Alyawarr Ingkerr-wenh

Intervention sign
Opening Protest House Ampilatwatja Walk-off
Ampilatwatja walk-off

Northern Territory Emergency Response

The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) was announced in 2007 by the former Howard Commonwealth Government on the back of claims that pedophile rings were operating in Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory.

For an excellent overview of the NTER, click here and to view a blog-site from around the time of the Amilatwatja walk-off following NTER's introduction, click here. To read Professor Gillian Triggs' assessment, click here. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights' Examination of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 and related legislation also provides insight in relation to the NTER's compliance with Australia's human rights obligations.

The Intervention was imposed on all Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory in 2008. Key aspects of the Intervention include income management and compulsory health checks on children.

The recent development of income management programs within both the Cape York trial and the NTER provides a poignant contrast of approaches to working with Aboriginal peoples. Whereas the Cape York trial developed as a partnership between its four participating Aboriginal communities, the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership and the Queensland and Commonwealth governments, the NTER was imposed by the Commonwealth Government without any institutional Aboriginal support. Furthermore, the three key pieces of legislation that gave life to the NTER were suspended from the operation of that part of the Racial Discrimination Act which is concerned with the prohibition of racial discrimination.

The NTER, was precipitated by the Little Children are Sacred report of 2007. There is no denying that drastic action in many parts of the Northern Territory was and is warranted, but as United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya observed in his 2010 report on the situation of indigenous peoples in Australia, such action need not have been racially discriminatory, nor introduced without regard to Aboriginal peoples’ human rights.

In regard to outcomes, an evaluation of income management published in 2014 found that rather than building capacity and independence (as was hoped), for many the program has acted to make people more dependent on the welfare system. A key question to be asked is ‘what outcomes could be achieved if suitable governance arrangements were to be negotiated with existing Aboriginal institutions, traditional or otherwise, through instruments such as treaties?’.

The blanket imposition of the NTER across Aboriginal lands within the Northern Territory demeans all Aboriginal peoples living on them, including us Alyawarr.