Trouble in Eden



In response to the Wild-Anderson Report, Little Children are Sacred (June 2007) that outlined a pattern of widespread sexual abuse of small children and chronic alcoholism among aboriginals in the Australians' N.T. (Northern Territory), the federal government launched a major Intervention there sending in teams of doctors and health workers to examine all aboriginal children for abuse and special police and army units to stabilise the situation in remote communities. Moving beyond the recommendations contained in the Report the Howard government announced it would use compulsory acquisition powers and appoint administrators over aboriginal townships and centres (about 73 of them) for five years. These officials would be charged with building up local infrastructures and could assign individuals to work for their welfare payments at jobs assigned to them. More disturbing to aboriginal leaders and communities was a government plan to allow individual aboriginals to lease small plots of land on traditional community owned reserves for the purpose, it was said, of owning their home and/or to start a small business. Furthermore, traditional owners would be allowed to enter into long term leases (for 99 years) on their lands in order to attract outside investment and capitol. There was considerable fear among aboriginals that these unilateral moves by the government would undermine the basis of aboriginal culture and lead inevitably to the loss by aboriginal people of real control over their traditional land.