Aboriginal woman dies undertaking mandatory NT alcohol rehabilitation program

This is revealed the same day as protesters in Brisbane gather for a rally against black deaths in custody.

republished from abc.net.au

An Aboriginal woman has died while taking part in the Northern Territory’s highly contentious mandatory alcohol rehabilitation program.

It is the first death linked to the scheme that was introduced by the NT Government 18 months ago in the face of warnings from experts that it would target Indigenous people and punish alcoholics.

The woman died last month in the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes Unit (CAAAPU) treatment centre in Alice Springs, but the NT authorities have not made news of the death public until now.

Her family is now asking questions about the care she was given and how she died.

The woman’s sister, Elizabeth Raggette Naparula, speaking from her remote central Australian community of Papunya, said she had been worried about her sister’s health and was willing to give the treatment a chance.

“I thought they were going to keep her to get better, to eat lots of good food,” she said.

“I wanted them to look after her properly so she could get healthy and not have so much grog.”

Key points of NT’s mandatory rehab:

  • The legislation came into effect in the Northern Territory on July 1 2013
  • Anyone taken into custody for drunkenness three times in two months is assessed for treatment
  • Means some alcoholics are forced into three months of rehabilitation
  • Treatment occurs at rehabilitation facilities in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs
  • Draft legislation heavily criticised by Indigenous groups, medical bodies and justice advocates
  • Critics argue it criminalises drunkenness

She said she was informed of her sister’s death by a relative last week.

“All my grandchildren are crying every night for her,” she said.

“When I cry, they cry too. I can’t understand what happened, I don’t know what happened.”

She wanted to know what medical services were in the CAAAPU treatment centre, and whether her sister had medication for her seizures.

“I never went to see her at CAAAPU, I thought everything was alright,” she said.

“When I last saw her she was looking in the best of health. I can’t understand what happened.”

The NT Health Department said the next of kin had been told but would not give any more details.

Death in mandatory rehab ‘not a death in custody’

Under the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT) program, anyone picked up by police for being drunk three times in two months is forced into alcohol treatment.

Legal and health groups have warned the untested program would target Indigenous people and cost millions while doing little to treat addiction.

I thought everything was alright. When I last saw her she was looking in the best of health, I can’t understand what happened.

Elizabeth Raggette Naparula

Even though people are detained against their will in AMT, the woman’s death will not be treated as a death in custody, authorities say.

Instead, it is being treated as a death in care and is now before the NT coroner.

NT Criminal Lawyers Association president Russell Goldflam said the public was usually informed about deaths in custody.

“In my experience, whenever there’s a death in custody or a death after some sort of engagement with police, the police are very quick to put out a statement,” he said.

“It’s pretty obvious why, if they didn’t they would be accused of trying to cover things up.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) chief executive Priscilla Collins was highly critical of the NT Government’s failure to make the death known publicly.

“The worst thing is we’re only hearing about it two weeks later; why wasn’t this brought up two weeks ago?” she said.

She said it was indicative of the secrecy around AMT.

She said her questions about medical staff levels, costs and success rates had gone unanswered.

“What we’ve always questioned is how many people go through the program?” she said.

The worst thing is we’re only hearing about it two weeks later; why wasn’t this brought up two weeks ago.

Priscilla Collins, NAAJA chief executive

“How many people successfully complete the program and what is the cost per person? We just don’t get those answers.”

The ABC’s AM program put a number of questions about the death and the care at the rehabilitation centre to the NT Health Department.

The department would only confirm there had been a death.

It said the coroner has been informed and it was not appropriate to make further comment.

The CAAPU treatment centre where the women died did not return AM’s calls.

AMT safer than life on the streets: Elferink

When the AMT legislation was being debated in Parliament in June last year, Attorney-General John Elferink said people would be safer in rehab because they were not on the streets.

“Currently, they are dying because they are staggering out in front of cars and getting run over,” he said.

We do not get to see about them in the newspapers because they often go unmarked and unnoticed in their deaths. Their deaths represent the end of an unremarkable life awash with their drug of choice.

John Elferink, Attorney-General

“[They are] dying of diseases such as pneumonia because they are sleeping out unprotected in winter in Alice Springs, and dying because they have renal collapse.

“One example I can cite is of a fellow who was drunk and asleep on railway tracks and was run over by a train. They are dying now, and in large numbers.

“We do not get to see about them in the newspapers because they often go unmarked and unnoticed in their deaths. Their deaths represent the end of an unremarkable life awash with their drug of choice.”

He said in order to “protect the community” the Government would accept the risk people could die in AMT.

“It is a political risk we engage in,” he said.

“Unfortunately, when you are in a position where you take people into custody that is a risk you take.

“However, if you are so adverse to that risk, police would take nobody into custody and [Correctional Services] would hold nobody in prison.

“The mental health authorities, who also have non-judicial incarceration, would not take people into custody. Why do we do it and accept it so readily in those environments?

“The reason is we need to protect the community and/or the people themselves.

“We take the risk.”

Absconding from AMT no longer criminal

Last month the NT Government announced it would no longer be a criminal offence to abscond from the a treatment facility, while also allowing doctors to refer chronic drinkers to AMT.

It also meant people excluded from AMT because of charges resulting from drinking would be eligible to access the treatment.

The reform was welcomed by Australian Medical Association NT president Dr Robert Parker, who said it “made sense” that referral to AMT was done through a therapeutic tribunal process rather than a legal one.

“I am very happy to see that being removed from any sort of criminal act,” he said

CAAPU is a not-for-profit organisation that also administers part of the AMT scheme for the NT Government in Alice Springs.

It was established in 1991 to assist Aboriginal people with alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

A $6.1 million AMT treatment centre in Katherine was canned this month following community outrage about its industrial location.

Cairns Safe from Granny with Anti G20 Stickers and Spray Chalk Offenders

The G20 Finance Ministers Meeting will be held in Cairns next weekend September 20 & 21.

At the meeting will be delegates and staff  from 24 countries and 12 international organisations.

A sixty year old grandmother has had her house raided by 4 police officers who were searching for …. stickers.

They confiscated her phone, dug through her rubbish and searched her car.

On a quest to find anti G20 stickers which read ‘G20 benefits the 1%’.

Because stickers such as these pose such a threat to the smooth running of the finance meeting photocopy shops have been advised to not print anti-G20 materials.

Office Works has reportedly complied.

Rest assured that it’s not just stickers the police are protecting Cairns from but also SPRAY CHALK.

Aleta Kathleen Tulk and co-offender Adam Mark Brooker pleaded guilty to wilful damage in the Cairns Magistrates Court after using spray chalk to write “G20 benefits the 1%” on a path at the northern end of the Esplanade on July 24.

They were given a $400 3 month good behavior bond each for the graffiti which was removed easily by community service workers.

Ms Tulk was quoted in the Cairns Post as saying

“We wanted to make a statement because, you know what, we’re fed up.

“I even tested it before on my own driveway to make sure it would wash off.”

“I’ve been told to behave for the next three months so I’ll probably keep it to a minimum, I’m not going to do anything outrageous.

“(But) ultimately in the end that’s who I am and I’ll continue to speak out about it. I just won’t do it with chalk on the pavement.”

G20 authorities claim they are taking a “business as usual” approach to the Finance Ministers’ meeting.

However 60 year old grandmother’s are waking up to their house being raided, photocopy shops are being told to censor what people can copy and  an additional 700 police are steadily arriving in Cairns over the next week.

Cairns 2014 Live Visit Do As We Say

G20 Badge

Here’s some images you can make into posters or stickers. They do not mention the G20 so you’ll have no problem distributing them. (Thanks to Emma Goldman from Sydney’s Black Rose Anarchist Bookshop)

Private PropertyHung ParliamentFree Trade vs Mutual Aid



I put together a show of just music and my friend helped me to burn it onto cds to give out to people.

The music is independent, politically hard hitting  and from all over the world so I’ve uploaded it as a show to Radio4all.



1.  Catch 22  –   Robbie Gore  – Townsville

2.  Ride the Fence  –  The Coup  – Oakland/California

3.  5 million ways to kill a CEO –  The Coup  – Oakland

4.  CIA Hypo-Programmed Robot Assassin  –  ELF  –  Canberra

5.  Bruno Wilson – Intervention InvasionRed Sand Culture (Volume 1) NT

6.  Boys from the Bush  – Joseph Shannon & Messiah Long – Boys from tha Bush – Red Sand Culture (Vol 1) NT

7.  Wiya Angela PamelaSuper Raelene Bros – Alice Springs

8.  The Block  –  Jesse and the Clevo Street Boys – Redfern/Sydney

9.  United We Struggle  –  United Struggle Project  –  Kenya  

10.  Life is a War  –  United Struggle Project  –  Kenya

11.  Quest  –  Combat Wombat  –  Melbourne

12.  Come Rescue Me  –  Resident Anti-Hero  –     Portland/Oregon

13.  People Never Heard  –  Drowning Dog and Malatesta  –    Milano/Italy

14.  Asylum is a Crime  –  Pataphysics  – Melbourne

15.  Plan It  –  Non-Bossy-Posse  –  Sydney

16.  Anti-Capitalist Anthem  –  Sole  –  Portland, Maine

17.  Thief  –  Looptroop  –   Sweden

Aboriginal Nations Should Form Nations within Australia


Dr Jean-Paul Gagnon is a social and political philosopher currently working at the University of Queensland where he is affiliated with the School of Political Science and International Studies as well as the school of Maths and Physics.

He founded and edits the Journal for Democratic Theory and has been involved with The Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis and Centre for Greater China Studies housed by the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

As well as this he is a descendent of indigenous people in what is now called Canada.

In late November he gave a public lecture at the University of Queensland which was sponsored by the Sustainable Minerals Institute.

The lecture was based on a paper which he had published in the Australian Journal of Indigenous Issues regarding Indigenous Peoples ownership of subsurface minerals.

His argument is that IP who have inalienable ownership of subsurface minerals enshrined in one or more bodies of public law are placed in a much better position to control their own development.

He says this would empower IP and give them a greater than equal foot hold when working within colonial legal structures in pursuit of land rights.

He found that the United States has the most advanced legal code and cites a decision last year made by the US high court to compensate indigenous people that had been part of a class action.

While some money was paid directly to IP, some went to buying back land so Indigenous nations could reconstitute their tribe lands and continue to practice their management of sovereign territory.

He says in Australian law there are no provisions anywhere near similar to those in the USA and that legal ownership of subsurface minerals for Indigenous Australian Nations is something that must be fought hard for.

Haida Gwaii

In remote areas nations such as the Haida Gwaii people in Canada have had their land returned into their control by law; and in New Mexico the Jicarilla (pronounced hek-a-reya) Apache Tribe are a officially recognised Tribal Government.

In areas which are populated by descendants of white settlers the way towards a just future for all peoples is more difficult.

“This is beyond 50 shades of grey,” says Jean-Paul, “this is a hundred this is five hundred shades of grey.”

“It’s both an opportunity to use what we can now within the current system, but also a benchmark, a target that IP in this continent can look at and say … a discussion has to happen.”

Jean-Paul stresses that indigenous nations must come together.

“Once nations come together then we can start to have a good hard look, a collective democratic indigenous look at Native Title or any other Act associated with indigenous people on this continent.”

While some might suggest that Native Title legislation gives IP sufficient control over their land this is not the case.

The formulation of the Native Title legislation happened in a very paternalistic, colonial manner.

“Under Native Title indigenous people do not have sufficient control over their lands to say no to resource extraction nor are they able to negotiate which companies should be involved or how the profit is shared.”

Musgrave Park and ‘the embassy in my own land’

Dr Jean-Paul is speaking tomorrow November 27 @ the University of Queensland arguing that indigenous peoples must have full legal rights to their subsurface minerals – this of course extends to full legal rights to surface territories.

I will attend and write a follow up to this post.

By Jean-Paul Gagnon, University of Queensland

This weekend, South Brisbane will play host to the Paniyiri Festival, one of Australia’s largest cultural events.

From May 19 to 20, thousands are expected to join the celebrations and delight themselves with beautiful presentations of Greek culture.

There is, however, a political battle of global significance interfering with one of the festival’s choice venues – Musgrave Park. Today there stands what certain commentators have come to call a “Tent Embassy”.

The Embassy is a political place where Aboriginal people (imaginably the Jagera and Turrbal nations who were in majority the first occupants of what is approximately the heart of contemporary Brisbane) are declaring their sovereignty. This is, at least to some democratic theorists, a moment where a citizenry (or in this case a group of citizens) are declaring their right to their native land.

But this is not the way this movement has been viewed by the media or other civil groups. Brisbane City Council Mayor Graham Quirk has stated that the citizens that have established their Embassy have been offered a different site to use so as to continue sharing their message with the public.

It appears that Lord Mayor Quirk may have missed the point and is treating Aboriginal people as they have been treated by others – with disregard. This is not an Embassy that should be moved. This is a declaration of sovereignty which should be respected and afforded its place in the processes of democratic governance.

International examples

Movements similar to this have happened in Canada and the USA for example – but usually through protests and blocking industrial access to sovereign territories (like forests and islands most often having no major non-indigenous human settlements within the territory seeking protection).

One good example comes from the Haida Gwaii and Nisga’a peoples found in contemporary British Columbia. Both of these nations had blocked industrial activities in what they self-recognised as their own sovereign territories which led to direct political engagement.

After having proven, to the best of their abilities, that this land was under the care of their respective nations before the arrival of Europeans, it was placed – at least for the Haida Gwaii – under indigenous stewardship by law.

Now, these nations have the choice of whether they would like to engage industry and are also in powerful positions should contractual discussions with industry begin.

Urban space versus wilderness

But the Jagera and Turrbal nations are dealing with a dense urban space and not, for example, mostly pristine forested lands. This is similar to the situation of the Iroquois in Toronto, or, of course, the Ottawa in Ottawa. It is much more difficult to gain sovereign territorial rights where such a move could affect millions of people.

An unidentified protestor at the Musgrave Park indigenous embassy. Patrick Hamilton/AAP

There is also no precedent for empowering the indigenous owners of contemporary urban lands. This is, in other words, virgin political territory. That is quite possibly all the more reason why the Aborigines in Brisbane that are positioning themselves for peaceful political contestation should be allowed to do so without eviction notices or threats of legitimated forceful removal.

Solidarity among communities

The organisers of the Paniyiri Festival, and too the residents of Brisbane and beyond, have here the opportunity to declare solidarity with this movement. They might even look to using a different park nearby so as to support the Embassy.

The Greek culture is after all not trying to exercise its right to sovereignty and, no matter how great the festival is and how much I enjoy it, it should stand by the Embassy – not otherwise. Perhaps the Embassy could be included as a partner in the Festival and officially sanctioned as a movement supported by the Greek community.

This point raises the broader issue of civil societies demonstrating solidarity with those battling for their political rights. The Musgrave Park situation is comparable to the plight for Polish sovereignty under the USSR. Solidarity to Poland came quickly from not only those in the undergrounds of then Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany, but too from peoples outside of the USSR.

This situation in Brisbane is analytically no different: the Jagera and Turrbul, like the Polish or Slovakians, held a territory wherein they practiced their own distinct national cultures. These lands, and consequently the powers of these nations, were removed by invaders: British colonists and the USSR respectively.

Nations within nations

There is too the opportunity for Australia to be quite possibly the first in this world to break into innovative legal territory.

By establishing an official indigenous Embassy and recognising it within the boundaries of the Brisbane City Council, Queensland, and Australia, this would be a step beyond the legal actions of the USA which has only recently come to view Native Americans as “nations within a nation” thus affording them the right to increased self-governance and greater political engagement.

Indigenous leader Sam Watson addresses protestors at Musgrave Park as police look on. AAP/Patrick Hamilton

This would also make progress in Australia allowing, for the first time, “Tent Embassies” (such as the now famous Tent Embassy in Canberra) to transform into actual Embassies.

Political evolution

The Musgrave Park Embassy, like the Embassy in Canberra, has global significance for indigenous people. I for one have indigenous ancestors from the Huron-Wendat Nation in North America and identify as an aboriginal person. I can see the similarities between the Jagera and Turrbal stand with the idea of the Huron creating their own Embassy in their own native land in Georgian Bay, Canada. Almost 400 years ago most of this land was known as Wendakia (or Ouendakia) and was home to the Huron Confederacy before genocide and violent dispersal by a European and Iroquoian alliance led to the diaspora of my ancestors.

What the Jagera and Turrbul of Brisbane or those in Canberra are doing is innovation: they are leading the way for other indigenous peoples internationally with the tool of the Embassy. It’s a step forward politically and has the potential to offer new spaces for the growth of aboriginal peoples.

Recognising democratic rights

In Australia today, the sovereign rights of the original owners of this land are recognised, grand political apologies have been issued, and the wish to undo the wrongs of the past has been stated. But these, as many commentators have observed, are just words.

Indigenous peoples are asking for action and the Musgrave Park Embassy is such an action. I think that Musgrave Park should become a formal Embassy for the Aborigines that rightfully own the territory over which Brisbane now sits. It should be there to continue to engage how the Aborigines here wish to progress in an urban space and how those living in Brisbane today wish to exercise solidarity with them.

There is, of course, one final point that needs to be drawn upon. It is the very tragedy of a nation needing to have an Embassy on its own land. Aborigines have not only been dispossessed of their sovereign territories and have faced genocidal hardships, but they have also been excluded – at least in Brisbane – from local democratic politics.

Moving the Embassy, and forcefully evicting its staff, is an abrogation of both human rights and citizen rights under the expectations of democratic theory.

Jean-Paul Gagnon does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Vale Aunty Isabel Coe: Aboriginal Sovereignty Movement in Mourning

The Canberra Embassy during the 40th anniversary celebrations in January.

Monday November 12 on the AAradio show contributors Dan Eastern and Kimbeaux Dawson paid tribute to Aunty Isabel who passed away on the weekend.

Aunty Isabel was one of the key campaigners involved in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra since it had been established on the lawns of Old Parliament House in 1972.

Eastern and Kim had spent time with Aunty Isabel at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and in Sydney.

Or download broadcast quality from radio4all.