Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

NT: Quarintine racism, not welfare!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The police and military intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory has already cost $900 million. In that time no new houses, schools or anything useful for the communities has been built.
By Socialist Party reporters, Perth

In fact the only new infrastructure built has been to house the 810 new ‘intervention staff’. Community programmes have been taken away; there are no more night patrols, community buses or women’s centres. $200,000 has been spent building a fence around a rubbish tip but houses, schools and hospitals in desperate need of repair get nothing.

Recent research commissioned by the Australia Medical Association (AMA) revealed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is currently under-funded to the tune of $450 million annually. Yet first Howard, and now Rudd, want us to believe that the issues facing Indigenous communities are not social but are in fact about law and order!

This is no surprise if the real reasons for the intervention are understood. Howard and Rudd claimed that the NT intervention was to ‘protect children from abuse’. But there absolutely is no evidence to suggest that child abuse is any worse in the Northern Territory than in other low income areas throughout Australia. In fact not one of the recommendations from the report that the intervention was based on was introduced. Instead Aboriginal land ownership was seen as the problem and this is the central issue in the NT intervention.

Sixty per cent of Australian mineral operations occur adjacent to Aboriginal land. Mining companies must negotiate with Aboriginal communities if they want to mine the land. The central theme of the intervention has been to shift people out of so called ‘unviable communities’ and into urban centres.

This has been done in the main through the welfare quarantine policy and the abolition of community programmes which forces more people onto welfare payments. Unemployment for Aboriginals is higher than any other section of society, yet the government jobs programme has been cut, forcing yet more people onto welfare quarantine.

The result of the welfare quarantine is that people living in remote areas do not have access to fresh food. Interviews by the Intervention Rollback Action Group based in Alice Springs have found evidence of people starving because they are unable to access their quarantined money. Meat has often gone green and is inedible; people are going hungry because the government wants the land where they live. This is forcing people into urban centres where there is a crisis of overcrowding and homelessness.

The aim of the intervention is to eradicate community title and promote private ownership. This is the latest in a series of aggressive federal government moves to coerce Aboriginal communities to give up their land in exchange for promises of funding for houses and repairs that should be provided regardless.

The intervention is clearly setting precedents against land rights, welfare rights and basic democratic freedoms. The military-police deployment in the Northern Territory is being used as a testing ground and if successful similar plans to wind back rights will be implemented against other oppressed layers of society.

The Socialist Party stands totally opposed to these latest attacks on indigenous communities. We call for police and army officers to withdraw from Aboriginal communities immediately. What is required is money for health, education and social services. We support full land rights and a democratically-planned strategy based on the interests of the poor and working class to overcome the deep social problems of indigenous Australia. We also fight to take the main pillars of the economy into public ownership, under democratic control. Only this will put an end to the abject poverty we currently see in indigenous communities.

The Socialist Party stands for:

– Total opposition to the Northern Territory intervention.
– Immediate withdrawal of the police and army.
– Full land rights, end of compulsory welfare quarantine and the reinstatement of 1975 Racial Discrimination Act and 1976 Land Rights Act.
– Full funding for health, education, housing and social services.
– Community control of funding and resources to solve all social issues.
– Bring the main pillars of economy into public ownership and under workers control to be run in the interests of all not just a super rich few.


The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare many of the problems with capitalism. The Socialist strives to explain the systemic causes of this crisis, and reports about the issues that are important to working people. We also help to organise struggles against the powers that be.

We don’t receive a cent from big business or governments. Our work is fully funded by our supporters. Even if half the people who read our website every month donated a few dollars each we would raise thousands to help our work!

We need organisations of struggle now more than ever, so if you support what we do please consider making a donation.

One-off or regular donations can be made securely HERE.