Top leader now backs Territory intervention

Lindsay Murdoch
The Age
September 20, 2007

THE Government has won the support of Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the Northern Territory's most powerful Aboriginal leader, for its radical intervention in remote indigenous communities.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough will announce today that he has reached a landmark agreement with Mr Yunupingu.

The agreement is a massive breakthrough for the Howard Government, which had been accused by Aboriginal leaders of trying to undermine the decades-long battle for land rights.

The agreement includes land tenure reform in Arnhem Land, including some land being leased to the Government for 99 years a move that had been rejected by many Aboriginal leaders.

Until Mr Yunupingu met Mr Brough in a secret meeting on his land in Arnhem Land last month, he had been one of the fiercest critics of the intervention, telling people at an indigenous festival only days earlier that the Government's actions were "sickening, rotten and worrying".

The meeting is believed to have been brokered by Noel Pearson, director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, who also attended.

Details of the negotiations have been kept secret, angering other indigenous leaders who have been campaigning against the intervention.

But Mr Yunupingu's decision to do a deal is a big win for the Government as police start to enforce alcohol and pornography bans in 73 targeted communities across the Northern Territory.

A former chief executive of the Northern Land Council and a one-time Australian of the Year, Mr Yunupingu is widely respected throughout the Territory's indigenous communities.

Mr Brough will announce details of the deal with Mr Yunupingu in Parliament today when he introduces changes to legislation relating to the intervention.

This will include amending the Broadcasting Services Act to prohibit the screening of adult-only television programs in prescribed areas. The Government has received complaints from indigenous women about adult programs on cable and free-to-air television.

He will also announce changes to ensure roadhouses meet tougher restrictions on liquor sales and allow Defence Housing Australia to help with housing in remote areas.

Mr Brough is also expected to report on the progress of the emergency response.