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The story of Barbara Shaw

The camps around the central Australian town of Alice Springs house mostly Aboriginal people, often in poor conditions. Nevertheless Barbara Shaw introduces herself as a “proud fourth generation town camper”.

Barbara Shaw said: All Aboriginal people are being stereotyped and demonised. © UN Photo /Jean-Marc FerreAt the Voices side event at the Durban Review Conference, Barbara described a childhood marred by racist incidents and continual harassment. When she was small, Barbara Shaw says “child after child made fun of me because of where I lived in the town camp.” Her father and uncle were both assaulted and her uncle had white paint poured over him.

Today, Shaw says her children tell stories of discrimination on public transport to and from school. The bigger children say to them, “This is a whites’ only bus.”

Aboriginal people are being targeted, she says and the police focus on cars being driven by Aboriginals. The gaols are full of Aboriginal people.

Two years ago, the previous Australian Federal Government announced a series of extraordinary measures. The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) was formulated in response to what was described as “a national emergency.” The Government was acting on a report which had detailed widespread child abuse in indigenous communities. 

Barbara is one of the most vocal members of an Australian group campaigning to put an end to the NTER in Aboriginal communities.

For Barbara Shaw what has happened is “wrong and unjust”. “There was no proper consultation before the Intervention and there is still no proper consultation with Aboriginal people today,” she says.

She believes the measures are “paternalistic” and give the Government far too much power.

“All Aboriginal people,” she says “are being stereotyped and demonised.”

30 June, 2009