Geoff Scott, CEO NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Barb Shaw, Town Camp resident
Geoff Scott, CEO NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Barb Shaw, Mount Nancy Town Camp resident

I wandered downtown earlier today to catch up with some friends & countrymen at the Prescribed Area People’s Alliance Rally outside the historic John Flynn Church in the middle of the Alice Springs Mall. The main theme of the Rally was to celebrate – in a very ironic sense – the second anniversary of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “Sorry” speech to the Australian Parliament.

There was a pretty healthy turnout – certainly a lot more that the 50 quoted by the local ABC News earlier today.

Similar rallies were held in capital cities across the country – in Sydney a large group marched from La Perouse to Redfern.

After an hour and a half or so of speeches the group wound its way over to the local Yeperenye Shopping Centre to make some points about the much-loathed BasicsCard system – which will be wound out around the country with the expanded welfare quarantining and then to local MHR Warren Snowdon’s office.

One notable aspect of the Rally was the presence of senior members of the Maritime Union of Australia and the CFMEU who have worked with the Ampilitawatja community in building a ‘Protest House’ at the walk-off site and walk-off spokesperson Richard Downs along with members from outback communities, town camps and outstations who are resisting long-term leases over their land and intervention control measures. The protest house has been completed in less than two weeks to highlight government inaction on the chronic housing crisis across the NT.

Word is that Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin is far from pleased to see two of the largest – and among the most vocal – unions in the country coming out in support of their black brothers and sisters.

And judging from the content of their representatives fiery speeches at the Rally I don’t think that either union will be giving Macklin – and Labor – much money – or much to smile about in this Federal election year.

I’ll be taking a run out to Ampilitawatja tomorrow to attend the opening of the house – so I’ll have some more to report from there.

Here are a few pics from the action earlier today.

Professor Larissa Behrendt launches "This Is What We Said"
Professor Larissa Behrendt launches "This Is What We Said"

Professor Larissa Behrendt from Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney launched a new book “This Is What We Said” at the Alice Springs rally. This book puts on record views about the NT Intervention that were expressed by Aboriginal people during the NTER consultations held between June and August 2009, which the government has claimed, falsely in the opinion of many, showed support for income management. The book is also being launched in Sydney and Adelaide on 13th February.

I’ll do a review of the book in the next week or so. In the meantime you can find the text of Former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Professor Alastair Nicholson’s speech at the Melbourne launch of “This Is What We Said” here.

William Tilmouth, CEO of Tangentyere Council, Alice Springs
William Tilmouth, CEO of Tangentyere Council, Alice Springs
Elaine Peckham, traditional owner for Alice Springs speaks at the Rally
Elaine Peckham, a traditional owner for Alice Springs speaks at the Rally

Richard Downs, Ampilitwawatja walk-off spokesman
Richard Downs, Ampilitwawatja walk-off spokesman
Friends from the South - the MUA & CFMEU were represented
Friends from the South - the MUA & CFMEU were represented

Valerie Napaljarri Martin led the charge into the Yeperenye shopping mall
Valerie Napaljarri Martin led the charge of Yapa women into the Yeperenye shopping mall
Mutitjulu elder Vince Forester had a few words to say about BasicsCard to the shoppers
Mutitjulu elder Vince Forester had a few words to say about BasicsCard to the shoppers

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