The Intervention

I just now finished watching The Intervention, a documentary examining the impact of the Australian government’s ‘intervention’ policy on aboriginal communities. You can watch the full documentary, created by filmmaker Julie Nimmo and publilshed through the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, at this link, or in the embedded video below.

In 2007, the Australian government began a policy known as ‘the intervention’, in response to a number of reports of sexual abuse of children among aboriginal communities, specifically a government report entitled “Little Children are Sacred“. Political hysteria ensued, with politicians calling for massive interventions in aboriginal communities in order to ensure the welfare of the children in those communities. This is precisely what they did. The intervention, among other things, allowed for the following:

  • The seizing of aboriginal townships for a period of five years
  • Banning alcohol in remote communities, and eventually large townships like Katherine
  • The deployment of a large military contingent to 73 communities in the northern territories
  • The government management of half of every family’s income and budget, through voucher programs
  • The suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act for remote communities
  • An unfair competitive advantage to Woolworth’s, the only grocery store originally capable of handling the voucher payment system, thus harming smaller, local grocers
  • Millions of dollars in (mis)spending for remote communities

Most relevantly, however, the number of cases of sexual abuse remained about at the same level as they had been previously reported – under a dozen.

I wrote previously about how cultural instability leads to cultural disintegration, which leads to language loss. No community can afford to focus on language revitalization when they’re struggling to survive such draconian and burdensome policies. Government acts like the Australian intervention are precisely the kind of thing which will wipe indigenous and minority languages off the map forever.