A wrap of commentary and reaction to Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement of sweeping changes to indigenous welfare and health policies in the Northern Territory.

“It’s heavy-handed and certainly without consultation.” — Mick Dodson, academic

“What it suggests to me is it is almost a military emergency on Aboriginal land … I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I cannot see a considered approach.” — Judy Atkinson, academic

“We thought now that we had integration and self-determination. But we don’t. We’re going backwards.” — Lowitja O’Donoghue, former chairwoman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission

“This is going to just create enormous difficulties and problems for us, and I think literature is one area where we can explore who we are.” — Alexis Wright, author

“Why shouldn’t there be checks to see which kids have sexually transmitted diseases, which kids have had recent abuses? It’s all going to help to identify the perpetrators”. — Sue Gordon, chairwoman of National Indigenous Council

“Unless they do that in non-Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory as well, then it is racially discriminatory”. — Gregory Phillips, medical anthropologist

“To completely take over the lives of Aborigines in the Northern Territory (is) an immoral abuse of power based on a racist attack on the weak”. — Michael Mansell, legal director, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc.