

– Radio

CAAMA Radio News
(Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association):
27 Nov 09: “Alice Springs Town Camp residents have a week
to appeal the decision by the Federal Court’s injuction of
the Rudd Government land take over.”

CAAMA Radio News
(Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association):
26 Nov 09: “Federal court has dismissed an appeal for the
Federal Government’s land takeover for Tangentyere town

ABC PM: Alice town camps sign lease deal with Commonwealth
26 Nov 09: “The Federal Government says it will soon be
able to start work cleaning up the impoverished Indigenous
town camps in Alice Springs. Sixteen of the camps have
agreed to sign 40 year leases with the Commonwealth in
return for hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent on
new houses and infrastructure. That plan was put on hold
when one resident launched a legal challenge to the leases.
But that was dismissed in the Federal Court today.”

ABC The World Today: Commonwealth wins court challenge
26 Nov 09: “BEN SCHOKMAN: I wouldn’t say it’s a
disappointing outcome. I think the important message here
is the fact that affected Indigenous communities feel as
though they haven’t had an adequate opportunity to
participate in decision making about matters which affect
them. Now the right of self determination is a fundamental
human right and the approach that we’re seeing of the
current Federal Government is to entirely disregard that
right. ELEANOR HALL: That’s lawyer Ben Schokman.”

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