An art exhibition titled “Intervention Intervention” opened in Sydney this week featuring the works of 18 artists, engaging and exploring the realities of the Northern Territory Intervention.
The exhibition was organized to counter what the curators described as a whitewashing of the Intervention in the mainstream media and by Australian politicians.
The Intervention was implemented by the Howard government in 2007 and has not only been maintained but also intensified by the successive Labor governments.
The intervention has been condemned by the United Nations and was slammed by a UN special Rapporteur Professor James Anaya during his visit to Northern Territory in 2009, where he reported that the intervention is in breach of treaties to which Australia is a signatory.
The exhibition is a response by the artists about the little-known realities of the intervention, which have developed since 2007.
The artworks focus on the changes to welfare, law enforcement and land tenure. Under the intervention, whole Aboriginal communities have had their welfare payments quarantined, some moved off their land and stronger police and military presence.
In order to implement the Intervention the government was forced to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act as only Aboriginal people were targeted.
The government says the intervention was necessary to prevent the outbreak of child sexual abuse in some Northern Territory communities.
The exhibition developed out of a general feeling amongst the arts community of concern and despair about the injustices happening to the people affected by the Northern Territory Intervention.
The curators and artists acknowledge that there were serious issues of violence and alcohol abuse exacerbated by poverty amongst the targeted communities in the Northern Territory.
However, they say the intervention has failed to address these issues as well as the claims of child sexual abuse.
Moreover, the same measures have not been taken against non-indigenous communities where these problems occur. It is this stark discrimination that has led both domestic and international bodies to strongly condemn this government measure.