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Understanding the Northern Territory Intervention - Part 1

August 2009: Intervention Update: Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has announced that the Commonwealth Government of Australia is going to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal Community Town Camps in the Northern Territory. This will start happening from early August 2009. The main focus so far has been on the Tangentyere Council which is based in Alice Springs. Tangentyere provides services to the 1,600 people from most Central Australian tribal groups living on the 18 town camps around the town. Over the years the council has been a spearhead for the establishment of other organisations as the need arose, such as Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (medical services), Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Planning Unit (alcohol rehabilitation), Institute for Aboriginal Development (educational institution), Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, Yipirinye School (independent Aboriginal school), outstation resource centres and so on. The NT Intervention took out compulsory 5-year leases over the town camps serviced by Tangentyere, along with outstations and other remote communities. The government said it needed powers to build housing quickly but not a single house has been built for Aboriginal people through the Intervention. Communities across the NT have been told that no housing will be built until long-term leases are signed with government. Town camps are now under threat of having their living areas compulsorily acquired permanently by the Federal Government and their housing stock given to the Northern Territory Government to manage. Most town camp residents have experienced tenancy under Territory Housing and know it doesnt work for them. Tangentyere, on behalf of its client group, wants to embrace the move taking place nationally towards community housing models. With government support they have undergone the process of setting up the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company and are keen to move ahead with this. They have implored the government to work in partnership with them and respect their right to have a say in the plans for their lives and for future generations. Town camps are special purpose leases in perpetuity and are set up as Aboriginal communal living areas. This is not nepotism: this is how Aboriginal people live together and support each other. A campaign in support of Tangentyere Council, its constituent members (the Housing Associations) and retention of its autonomy is growing nationally. Many more people need to raise their voices against this injustice. We are calling for public endorsement of the Statement opposing the Commonwealths proposal to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps. It is planned to publish this Statement and endorsements in the national media on 30 July, on the first day of the Australian Labor Partys national conference and one week prior to the governments planned takeover date of August 5. Signed Barbara Shaw Mt Nancy town camp, Intervention Rollback Action Group Larissa Behrendt Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS 17 July, 2009. Source: Background information on the proposed takeover is available from the website: More information on the Council is available on: Audio interviews with William Tilmouth, Executive Director of Tangentyere Council, can be found on