COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The instant expert proffering solutions after a one-day visit has long been a figure in the debate about Aboriginal “problems”.
But Indian man Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, of which one has much higher expectations, doing a double act with Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, provided a new low point last week.
Her confident, dignified demeanor and tireless advocacy, as well as her profile as the actress who played Jedda in that celebrated movie, make Ms Kunoth-Monks (at left) a sought-after spokeswoman on Aboriginal causes. Her inclusion in the panel of tomorrow’s Q&A panel on ABC TV is unsurprising.
Trouble is, what she has to say, on too many occasions doesn’t bear close scrutiny. How does she muster the impertinence of saying, quoted by AAP, that Australia is practising ethnic cleansing? While the taxpayer is forking out $1b on Aboriginal housing in the NT, as we speak, Ms Kunoth-Monks suggests her country’s treatment of Aborigines is akin to Serb forces slaying more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys in Srebrenica. And Mr Shetty chimes in in agreement.
The claim that “around 500 homeland communities are being left to wither as the Government starves them of essential services” is all his own work. Yes, 500. What he and Ms Kunoth-Monks trotted out was the usual tripe. Lucky for them the media run by people in the state capitals 2000 kms away can’t get enough of it. As our current report and readers’ comments show, the outstation movement is a complex issue, after years of debate still undecided, but revolving largely around this question: If a small group of people want to settle in some remote place of their own land, what extent of services – if any – should the taxpayer be providing? In every case a school? A hospital? A police station? Sealed roads?
How many of these outstations have been built, equipped, trashed and abandoned? Ms Kunoth-Monks’ home region of Utopia has had a thriving art industry for a couple of decades. Where did all that money go? Nearby TiTree is one of The Centre’s most prospective areas for horticulture. It had and still has major vineyards and other plantations. There is plenty of water and cheap backloading freight to Adelaide. How many of the unemployed in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ communities have worked or are working in these enterprises, constantly hampered by having to bring in labour from interstate, whilst being surrounded by hundreds on the dole? How many plantations have been started by Ms Kunoth-Monks and the other local elders?
How many cattle are they running in this prime beef producing area? How many of the men are continuing the proud tradition of Aboriginal stockmen – as workers on surrounding cattle stations, or in their own enterprises, on the vast stretches of land given to them under landrights? How come Aboriginal-owned cattle stations in Ms Kunoth-Monks’ neighborhood are leased out to white pastoralists? Where is the citrus plantation that’s been on the drawing board at Utopia for the best part of two decades? Let’s see what Q&A makes of all this.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA