• Karrang Kunred / Mother-Land

    20 April to 26 May 2018

A Widening Gap: The Intervention, 10 Years On — 8 July to 5 August 2017

8 July to 5 August 2017

Conversation on constitutional & cultural reform

Saturday 29 July at 2 pm: Gemma McKinnon, Barkindji woman and UNSW Law Aboriginal Fellow at the University of New South Wales and technical adviser for the Referendum Council regional dialogues, with Aboriginal (Bandjalung) art curator Djon Mundine OAM who has curated the exhibition with Jo Holder. Everyone is welcome.


Anon (Young Artist in Don Dale Juvenile Detention Facility) with printer Franck Gohier, Alison Alder, Nick Bland, Margaret Boko, Miriam Charlie, Brenda L. Croft, David Frank,  Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre (Mervyn Rubuntja, Lenie Namatjira, Reinhold Inkamala, Vanessa Inkamala, Gloria Pannka, Betty Naparula Wheeler), Fiona MacDonald with Intervention Rollback Action Group, Chips Mackinolty, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, Teena McCarthy, Sally M. Mulda, Mumu Mike Williams and Jason Wing. Co-curators Jo Holder and Djon Mundine OAM

A Widening Gap: The Intervention, 10 Years On marks the tenth anniversary of the introduction of “the Intervention” (the Northern Territory National Emergency Response). The Intervention has now quietly been extended until 2022 despite only two of the ninety-seven recommendations in the NT Government’s Little Children are Sacred Report (2007) being implemented. The Intervention is based on a disabled Racial Discrimination Act which is at odds with international human rights conventions. The exhibition reflects a world that is remote from the essential services that the rest of Australia takes for granted.

The Intervention (the Northern Territory ‘emergency response’) has failed yet it continues with its key measures in place: despite over 50 damning reports into the 'widening gap', most published in the last 10 years. A Widening Gap: The Intervention, 10 Years On opens at a decisive moment after the Uluru 'Statement from the Heart' (June 2017) and the Don Dale Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention. (Whose final report is due 30 September 2017.)

The artists in the exhibition come from the Northern Territory as well as from across Australia; are Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal; and include a young former resident of Don Dale Youth Detention Centre which has recently been the subject of a Royal Commission. The focus is on Alice Springs and Central Desert communities as they were the first occupied by Australian Army and police. These artists give voice to the indignities of the Intervention and express their concerns relating to land rights and mining. As artist and pastor Mumu Mike William's image and text painting states in the cadences of Pitjantjatjara, one of the related languages of the Western Desert, "I’m talking about land rights, and what the Land Rights Act means for us. I’m saying: 'Nya manta? What is land rights?"

The exhibition includes a splendid suite of watercolours by Arrente artists from Hermannsburg / Ntaria carrying on the legacy of Albert Namitjira supported by Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Arts Centre protesting mining and associated climate changes affecting food and health. Posters by Alison Alder, Chips Mackinolty, Fiona MacDonald and Jason Wing, reflect the vibrant connections between politics and printmaking. Alison Alder and Jason Wing hone their fine wit on the BasicsCard as "the only card for when you have no choice" targeted social security payments are a ruthless form of racial targeting. Photographs by Brenda L. Croft, selected from her near-iconic series ‘Signs of the Times’, capture the wry subversion as communities react to vilification - including nationally significant places such as Daguragu where the Gurindji sought the return of their traditional lands, while Miriam Charlie's photographs her family's "temporary" housing (temporary since a cyclone in 1983). As Miriam Charlie says, "I am a Yanyuwa/Garrwa woman. I call it “My country, no home” because we have a Country but no home, people are living in tin shacks, in matchbox-sized houses. Even traditional owners here don’t own houses. I wanted to take these photos to show the world how my people are living. The project is not to shame them.”

Also included are several rare works arising out of the trauma of Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin. For the 'proscribed communities' (there are about 75 in the NT) living under the Intervention it has been a hard ten-years with no benefit. The poster selection by Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney attests to the dedication needed to keep the subject of human rights on the national political radar.

The artists ask 'What now?' The Uluru Statement presents a way forward: treaties or the ritualised ceremony of Makaratta and constitutional reform to recognise First Nations rights. As Australia's presence at the Venice Biennial proves again and again, a strong Indigenous cultural base is Australia's greatest resource.


Mumu Mike Williams, Nya Manta? 2016. Tea, ink, chalk pastel on 2 sheets of paper, overall 200 x 150cm. Courtesy Mimili Maku Arts.


Mumu Mike Williams' statement:

With this painting, I’m talking about land rights, and what the Land Rights Act means for us. I’m saying: 'Nya manta? What is land rights? All the old men and women here on these lands, they’re the owners of the Tjukurpa, their law and culture, their heritage. This land belongs to them. Listen: keep the land and its stories strong! Protect it and keep it strong for us — for everybody'.

The Intervention, Ten years ago: white politicians said their Northern Territory ‘emergency response’ (NTER) — on the eve of a Federal election — was an urgent response to the Little Children are Sacred report into the neglect and abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory (April 2007, P. Anderson and R. Wild). The government sent in the army, the Federal Police and doctors to ‘stabilize’ virtually every single Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Prime Minister Howard and Minister Brough posed for photographs with troops as communities were terrorized to ‘close the gap’. The Intervention forced many communities into 99-year leases with the government for the essential services that we take for granted. The victory of the outstation and Land Rights movements, celebrated in Brenda L. Croft's concurrent exhibition Still in my mind  (UNSW Gallery, Sydney), was trampled. The Intervention is a thinly disguised land grab to benefit the mining and resources industry.

Instead of schools, eighteen new police stations were built and police search and arrest powers extended leading to a surge of people in remand. Change of government changed only the occupation’s name to the savage irony of ‘Stronger Futures’. A future under white occupation has impoverished and removed agency from Aboriginal people and their organisations, while communities struggle to sustain valued ways of life, art and culture. 

The Intervention, Ten years later: the amnesia of urban Australia was disturbed when, in August 2016, the ABC TV's Four Corners investigated CCTV evidence of the systemic use of force and abuse of Aboriginal children in detention in juvenile detention institutions in Darwin and Alice Springs and showed the now infamous photo of young Dylan Voller, hooded and tied to a restraining chair. Other torture techniques included the use of spit hoods and restraint chairs, unlawful duration of solitary confinement, gassing and strip searches at whim (including of young girls). The journalists proved that Federal and Territory governments were torturing young people in condemned adult prisons rather than educating. This exposure forced a Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

The 'Don Dale' Royal Commission and the 50th Anniversary of the Referendum granting Indigenous peoples the right to be counted as Australian, gives an urgency and gravity to this wrongdoing and opportunistic policies. Little children and scared, sick and Aboriginal young people are being removed from family and incarcerated at appalling rates. It is time to consider implementing the four simple recommendations made by the extensive process that resulted in the Recognition Council's 'Statement from the Heart'. 

This is the second in a series of exhibitions at The Cross Art Projects that witness and discuss The Intervention and Australia’s ongoing human rights abuse. The first exhibition Ghost Citizens: Witnessing the Intervention, was presented in 2012 to coincide with the Sydney Biennale. (See links and Exhibitions Bibliography below.) Some of the original artists have been joined by a growing band of artist activists.

Mervyn Rubuntja, I need to put a sign – no mining! Watercolour on paper, 36 x 54 cm. Statement: “We need to stop that mining at Pine Hill station [North West MacDonnell Ranges, NT]. The wrong people are benefiting from this. We don’t want this mining there. This is a main sacred place for us not far from where they are mining, it is our Honey Ants Dreaming.” 

Mervyn Rubuntja, They are ripping us off at the East MacDonnell Ranges, NT, Watercolour on paper, 36 x 54 cm. Statement: Some outsiders are talking about mining at the East MacDonnell Ranges between Jessie Gap and Emily Gap. But I talked to my family and we decided: no mining there! Traditional owners in this area are not benefiting financially from mining, only the government and mining companies get the money. Custodians don’t get nothing, they get just enough for a biscuit…”

Mervyn Rubuntja, Digging at Coober Pedy, 2017. Watercolour on paper, 36 x 54 cm.

Betty Naparula Wheeler, Working on the Mereenie Loop Road, 2017. Watercolour on paper, 26 x 36 cm.

Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre, installation view The Cross Art Projects, July 2017. Country: Tjuritja (MacDonnell ranges) is 120 km of ranges west of Alice Springs. This is the country that belongs to the artists, all the way to Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and Glen Helen Gorge. Language: Arrernte or Western Arrarnta. Artists left to right: Mervyn Rubuntja, Digging at Coober Pedy, 2015. Mervyn Rubuntja, I need to put a sign – no mining! 2016. Mervyn Rubuntja, They are ripping us off at the East MacDonnell Ranges, NT, 2016. Vanessa Inkamala, Heavitree Gap (Climate Change), 2017. Reinhold Inkamala, UFOs near Mt Sonder, NT, (Climate Change), 2017. Gloria Pannka, Iwapathaka (Jay Creek, NT), 2017. Gloria Pannka, Climate Change- Dust Storms in the country, 2017. Lenie Namatjira Lankin, White man is coming, 2016.Gloria Pannka, Jay Creek between Fish hole and Ias hole Gap (flash flood), 2017. Betty Wheeler Naparula, Working on the Mereenie Loop Road, 2016. Mervyn Rubuntja, 2007: speaks about his traditional land — Ntyelkeme, about 150km northwest of Alice Springs in the Central Australian Desert. He responds to attempts by Prime Minister John Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough to take control of Aboriginal land under the guise of the 'Northern Territory emergency intervention. View on Youtube > https://youtu.be/F9oKtIauZ3o

Artist Statements: Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre

Clara Inkamala’s statement

We want to send strong messages through our art. We have health and housing concerns. Through our paintings we want to discuss care for country, and problems that we face daily. I am concerned about the future of our children. First, I feel that large food companies trade on our country and sell us sugary products. This causes health problems including diabetes, kidney failures, and the need for dialysis. We feel that those companies are lying to us about the quality of their products and taking advantage of our vulnerability. We would like to see better products in our shops. This [our artworks] is telling people we’ve got bush food out there and healthy ones.

Second, mining is ruining our land and our sacred sites. It is destroying the home of the little animals, our bush tucker and the vegetation. This damage only helps big companies to get richer and richer while the traditional owners get poorer and poorer. When I see those trucks on other people’s country it makes me sad, so we have painted this in our watercolours. Finally, we want to move back to our country, look after it and live in a good environment. This is for our kids; we’ve got to try to look after the next generation. Source: Clara Inkamala about the studio studies conducted with artists in residency, Tony Albert and Timoteus Anggawan Kusno.

Gloria Panka’s statement

We had a meeting with the mining companies about this area. These mining companies might come back again.  If mining goes to that area it is going to destroy the habitat and animals. We will have no bush tucker, no Kangaroo, no Guanna. It will influence the landscape badly. Some traditional owners say NO, some say YES because of the money. I care about my country and say: No mining in my land. Speaking on Dust storm painting:  I feel that fire may destroy our country, that’s why I thought it was important to paint this story. I also painted the dust storms not far from where I am living, it’s a problem for our lungs, for sick people like me, you know….


Brenda L. Croft, installation view: from ‘Signs of the Times’ series: Fight Racism, NT Intervention sign, Top Grid, Buntine Highway, 17 May 2011, 2014, pigment print 42 x 59.5 cm; NT Intervention sign, customized by John Leeman, Daguragu, 29 August 2011, 2014, pigment print, 42 x 59.5 cm. NT Intervention sign, customised by John Leeman, Daguragu, 29 August 2011, from 'Signs of the Times' series. Pigment print, 42 x 59.5cm. Courtesy Niagra Galleries, Melbourne.

Margaret Nampitjinpa Boko, Central Land Council Meeting, M’Bunghara, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 770 x 1220. (#07493-16). Artist's statement: This painting is about a Central Land Council meeting at M'Bunghara Outstation about Native Title. There's lots of people - families - kids playing basketball. All the papa [dogs], hanging round, playing. They listening to the white people talking about the Native Title we got over all of Glen Helen Station. That's where M'Bunghara is. Family all got Native Title. This is all my family. Courtesy Tangentyere Artists.

Anon (Don Dale artist) / printer Franck Gohier. All your freedom gone. Don Dale Juvenile Detention Facility, Darwin, 2000. Silkscreen. Courtesy Red Hand Archive, Darwin.

Nick Bland, Don v Dale, 2017. Drawing. Courtesy the artist and Land Rights News and The Cross Art Projects. 

Fiona MacDonald, Treaty Ma, 2017.  Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 38 x 48cm. Edition of 3. Courtesy The Cross Art Projects. 

Fiona MacDonald, Witness Statement 1 (Veronica and Pamela Lynch), 2017. inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 38 x 52cm. Edition of 3. Source images and texts courtesy Jeff Tan Photographer and Intervention Rollback Action Group (IRAG) Alice Springs. Smoking ceremony - Akeluyere. Courtesy The Cross Art Projects. 

Fiona MacDonald, Witness Statement 2 (Djiyinni Gondarra), 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 38 x 52cm. Courtesy The Cross Art Projects. 

Fiona MacDonald, Witness Statement 3 (Ngarla and Rosalie Kunoth Monks), 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 38 x 52cm. Source images and texts courtesy Jeff Tan Photographer and Intervention Rollback Action Group (IRAG) Alice Springs. Smoking ceremony - Akeluyere.  Courtesy The Cross Art Projects. 

Alison Alder, Australian Political Disasters, 2017, installation comprising 10 prints. Edition of 2.

Alison Alder, The only card for when you have no choice, 2017 (detail). Unframed silkscreen print. Courtesy The Cross Art Projects. 

Jason Wing, Black Label (Restricted), 2016-17. Display stand, school books.

Jason Wing, Artist's Statement

Black Label stems from a story I heard activist and artist Chips Mackinolty recounting on radio. At the time he had a friend who was living in Katherine when the intervention was first enforced. She had gone to the newsagent to buy her granddaughter exercise books, pens and newspapers for school, but her Basics Card purchase was rejected because the store also sold pornography and lottery tickets. After hearing Chips’ story I discovered many other incidences that were alarmingly similar; stories where Aboriginal people had been refused access to essential products and services since the intervention was first enacted. This pernicious censorship disempowers communities, and further demonises Indigenous people.

Thank you

Grateful thanks to the artists and Murray Mclaughlin, editor Land Rights News, published by the Northern Land Council, for the title. Art centres: Desart (Phillip Watkins), ltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre (Iris Bender); Mimili Maku Arts (Heath Aarons); Tangentyere Artists (Sue O'Connor). Kind assistance from Alcaston Gallery, Black Art Projects (Andrea Candiani), Phillip Boulten, Chloe Gibbon, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS (Paddy Gibson), Tony McAvoy SC, Damian Minton, Red Hand Press Archive (Franck Gohier), UNSW Gallery (Lucy Ainsworth) and UNSW Law (Gemma McKinnon). Collectives: Intervention Rollback Action Group (Meret McDonald, Barbara Shaw) and Stop the Intervention Collective (Cathy Gill, Sabine Kacha, Hans Marwe, Emily Valentine).

We acknowledge and respect all Traditional Owners & Custodians on whose Lands we live, work and travel through, in Australia and overseas.

Partner Links

Desart - Desart:Home / ltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre - https://manyhandsart.com.au/  / Mimili Maku Arts - www.mimilimaku.com/  / Tangentyere Artists - http://www.tangentyereartists.org.au/

References & Resources

Intervention resource and analysis including time lines at https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/northern-territory-emergency-response-intervention#toc6

Arena Magazine, 'Ten Years of Intervention', No 148, 2017.

Jon Altman, ‘The Destruction of Homelander Life-ways’, Arena Magazine, The Intervention Feature, no 148, July 2017. > Download as pdf

Elisabeth Baehr, Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp, eds., ’And there'll be NO dancing’. Perspectives on Policies Impacting Indigenous Australia since 2007, Cambridge Scholars, May 2017. Description: Fourteen essays by scholars from Australia and Germany examine (historical) contexts and discourses of the Intervention and subsequent policies impacting Indigenous Australia since 2007.

Michael Brull, ‘A Decade On, The Fraud Of The NT Intervention Is Exposed’, New Matilda, 28 June 2017 - https://newmatilda.com/2017/06/28/a-decade-on-the-fraud-of-the-nt-intervention-is-exposed/

Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss, eds., The Intervention. An Anthology, UNSW Press, 2nd edition 2016.

Referendum Council Media Release Uluru 'Statement from the Heart' > Download as pdf

Referendum Council Final Report, July 2017 - https://www.referendumcouncil.org.au/final-report

Referendum Council Final Report, July 2017 > Download as pdf

Mervyn Rubuntja, 2007: speaks about his traditional land- Ntyelkeme, about 150km northwest of Alice Springs in the Central Australian desert. He responds to Prime Minister John Howard and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Mal Brough attempting to take control of Aboriginal land under the guise of their so called 'Northern Territory emergency intervention. Youtube > https://youtu.be/F9oKtIauZ3o

Publication: Land Rights News, Northern Edition July 2017, On the 10 Year Intervention (includes articles by Pat Dodson, Jon Altman, Thalia Anthony). > Download as pdf

CLC Newsletter, July 2017 on Uluru statement. > Download as pdf

Solidarity magazine, July 2017 > Download as pdf

Social Justice resources

Australian Museum on Social Justice including on Deaths in Custody RC https://australianmuseum.net.au/indigenous-australia-social-justice

Concerned Australians on the NT Intervention - http://www.concernedaustralians.com.au/

Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Child the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT. See https://childdetentionnt.royalcommission.gov.au/about-us/Documents/RCNT-Interim-report.pdf

Indigenous Law Bulletin and Australian Indigenous Law Review, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law - http://www.ilc.unsw.edu.au/

On Ten Years of the NT Intervention

STICS at http://stoptheintervention.org/10-years-of-intervention 

NITV News, The Point, June 19 2017: On 10th Anniversary of the NT interview with Rex Wild QC-co-author of the 2007 Little Children Are Sacred Report - https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/960649795842/the-point

ABC Radio, The Drum, Interview, 19 June 2017: Pat Turner, NT Intervention – “nothing has changed for the better”; the Intervention is “a complete violation of the human rights of Aboriginal people”: at ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2016/s4687879.htm  Related: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jun/19/child-protection-cases-more-than-doubled-after-nt-intervention-inquiry-told

SBS, NITV, 18 June 2017: 'Ten years of the NT Intervention - Voices from the Frontline'. On June 21 2007, the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended to allow the Northern Territory Response Act 2007 a controversial move that still effects communities in the Northern Territory. At http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2017/06/18/ten-years-nt-intervention-ten-testimonies-grass-roots 

Marion Scrymgour, Minister for Child Protection in the Northern Territory, gave the Charles Perkins Oration, 2008 at Sydney University. Scrymgour describes the Intervention in 2007 as 'the black kids Tampa'. She says the Intervention 'has nothing to with child protection, but everything to do with taking land and silencing and controlling Aboriginal  people'. Youth arrests have increased over the past decade by 1571% for Indigenous females and 224% for Indigenous males. Ten years later an urgent Royal Commission into abuse of children in juvenile detention is finally called. (Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT, NAAJA Submission, p. 9.)

Listen: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2007/10/aye_20071027_1800.mp3


Intervention Rollback Action Group (IRAG), Alice Springs at https://rollbacktheintervention.wordpress.com/ and Shut Youth Prisons at on ShutYouthPrisons AS @ShutYouthPrison
Respect and Listen at http://www.respectandlisten.org/

Twitter: Indigenous Law UNSW - https://twitter.com/ILC_UNSW; #standup2017;  #NTIntervention

Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia) publishes WGAR News which monitors the media focusing on the Australian Federal government intervention into Northern Territory (NT) with other Aboriginal rights issues. The newsletter is published about twice a week. To subscribe, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include the words “subscribe WGAR News” in the message header.

Bibliography of Exhibitions on The Intervention and considering the 50th Anniversary of the Referendum granting Indigenous peoples the right to be counted as Australian.

2012: Ghost Citizens: Witnessing The Intervention (The NTER 2007). Co-curators Jo Holder and Djon Mundine. At The Cross Art Projects then Project Contemporary Artspace, Wollongong, Counihan Gallery, Melbourne and NCCA, Darwin. Exhibition catalogue Counihan Gallery. At http://crossart.com.au/archive/98-2013-exhibitions-projects/190-witnessing-the-intervention-counihan-gallery-melbourne-17-may-to-16-june-2013 and- http://crossart.com.au/archive/99-2012-exhibitions-projects/167-ghost-citizens-witnessing-the-intervention

2013: Treaty, yeah?, Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin. Exhibition catalogue Northern Centre of Contemporary Art and Chan Contemporary Art Space. Curator Maurice O'Riordan.

2014: Wave Hill 50th Anniversary, Yijarni: True stories from Gurindji Country (2016) a project bringing together custodians, rangers, artists, linguists, oral historians, with Brenda L. Croft as project photographer.

2015: CCP Declares: On the Social Contract (with work by Miriam Charlie), Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. Curator Pippa Milne.

2015: Tarnanthi, Art Gallery of South Australia and multiple venues in Adelaide. Co-ordinating curator Nici Cumston.

2016: Our Land, Our Life, Our Future. Vincent Lingiari Art Award, exhibition catalogue. Central Land Council, Desart, Tangentyere Artists. 

2016: Sovereignty, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Co-curators Paola Balla and Max Delany.

2017: Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality. UNSW Gallery, Sydney. Artist and curator Brenda L. Croft.

2017: Living in their Times, UTS Art, Sydney. Curator Djon Mundine.

2017, Anniversary of 1967 Referendum: The Dust Never Settles. Works from University of Queensland Art Collection, UQ Art Museum to 30 July 2017. Curator Michele Helmrich. 

2017: Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial, Australian National Gallery, Canberra until 10 September 2017. Curator Tina Baum.

Reviews: A Widening Gap: The Intervention, 10 Years On 

Unravelling Our Past: Four Exhibitions to See in July. Probing history to pose important questions about Australia's future by Sammy Preston > Download as pdf

Sydney Morning Herald, 'Metro', Saturday 22 July 2017.

Chips Mackinolty, Treaty … Where, 2017. Digital print.

Chips Mackinolty's banner, "Treaty...Where?" outside The Cross Art Projects heralding Saturday's talk (2 pm) on Constitutional Recognition by Gemma McKinnon.

Installation view The Cross Art Projects from left to right: Alison Alder, Brenda L. Croft (detail), Fiona MacDonald, Nick Bland.