Speech: Indigenous Communities
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (00:24): On another matter, when I visited Alice Springs earlier this year I witnessed apartheid. The first time was outside a local bottle shop. I was with colleagues from the Alice Springs Greens; we were walking across town to the venue for our evening event. As we cut through a shopping centre we saw the Northern Territory apartheid laws in action: two men were stopped by police just as they came out of the shopping centre's bottle shop. I was with my colleague, Greens member and former federal candidate Barbara Shaw. Quite an argument ensued between the men and the police. The officer told the men that they knew the rules. The men objected to how they were being treated and said how it was unfair. The police officer told one of the men who had bought the alcohol that if he could bring back proof of where he lived, and if it complied, he would give him back his drinks. While this exchange played out many non-Aboriginal customers left the bottle shop with numerous alcoholic purchases. These people were not stopped or questioned.
There are 11 bottle shops in Alice and a police officer is stationed outside each one while these shops are open for business. If an Aboriginal person comes out with alcoholic drinks the officer asks them for identification. If the Aboriginal person cannot show proof of who they are and that they live in a location where they can drink alcohol, then their purchases are taken from them. Barbara Shaw told me how people are put on APOs-alcohol protection orders-and how, if they are caught three times with alcohol that the law deems they should not have, they have to go for mandatory treatment.
Many locals I met called Alice a police town. The police activities outside bottle shops occur as part of Operation Leyland, which comes under Stronger Futures legislation-a successor to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. The legislation allows police to stop and search people and confiscate their alcohol if there is a reasonable suspicion that alcohol will be taken to a restricted area. Operation Leyland bases its 'reasonable suspicion' on the colour of the purchaser's skin-racial profiling-and Aboriginal people are routinely stopped. Aboriginal people I met spoke of their concerns that these actions are not about reducing harm and providing a safe environment. The NTER gave police powers to enter Aboriginal homes without a warrant on the suspicion that there was alcohol inside. This resulted in police raids on town camps, terrifying residents and compounding feelings of social alienation. Many Aboriginal people I met in Alice told me they see these police activities as a means of disempowering Aboriginal communities. They told me how the authorities consistently refuse to seriously engage with Aboriginal leaders to empower communities to drive their own solutions. Stronger Futures actually allows for the development of alcohol management plans by individual communities; however, despite extensive efforts from Aboriginal people to negotiate such plans, there has been little movement.
Barbara Shaw said:
Aboriginal people can come up with their own solutions for their own problems, that's why we-
referring to the Mt Nancy town camp-
worked on our alcohol management plan. This has never been supported by the NT government and it has never been supported by the federal government. Our time and effort has been wasted, money has been wasted to recreate the wheel.
I congratulate the Intervention Rollback Action Group, the Northern Territory Greens and the many other organisations working to end the abuse and discrimination of Aboriginal people as well as working to promote self-determination so that communities can deal with the social problems they face.