Banjo and his nephew, Richard Downs, worked with the family and the community to set up the 'Walk Off Camp' at Honeymoon Bore on land that was returned to them in 1976.
Honeymoon Bore (“Arwerreng”) is located about 3 km outside of the government prescribed community boundary of Ampilatwatja.
It was a response to the The Little Children are Sacred report, which claimed that neglect and sexual abuse of children in Indigenous communities had reached crisis levels.
On February 14, 2010 Banjo and the community from Ampilatwatja held the official opening of Protest House out at Honeymoon Bore.
Protest House was constructed in the Walk Off Camp at Honeymoon Bore with the assistance of a number of individuals around the country as well as a number of union groups. The Walk Off coincided with national demonstrations against the harsh control measures imposed by the Intervention.
At the opening, Frank Holmes and Banjo Morton were presented with a large brass bell by Geoff Scott, CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
The inscription on the bell reads:
This Declaration Bell is presented to the Elders and families of the Alyawarra Nation by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council on February 14, 2010 in recognition of their principled walk-off and continuing fight to uphold their land rights, culture and heritage. May it ring for justice and change.
Bob Gosford, Crikey, 2010
Professor Mick Dodson, Aboriginal leader
Jeff McMullen, journalist
The community has not been involved in any discussions.
The community’s housing is substandard – some of the houses are just tin sheds – and the sewerage system is more than 25 years old. The local Council, led by Banjo Morton, has been disbanded and a Government Business Manager installed.
To June 2009, there was no sewerage truck and sewage started overflowing.
The community has felt shamed and humiliated by the policy of welfare quarantining. Contrary to common assumptions of ‘welfare dependency’, the Alyawarra Elders worked all their lives as drovers, stock hands and domestic labourers, and are now aged pensioners.
Banjo Morton, interviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 2010, said the only benefit Ampilatwatja had received from the $1.5 billion intervention is the building of a BMX bicycle track, which is now eroded and unsafe to use and which most residents did not want.
Bicycles remain locked in a container.
At the official launch of Protest House, Northern Territory Emergency Response (The Intervention) introduced.
The Federal Government compulsorily acquired the Ampilatwatja Community and installed a Government Business Manager (GBM) to manage the community.
Alyawarra welfare recipients have their income ‘quarantined’, forced to use a ‘BasicsCard’ to get supplies (not unlike when indigenous people were ‘paid’ by their employer in flour and sugar, rations, instead of wages).
There is a forced takeover of the Ampilatwatja Community Store, removing it from community ownership and handing it to new administrators.
Community housing in such disrepair that sewage leaks over the floors and across the ground. The community’s requests for action are ignored.
Banjo Morton leads a Walk Off from the Ampilatwatja Community to Honeymoon Bore, an area outside the prescribed Federal Government leased area.
Letter from the Community, signed by Richard Downs and dozens of residents, sent to Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, requesting a meeting.
Northern Territory Housing Department sends plumbers to deal with sewage.
Jenny Macklin does not meet with Community. Advises by letter that there will be no new housing at Ampilatwatja.
Richard Downs approaches UN rapporteur, James Anaya, to seek refugee status for the Alyawarr community saying they had become outcasts in their own country.
Richard Downs goes on talking tour of Eastern States to raise awareness.
Geoff Scott, CEO of NSW Aboriginal Land Council, gave the Alyawarr people a large brass bell with an inscribed message in recognition for their continuing fight to uphold their land rights.
CERD (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) rebukes the Australian government over its treatment of Aboriginal people saying discrimination had become 'embedded' in the Australian way of life. CERD was surprised to discover the government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act at the time of the Intervention. It was considered without precedent.
Mick Dodson, an Australian Aboriginal political activist, lawyer and scholar, was named the 2009 Australian of the Year in recognition of his work to help better the lives of the country’s indigenous peoples and to promote reconciliation between Australia’s indigenous and non-indigenous residents.
As a result of saturated land, already full rivers and a barrage of tropical cyclones, floods hit north Queensland in a disaster that put 62 per cent - or about one million square kilometres - of the state under water. Hundreds of thousands of cattle were lost, towns were cut off, and most of Queensland was declared eligible for disaster relief.
The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria were the most devastating in Australian history. One hundred and seventy-three people tragically lost their lives, 414 were injured, more than a million wild and domesticated animals were lost and 450,000 hectares of land were burned. Some towns were virtually wiped out.
The Hon. Anna Bligh MP, Premier of Queensland, became the first woman in Australian history to be directly elected to the position of State Premier. Bligh had previously been appointed as Premier in 2007, and was then the first female to be Premier of Queensland. As her state was battered by floods and cyclones she famously said: “This weather may be breaking our hearts but it will not be breaking our will.”
Jessica Watson sailed out of Sydney on October 18, 2009. On her return in May 2010 Watson became the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world. Over 75,000 people turned out to welcome her home. Because of her age, there were many naysayers before Jessica left, but she persisted.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama (born August 4, 1961, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.) was inaugurated as 44th president of the United States (2009–17). He was the first African American to hold the office. Before winning the presidency, Obama represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate. In 2009, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Obama fought to secure free healthcare for all Americans.
On May 18, 2009, Colombo declared the end of the 26 year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. The war had begun after many marginalising efforts by the majority Sinhalese government reduced the living circumstances of the minority Tamils. Both sides committed terrible atrocities during the war. Tens of thousands of ‘disappeared’ Tamils are still missing.
On its National Day, June 21, 2009, Greenland began a new era of self-rule after 300 years under Danish authority. The new status took effect six months after 75 per cent of voters approved a referendum to hand more power to the local government and take control of the island's vast natural resources. Kalaallisut, a traditional Inuit dialect, became the country’s official language, and Greenlanders were recognized under international law as a separate people from Danes.
A new constitution was passed in Bolivia that included comprehensive rights for Bolivia's 36 indigenous communities. The constitution explicitly recognised their cultural identities and customs, as well as collective ownership of land, the granting of more regional and local autonomy and the right of indigenous groups to carry out community justice under their own legal system. It is seen by many experts as one of the most comprehensive constitutions for indigenous rights in the world.
‘Swine Flu’ (H1N1), a particularly virulent form of influenza, began in Mexico in April 2009. Despite efforts to contain it in that country it quickly spread around the world. In June 2009, the World Health Organisation deemed it to be a global pandemic. Schools were closed, quarantine measures were imposed, and vaccinations occurred around the world. It is estimated that 11-21% of the global population contracted the illness, and between 203,000 and 579,000 people died from it. Numbers are unclear due to not all cases being reported.
The lack of consultation with indigenous communities was reminiscent of the mission days when non-indigenous managers had control of almost every aspect of the indigenous people’s lives.
Many Aboriginal parents were concerned that their children would be forcibly removed from communities, just as they were by previous governments.
Ron Merkel QC, 2012