People are not the property of people; the Northern Territory is a prison built brick by brick by the Commonwealth

Gerry Georgatos
“For most of these women, the notion of human rights is unheard of. They have lived all their lives believing that they have no rights at all,” said the founder of Sisters Inside, Debbie Kilroy – who counsels women while they are still in prison.

As my PhD research progresses in studying Australian custodial systems and their effects with the worst culminating in deaths in custody – the major component of my research is in understanding Australian deaths in custody (prison, police, immigration custodial related) however all the researching leads me to trauma – various trauma; situational trauma, predicaments in which people find themselves, the abyss of various traumas, multiple, that are causal to various directions we take in life or are guided to – this is the trauma or the negative social conditions to which many are born in, and not all these conditions are the by-product of familial breakdown and dysfunction however they are the by-products of conditions imposed by the State – so there is a determinism that is long manifest, before our first breath on this earth that for many folk denies them equal opportunity in life from the very beginning of life. These contemplations have led me to inculcate into my research into Australian custodial systems and the study of the effects that culminate in deaths in custody the whole concept of trauma; how the custodial systems – especially prison and police related – are underlain by the need for trauma to induce vicarious circumstance and predicament and various malicious patterns of behaviour and the subsequent responses (reactive) by the various authorities and their management systems.

Healing is a major step in the intervention of trauma, however as a society legislatively we need to move to prevention, in that we reduce, preferably eliminate, hard traumas from the social conditions imposed on many folk by the State, for instance indeed with the Emergency Response Actions in the Northern Territory – I have come to the considered understanding that the majority of Aboriginal folk in the Northern Territory are in a prison like custodial jurisdiction and hence the subsequent trauma, causal, situational, inter-generational, compounded daily by their discrimination, exploitation (be it inadvertent; however authority is hierarchical and its presence is exploitive in terms of the relations of power), and hence the stripping, the erosion, the diminution of peoples’ identities; historical, cultural, contemporary and as human beings – there is the impost of inequality.

The Northern Territory Intervention and Stronger Futures are custodial predicaments and hence the premise to the arguments by many that they are racist occurrences. Statistics indicate that everything since the Military Emergency Response in the Northern Territory have got worse and not better, and similarly with those in the acute localised custodial predicaments of juvenile and adult prisons and immigration detention people upon release from the custody of the State leave worse compared to when they went in.

I have visited Immigration Detention Centres and I have visited adult prisons and I have interviewed former detainees of Australia’s Immigration detention centres network (there are now more than 30 facilities spread across the continent) and I have interviewed numerous people who have served sentences in adult and juvenile custodial jurisdictions. What struck me was that most of them appeared brutalised by the custodial experience to a point that for some of them recovery appeared at best a long-shot, and for many distinctly irrecoverable from the various trauma that not only they described however clearly appeared self-evident. Some of the folk I interviewed who had been released from prison, done their time, were from the Northern Territory, and though the Intervention has been in place for half a decade they spoke of it in ways that it had been life-long. I not only heard, however saw, the hurt in these youth who are now the victims of the Intervention, which was set up to help communities however clearly is breaking lives and the human spirit while they see others around them enjoy the lived experience bountifully – the acknowledgment of inequality, of realising ones inequality, of realising of a life with seemingly insurmountable, and in the least as perceivably unfair barriers are also psychological traumas that will need to be understood and subsequently managed by those who need to dig deep to break the cycles, inter-generational and contemporary imposts; however does any reasonably-minded person believe that such merit to do so is on tap at all times in people, especially in those made vulnerable, and in those young folk straight out of the hardening of their form and content especially when their form and content has been borne in a social environment that bespeaks inequality? When they see their communities humiliated by the presence of various authorities, of other young people from all parts of Australia dressed well, contrasting starkly to them in terms of social and physical health, speaking differently, both instinct and rationalism struggle to cope in how to react. This lead to disassociation between people as they stare at each over a chasm – they know of these haves, while they recognise the impost of a have not status, as agents of government and acknowledge that they have to effectively bow down to these. This is soul destroying and this is what has struck me not only from the many interviews with former prison inmates from the Northern Territory however also from many community Elders and spokespeople I have long yarned with who likewise feel not only disempowered and disenfranchised by the Intervention, but humiliated, crushed, and in having to deal with the trauma of various depressions and the witness that they are passing the disposition to these to their children and their children’s children.

Not just one, however twelve Northern Territory Elders, twelve out of twelve, said to me that the Intervention is a prison, and that they do not just live in prison-like conditions however in an actual prison, in that they see the warden, the guards, and in that they can see the walls, the bars, and the heavy metal doors. One said that when he sees his community’s youth drift, their aimless roam, the suffering from the despair of inebriation, when they scream back at the State and for those that sometimes displace anger on their own folk, when they see them die young in the confrontational personal witness of community or in the isolation of various custody such as a police or prison cell that it is no different to being in a built prison, in a locked cell, during lock-down which is generally twelve hours a day, and hearing fellow inmates crying out from other cells, in various meltdown, and then the next morning a guard finding one of the prisoners dead – similarly with the brutality of the Northern Territory Intervention, youth is found dead or in the abyss of despair and there is little than can be done because the brutality to the human identity, in stripping people of their right to be equal among everyone, in the forbidding of Aboriginal advancement by Aboriginal peoples, is a horrific contemporary brutality. The trauma of the Intervention shall eventually be much studied, sadly and patronisingly so, by the ensuing generation of academics and it will be found equivalent in trauma and damage to the Stolen Generations, and the Stolen Wages tragedies, to the Apartheid that many Aboriginal peoples lived in this country more than one and a half centuries.

An Elder said to me, “We are not boss of our people, we are not boss of us, our ways are looked down and young people and rich people come in here and tell us we are nothing, we are no good and that they know better.”

Another Elder said, “They tell us all these things that have happened in our town that we never saw happen not till they came and told us so. There were not these bad things they said but now there are. Our people are getting sick because of them and our young don’t care anymore. They have come here and caused so much trouble.”

And another Elder said, “They keep us poor for so long, no electricity, no nothing, houses they would not live in, they always refused us funding for anything we applied for and now they come here to show us like we are children how to do what they never gave us a chance to do.”

And another Elder said, “They are killing our children, look at our suicides, the numbers make the heart cry, can they not see what they have done? They are not doing any good just bad.”

And another Elder said, “They want our land, and they take it, they move our people to prisons inside prisons. All Northern Territory is a prison, and the towns prison in prison.”

The Aboriginal population of the Northern Territory is 80,000 out of a total population of 230,000, and therefore comprises just shy of 30% of the total population, however Aboriginal peoples make up 84% of the total prison population of the Northern Territory – the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal peoples are the world’s most incarcerated peoples. The Emergency Response has been not only a total failure, however an abject disaster with a litany of youth suicides, community breakdown, increasing youth unemployment, trauma and multiple traumas many of which shall encumber folk life-long, many irrecoverable and many which will contribute to self-harm by one destructive means or another and in far too many instances shall manifest flagrant suicide attempts.

Psychological trauma is a damaging effect to the psyche, and which can affect the brain’s neurotransmitters – affecting the levels of dopamine and serotonin, and which may sadly require medication to deal with acute reactions and especially to manage meltdowns into psychotic episodes. Psychological trauma is the result of a traumatic event, such as being confined in a prison cell, such as indefinite detention such as occurred to Aboriginal man Marlon Noble in Western Australia who spent more than ten years in prison without conviction and from the vulnerable age of nineteen, and who was only recently released – conditionally. Indefinite detention is what our Asylum Seekers face in Australia’s Immigration detention network – in a period of twelve months alone there were seven Immigration detention centre deaths – six of them by suicide, five of them of young men in their twenties. Earlier last year a source from within the Christmas Island detention centre sent me documents which I then moved on to the news media – there were 55 Asylum Seekers on suicide alert as of May 12 last year, and then by July this had increased to thereabouts 100 suffering souls. I released information to the news media and to parliamentarians that there were 243 self-harms in the month of April (2011) alone at Christmas Island. I have interviewed Asylum Seekers released from Villawood, Curtin, Scherger, Christmas Island and the state’s most notorious centre, Northern Immigration detention centre in Darwin and many are so clearly damaged by the many months spent claustrophobically confined, eroded of basic human courtesies, stripped of human worth and dignity, that many of them, now released, are not able to work and are not employable and/or not able to participate in normal social engagements.

Australia has one of the world’s most horrific prison custodial records – with more suicides on average than English and Welsh prisons, countries of equivalent social wealth to Australia – and Australia’s police custodial record is not much better with more deaths in police custody on average than for instance Scotland. A West Australian prison officer said to me, “Prison is not a nice place but many of us in prison support and many of the prison guards try our very best with the inmates. Indigenous people have it the hardest, they don’t want to trust us because their experience has been a traumatic one – they don’t trust authority, they don’t trust the police, everyone has been harsh on them. But, when they come to us from the police well one begins to understand, because when they come to us we have to clean many of them up, the prison medics have their work cut out. The police often are like ‘gangsters’ having beaten the crap out of them. We often get Indigenous prisoners transferred to us in a bad way. Doesn’t get reported, it is the way it goes. I try my best with them but there’s got to be a lot of trust building and we often pay for the sins of others in how they’ve treated them.”

Poverty is a traumatic event for many, especially for the young in how they perceive their parents handle poverty, however the Northern Territory Intervention is an en masse spectacle of poverty upon a whole peoples in the face of a hostile denial and resistance by Commonwealth governments to make good reparations for nearly two centuries of social disadvantage – they should provide for the duration of a generation the full suite of funding for basic services and for the full suite of services as enjoyed by the rest of Australia, and hence the right of Aboriginal advancement by Aboriginal peoples. In the end and as future generations will come to attest, and as Shalil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, and as the United Nations High Commisioner Navi Pillay affirmed last year with visits to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, the Intervention will be known as that which it is, an en masse prison-like custodial predicament, in effect it is underlain by policies not dissimilar to some of those that underlay Apartheid for instance in South Africa, and throughout the first half of the last century right throughout Australia upon Aboriginal peoples – it will be recognised as an unfettered spectacle of high-end trauma induction.

A traumatic event may involve a single experience, and sometimes this experience is on a vista scale such as with the Intervention, where it is wholesale however singularly collective, and a traumatic event can be an enduring event such as Stronger Futures clearly guarantees – and thus effect the erosion of one’s identity, and not only erode trust in others however also in oneself. Life degenerates to a battle, overcoming obstacles or having to deal with stagnancy, in being confined by an obstacle. Psychologists will long argue that the human spirit has high levels of resilience and a great capacity to heal and I believe this to be very true. Human beings spend each day healing from something even if minute however it bespeaks of the impact of a trauma and its metastasis when it can become irrecoverable.

Having worked closely with many who were abject destitute and others trapped by prostitution and who worked with great optimism and great strides to overcome perceived taboos, the impost of conduct by others upon them, in trying to come to terms with having to overwhelm the myriad of contemplations that often boggle the mind, the judgments portrayed by society and windowed into their lives on a daily basis, some didn’t make it. The exhaustion of having to manage healing with the whelm of questions eroded their will to live and I too am forever reminded in my daily contemplations of those who took their lives because they could no longer cope in dealing with trauma. One person once said to me, “it’s like pushing a wheelbarrow of shit up the steepest hill each day without fail, without any respite.” I forever remember two young women, one of them Aboriginal, 26 years and 29 years of age respectively, both beautiful women with much capacity, who just ended the trauma by taking their lives – both of them hung themselves in the dank cold of loneliness. Their families grieve and so continue the impacts of situational and psychological trauma. For them their trauma had damaged its way through thresholds that left no prospect any longer of adequate recovery, and this understanding should stay solid in the thinking, in the contemplations of the policy makers of our nation, of our government agencies, of our institutions when they make decisions that will in turn affect the lives of others.

Traumatic events are never limited to a single experience, and from criminological, sociological, and anthropological perspectives will repeat themselves or coalesce various traumatic incidences together and destructively build upon them. This repetition and coalescing of trauma will completely overwhelm an individual’s, and a community’s, ability to cope with the idea of self, and when one cannot cope with the image of self, then they have no desire for relations with others. The long-term negative consequences of psychological trauma outweigh any other impediments that can be thumped in anyone’s journey. The failure of for instance government in considering its role and objectives in the Northern Territory Intervention and Stronger Futures, or in the design of the prison systems or of other State and Commonwealth custodial initiatives is that they do not look at people through a “trauma lens” and conceptualise potential problems that may arise – If they had then prospective policy could be amended and hence prevention ensured, however such preparedness is far too often neglected - but why? Trauma impact studies with social impact assessments, from experts, and field workers, and with the bona fide inclusion with those whom policy is about, should be run of the mill and mandatory, why it isn’t is scandalous. How policy makers prior to undertaking design principles and in implementing initiatives continue to fail in ensuring such assessments is reprehensible – how do they fail to see, over and over again, the repetitive patterns of behaviour, the disorganisation of lives, the high suicide rates, the told stories of affects, reminders, pain, and harrow?

Trauma is caused by a wide nomenclature of events however all of them are threaded by commonality, in that impost is a stressor implicated in all traumas. Imposing ones will over another is a traumatic and brutal event in one’s life. Therefore the whole concept of a closed prison experience, rather than a genuinely rehabilitative one, of crime and punishment rather than psychosocial counselling and forgiveness and redemption rather than zero tolerance is traumatic and hence prison itself becomes effectively a methodology that does not promote healing however replicates the very acts of trauma that first landed folk in prison, hence ensuring re-offending, recidivism. In various modified ways prisons replicate the trauma which in the first place has led people inside into jail – the trauma of poverty, domestic violence, erosion of one’s identity, humiliation. Any authority that acts in a manner that is not consultative, not an outreach of positive human contact, and rather by impost hence diminishes the other, and by degrees of separation removes humanity from within the relations between peoples and underlays vacuums of inhumanity. The Intervention and Stronger Futures are clearly seen as imposts by many of the Northern Territory’s communities, and when one considers that by 2020 someone who is fifteen years old in the Northern Territory will have spent their whole lives, their entire form and content, in the impost of the Intervention hence the trauma will be all they have ever known – and they will not just have disassociated but dissociated from the rest of Australia which is not being raised in an en masse custodial predicament - they will know only of discrimination as their lot as did previous generations of Aboriginal peoples Australia-wide experienced in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This violation of the innate human right to equality and to a right of familiarity with fellow human beings smashes one’s sense of what should be common and familiar ideas to all and delivers the person (and community) into states of extreme confusion, to various extreme insecurities. Their whole mindset is removed from considering ones rights in terms of the pursuance of equality amongst others and in terms of the pursuance of personal advancement, or in belief systems such as human worth and Aboriginal advancement by Aboriginal peoples, and purely into a state of how to get by each day, without too much concern for the ensuing day. The state of the person (and community) becomes purely a state for survival, and they become only dependent on other people only in terms of that daily passage and survival as if a daily ritual. They are disillusioned, violated, betrayed - too distraught to focus on anything but survival and the keeping at bay of the tempest of the erosion of identity. This in part explains dissociations between family members, extended family and community members.

Psychological trauma can exist independently of other types of trauma however for those who endure acute trauma and chronic trauma where repeat behaviours or occurrences are the case hence they are often accompanied by physical trauma - it manifests.

Psychological trauma, which in my research, and not necessarily the view of psychiatric and psychological trauma specialists, is the most difficult to manage and heal from and can lead to mental meltdowns that displace hurt by other hurt – it is a vicious cycle; bullying, harassment, domestic violence, sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug addictions, self-injury, self-harm, suicide attempts and suicide. Therefore when one government report after another presents the rates of suicide, self-harm, alcoholism, domestic violence, unemployment, incarceration rates (adult and juvenile), and replenishes the ongoing knowledge that there is something dramatically wrong with specific societal systems, the providers and recipients of these reports should not consider per se the statistics and rather the full suite of causes that arise these statistics – what is the cause to the trauma(s) that permit these rates and cycles? Long-term exposure to traumas are the causes – long-term exposure to the imposition of social engineering, long-term exposure to extreme poverty, long-term exposure by governments and their agencies, long-term exposure to mild and severe forms of abuse such as the verbal abuses of peoples and their lot by government ministers and prime ministers, by the news media, by the general public whom many have been hoodwinked by the widely broadcast endemic and pernicious perceptual modifications of the truth such as the portrayal of the content of reports and studies, and documentaries, all focusing on statistics and failures rather than a focus on the causes and the neglects.

It is well-known that childhood trauma can led to dissociations and displaced states and arise violent behaviours and these extreme behaviours become models for others. It is obvious that not everyone deals in the same ways with an identical trauma however everyone however they deal with a traumatic incident or series of events will be affected by trauma – the victims of the Northern Territory Intervention are tens of thousands however no matter how they are dealing with the custodial predicament in the Northern Territory, and no matter whether they argue themselves as dissenters or proponents of the Intervention they are all affected by the Intervention, they have been traumatised. Sometimes the triggering mechanism in an individual to deal with a situation results in an individual’s reluctance to cope with the stress of an event and instead the individual denies the legitimacy of the event by finding the positives in the event, only to break down much later or to enter a life-long overt hostility to the conscious fact of the trauma, and sadly some side with the perpetrators and in turn become perpetrators – explaining some of the reasons why some folk support the impost of the Intervention.

It is the traumatic experience not as it happens that puts the person in immediate risk rather it is in having to relive the experience day in day out that often puts the person at risk, and especially when the triggers of that experience have not been removed as is always the case in contemporary police, prison, and immigration custodial predicaments, and is the case with the fact of the Intervention in the Northern Territory and indeed as is the case with the knowledge of a second-wave of the Intervention - Stronger Futures. This constant reminder of trauma, and as the constant lived experience with little or no respite, becomes uncomfortable and painful. Rationality is overwhelmed by instinct with the pursuit of relief from the pain and it is instinct and not rationalism that turns people to psychoactive substances and alcohol. In survival modalities people seek to escape feelings symptomatically associated to traumatic experiences. Life becomes a psychosomatic response to emotional triggers and panic, nightmares, insomnia and flashbacks become acute for many – and chronic. It was to my great shock when I realised the extent that people living virtually imprisoned by the Northern Territory Intervention do endure these psychosomatic responses – these types of disorders can lead people to self-destructive coping mechanisms, disrupting normality as a constant in life and in disengaging people from other people. For many consequently the intense feelings of anger arise, and accumulate to the point that they may surface frequently, often in situations which could land them in vicarious trouble and often with a prison sentence. Human beings are powerful reserves of emotion, however every reserve has the capacity to be exhausted, and this often does occur, with firstly emotional detachment and then dissociation, loss of self-esteem, and frequently support by depressions and the ability to self-regulate emotion becomes impossible for those acutely affected – our prisons are full of people victim to this failure.

Trauma is predominately induced in people by other people – the philosophers Schopenhauer and Heidegger suggested that people often act in ways as if they believe that people are the property of people when in fact at best people are the property of freedom. Human beings must be understood in terms of the reality that human beings are not the property of people and therefore cannot be totally subsumed without a loss of their faculties and their natural instincts to the absolute controls of other people, be these other people representative of hierarchy or the governance of the State. In terms of the rule of law, where it is unfolding in reference of the aspirant human rights language, equality is still a crude concept in an era where hierarchy ensures dominion, various controls, and government is still vested with the capacity to decree. The Northern Territory Intervention was a decree, an Act of government which required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act – hence the suspension of peoples’ rights, a brutal occurrence which has psychologically damaged the identity of peoples and broken a trust between people and the government, another damaging event with long-term trauma effects.

Proactive responses to trauma include an acknowledgment of trauma(s) by the perpetrator, for instance the Commonwealth in response to the Stolen Generation, Stolen Wages, the Intervention, and then an acknowledgment to work towards removing the stressors. Proactive responses include remedy – the correcting of a wrong, and this can occur in many ways however foremost it must be expedited, and this is more important than getting it remedially correct one hundred per cent over a long period. The longer that remedy is denied the longer it will take to return an individual to a state of psychological stability. If people continue prolonged periods of crisis then recovery may appear impossible and no matter how much more is done for them at a later time than what could have been done much earlier recovery will be much more insurmountable with society having to deal with the burden by patience. The most important conduit between people is not how much can be done for people at a particular point in time however rather it is rapport between people – people instinctively require respect and this is indicated by empathy, sensitivity and various supportive acts; respect cannot arise by impost, even if well-meaning, and it cannot be achieved by how much someone is prepared to do for someone in a particular moment. Trust is an instinct, this may be disputed by some and fair enough - it may be argued as a by-product of rationalism, however there are many, like myself, who believe that rationalism and instinct are separate in practice and in origin within the human being. The rationale self can only argue itself and its existence so far, and rationalism in part is supported by instinct however they are separate in origins and effect.

In the end trauma is a by-product of control, and people do not want to be controlled, they want to be guided during their development however this requires trust, an instinct, and instinct is about survival. People want to manage their journey in life, to manage their own affairs, and they instinctively happy to consult others, however people are distraught at being demanded of or in being bullied. People instinctively thrive on a need-to-know basis and feel uncomfortable to be led blindly or to be kept in the dark. In terms of the Australian custodial systems people come out worse than when they went in, their lives in effect put on hold, and the statistics prove this – there are more suicides and self-mutilations post-release from custodial jurisdictions than there in the equivalent periods pre-release. For instance in Australian prisons there are thereabouts on average 70 deaths per annum, with 68% of all custodial deaths per annum, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, occurring in our prisons, while post-release there are between 350 to 500 deaths in the first year, and with a significant proportion of these deaths in the first six weeks post-release.

High end trauma leads to self-destruction and to death, it leads to post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and to continuous post-traumatic stress disorders (CPTSD). It is my finding and my belief that the custodial designs in Australia manifest these disorders rather than nip them in the bud. It is my finding and belief that the Northern Territory Intervention is guilty of en masse high end trauma, PTSD and CPTSD and that the next couple of generations in Australia and future governments will have to manage the burden, the horrific legacy from the Emergency Response, its crude impost, and what will arise from Stronger Futures. The victims will become inter-generational even when for instance the Intervention is long-gone, however the grievous mistake we are making is not to end the Intervention now and move in quickly to allow the victims to speak of their traumatic occurrences, to debrief immediately, and if we did this now we will have far better outcomes than instead of what will be the predicament for all of us, or for all of our children, long into the future when much more will be needed to be done and for a lot less returned. Therapy is required now so the natural psychological healing process occurs and inter-generationally less trauma is passed on than will be if we live redress and healing for much later – it is damaging for a child to watch a parent hurt, humiliated, diminished, denied their rights. For a parent or grandparent whose narrative is done, the legacy of their pain is in the minds of those that come after them, the narrative becomes a metanarrative. For Aboriginal folk, as is the case for all folk, time collapses to one location – “to those past, and present, and to those to come.”

I have been regularly contributing my research and findings to The National Indigenous Times, and to academics and various think tanks, and it is with the express purpose that what little I have to contribute does not gather dust on some bookshelf in a university library. These are some of my research, questions and conclusions - I believe it is imperative that whatever little I have to contribute is out there sooner rather than later, and through substantive forums such as The National Indigenous Times which is a powerful source for everyone to engage with and assist in awareness-raising conversations. My research which is seeking to provide evidence based recommendations in reducing Australia's horrific deaths in custody record - police, prison and immigration custodial – in my mind, to my humble being, is unravelling arguments that when I first commenced on this journey I would not necessarily have expected that I would be including in my work – the irrecoverable trauma arguments - in that one should not expect an ability or capacity from a former detainee or prisoner who has endured chronic and acute trauma, especially where their thresholds have been 'broken', to be able to recover from this trauma and particularly where this trauma has been long-term – for many folk, like the two destitute women I had been there for many years, for the many deaths in custody, for the many suicides in the Northern Territory since the Emergency Response, no matter the extent of interventionist psychosocial counselling many cannot recover from long-term acute trauma(s).

1. It is clearly evident that people come out of prisons worse than that what they went in.

2. It is clearly evident that people come out of immigration detention worse than they went in.

3. It is clearly evident Aboriginal peoples have negative stereotypes of police custodial predicaments reinforced by experiences within police custodial jurisdictions.

4. Tragically, it appears that many who are released from prison custodial and immigration custodial experiences cannot overwhelm levels of trauma which have been induced or developed. It appears that there may not be recovery for many traumas - multiple traumas, acute and chronic.

5. Governments, DIAC (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) and Corrective Services need to launch fully funded research into trauma and 'post'-trauma related studies of the police, prison and immigration custodial related experiences - my research imputes that we should be moving to the prevention of the onset of trauma and which interventionist management alone cannot promise.

6. A chapter in my PhD considers The Military Emergency Response (NT National Emergency Response Bill 2007) in the Northern Territory as custodial-related, and that the prospect of recovery from the trauma described by Aboriginal peoples of the various imposts upon them by the Commonwealth government(s) may not be possible.
- Surprisingly, in wide-ranging interviews, numbering 100 high-profile Aboriginal folk, there is some support for the Intervention - however how to address the trauma from the implementation of the Intervention is worrisome for even many of the supporters of the Response Action - and many see that the Intervention will now compound rather than improve inter-generational problems. The trauma itself is not compartmentalised to the individual and the evidence is as clear as the light of day that it extends to family members, to the breakdown of family, to community and to the erosion of some of the community's contemporary identity (as unfolded from historical identity). Trauma counselling cannot guarantee containment of trauma.

In February 2008 Marcia Langton, like many others, rejected various criticism against the Response Action, and said, "Those who did not see the intervention coming were deluding themselves. It was the inevitable outcome of the many failures of policy and the flawed federal-state division of responsibilities for Aboriginal Australians. It was a product of the failure of Northern Territory governments for a quarter of a century to adequately invest the funds they received to eliminate the disadvantages of their citizens in education, health and basic services. It was made worse by general incompetence in Darwin: the public service, non-government sector (including some Aboriginal organisations) and the dead hand of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) all presided over increasingly horrible conditions in Aboriginal communities."

The Emergency Response policy was initially insulated from criticism because of the sensitive nature of the issue and the fact that the national Parliament faces no Constitutional barriers to overruling the Northern Territory government, unlike the governments of Australia's states - this immolated any legitimate scrutiny of the policy, its effects such as trauma and what the thresholds of where that trauma would become irretrievable in reference to amelioration and remedies.

Most of those whom I have interviewed, especially those with considerable influence on the Australian political landscape, do not understand how to fully comprehend 'trauma' and its effects. Many who had supported the Emergency Response do not support the Stronger Futures proposition.

One of my own interim recommendations to the Commonwealth is that the full suite of funding should be provided for the duration of a generation to Aboriginal peoples Australia-wide and this will eliminate Aboriginal disadvantage. The pay-the-rent proposals suggested by a number of advocates are a sound concept and are proportionate to Gross State Product and Gross Domestic Product.

My research will conclude that the Emergency Response was ill-conceived and damaging, with destructive social reach, and that if it impacts had been assessed in terms of social impacts and trauma then it should never have occurred. My research can find no evidence to support the Stronger Futures legislation and that in fact evidence and various testimonies point to the erosion of community and contemporary identities and to the rise in the various traumas described thus far.


Crikey - Deaths in Custody: Why are more prisoners dying from natural causes? - Georgatos rejects the AIC’s claim that the rise in natural cause deaths is “probably linked to an ageing prison population and a prison population with more health problems than the general population”, saying that these “assumptions” need to be validated. “I have deep concerns about the attribution of manner and cause of death and therefore … [about] the classification of deaths in custody,” Georgatos said. “There is nothing natural about a person dying of causes that basic medical intervention could prevent. More than 50% of Aboriginal folk who die in prison are classified as natural cause deaths, [but] maybe what has occurred is that medical attention wasn’t flagged or their insulin dependency was not given proper care or they were maltreated or neglected.”

Crikey - Deaths in custody still rising, why? - The rate of death in privatised prisons is far higher than in state prisons, which Georgatos cites as a serious concern given the drive towards privatisation in NSW and other states. “People die in privatised prisons at three times the rate they die in government prisons: 4.5 deaths per 1000 prisoners in privatised prisons in Australia, compared to 1.3 in government prisons,” he said.

The Australian - Indonesian children in Australian adult prisons.
Mr Georgatos said he believed the boy graduated from junior high school in 2009, but he was waiting for a statement which would prove his age "beyond reasonable doubt".
He criticised the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and WA Department of Corrective Service for not trying hard enough to ascertain the boy's age. "I can't see why lawyers, legal authorities, AFP, immigration, did not pick up the goddamn phone and speak to his family," Mr Georgatos said. "Authorities could have ascertained one way or another beyond reasonable doubt he was born in 1995."

ABC Drum Interview - Indonesian children in Immigration Detention Centres and in Adult Prisons

UnderCurrent Interview - Indonesian children in Immigration Detention Centres and in Adult Prisons

The West Australian - Boy in adult jail says he is scared - "He is in the adult prison awaiting people-smuggling charges after allegedly working as a cook on a boat that carried 50 asylum seekers to Ashmore Reef in June last year. The boy is understood to be working alongside sex offenders in the prison laundry."

ABC Radio National Interview - Indonesian children in Australian Adult Prisons

The Australian - Leonora to house unaccompanied minors - "How can you call a semi-arid location, 830km from Perth, community detention?" he said. "They are too far away from the full suite of services. There isn't a psychologist resident in Leonora or heavy duty medical services."

Sydney Morning Herald - Warning of more detention centre deaths - "These centres are inducing trauma, multiple trauma, self-harm, suicide and multiple suicide attempts, clinical disorders both acute and chronic," he said in a statement.
"Unless the Commonwealth acts promptly with due regard to the rights of our asylum seekers we believe that there will be en masse riots, unnecessary suffering and trauma, and the loss of further lives."

The West Australian - Supporters rally for Albany teenager - Human Rights Alliance convenor Gerry Georgatos called for independent police inspectorates which report to the Corruption and Crime Commission or the office of the Attorney-General rather than to the police. "In lieu of the conflicting versions given by witnesses and police, what we need is to have an end to police investigating police," Mr Georgatos said.
"We have never had a successful prosecution into deaths in custody in 30 years where there have been 2056 (and where an unnatural hand by a police or prison officer was involved)." Mr Georgatos, who has done a PHD into Australian deaths in custody, said there was a "culture of cover-ups" in the WA police as demonstrated by the case of Kevin Spratt, who was tasered multiple times by police.

SBS - "Two decades, too little, too late" - nominated for UN Media Peace and Walkley Awards

The West Australian - Deaths in Custody Still a National Disgrace
"There has been an Aboriginal death in custody somewhere in Australia every month in the past 18 months. For each Aboriginal death in custody, there are eight to 10 non-Aboriginal deaths in custody. Every five days an Australian dies in custody.
How can Australia have one of the world's worst records? For every death in custody, we must acknowledge that there are scores of people maltreated, neglected and suffering."

CAAMA Radio - Aboriginal deaths in custody - Part 1

CAAMA Radio - Aboriginal deaths in custody - Part 2

Indymedia - Racism gives Australia one of the world's worst deaths in custody records - " Detention Centres, where thousands of self harms and attempted suicides are being committed each year. These Detention Centres have been described by psychiatrist Dr Patrick McGorrie, an Australian of the Year, as mental illness factories."

The death of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee - "147th Aboriginal death in custody since the RCIADC recommendations 1991"



Totally in agreeance, people are never owned by other people expecially by their representative, public servant governments. No one is owned by anyone.
This is a valuable article.
Australia governmentts think everything and everyone is 'their' property, and a person's worth is based on owning property [or not], sick. It's part of their core thinking, to their downfall.
My legal friend did a stint in N.T. and came home ashamed as how many parts of that Territory were under seige by bureaucrats and of course the 'Protector' who really should be protected from her own discriminatory, vile and malicious atrocities.
Positive focus, glad to see many talking about this at long last. Not that it wasn't slammed when it first began.

Thanks for this response Margaret,
kindly, Gerry

This was long to read but very worthwhile. It should be read Mrs Gillard, Mrs Macklin and Mr Abbott.
I agree with everything in this article and learned more than I ever knew.

I've heard John Pilger talk about the real truths of the Northern Territory because he goes to the coal faces, every time. Totally different stories to the Fox news media etc.
The original peoples are demoralised and things are like holocaust up there.
Why aren't the Human Rights Commission stepping in, what's stopping these guys?
Who and what are they working for anyway?
People are not the Property of People in the Northern Territory or anywhere.
Somehow whenever I hear Miss Gillard say "We the public of Australia think...." I go numb.
How dare any P.M. say this again, again and again.
No one can speak for individuals like that, no one can speak for a whole country like that unless they bother to ask the people obe by one what they think.
This is another example of polly's and bureaucrats thinking they own people.
Outrageous, but thinking people are on to it.
We're on to Macklin too.

Gerry, this article made me weep, Ellie

This is the most powerful and informative article I have ever read on these issues. Has it been forwarded to the Stronger Futures Committee? to the Senate? to Senator Kroeger and Senator Siewert? to Minister Jenny Macklin and Prime Minister Julia Gillard? to Senator Nigel Scullion and to leader in waiting Tony Abbott? if not then please forward it

Incredibly good work Gerry, incredible this, I too learned very much from this reading and I agree with others and their posts that this article is a must read for government, how do we get it to Mrs Macklin and her cohort?

Oh my Lord, this article is unbelievable in its sense. It should be reprinted in every major newspaper in the country and Gerry should do this for a Four Corners documentary, Lateline, 7:30 Report, Current Affairs, Sunrise, SBS, Dateline, Living Black, every program worth its salt in the country and get our thinking sorted and our parliaments into account. I cannot believe the stupidity of those in government and the terrible damage they have done to people.

I agree with some of those who have commented, Gerry's article should be first priority for our Senators and for the Prime Minister otherwise more of the same will continue to do the damage that is being done.

Gerry, I have spent this morning reading one article after another by you on this beautiful site and each one the truth, it all comes together and dispels many myths which because of ignorance were racist in their damage. You should have a daily television program or be on as many programs as possible.

Once again with deep respect, Rose

The window under the word "Subject:" is accessible to you.

It would save the editors a lot of time.