On the fourth anniversary of the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory, Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has urged the Government to start consulting the very people it is affecting.
According to Gooda, while the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the Intervention) - which also banned pornography and alcohol, and compulsorily acquired land and managed the income of indigenous people in 73 prescribed communities - has had some benefits, he said it is time to "get back to basics".
"We were told the Little Children Are Sacred Report was the driving force for the intervention which had protecting women and children as its top priority," said Gooda.
"One of the fundamental problems with the intervention is that it didn't implement the report's first recommendation, which was that Aboriginal people had to be consulted."
Gooda said the intervention would have more chance of succeeding if the Government listened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and not just the service providers.
"We need to listen to the mums and dads, the young people and the elders, the remote communities and the Town Campers in Alice Springs," he said.
Gooda added that the major challenge ahead would be overcoming the hurt caused by the intervention, which effectively treated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people differently from other Australians.
"The intervention painted everyone in 73 communities in the Northern Territory with the one brush. Old or young, drinker or non-drinker, with kids or without kids, everyone was treated the same," he said.
"Painting everyone in a community with the same brush is neither helpful, nor fair - particularly to those many people doing the right thing."
Gooda said it gave him no pleasure to say that the relationships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been badly damaged by the intervention.
"We need to repair these relationships urgently," he said. "The intervention is scheduled to finish in August next year. Now's the time to correct what didn't work and build on what did."
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