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Artistic Response To Intervention
ali mills and other artists are developing some short plays and skits
about the intervention to present at a forum. Ali is asking anyone to
send her anything they think would be good content and ingredients for
She is looking for any news clippings, speeches, statements,
opinions/attitudes, offical documents etc., from either john howard,
Mal Brough, any newspapers, any politicians, federal govt reps,
anybody, community people who
might have something to say, remote area mob or town mob.
She is also interested in opinions of what people think about it, are
they happy, sad, confused, angry etc. In addition, she is also looking
for a volunteers to help her collate and edit the statements and
phrases that they will use for the scripts, as well as volunteers for
acting and playing a part in the whole operation (e.g., there will be
street theatre and music, dance)
If there anyone who can help the artists with a truck for our mobile
Ali is alsoeseeking anyone with ideas, suggestions for fund raising, or
who wants to come along to a works in progress. Please contact her at
Browns Mart, Darwin on 89
815522 or 0439 106 906, or by email, email@example.com.
In spirit country
The Age | 10 November 2007
In the third of our series on the mood of the nation, Martin Flanagan goes to the symbol that lies at the heart of Australia - Uluru.
Sammy Wilson says Ayers Rock and Uluru are not the same. "The Ayers Rock dreaming is people climbing to the top," he says. "That not Uluru." Sammy's the president of the Mutitjulu community a few kilometres from the rock.
Few people in Australia cannot have heard of Mutitjulu. It's where the story of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children first exploded into public consciousness. After that came the intervention by the Federal Government, after that came a radical divergence of opinion, but one aspect of the original story remains conspicuously unproven - that there was a pedophile ring in Mutitjulu. There had been a pedophile in the community but he had been run out.
The rock has half a million visitors a year. If the permit system is revoked in Mutitjulu, any or all of them will be free to enter the Aboriginal community at will. If the people of Mutitjulu are said to be demoralised now, imagine them after a few years of that. As it is, the permit system stands and I enter with a whitefeller working at the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park who speaks Pitjatjanjara.
It's nearly 10 kilometres round the base of the rock. But however big you think it is physically, it's that big again as a story, if not bigger, since stories from the rock travel in all directions - blackfeller stories or, as Sammy Wilson calls them, Tjukurpa.
The Anangu, the people of the rock, don't like the word "dreaming". Whitefeller dreams, they say, are fleeting. Tjukurpa is now and forever and was in the time when the ancestor spirits created the place we're walking about.
Sammy Wilson was born, it is thought, in 1963. His grandfather was well-known elder Paddy Uluru. Sammy says his grandfather gave him his stories. English is very much his second language.
"I was born in the bush, grew up that way. Hard in English." I go for a drive around Uluru with Sammy and an elder in his 70s, Norman Pjakilyiri. Norman has no English, or none he shares with me. He is senior enough in Tjukurpa to paint on Uluru's walls. Sammy and Norman and I sit for a while on the northern side of Uluru, the side you never see in photos, the one where the big men's place is to be found, and talk politics and footy. Our conversation on footy is the subject of my sports column today. On politics Sammy has plenty to say. In fact, he almost sings it.
"Aboriginal people livin' on the land. Someone put name on it - Australia." He's saying Aboriginal people were living on the land when someone from outside came along and put the name Australia on it. Sammy's a desert man. Only uses words that matter.
One of the intervention measures taken by the Federal Government is to ban pornography in the communities. A whitefeller I meet later with Sammy says he's been going into the homes of the people of Mutitjulu for the past year and hasn't seen so much as a Ralph magazine.
Sammy says, "All this pornography - Canberra the worst place. Nothing happening in Mutitjulu. Then the minister sneak in and talk to the women."
This is a reference to a recent visit to Mutitjulu by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough. It made a big splash in the national media, Mr Brough saying he wasn't going to talk to Aboriginal men, he was going to talk to Aboriginal women. At the time I half-believed it could be that simple.
As Sammy sees it, Mr Brough has entered Tjukurpa through women's law. It only occurred to me later to ask Sammy if he had spoken to the 11 or so Aboriginal women who attended the meeting about what the minister said. He shook his head. "I can't. That women's law. If I go and sit with the old women, they stop talking."
Of Mr Brough's behaviour, Sammy says, "You don't learn that way. Someone come in here, go on walk, understand this place. This one sneak in and say - you do, you do." Sammy's big on learning. Learning is Tjukurpa.
Sammy came to Melbourne once. "I was learning myself. I look at old buildings. Gotta learn and listen. Same here. I don't run amok in gallery. They kick me out. Same here."
Everywhere at Uluru are signs from the traditional owners asking people not to climb the rock. Part of Uluru's importance comes from the fact it stores water in its cavernous holes and crevasses. There are no toilets on the rock and you can imagine what is being left there. But the other objection of the local people is that the one or so person who dies each year attempting the climb is of consequence to them. Under Aboriginal law, if someone is killed on your land, you must answer for it. It's like a negative karma left in the earth.
No talk of going to Uluru can fail to bring up Yulara, the tourist complex at the fringe of the national park. You might as well be on Mars. I ask a man serving drinks in one of the hotels what the big election issue is in Yulara. "There isn't one," he says. Yulara's workforce is young, early-20s, on six-month contracts. "City things don't impact much out here," continues the barman.
But the election does matter "out here". Uluru is like the board of the ABC - it's one of those places where the politics of the day are played out in a naked way for all to see.
The first Aboriginal story Sammy tells visitors to the park is about the fight between the poisonous male and non-poisonous female snake guarding its eggs. The non-poisonous snake won but only by summoning the power to create venom. If Uluru is one of our great national symbols, that creation story is significant to us. I also note that the national park is a rare example of Tjunguringkula waakaripai - working together, indigenous and non-indigenous. Sammy Wilson, as I encounter him, is not a venomous man. Do we want him to be? If the answer is no, we need to again ask ourselves the question asked by the joint management committee of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - how do we share this land?
I am anxious to speak to some Mutitjulu women. One of the elders, Barbara Tjikatu, is as soft in her speech as she is in her manner. She says she wants better for the children, she wants to teach culture to people, black and white. She doesn't appear to know the difference between the Labor and the Liberal parties. In her early life she went to places 600 kilometres from here, walking all the way. She paints a lot about bush tucker and is on the management committee of the national park.
The feeling in Mutitjulu is orderly, but I note it now has a permanent police presence. I find three old women sitting in the shade with a young woman of Asian appearance who is sitting with them, beaming. She has been admitted to the circle although how long she has been at Mutitjulu - one hour, one day, one year - I cannot tell. Two of the old women are eating kangaroo tails, a bush tucker delicacy, the other is roasting bent wires in a fire and using them to brand a piece of wood with a traditional pattern, presumably for sale.
When I mention Mal Brough they struggle to recall him. One of the old women thinks I'm asking about an election for a committee apportioning the community's share of the gate money to the park. But another, May, is entirely clear in what she has to say. Her kangaroo tail, I note, is only lightly cooked and she's peeling it like a banana, like it's a real pleasure to eat. "That John Howard he go everywhere," she says, pointing with her kangaroo tail to the rock. "He go round the world. He never come to this country."
See: The Age
Alan Trindal, Barunga
It is hard living in communities - you don't have the same employment opportunities. If John Howard gets in there is going to be no CDEP and people are going to have to go to town to get a job.
It's going to be hard. Where are we going to get work? People grew up here. They don't want to leave their places. I've been here eight years. I don't want to go anywhere else.
I just want to be treated the same as any other Australian.
We're getting treated like refugees in our own country. If they want improvements they should put them back into the communities. The first CDEP was at Barunga. People make a life of that-if they strip CDEP away they are not going to work for the dole. It's not turn into a proper job.
They want to do something that's a job. That has the word, job. They're Aboriginal, but they're not dumb! They're not going to work for the dole, because it is not described as a job. That's an embarrassment. They're not stupid. They want to move a level up, not down.
People are going to vote for Kevin Rudd because he is going to keep CDEP.
These days to apply for a job on a station, you need a certificate to say you can do that work. If you don't know the person that works there, or he doesn't know you, you won't get a job. When I was young, you knew what you had to do, and you did it, but today you need a piece of paper to say you can do the job!
Some people don't read or write. They might need help filling out the forms, but they can do the work. In 2007, you need to do a training course, even when you have done the job for years. That's not fair.
I've done a lot of station work. I learned from my grandfather. He showed me what he had learned, and I just learnt it off him. I didn't need a certificate. It is hard for people, these days. In a community, you can get a job without a certificate. You don't need a piece of paper. They are trying to make people apply for jobs in town, but they don't have certificates, or they might not have gone to school. People don't know what a resume is, and these days you have to have a resume and fill out an application form. A lot of people don't read or write really well, so are they supposed to write a resume or fill out an application form? But they know how to do the job. That's not fair to anybody.
Alan Trindal, Barunga, 5/11/07
"I don't want to be famous"
The most important thing that we want is for Aboriginal people to get award wages, like white people do.
We did this before the intervention came in place. We did that Centrelink deduction, which goes to the shop for food. I already pay $250 a fortnight for the meal program at the school, breakfast and lunch for all the kids.
They think we are stupid, but we're not.
We need more money. The costs in the shop are going higher, so we need more money to buy food, to spend at our local shop. The government should help us to bring the price of food down in the shops.
We know what is right for us. We know the land, and the land knows us.
I don't want to be famous, I just want to talk on behalf of the community, that's all.
Name and community withheld, 23/10/07
Women's Workshop at Tangentyere Council
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Statement by Aboriginal Women living in Prescribed Areas under the NT Intervention Legislation; a combination of Alice Springs Town Camp ladies and ladies from remote central Australian communities. Some traveled, 80k, 230k and up to 400k for the meeting.
Aboriginal women today are saying that the Commonwealth NT National Emergency Intervention legislation must be abolished.
This women's group strongly support the demand for safety of Aboriginal children. We will continuously oppose the NT Intervention and the way that it has been implemented into prescribed Aboriginal areas.
We will continue to fight this discriminatory legislation on a local, regional, national and international level as it is racist, unjust and against human rights.
We call upon the National Aboriginal Alliance in advocating for Aboriginal people to take up our fight to the Federal Government.
For more information contact Barbara Shaw on 0401291166 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Clely's and Terry's Voices
WE WILL SURVIVE!!!!!!!
Clely and Terry
My name is Clely, Italian by birth, aboriginal by adoption, I have lived in Arnhemland for the last 35 years married to Terry Djamu Yumbulul for the last 30 years.
In the last 35 years I have seen many changes in this part of the world, I have seen a very proud race of people slowly loosing themselves in the race to "compete and assimilate", now I see people with a bewildered look in their eyes, ashamed of the things that are said about them, defeated. We try to make the best of the situation and comply with the new laws but it hurts, deeply, my husband has been an advocate for customary law for years, our laws are sacred to us, they make us what we are, take our laws away from us and we are empty, our souls are destroyed, maybe that is just what this government wants to do, killing us from the inside, kill our pride in ourselves,without belief in ourselves we are nothing. I know bad things have happened in the Territory, but they happen everywhere, we are singled out because we are Aboriginals? It certainly looks that way, I feel hurt not for Aboriginals but as one of them.
I used to be proud to say I am a Territorian, Arnhemlander, but now I find people look down on me, on us, we are all branded because of where we live, but we have one message for all that condemn us, WE WILL SURVIVE!!!!!!!
Clely, Mallarrami outstation (Wigram island), off the coast from Nhulunbuy, NT, 9th October, 2007
My name is Terry Djamu Yumbulul, I am a tribal leader from
Arnhemland, me and my people are very concerned about all the
changes, particularly the permit system and the violation of our
laws and our culture , the intrusion in our life of the army and
We are a peaceful people and are being punished for crimes we have
I would be glad of the opportunity to speak to journalists about
I am replying to your message through my wife who has joined your web site.
Terry D. Yumbulul, 10th October, 2007
WHAT MORE COULD I HAVE DONE TO PREVENT THIS DEATH FROM OCCURRING".
Only a two weekends ago I had to buried a nephew who had committed suicide in his own community from excessive usage of majaana and the despair of not having a future and a belief in himself. I am asked constantly by my other nephews in my family reasons why this death had occurred and the sadness of losing a vital link in our family. Our young indigenous men need help and support to tackle the constant restraints that our government place within our community's.
Not a day goes by in my life at present that I am constantly reminded by WHAT MORE COULD I HAVE DONE TO PREVENT THIS DEATH FROM OCCURRING".
I have witnessed first hand the destruction to our young people in communities and the urban settings to whom have no positive outcomes to a sustainable future. Last week I attended the SNAICC conference in Adelaide and witnessed the NT's inquiry to be the major topic agenda in most workshops that I attended, and I felt so shame and sad that we as a government failed our children in the care system. We as indigenous women live the heartache everyday with our people living in despair, which highlights to me that we need to strengthen our people in government and the community sector to stand up and voice our rights for our future generations.
Danella Detourbet, NT, 24th September, 2007
Statement from the Delegates at the 9th annual Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) conference in Alice Springs - Media release 20 September 2007
The alcohol ban is due to come into force on 15th September, but we have no indication of any strategy to help us support people who will be having to deal with the sudden withdrawal of alcohol. At the moment, there is nothing in place-no policing, no additional rehabilitation beds, nothing. There is no proper planning here, and existing health services will be forced to bear the brunt of it all.
10th September, 2007
I was outraged when I read that Noel Mason, the newly appointed Government Business Manager at Yuendumu, was saying that they will exercise truant kids and make them pick up rubbish "until visably tired". This is outrageous. There are high rates of rheumatic heart disease and respiratory illnesses in our communities. How dare someone suggest that about someone else's kid?
It's a form of child abuse in itself. Next thing they'll be saying they'll be sending them down the mines! (nervous laugh).
Those kinds of projects won't be tolerated in Sunrise communities! We might have lost our Indigenous rights, but we still have our medico-legal rights.
30th August, 2007
Irene Fisher, CEO, Sunrise Health
Anne Marie Lee with Barbara McCartney
26th October 2007
This is why people voted for Marion [Scrymgour], because she is strong and speaks out", said Anne-Marie Lee, Vice President of Barunga Community. "We need people like her, and Barbara McCarthy. They know what is going on and they represent us. They have strong voices to speak on behalf of countrymen."
"They are our people as well. If we don't have those kind of people sitting on those seats in parliament, none of us will know what is going on." said Anne-Marie Lee. "We need more information from the government. Everyone here is confused, and worried, especially about the abolition of the CDEP program, and the revoking of the permit system."
The CDEP [Community Development Employment Program] is going to be taken away - but if they do that our community is going to fall down. There is going to be rubbish everywhere, more sickness for kids. It is a good thing for Aboriginal people, that CDEP, kept them going. It was working really well.
Anne-Marie Lee, Barunga Community, 30th August, 2007
Rachel Willika with her daughter, Jasmine
At Eva Valley, I've got no TV or radio to keep track of what's going on. The Council President, Mavis, said 'I don't know what's going on'. I asked her about the internet and she said 'We don't have that connection.' We got no email, no internet, to newspaper, no TV, no radio. We don't know what that outside world is doing. We don't know what's going on. You'd feel the same way if you were there. If that government mob lived here, they'd feel the same way.
That phone, too, we have a problem because we use that pay phone, and we've got to go into town to get that phone card, but we got no bus. That bus is too old, now - no transport to go into town to get food. We all put in whatever money we got to get a taxi. That costs $190, I think. And we've got to save money for food and power cards.
When I need someone to fax something for me they fax it through that school and that clinic. They got an office there.
Rachel Willika, 25th September, 2007
I've come to Adelaide for that conference. On the airplane, I sat not far from a white lady, and there was a man standing up, when we were flying. No seatbelt, he was standing. I think he had a glass of alcohol, or something. He was standing up one side of me. That white woman helped me to put that headphone into that plug, so I could forget him and listen to music. I felt good, then, that woman helping me, because she was a woman. But this man, standing up close to me. Every time someone walked past, he leaned against me. The other people were watching. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what to do.
On the bus, an Aboriginal man was sitting on the seat in front of me. There was an old white lady sitting on the seat opposite him. I saw that white lady just looking at him, as if he had done something wrong. She was staring at him, watching every move. From where I was sitting, I was watching her - and all these thoughts came into my mind - they think Aboriginal people are bad. I felt no good.
That's racism, isn't it? Those things that make me feel bad, that makes Aboriginal people feed bad.
Rachel Willika, 24th September, 2007
They are here now. I don't know what they are doing. They are talking at the church today. Mal Brough, he'll be talking to all the people, I think. And John Howard here, too.
What is this all about? I thought this was all over? What is going on?
They came and talked to us. They talked about all the houses they are going to put up, and a big office. Policing, watching for drugs, alcohol and check-up school attendence ... if they [those kids] miss three days of school, that government money not going to be stopped, but quarantined. I don't know what that 'quarantined' means.
I just want to know what is going on.'
Rachel Willika, Eva Valley Community, 30th August, 2007
There is nothing in this legislation that does anything to protect kids. This is a gross waste of public money - the services and programs that we need are not there in this planning. And nearly half of the $500,000 that has been committed to this will be consumed by establishing new jobs in the bureaucracy!
Community people are just devastated, and terrified.
This wouldn't be accepted by any other section of the Australian society. If they tried to implement this against women, or Jews, or gays, the country would be in an uproar. Why do we accept it for Aboriginal people?"
Olga Havnen, CEO, Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the NT, 30th August, 2007
Frank Baarda - Camp Invasion
A young Yuendumu couple and their seven month old baby, as well as the young lady's parents had set up camp. They installed a sheet-iron windbreak. They chose the site because it is near the only shade (provided by two mulga trees) near a house occupied by members of their extended family. There is no spare room in this house.
The new demountable
& its fence
Without warning, an outside (Alice Springs?) contractor turned up with a map a demountable building, and plant and equipment, and proceeded to clear the site. The baby's concerned grandfather's objections were ignored. Part of the sheet-iron windbreak was destroyed and a big pile of dirt and debris pushed up right next to the former campsite.
The demountable (which I believe is the proposed residence of the Federally appointed 'manager' of Yuendumu) was duly installed and another Alice Springs contractor then erected a two metre high cyclone fence capped by three strands of barbed wire. Without having thoroughly checked, I believe this to be the only barbed wire on any residential fences in Yuendumu. One of the two shady mulga trees was 'captured' by the fence enclosure.
The only commercial/participatory involvement by locals (as far as I'm able to find out), was that a locally owned firm supplied 1.5 cu.m. of concrete pre-mix for around $200 to the fencing contractor.
The bulldozed windbreak
Like many 'military style' interventions by outsiders, this one is counter-productive and headed towards failure. Its certainly not winning 'hearts & minds'.
Locals are asking "why does the Government not like us any more?" "What have we done to make kardiya dislike us?" "Nyiya jangka?"
Frank Baarda, 3rd September, 2007