Review by Tim Lam
The 2007 Northern Territory Emergency Response, also known as ‘The Intervention’, was one of the most controversial Australian government policies in recent memory. The federal government deployed military forces into remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and partially removed the permit system to Aboriginal land.
Editors Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss have brought together 20 of Australia’s finest Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers, elders, poets and commentators in The Intervention: An Anthology. The writers bring a fresh perspective to an issue chronically underexplored, but which continues to have enormous impact on the identity and culture of Indigenous Australians.
Essays from distinguished experts shed light on the language and motivations behind the intervention. Pat Anderson, co-chair of the inquiry that produced the Little Children Are Sacred report, offers a nuanced analysis of the paternalistic logic underlying the intervention. This is reflected in the top-down federal response to the Little Children Are Sacred report and the absence of consultation with Indigenous communities.
The Intervention features transcripts of speeches by prominent Indigenous figures such as Alywarra elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks. A notable highlight of the anthology is her impassioned call for all Australians to journey together in celebration of each other’s culture.
The anthology also includes a statement by Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, the first Indigenous Moderator of the Northern Territory synod and former Vice-President of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. Dr Gondarra responds to the ‘second intervention’ instituted by Julia Gillard in 2011 and argues for respectful collaboration and a relationship based on trust.
These essays and speeches are interspersed with powerful poetry and fiction that channels the anger and anguish caused by the intervention.
The Intervention is an accessible anthology that should be essential reading for all Australians. Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss have compiled a collection of compelling and important writing that brings to life the emotions, hurt and fear generated from the intervention. These provocative accounts challenge readers to reflect on whether the national rhetoric of reconciliation has indeed been matched with a genuine commitment to dialogue. With many remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia facing the threat of closure, the need to amplify the voices of First Peoples remains as relevant and urgent as ever.
The Intervention: An Anthology is published by ‘concerned Australians’ and can be purchased online from www.booktopia.com.au