Recommended Resources – National Indigenous Times

Butler questions benefit of Coober Pedy housing plan

Category: Headline News

Brian Butler

There is doubt about the benefits of a transitional housing facility for Aboriginal people in Coober Pedy, a member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Brian Butler has warned.

The South Australian Government announced the construction of the $3.4 million facility would be brought forward to stimulate the building industry.

Mr Butler is an Elder with long experience in housing and policy issues for Indigenous people and doubts the facility will benefit Aboriginal people.

Mr Butler said Coober Pedy had many services already and resources established in more remote locations with the input of people from the area would be more beneficial.

“I strongly believe from past practices, from past programs that have come to Coober Pedy, Aboriginal people really haven’t benefited from those programs,” he said.

He said there are existing facilities that could be better used, rather than building new ones.

“If they need to develop anything, they should build on what they’ve already got, instead of planning to set up some new thing that’s not going to have the input of Aboriginal people,” he said.

“They’ve got to own the program, they’ve got to own anything that comes in.”


Recommended Resources – National Indigenous Times

Wirrimanu ask Jenny Macklin: Where did the money for Balgo playgroup go?


The Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation’s Michael Gravener recently asked the question: “Where DID the playgroup GO?” as more Federal Government funding appears to have disappeared in full view of the Federal Minister responsible, Jenny Macklin.

Two years ago, in April, 2011 Jenny Macklin, the Minister for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) visited the remote Aboriginal community of Balgo in Western Australia.

As a result of that visit Ms Macklin announced $264,000 would be granted to the community through the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) for the purpose of developing a community women’s initiative playgroup which has been fully sponsored and supported by the BoysTown Charity for over two years at a cost of about $100,000 per year.

Research suggests early intervention in the form of playgroups play a vital role in the social and cognitive development of a child as they progress through the early years of their life and as they enter into the schooling system.

Brian Butler, Director of Chamber 3 of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples who is also a life member of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), is adamant that when preschool and playgroup programs are developed by community, for community and ensuring the participation of Elders, children have the potential to develop positive social skills and cognition through maintaining a strong connection to culture and maintaining kinship ties.

“A self-determination approach allows children to see this leadership and to grow strong in culture, through caring, sharing and nurturing which in turn fosters empowerment and the necessary sense of cultural safety needed for survival within mainstream Australia both now and into the future as they shift into adulthood,” Mr Butler said.

Unfortunately it would appear that after much effort by many concerned people, who continue to inform the Department that nothing has changed, there still remains no development where this important work is concerned.

Mr Gravener advised that BoysTown stood aside in September 2012 for WAC to take on the development of this community women’s initiative but the $264,000 promised by Jenny Macklin still does not appear on the annual financial accounts, yet Canberra bureaucrats insisted that WAC has been running the service since October, 2011 and under the full view of Departmental staff.

So where did the taxpayer’s money promised by Ms Macklin go? Mr Gravener and the rest of us want to know.

One of the main fundamental provisions Brian Butler has continued to call for over the past 30 odd years is for an Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) auditing body, with the primary responsibility and function of assessing all Government and non-government departments and organisations which receive funding grants and monies intended for the benefit of Aboriginal and Islander people and their communities.

Mr Butler made this call so everyone could be seen to be held accountable and to ensure that all of the individuals within each community had access to and benefit from the funding being provided and the initiatives, services and programs that are developed.

Mr Gravener is asking what, if anything, has Ms Macklin done to address what seemed to have become such a personal issue for her when she visited Balgo in April of 2011?

Where are the accountability measures for the responsible use of federal grant funding?

These questions and the many arising out of the growing number of accounts of the misappropriation of taxpayers money that have come to light in recent months, money that has supposedly been directed to Indigenous initiatives that just seems to evaporate with no real outcomes or success or sustainability for our people needs to be addressed. Something must be done to turn this dire situation around.

Mr Gravener also asks the most important question of “where did the essential services of early intervention programs go for severely disenfranchised Aboriginal children in the community of Balgo?”

“Young babies and their Mums need this program now otherwise another generation of the community’s children will be lost,” he said.

In a world where our young babies are considered sacred and our families continue to be caught up in Lateral Violence and suffer from the perpetual grief of intergenerational and trans-generational traumas with domestic violence and abuse reaching astronomical proportions, it really begs the question as to what the true intentions are of this colonialist government and its heads of State?

We continue to see our people suffering across all levels of society with many remote communities existing in below third world standards while mainstream Australia continues to exist in what many still regard as the “lucky country”.

It all smells a bit too much like genocide by stealth if you ask me.

Recommended Resources – National Indigenous Times

Kaurna Elders want to form repatriation committee for return of ancestral remains

Category: Headline News


Moves are afoot in South Australia to create a formal repatriation committee to oversee future returns to the State after the South Australian Museum became the custodian of a collection of Aboriginal remains after they spent a century in Europe.

Narungga-Kaurna man, Mr Tauto Sansbury said he wanted to see a formal system established to streamline the process of having ancestral remains returned to Country.

“Myself, on travelling and the two other delegates have decided to look at establishing a South Australian Aboriginal Repatriation Committee and then negotiate with the Federal Government to have the return of all Aboriginal remains directed through that committee so we can then appoint the right people from South Australia to go anywhere in the world to bring back our ancestors,” Mr Sansbury said.

The South Australian Museum has now become the custodian of this particular collection with museum archaeologist, Keryn Walshe saying the repatriation was part of a global effort to return Indigenous remains to their countries of origin.

“There are a number of international institutions who are very keen and very committed to repatriation of human remains and particularly for Indigenous people,” Ms Walshe said.

“Some years ago it was more difficult but now it’s certainly a commitment all of the major institutions are taking on.”

The call for South Australia to create a formal repatriation committee to oversee future returns comes after the ceremony was held in Adelaide last week to welcome home the first ever ancestral remains to be sent home from Germany, some nine items, including full skeletons from the Charite University Hospital in Berlin.

It is estimated tens of thousands of Aboriginal remains are still held in museums and research institutes around the world and many Aboriginal people acknowledge it will be a long and difficult process to return them home.

Ngarrindjeri Elder, Major Sumner performed a cleansing smoking ceremony with song and dance over a trolley of boxes containing the remains of nine ancestors using a feather to direct smoke over the Aboriginal flag draped boxes and also over the senior Aboriginal people who journeyed with the remains from Berlin’s Charite University hospital.

Mr Sansbury was part of the team that escorted the remains home, where they were welcomed by Kaurna Elder, Uncle Lewis O’Brien.

“On behalf of our community and accepting those ancestral remains of ours is one of our illustrious leaders, Uncle Lewis O’Brien. Uncle Lewis, I now hand these back to you,” Ms Sansbury said. “Thank you Tauto, thank you,” Uncle Lewis said which was followed by a Kaurna language dedication.

Other remains were also collected from the Charite University hospital for repatriation to Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

A century ago, it was common practice for Australia to donate Aboriginal body parts to overseas researchers in the name of science.

“They done the research because they believed the Aboriginal race was going to be extinct and they needed to be researched,” Mr Sansbury said.

As Mr Sansbury sees it, successive Australian governments were complicit in crimes for which they’ve not apologised. “And it seems to have been just something that was accepted, to go and take Aboriginal remains out of graves, kill Aboriginal people and remove them out of Australia. So for us many things have happened to us and we’ve never really received the apology that really should be.”

Mr Sansbury said the ancestors just returned to South Australia have endured a long journey through various museums, hospitals and even the hands of the Nazi German scientists.

“Everybody knows what the Nazis had done to the Jews, you know and if they done that bad to the Jews just imagine what they done to our Aboriginal ancestors while they were over there. So yeah, it’s a terrible thing to think about, but, you know, I mean I would rather think about what we’re going to do with what we’ve brought back,” Mr Sansbury said.

It’s a journey that’s not quite complete. The places these remains were originally collected from are not known, so they can’t be reunited with a particular community.

Only one of the remains has been identified and will be returned to ancestors at Tarcoola, in South Australia’s far north.

Instead, the South Australian Museum will be their custodian until perhaps new technologies can unlock the secrets of their past when, Mr Sansbury says, their spirits can finally be laid to rest.

“There’s got to be a lot more work done on it and there’s got to be some DNA testing done on them so we can actually find out who they are and where they come from. Once that’s done we’ll return them to the right Aboriginal communities for burial,” Mr Sansbury said.

The lack of provenance of all remains presents significant challenges about who are the appropriate people to oversee their repatriation.

Recommended Resources – John Pilger

New John Pilger film, Utopia, to be broadcast on ITV and released worldwide

29 April 2013


Eleven miles by ferry from Perth is Western Australia’s “premier tourist destination”. This is Rottnest Island, whose scabrous wild beauty and isolation evoked for me Robben Island in South Africa. Empires are never short of devil’s islands; what makes Rottnest different, indeed what makes Australia different, is a silence and denial on an epic scale.
“Five awesome reasons to visit!” the brochure says. These range from “family fun” to “historical Rottnest”, which describes the island as “a guiding light, a defender of the peace”. In eight pages of prescribed family fun, there is just one word of truth: prison.
More than any colonial society, Australia consigns its dirtiest secrets, past and present, to a wilful ignorance or indifference. When I was at school in Sydney, standard texts often dismissed the most enduring human entity on earth: the indigenous first Australians. “It was quite useless to treat them fairly,” wrote the historian Stephen Roberts, “since they were completely amoral and incapable of sincere and prolonged gratitude.” His acclaimed colleague Russel Ward was succinct: “We are civilised today and they are not.”
That Australia has since changed is not disputed. To measure this change, a visit to Western Australia is essential. The vast, richest state is home to the world’s biggest “resources” boom: iron ore, gold, nickel, oil, petroleum, gas. Profits are in the multiple billions. When Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd tried to impose a modest tax, he was overthrown by his own party following a $22 million propaganda campaign by the mining companies, whose mates in the media uphold the world’s first Murdocracy. “Assisted by Rio Tinto” reads the last line of an unctuous newspaper report on the benefits of the boom to black Australians. At airports, arriving passengers are greeted by banners with smiling aboriginal faces in hard hats, promoting the plunderers of their land. “This is our story” says the slogan. It isn’t.
Barely a fraction of mining, oil and gas revenue has benefited Aboriginal communities, whose poverty is an enduring shock. In Roeburne, in the minerals-rich Pilbara, 80 per cent of the children suffer from an ear infection called otitis media that causes partial deafness. Or they go blind from preventable trachoma. Or they contract Dickensian infections. That is their story.
The Nyoongar people have lived around what is now Perth for many thousands of years. Incredibly, they survive. Noel Nannup, a Nyoongar elder, and Marianne McKay, a Nyoongar activist, accompanied me to Rottnest Island. Noel Nannup’s protective presence was important to Marianne. Unlike the jolly tourists heading for “Rotto”, they spent days “preparing for the pain”. “All our families remember what was done,” said Noel. What was done was the torture, humiliation and murder of the First Australians. Wrenched from their communities in an insidious genocide that divided and emasculated the indigenous nations, shackled men and boys as young as eight endured the perilous nine-hour journey in an open longboat. Cold, sick and terrified prisoners were jammed into a windowless “holding cell”, like an oversized kennel. Today, an historical plaque refers to it as The Boathouse. The suppression is breathtaking.
In the prison known as The Quod, as many as 167 Aboriginal prisoners were locked in 28 tiny cells. This lasted well into the twentieth century. I booked a room there. The prison is now called Rottnest Lodge. It has a spa and there are double bunks for children: family fun. Noel Nannup stood in the centre of the room and described its echoes of terrible suffering. The window looked out on where a gallows had stood, where tourists now sunbathed. None had a clue. A “country club” overlooks a mass grave. A psychopath who ran the Quod was Henry Vincent, who liked to whip prisoners and murdered two of them, an inquiry was told. Today, Vincent is venerated as a “pioneer” and tourists are encouraged to follow the “Vincent Way Heritage Trail”. In the Governor’s Bar, the annual Henry Vincent Golf Trophy is displayed. No one there had a clue. “Rotto” is not the past. On 28 March, Richard Harding, formerly Inspector of Custodial Services, declared Western Australia a “State of Imprisonment”.  During the boom, Aboriginal incarceration has more than doubled. Interned in often rat-infested cells, almost 60 per cent of the state’s young prisoners are Aboriginal – out of 2.5 per cent of the population. While their mothers hold vigils outside, aboriginal children are held in solitary confinement in an adult jail. A former prisons minister, Margaret Quirk, told me the state was now “racking and stacking” black Australians. Their rate of incarceration is five times that of apartheid South Africa.
The Aboriginal stereotype is violent, yet the violence routinely meted out to black Australians by authority is of little interest. Deaths in custody are common. An elder known as Mr. Ward was arrested for driving under the influence on a bush road. In searing heat, he was driven more than 300 miles in the iron pod of a prison van run by the British security company GSL. Inside the mobile cell the temperature reached 50 degrees centigrade. Mr. Ward cooked to death, his stomach burned raw where he had collapsed on the van’s scorching floor. The coroner called it a “disgrace”, yet the Department of Public Prosecutions refused to take action, saying there was “no evidence”. This is not unusual. The two security van drivers were eventually fined under Health and Safety rules.
Eco-tourism is also booming in Western Australia. The Kimberley region is popular with Europeans, who appreciate its ancient flora and fauna. Last year, 40 aboriginal youngsters killed themselves here, a 100-fold increase. When I first reported indigenous Australia a generation ago, black suicide was rare. Today, the despair is so profound that the second cause of Aboriginal death is suicide. It is booming.
This article was first published in the Guardian.

Recommended Resources – National Indigenous Times

ITEC team a group of stars

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Category: Business
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SAM 0025-convertedThe ITEC Employment team in Tennant Creek have done some amazing work in the last 6 month period. While they always do a great job, this last 6 months has been particularly exciting because the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations found that their results were of such a high standard that they achieved a coveted five-star rating – the highest any Job Services Australia Provider can achieve.

As Kylie Hargraves, the Tennant Creek Site Manager says, ‘…stability is a big thing – we have had a strong team for a while now and although a couple of people have left, we remained strong through the hard times instead of giving up….’

Kylie says that another key component of the Site’s success is that she has worked in all the positions in the past as she worked her way up to Site Manager and knows the expectations of each role.

Kylie coaches all her staff so each team member applies the same conventions and operates from the same understanding. She is also grateful for the support she receives from ITEC’s Head Office in Cairns.

Of her team, Kylie says, ‘Everyone has the opportunity to voice their ideas and opinions which means that everyone feels comfortable enough to challenge me which helps me learn even more about the people I work with and the job itself.

One of the main reasons that employers come back to ITEC Employment is that the team actually spends time with jobseekers after they have been placed in a job. They keep in close contact so the jobseeker is aware of exactly how he or she is being assisted. Employers appreciate this and can see that the service doesn’t stop when the jobseeker is placed.

What’s more, it’s not just the team who are singing their praises. Carmel Wolf from the Tennant Creek Childcare Centre was effusive about the ITEC Employment Team, ‘Their service is fabulous – all staff are 100% behind their jobseekers and they interact with them in such a way that they don’t feel shamed when their Case Manager comes in to work to visit them and see if they are happy and doing well. They have a knack of working with jobseekers with the real difficult issues too.’ For any team this observation from Ms Wolf would be considerable praise indeed and corroboration of their five-star status, but for a team as young as they are, it’s more than an observation of their ability as a team now, it serves as an indicator of the sort of career that lays in wait for them all.

However the Tennant Creek ITEC Team is not always focussed on work, work and more work. Although their achievements might belie that statement, they also have what they call, ‘Motivational Months’ where they play games have morning teas and prizes for the team member who achieves their targets.

Kylie’s last comment says it entirely, ‘All in all it comes down to the team and keeping everyone strong’.

Clearly the Tennant Creek ITEC Employment site promotes the adage that ‘Productivity and satisfaction are increased with a strong, cohesive team where attrition is minimal’. Congratulations ITEC Employment Tennant Creek on such a successful rating period! May there be many more to come!