I’ve known Sue Stanton, a fiercely proud member of the Kungarakan & Gurindji peoples, for too many years for either of us to remember.

For those who know her I don’t need to tell you that she is a careful and impassioned thinker on contemporary life and politics in the NT and beyond. For those that don’t know her, all I can say is the you are the poorer for not having the privelige of doing so.

Sometimes her clear thinking and forthright statements rub up what passes for the ‘great and the good‘ in the Northern Territory the wrong way. More power to her I say!

This piece is an excerpt from Sue’s essay, Letter from Darwin, that was published in the latest edition of borderlands, which is:

…a refereed international journal that aims to promote transdisciplinary work across the humanities, work which might also intersect with diverse practices and sites in culture, policy and everyday life. Although our beginnings are modest, we hope that over time you will be able to view writings cutting across and between politics, media, literature, history, law, science, medicine, philosophy, economics, music, film and more, along with incisive debate about contemporary culture.

Sue’s essay in borderlands examines the condition of Aboriginal people affected by the NT Intervention and analyses the ongoing implementation of the Intervention and its related spin-off projects in an all-too-rare historical context.

Letter from Darwin begins with:

The Rex Wild and Pat Anderson 2007 report Little Children are Sacred provided the first chapter of the series in this modern adaptation of a 220 year old classic that might aptly be titled ‘The Native Tribes of Australia.’ The 21st century version provides for an update of characters as well as a generous documentation on sexual abuse and women’s violence as opening scenes and pivotal parts for special task force, police, troops, medical teams, “Aboriginal experts”-both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal, but mostly non-Aboriginal. The new version of the old history of women’s violence and overall denial, indeed abuse of basic human rights is now contained in 500 pages under a misleading title termed “special measures”. The very latest and up-to-date manual on “Aboriginal legislation.”


The ultimate result has been the injection of enormous amounts of money into addressing the problems and issues that were interpreted as requiring urgent attention. This latest tilt at moral balance, after 220 years of colonisation, denial of rights and the absence of justice is just not convincing. Just as current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s symbolic rhetoric and well-rehearsed performance of apology to Stolen Generations offers promises of new beginnings and directions,
Aboriginal people, especially those at the lower end of the economic, and the rights scales, should remain highly suspicious and extremely cautious.

Sue notes at the conclusion of her essay:

Colonialism has an insatiable appetite – it is forever hungry, it can never be satisfied, and it recruits both unwitting as well as willing emissaries from the vast ranks and ever-growing number of colonised Aboriginal people. Sadly, there are those Aboriginal people who assist in the colonising of their own people as they have reconciled themselves to new arrangements and happily accept the status quo.

Perhaps Uncle Chicka Dixon was right when he named the 1970s wave of compliant natives “bourgeois blacks” and perhaps that name fits many today. While we cannot be guaranteed that central powers, at both national and state levels will not manipulate individuals or a national Aboriginal coalition of leaders, we must try something drastic if we are to survive as a People beyond the 21st century.

You can read the other contributions to the most recent volume of borderlands here and the rest of Sue Stanton’s Letter from Darwin here.

Other contributions from the current edition of borderlands, with the theme of “Acting Sovereign: Interventions in a Politics of Gendered Protectionism” include Goldi Osuri, Tanja Dreher & Elaine Laforteza ‘Acting sovereign’ in the face of gendered protectionism‘,  Nicole Watson ‘Of course it wouldn’t be done in Dickson! Why Howard’s Battlers Disengaged from the Northern Territory Emergency Response‘, Irene Watson ‘Aboriginality and the Violence of Colonialism‘, Goldie Osuri ‘(Im)possible Co-existence: notes from a bordered, sovereign present‘, Shakira Hussein & Alia Imtoual ‘A fraught search for common political ground: Muslim communities & alliance-building in post-9/11 Australia’.

Essays include Tanja Dreher,  ‘Eavesdropping with permission: the politics of listening for safer speaking spaces‘, Elaine Laforteza, ‘Speaking into safety: Orientalism in the classroom‘, Paula Abood ‘Race and the City: Series One

And finally the Interview with Sue Stanton, Shakira Hussein, Alia Imtoual, Nicole Watson & Goldie Osuri
Reflections and Insights: The Gender, Violence and Protection Workshops and Forum‘.

Enjoy!