Today’s News Headlines:
Journalist Murray McLaughlin reports an “argy bargy” with an officer from Minister Mal Brough’s Department of Community Services who didn’t want reporters at the arrival of police and military personnel at the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu near Uluru. This came after a meeting of the local community who decided that they did want the media present.
McLaughlin reports that a senior army officer present addressed assembled police thus:
“you’re going to be there kicking in doors, maybe, but we are concerned that we are there to be seen as the good guys.”
[If you read only two of today’s links in their entirety, read this one and the Crikey one below the cut.]
O’Brien had a solid go at pinning Brough down on the details of the health-checks plan, and any ongoing plans to properly resource healthcare. Brough steadfastedly refused to answer his questions.
At one point, Brough completely panics and tosses his cards into the air. When asked, “For instance, the concern has been expressed and the question has been asked: “Are children going to be physically examined for signs of sexual abuse?'”, he responds: “Well, Kerry, it’s very interesting how we are having this discussion because, let’s turn it around. Let’s do nothing.”
ABC News reports that John Howard and Tony Abbott are attempting to cast a Spell of Soothing on Aboriginal people who fear another Stolen Generation with the new NT “emergency plan”:
Prime Minister John Howard has urged Northern Territory Aboriginal communities not to fear his intervention plan to curb child sexual abuse.
Aboriginal leaders claim some parents have fled with their children fearing heavy-handed tactics by police and the military.[…]
Health Minister Tony Abbott says he is confident that once it is properly explained that the Government does not want children to be taken away, parents will allow their kids to have the checkups.
Crikey quotes from Mutitjulu community leaders Dorothea and Bob Randall, who made their saving throw. This can’t have been difficult, under the circumstances. The Randalls detail appalling Government neglect of their community over a sustained period of time:
The Howard Government declared an emergency at our community over two years ago — when they appointed an administrator to our health clinic — and since then we have been without a doctor, we have fewer health workers, our council has been sacked, and all our youth and health programmes have been cut. […]
We have been begging for an alcohol counsellor and a rehabilitation worker so that we can help alcoholics and substance abusers but those pleas have been ignored. […]
We have thrown suspected pedophiles out of our community using the permit system which the Government now seeks take away from us.
The Randalls also point out that the supposed “cluster” of sexually transmitted infections at their clinic may be an artifact, as the clinic is a regional one and takes patients from as far away as Western Australia and South Australia who cannot access any services locally. They ask who will do the interpreting for the military staff, why their promised dialysis machine has not materialised, and again raise privacy and confidentiality concerns about the planned compulsory health checks. Above all, they ask that their community not be used as a political football.
Further afield in northern Western Australia, the Federal government has discontinued funding for two fulltime workers in a Port Hedland employment program. The workers help run a patrol and sobering-up centre in the local community.
Throw military and Federal police at central and northern Australia, while locally run services employing local people are cut to the bone or cut out altogether. This is what the Howard government is all about.
And even further afield – to Canada. Hundreds of people at one centre celebrated Canada’s National Aboriginal Day last week. The day featured cultural celebrations (dancing, singing, and kindergarten performances), the unveiling of a 30 foot canoe made by schoolchildren, and the honouring of First Nations war veterans. Similar events were held across the country.
Friday marks the First Nations National Day of Action. Demonstrations are planned to highlight outstanding land claims issues, take a stand on territory destruction by logging and mining, and protest about entrenched indigenous poverty and unemployment.