Copy of a Letter to the Editor 21 November 2012 sent to Koori Mail; The Advertiser; The Australian
PO Box 280
ALDGATE SA 5154
Phone: 0438 399 012
November 21 2012
Let me take you on a journey… A large number of your relatives live in community on their own property and you pay them a visit. The following scenes play out before your very eyes. I wonder what you would do ….
> a young disabled cousin (who has a dedicated carer) has indicated that she needs assistance with being helped out of her wheelchair. You carefully lift her and assist her to become comfortable; at the same time you become aware of maggots on your arms from where you have lifted her and then notice maggots on the seat of her wheelchair.
> An elderly diabetic uncle is lying ill on the ground and as you approach him family members explain that the kitchen is locked (the manager is away for a week and has not made arrangements to leave a key) and the staff who prepare the daily meals for the disabled and elderly have gone intrastate on a work conference for a week. Other elderly family members too are hungry waiting for their meal. An uncle quickly takes the appropriate steps to find food to feed these vulnerable people. The next day this same uncle uses bolt cutters to enable him entry to the kitchen to feed his sick and needy relatives. He then replaces the lock with a new one. He submits a report to the Director detailing the situation that had played out. The blame for this disgraceful state of affairs is then laid at the feet of Centrelink paid workers rather than the manager who is paid a very large salary.
> Excited chatter is emanating from a group of female family members (they work for Centrelink payments) they have just been advised of the staff Christmas lunch (as had been discussed and decided at a senior staff meeting). As these low paid workers read on they discover they will have to travel approx 200km to the chosen venue (company vehicles will be made available for this). The email went on to say that “All staff will be responsible for paying for the meal, drinks and accommodation. I realise this may change some peoples intentions of attending. To help you make the decision I have outlined the cost of the meal 3 course buffet style, all you can eat $60 per head. $25 for children. Free for children under 3, or their normal menu which starts from about $15. Accommodation: cabins – basic $60 for two people. $50 for one person. Motel room: $155 for two people. Camping available: sleeping on the grass is an option if people don’t have tent/swags $7.50 per person.” This, I know is hard for you to believe however, you have a copy in writing from management of the email detailing the above and so you know it to be true.
> An uncle who is well respected and trusted is the only family member with a full time job in the entire community (he has a contract). He attempts on numerous occasions to bring to the attention of the appropriate authorities the many hideous situations that he encounters. The end result is that his contract is not renewed, despite him being a 2012 NAIDOC Community Award recipient. There are copious other untold stories of abuse that the uncle witnessed in this community (and they are still occurring).
The community I speak of is the Aboriginal community of Mimili (as well as surrounding areas) on the APY Lands in the far north of South Australia. I have implored the help of many people over time – including the Minister, Chief Executive, Director and others from various government and private organisations – all to no avail. I have no option other than to take this diabolical situation to my fellow Australians and I urge you please to raise your voices in unison at the injustices as described above.
The white supremacist mind-set overrides any chance of positive change for Anangu. Despite over 200 years of white intervention, enormous amounts of money plied into white man’s programs that haven’t worked – anangu are still being subjected to this same soul destroying regime and their children are paying the price. Anangu must no longer be used as a source for providing employment for the wider non-anangu community. I will no longer allow anangu to suffer in silence and I am unwavering in my resolve to ensure that the progression of ‘self determination’ and ‘closing the gap’ as espoused by governments becomes a reality not idle talk or hearsay. This can only happen when Aboriginal people are “allowed” to take charge of their own destiny. They can’t do it without jobs and my people are the only people unemployed on their own lands. This has to stop. There are aboriginal people from these areas who are willing and able to train and support their own people going forward. They need REAL jobs – not Centrelink money.
Keep in mind the ‘ripple effect’ – each appointment of an Anangu person into a full time position (equivalent to the same pay of the non-Anangu counter part) – and the direct effect from these appointments is a message of hope for the future for all Anangu. A new start to eliminate the welfare dependency mentality that has been forced upon my people; thereby increasing their sense of hopelessness and ultimate failure to live life in the world in which they now find themselves. People reading this article and who have a career know that your job provides you with the opportunity to make choices in your life. You are in a position to take control of your own destiny. Wow, how powerful is that??
I have grave concerns for the wellbeing of our youth going forward. Some of these kids, as evidenced in communities across the lands and on the streets of Alice Springs, are lost in their own country; as too are their families. They can’t help themselves let alone their children as they too are suffering the same fate of being oppressed and disrespected on their own land. Daily these kids are looked down upon and judged by non-Anangu. They know it. They react to it.
Please don’t judge them and give up hope on them; they too have a right to contribute to the community, but they have to be given a chance. If every person reading this takes a minute to count their blessings and to look beyond themselves and try to put themselves in these beautiful kids’ position – your attitude might alter and positive change would happen as a result. These kids would no longer feel inferior; every child deserves to be respected not judged.
Their future is in Australia’s hands. Please advocate for real jobs with real pay for Anangu so that they can flourish and prosper in the land that was theirs originally.
2012 DCSI NAIDOC COMMUNITY AWARD RECIPIENT