March 30, 2011

Intervention petition

I've been reminiscing lately and had a read through some of my blog posts from years back when I would post really regularly. (Okay, not so much reminiscing as procrastinating from study, perhaps). The blog posts that got the biggest responses were about the first community meetings after the Intervention was announced (see here and here). I still regard the Intervention as one of the nails in the coffin that caused me to burnout and leave Ngukurr after three years of successful work. It was so demoralising to have something so huge dumped on you from 'above'. And I wasn't even an Aboriginal resident!

The issue of the Intervention is ongoing. Many feel it is contributing to town-drift which is in turn leading to worsening homelessness, crappier housing situations, increased crime etc. The NT Government's silly 'Growth Towns' policy and neglect of outstations/small communities is also to blame, in my opinion. Oh, and check out Ngukurr mob talking about how they were duped into thinking the Intervention would drastically improve the housing situation at Ngukurr when they signed over a township lease to the government. This excellent piece aired on NT Stateline in Nov 2010.

Ok, to get to the petition mentioned in the post title, the UN's High Commissioner for Racial Discrimination, Navi Pillay, is visiting Australia in May. A mob have put up an online petition that you can look at here:

The wording goes:

To: UN Human Rights Commissioner

Dear Navi Pillay,

Welcome to Australia.

We are calling on you to encourage Government to end the Northern Territory Intervention and to restore the rights of Aboriginal people. The people were not consulted before the Intervention nor have they given their consent to it.

Control over land and communities must be returned to Aboriginal people. Changes to the law are urgently needed to restore and protect the rights of Aboriginal peoples in the NT to determine their own futures. We ask you for your assistance.

I'm not sure how useful petitions like these are, but hey, can't hurt to try.

March 16, 2011

Useless bank

It's been said before but life in remote communities is tough.

I've been helping the language gang at Ngukurr to establish themselves as an independent organisation to re-start the language revitalisation activities they were carrying out for years under the auspices of the now-crippled Katherine Language Centre. The Ngukurr group have held meetings and taken all the right steps to get established. Next on the list is to open a bank account. At a meeting, they decided on signatories and chose ANZ as their preferred bank (one of three major banks with branches in Katherine), all sensible and following the right processes.

So today I went to ANZ to get the account-opening process started. The good news was that the Ngukurr mob have done everything right and have everything they need. Just one "simple" step that actually wasn't simple at all and really pissed me off...

"So the signatories just need to come in to the branch and then we can set up the account".

Sounds so simple! Except that they're in Ngukurr which is 320kms away, which gets cut off by road for up to 6 months a year, which is happening now and until maybe June. Plus they're old, not always in great health and live off of Centrelink pensions.

"What's the provision for people in remote communities who can't get into town? Surely they could get certified copies of all their documentation", I asked.

"Sorry, there's nothing we can do."

"So what happens when people physically can't come to the branch? There has to be some provision for that?"

"Sorry, that's just how it is."

I'd hit a brick wall with zero compassion from the bank staff I was talking to. There was nothing I could do but just leave, displeased (to put it mildly).

Displeased and thinking what a crap policy that is. We're talking about an account for a not-for-profit community organisation here. And the bank is saying that all signatories, who are all old and live off Centrelink benefits, are required to make an impossible journey just so they can bank with no-compassion ANZ?

Talk about putting up brick walls to good people in remote communities who are just trying to do something positive.

I'm still angry.

When I got home I phoned ANZ to repeat my inquiry and I was given the same line. Which was awful, but then I asked how I can make a complaint, which I did and they now have to attend to my complaint. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Unless there's a change in what the ANZ is saying, the options for the group are to have another official meeting and change the bank of choice (I know Commonwealth accepts certified copies) or magically find $2200 to fly the signatories in just so they can 'present' at the bank. Or wait 2-3 until the roads clear and go to the branch that way, which is still expensive as well as a big waste of time.

It's not fair at all. A big fat thumbs down to ANZ. Boooooooooo!!!!