Dodson lashes 'sinister intervention'

The Australian, - September 13th, 2007
Author: Stuart Rintoul

ABORIGINAL leader Pat Dodson has penned a savage attack on the Howard Government's intervention in the Northern Territory, describing it as a sinister attempt to extinguish indigenous culture.

In the first book dealing with the historic intervention three months ago - Coercive Reconciliation - Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia - Mr Dodson also takes aim at Aboriginal leaders who have supported the Government's plan, calling them recklessly naive.

Without naming Noel Pearson or other Aboriginal leaders who have backed the intervention, he writes: "Some indigenous voices in this debate, motivated by the urgency of ending the suffering in indigenous communities, have been recklessly naive in aiding and abetting the Howard Government's agenda.

"Indigenous advocates, campaigning for structural change in government relationships that aim to liberate their people from the tyranny of welfare dependency and control, have misread the indigenous political struggle."

In an essay titled Whatever Happened to Reconciliation?, Mr Dodson, who has been called the father of reconciliation, paints a picture of a government using the pretext of child abuse in the Territory to force Aborigines to integrate into mainstream society.

He says the Government is bent on a radical agenda of "deconstructing and denying the abilities of indigenous people to live in their settlements on traditional country" and has set out to "remodel them into mine labourers, small business people and private entrepreneurs".

He writes that Aboriginal people have so consistently been portrayed as sexual deviants and sociopaths during the Howard years that it has set like cement in the minds of ordinary Australians that "there is nothing noble in the Aboriginal race".

In a separate essay in the book, which is edited by ANU academics Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson, Mr Dodson's brother Mick describes the intervention as "storm-trooper tent diplomacy of health providers dressed in battle fatigues".

Attacking indigenous policy during the Howard years, Pat Dodson writes: "The benign use of government language - mainstream services, practical reconciliation, mutual obligations, responsibilities and participation in the real economy - cloaks a sinister destination."

He says the Government's goal is "the extinguishing of indigenous culture by attrition", and describes this as "a searing moral challenge" for the nation.

In Alice Springs yesterday, Mr Dodson emerged from a briefing by NT taskforce chairwoman Sue Gordon and operational commander Major General David Chalmers concerned that little had been done to stem the "rivers of grog" flowing into Aboriginal communities with still no valid explanation for taking over Aboriginal land or abolishing the permit system controlling access to Aboriginal communities.

He said a succession of reports suggested Aboriginal living standards had worsened during the Howard years. Whole-of-government trials in Aboriginal communities aimed at bringing together the various levels of government, shared responsibility agreements and regional partnership agreements had been "anunmitigated public policy disaster".

"Coercive Reconciliation", a collection of essays by Aboriginal leaders, academics and social commentators, is edited by Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson, and published by Arena.