International Day of Action

For Communities Respond to Sexual Assault

November 30th 2007

We are calling for people to organise in their own towns and cities to take action on this day. This means whatever it means to you – maybe organising in your school, occupying an office or a court or a police station, holding a rally, making a publication, talking to people, or anything you can think of.

The government has used sexual assault to justify the military invasion, removal of land permits, and denial of Indigenous autonomy in the Northern Territory. But this is not a way of dealing with sexual assault – fear, intimidation, and military and police presence as a “solution” shows no understanding of sexual assault or ways of dealing with it. The police and military have been perpetrators of sexual assault in communities around Australia, in Iraq, around the world. Some communities have themselves called for police involvement in dealing with sexual abuse, but not all. What is most important is that communities themselves direct the way they want to deal with sexual violence.

The Northern Territory intervention is a racist intervention. It is ridiculous that our white government thinks that Indigenous communities are unable to respond to sexual assault themselves, with their own processes and understandings, especially when we look at the way sexual assault is dealt with across the rest of Australia, by relying on an alienating, adversary and difficult to access legal system.

Almost no sexual assaults are reported to police, and most reported cases result in no conviction. This is not because they are “false claims” but because the legal system forces someone who has been assaulted to try to “prove” their claim, doubting them, disbelieving, pressuring them to relive their assault and undergo invasive medical examinations. Most assault happens in private – it makes it the survivor’s word against the perpetrator’s. The court system is designed so that survivors of sexual assault are attacked and broken by defence lawyers who only want to win their case. In the rare case that a perpetrator is convicted, prison does nothing to confront and challenge the behaviour and underlying assumptions and understandings that foster a culture of sexual assault.

We want a day of action calling for community – not military, not legal – responses to sexual assault. Our government shows no interest in trying to engage with the real issues of sexual assault and how to confront it, so we need to do it ourselves. We are calling for support for survivors of sexual assault, and a process of community response that prioritises their needs and safety. We are calling for processes that try to change the underlying myths and power dynamics that lead to assault, before it happens. We want processes that deal with perpetrators in a way that challenges their beliefs and behaviours, and gets them to take responsibility for their actions and trying to change.

For more information, or to add your own:


Other links for info on community response, the Northern Territory intervention, etc:




  1. communitiesresponsetosexualassault said,

    click on the category links to see the other posts >>>

  2. John said,

    As a keen researcher on Aboriginal activities for some years now, I believe that the Howard Government’s intervention into the Northern Territory is entirely appropriate. For one to claim otherwise simply justifies the child abuse, sexism, and gross misconduct which occurs in these communities.

    To blame the legal system or the police for the lack of successful sexual assault abuse convictions is senseless and mere folly. This site seems to advocate some form of mob/ socialist ruling party which will play judge, jury and executioner.

    Furthermore, the example of Iraq is completely ridiculous. Firstly, the Coalition of the Willing is attempting to SAVE Iraqi women from the abuse of the past Iraqi fascist regimes, which by the way are under the laws of militant Islam.

    The Howard Government, NSW Police and Australian Army are doing their best to stop sexual assault and abuse. It is sites like these which devalue the great work of our community leaders and put obstacles in the way of their noble efforts.

  3. anita said,

    well, firstly this site is advocating an autonomous, community based response to sexual assault. this is because responding to sexual assault needs to be based on the individual needs of survivors of sexual assault, needs to empower them as part of their healing process, needs to take into account their needs and desires, and what they want. in allowing survivors to determine the way that perpetrators are confronted, and in prioritising their support, responding to sexaul assault can be a way of giving them back some of the power that was taken away during assault.

    it might be that survivors of sexual assault want to go to the police, want to use the legal system to deal with perpetrators. but this site acknowledges that the legal system’s way of responding is very often traumatising, invalidating, and in no way supportive or empowering, and also that it is ineffective in challenging the root causes of assault, encouraging behaviour and belief change, and in fact itself displays and perpetuates a lot of myths about sexual assault that are part of a rape culture. it is one thing to assist survivors to use the legal system if they so desire, and quite another to provide a very inadequate system as a person’s only choice. community response, mediation, autonomous restorative justice type approaches, non-government, etc are an alternative that some people might feel is a better option. this kind of response has nothing to do with the legal system. there is no judge, jury, and no execution. it is about belief, support, validation, and then, if the survivor so desires, a response that gives a perpetrator a chance to change, acknowledges that sexual assault is a behaviour that is fostered by the culture in which we live, separates the person from their behaviour, and gives them an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to change, rather than locking them in a cell and hoping when they get out something will be different.

    secondly, i completely disagree with what you said about the northern territory intervention. the racist legislation that the howard government justifies on the basis of “saving children from sexual abuse” does not even mention the word ‘child’ once. it has nothing to do with support, nothing to do with sexual abuse, and is directed entirely at denying aboriginal communities autonomy.

    it is a legislation that applies the same to 73 very unique communities, regardless of the circumstances or context of any community. some things that are included in the legislation are:

    sending in “business managers” to communities. these are white, government paid bureacrats (again, where all aboriginal funding goes – to white people that are working to “save” or “help”, never to aboriginal people themselves) who live on communities, can determine who lives in a community, and are very similar to mission managers of the White Australia past. a story i heard recently involves one community that has been requesting housing for thirty years. in this time, one house has been built – the new business manager’s house, which was built when an old home was demolished to make room, and surrounded with barbed wire fence – to protect him from sexual abuse, perhaps? they dont even live there full time.

    the permit system for Aboriginal land that was put in place with the NT Land rights act has been removed. permits meant that non-residents had to apply to land councils for permission to enter communities, and helped prevent entry of illegal grog runners, and so on. even the NT police say this is a bad idea, and doesnt even fit with the government’s rhetoric about preventing paedophiles from roaming the streets in aboriginal communities. government says it is to allow government officials to enter communtieis and build houses and the like. this is a lie – government officials have actually never been subject to the act. all the removal of the permit system has done is remove hard won aboriginal rights to land.

    publicly funded computers will be monitored. we’ve discovered this includes computers people buy with their welfare money. everything a person looks at on their computer will be recorded and stored, supposedly to monitor pornography consumption. there are no provisions for what will happen with the recorded information.

    the legislation provided for military health checks. thats right, not conducted by doctors or sexual health experts, but by military health officials. this began, but no evidence of child abuse was found, and it has been temporarily suspended because noone knows what should be done after health checks have been conducted.

    CDEP program has been removed. this is a program which is generally used as a top up for the dole in communities where there are no jobs. it allows aboriginal people to effectively be paid for roles they determine for themselves – funds programs like aboriginal land ranger and conservation, aboriginal art and music initiatives, etc. 8000 people were on CDEP. removing this means that people will no longer be able to participate in these roles, and may have to move to cities like alice springs and darwin for work in order to survive. the goverment has said it will create 2000 new jobs. no mention is made of the 6000 people who wont be able to access those after having their CDEP removed.

    welfare reforms mean that all aboriginal people living on communities, regardless of their familiy situations and etc, or even of whether they are parents, will have 50% of their Centrelink payments withheld, and turned into vouchers and coupons to be spent on government determined items at places that the government says they can use the coupons. this is justified with rhetoric about ‘neglected children’. but it applies to all centrelink payments – student payments, unemployment payments, old age nd disability pensions… it also ignores the fact that within centrelink there are already programs for people to quarantine part of their payment voluntarily, and 900 families are already doing this to assist with managing their funds. again, this compulsory racist program reminds us of food rations at the old missions. the only determinant is ‘aborignal’ in a ‘prescribed area’ – the only determinant is race. this legislation also wipes out already existing autonomous aboriginal programs such as free breakfast programs for school age children at schools, which aboriginal women ran by putting aside their own money, pooling it and using it to provide free breakfasts. now, these women ahve been kicked out of schools, and parents’ money is quarantined and they are forced to spend part of it on that food that was previously free. these reforms are costing $88 million to implement. imagine if aboriginal communities had access to this kind of money.

    centrelink were training aboriginal people in communities to administer welfare programs before this legislation, providing jobs for people in communities, so money could be retained in the community. this legislation removes this, and instead provides for 300 white people from canberra to be paid to administer welfare.

    this is the third time in history that the Racial Discrimination Act has been suspended. every time it has been in relation to Indigenous peoples. first, for the native title act, then to override wishes of traditional owners in Hindmarsh island, and now this.

    this legislation effectively clears the way for mining, nuclear waste dumps; and attempts to make communities unsustainable so aboriginal people have to again move off their land into cities. it is yet another act of dispossession.

    when you talk about our great community leaders, it seems you mean white people, not the great aboriginal community leaders who are resisting, refusing new mission managers, and defending community autonomy. you must be talking about the 750 white people that have now been given new, very highly paid ($100,000 +) jobs in these communtiies where aboriginal people themselves cant get jobs.

    some new housing is being provided on the edge of alice springs. the old transportables from woomera detention centre.

    this is apartheid. this is racism. this is paternalism, and this is government controlling the lives of indigenous people. initial white research teams went in with the military.

    it has nothing to do with sexual abuse. people on town camps and in communities have not even really been told of the existence of this legislation. there has been no attempt to translate and communicate the requirements of the legislation to aboriginal people. young people have faced ridiculous fines which they cant afford to pay because they dont even know that they cant buy prescribed amounts of alcohol.

  4. whoever said,

    clearly ‘john’ has never looked past or read anything but a Liberal Pamphlet. Disgusting capital L liberal politics with a foul racist undertone.

    “The Howard Government, NSW Police and Australian Army are doing their best to stop sexual assault and abuse. It is sites like these which devalue the great work of our community leaders and put obstacles in the way of their noble efforts.” pull your finger out ‘john’…….

    anita your amazing, with clear and well articulated politics and knowledge of the issues that are being confronted with the day of action. good luck to all people involved.

  5. Poxy said,

    I’d like to say I’m stoked this day of action is alive and accessible. I’m personally all for using/improving all systems we have in place and inventing more. Whatever we can do must be done, with as much presence, volume, passion, intelligence and, most importantly in my opinion: the willingness to try any rational angle at all without segregation, as we can muster.

    Looking forward to listening, learning and adding my thought beans, t’boot!

    Also, I’ve been wondering about the underlying and apparently pretty blatant drive to take back powers from Aboriginal people through the NT sexual assaults. I don’t want to get all up vocally about something I don’t understand, so please, learn to me as much as possible and look I shall also. I’m happy to see it being brought up. Cheers.

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