Northern Territory Intervention (2007)
then prime minister, John Howard, and his Indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) into remote Indigenous communities. With no warning, and no consultation, the federal government moved swiftly to seize control of many aspects of the daily lives of residents in 73 targeted remote communities. It implemented coercive measures that would have been unthinkable in non-Indigenous communities. By deploying uniformed members of the Australian Defence Forces into the communities to establish logistics, the Intervention was designed to send a clear message of disruption and control. The government’s suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act raised further cause for concern. Township leases were compulsorily acquired over Aboriginal-owned land by the Commonwealth for a five-year period. And the permit system administered by Aboriginal land councils to control access to Aboriginal land was revoked. Medical teams were flown in to conduct compulsory health checks on children. Signs were posted declaring bans on alcohol and pornography in township areas. Income management was applied to all community residents receiving welfare payments, and income support payments were linked to satisfactory school attendance. The successful Community Development Employment Projects program was abolished, and employees were forced onto unemployment benefits. The police presence was increased in prescribed communities. And customary law was no longer allowed to be considered in bail applications and sentencing in criminal court cases.