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HomeIssue 31Keep your nose out of our business, candidate tells Amnesty International

Keep your nose out of our business, candidate tells Amnesty International

Country Liberal candidate for Stuart Bess Price has fired a broadside at two local representatives of Amnesty International for sticking their noses into Aboriginal business and has threatened to make a formal complaint.
Amnesty also put its foot in it when Secretary General Salil Shetty visited the Utopia region in October last year.
Ms Price’s angry reaction follows a series of questions from James Milsom and Rachel Toovey, members of the Alice Springs Action Group of Amnesty International, to explore Ms Price’s stance on several issues, mostly about outstations in Central Australia.
“I have some urgent questions for you that I expect to be answered in full by August 9 (tomorrow),” Ms Price emailed them, “so that I can tell my people and all of the people of the Stuart electorate of all ethnicities what your agenda is and why they should speak up for themselves.
“What makes you young whitefellas from southern cities think you can speak for us?
“What makes you think that we can’t speak for ourselves?
“Who are you and how long have you been in our country?
“What Aboriginal languages do you speak or understand?
“Why do you think you can represent my views to my own people better than I can?
“How do we get to vote for you, when are you standing for election so that we can have our say?
“What is it about democracy you don’t like?
“How old are you and what are your qualifications that make you experts on my people’s problems,” Ms Price asked Mr Milsom and Ms Toovey.
Ms Price emailed: “I was born at Yuendumu. I speak Warlpiri fluently and know four other Aboriginal languages as well as English. I have worked as an interpreter/translator since I was fifteen.
“I am now a grandmother. My family owns all of their traditional lands through the NT Land Rights Act. My family has been involved in the development of outstations since the movement began in the 1970’s.
“My father tried unsuccessfully to develop an outstation at Yampirri where he was born. I supported him all that time. He died before anything was done for him. I have my own outstation at Kirrirdi which I have been trying to develop for thirty years with the support of my husband.
“We have not attracted any government support during that whole time. I worked for the Central Land Council for seven years. I know my people’s law, I know the country that I am kirda for through my father and kurdungurlu for through my mother.
“When your organisation has sent representatives here they have ignored me and my family. When Rodney Dillon came here he listened to me, told me that he heard what I had to say then reported to the government the exact opposite of what I had said. Then you sent someone calling herself a Yorta Yorta woman.
“She gave me two days notice of a meeting through a phone call to my husband. That was not enough time. She told him what was needed to solve the problems of my people. She had already decided without making any attempt to talk to me personally. At the time of these so called consultations I chaired the NT’s Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council.
“I was appointed by an Aboriginal woman minister of the NT government and served under two other NT Aboriginal woman ministers elected by the people of the Northern Territory. Your organisation sent a white blackfella from Tasmania, a wealthy man, and a woman from Victoria claiming to be indigenous who never met me or tried to talk to my people and you believed what they told you.
“Your organisation treated me and my people with contempt and you still do. Your organisation is undemocratic and racist. Would you send an Italian American of mixed heritage to Russia to consult with them meaningfully because he is of European descent and therefore will understand the Russians?
“Why do you think a physically white, English speaking Tasmanian would better understand my own people than I do? When your white supporters here in Alice Springs organise a meeting they are very careful to exclude the voices of those who disagree with them. They hand pick their Aboriginal spokespersons and then coach them on what to say. Rosie Kunoth Monks, Djiniyini Gondarra and especially Barbara Shaw do not speak for us.
“They have a right to their opinions and they can represent those who have given them authority to do that but they do not speak for all of us. Barbara Shaw has tried to deny my right to speak for my people on many occasions, her white supporters have publicly vilified me on the internet. You decide to promote and back the ones who think like you and ignore the rest of us.
“I am standing for election to the NT parliament against Karl Hampton. He is my nephew. He was elected by the people of Stuart to represent them in our parliament. I have never denied that fact. He has the right to speak for the people of Stuart because they voted for him. I think I can do a better job and I have asked the people of the electorate, which includes my family and Karl’s, to decide.
“Karl and I trust the people of the electorate to decide. The people you support do not represent the people of their electorates through a democratic process. But what is worse you then suppress the right of others to speak. You turn a deaf ear to those who are most vulnerable, to the most marginalised, to the women and children who are suffering so much in our communities and town camps.
“You take no notice of the NPY Women’s Council although they speak for the women who have sixty times the chance of dying from domestic violence than those in mainstream Australia. You go out of your way to deny their voice a hearing. So much for human rights.
“You and your friends make sure that there are no interpreters present at your meetings, it is always in English. You and your friends structure the meetings so that the most desperate and marginalised do not have a voice, make sure that the most aggressive and arrogant have access to the microphone and the most vulnerable and desperate don’t have a chance to speak.
“That is what happened when the UN’s special raconteur came to Alice. I know I was at the meeting. You are not interested in our rights you are only interested in your own agenda that you learned at the universities you attended down south.
“The best thing I can say about you is that you are well meaning but young, idealistic and naive, but maybe you are racist, arrogant and don’t give a damn about my people because you have your own agenda. When Aboriginal women in Central Australia ask for help, when they are killed, raped and beaten, when they cry for their abused children you ignore them and you support those who are oppressing them.
“When the government tries to do something for them you call them racist and you blather on about the UN. Ask the Syrians what they think of the UN. Then you send me a lecture on the homeland movement full of quotes from white researchers and lawyers with their own agendas.
“You treat me like a fool, like I know nothing. You are young, you are professionals, you come from rich families in Southern cities and yet you think that you can speak for my people and I don’t know what I am talking about. We now have a truly historical situation in Central Australia, we have two electorates with three Aboriginal candidates in each opposing each other. What makes you think we need you to talk to our people?”
Photo: Bess Price (standing) on the campaign trail.


  1. Well said Bess Price. AI has done a lot of good over the years but they have made themselves look silly here – they have chosen their side on the Intervention and then looked for indigenous people whose view is close to theirs. Good on you for standing up to them. Pity you have chosen to run for the CLP, if elected I think you will run into problems with that lot down the line. Good luck. And hi to Dave.

  2. Why aren’t the questions that were asked included in the article? Isn’t OK for people to ask questions of their potential political representatives in a democracy. It all seems a bit intimidating for those people.
    [ED – We offered Amnesty the right of reply at the time of posting.]

  3. What a really well said, reasoned, informed and intelligent comment from somebody who knows. All the UN seem to do here is promote racism. Well said Bess. At last an articulate response to the propaganda we hear so often from those who oppose you. Your courage and drive is what is needed if we are ever going to “close the gap”. Keep going.

  4. I don’t remember Charlie Perkins dismissing “young whitefellas from southern cities” from the Freedom Rides in the 1960s. And I don’t recall Vincent Lingiari refusing to talk to talk with “rich families in southern states” in his quest for land rights.
    There’s nothing in this report to indicate any disrespect by the Amnesty members towards Bess Price yet her diatribe is offensive and belligerent. Hardly the qualities required for effective representation on behalf of the electorate.

  5. Cheers Bess. Well you don’t need a CV do you? Just repeat this diatribe every time somebody threatens to dare ask a question and you’ll probably snuff out the temerity. Look, your passion, compassion and deepest roots to your country are not in question. What is in question is your judgement. The intervention has been an unqualified failure. It has been a disaster for your people because you and your people had no input into its formation. But now you back the intervention unquestioningly even though it is a white man’s construct. Where is your justifiable attack on the intervention? Or are you poised to be the white man’s puppet who trumpets support for a white man’s folly in a bid to ultimately be a interchange player in further bad policy decisions? Your pluck is admirable but you could be leading a charge for genuine Aboriginal control, not shoring up the latest attempt at assimilation.

  6. Dear Readers,
    These are the questions put to Bess Price by the Amnesty International group:

    Does your party support Aboriginal people’s rights to live on their traditional country?
    If elected, what plans do you have to support Aboriginal people’s rights to live on their traditional country in the next 4 years? And the longer term?
    Does your party support School of the Air delivering education in people’s first language to homelands communities?
    If elected, what plans do you have to support this in the next 4 years?
    What is your party’s position on providing health services to homelands, outstations and smaller communities?
    If elected, what housing outcomes will you support for families who have homelands as their main place of living?  
    To what level would these be funded by your party if in Government?
    Do you agree that homelands, outstations and smaller communities need increased funding, as is in place for growth towns?
    To what level would homelands and outstations, as well as smaller communities, be funded by your party if in Government?
    Could you please provide concise written responses to these questions by no later than Thursday 9th August. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss any matters further.
    James Milsom and Rachel Toovey
    Members of the Alice Springs Action Group of Amnesty International
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor, Alice Springs News Online

  7. Can anyone doubt that the NT Legislative Assembly would be a better place with the inclusion of Bess Price? And with Alison Anderson sitting next to her? How did NT Labor manage to lose two such dynamic women when their first inclination must have been toward the ALP? Certainly Alison’s was, and I assume Beth’s was – apologies if I got that wrong.
    Amnesty and the Greens have taken many admirable positions on both current and past issues, but on the Intervention they have placed themselves on the wrong side of history. It may not be perfect, but as a work in progress it’s already better than what was, and it will get better again.

  8. Bess is busy talking to her own mob right now about the issues they are actually concerned about in their communities so I am going to respond on her behalf.
    Good on you Sharpy, yes there are a lot of old friends who are surprised that we have both joined the Country Liberals. The reason is simple, they listen to what Bess has to say and politely debate with her if they think she is wrong. The other lot yell abuse at her, deny her the right to speak and get their white mates pretending to be blackfellas to vilify her anonymously on the internet. It’s an easy choice actually. And thanks Bob.
    To Elizabeth, answering the questions of those whom she is potentially going to represent, the residents of scattered remote Aboriginal communities, cattle stations and small remote towns, is exactly what Bess has been doing for months and will be doing frantically over the next three weeks. She is not a potential representative of the AI clique in town or down south who have tried to give the world the impression that they can represent Bess’ views to her own people better than she can. They represent political opponents who have orchestrated their campaign in Central Australia. They don’t trust Aboriginal people to be able to think for themselves. They know better apparently and Bess will not respond to their patronizing and offensive approach.
    Ray, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    Leigh, what Mr Perkins (I remind you that he is deceased) did he did with the support of all of us nearly fifty years ago. Things have changed. His family are now very well educated, earn impressive incomes and speak English. Does this mean that they are assimilated? Old man Lingiari also fought his fight nearly forty years ago and won. Bess’ family have benefited hugely from that fight. His grandson is opposing Bess in the coming election. Let the people decide, that’s called democracy.
    Those who now recruit to their cause the ones I called the dreadlocked Red Guards from the southern universities obviously don’t trust Aboriginal people in the bush to work out things for themselves. They use the tactics of intimidation and vilification to drown out the voices from the bush they disagree with. I’ve seen them in action. We trust the people of the bush and the town camps to speak for themselves if the gate keepers and corrupt ones living off their misery get out of the way and give them a decent chance. You probably couldn’t see the disrespect in the way AI questioned Bess because I gather you are not a Warlpiri grandmother who has lived a life of hardship, stress and pain and who loses, on average, 30 relatives a year, many of them children to totally avoidable causes, including homicide (perpetrators also Aboriginal and usually related to her) and suicide and whose grandkids don’t speak English let alone read and write it.
    She gets what she regards as a grossly impolite demand for answers to questions by a couple of young whitefellas who think they can communicate her own views to her own people better than she can and who work for an organisation that has systematically ignored her views, deliberately excluded her from dialogue and who allow themselves to be manipulated by a clique of political opponents who do not represent the views of the majority of her people and ignore their continuing misery and cries for help.
    And last, but not least, the pompous, patronizing and racist Glen. Where do I start? I will say that you epitomize all that is most despicable about your kind. I don’t get the dumb remark about the CV. It’s not asking the questions that’s the problem, it’s the patronizing and offensive way it was done and the assumption that they, like you, think they know the problems and needs of Bess’ people better than she does, a fifty one year old grandmother. If a bit of assimilation keeps our kids alive and healthy, giving then a decent education so that they can tell the world what they want and need, participate in the political process and have some hope of benefiting from our economy then bring it on.
    If a bit of assimilation means that the women of the NPY lands are not 60 times more likely than the average to be murdered by their spouses, partners and boyfriends then bring it on. If assimilation means that Aboriginal women nationally are no longer 80 times more likely than the average to be hospitalised for assault then bring it on. We are rather bemused when white faced, English speaking Australians who think, behave and act like whitefellas tell us that they know they are Aboriginal in their hearts and that the worst that can happen to our kids is that they become assimilated makes us want to puke.
    They don’t live by Aboriginal law like Bess’ people still try to. You see we trust the Aboriginal people of the NT to come up with their own unique way of solving their problems, like many, many families in towns already have. They’ll still be blackfellas but they will be healthy and prospering. If they took the advice of self loathing whitefellas like you they will always live in poverty, misery and ignorance and inflict intolerable levels of violence on each other. But thank you for your comment. You amply demonstrate the sort of white constructed idiocy that my wife and her people are up against.
    Thanks Hal. Yes until recently we were Labor voters through and through. They’ve taken the Aboriginal vote for granted and long ago stopped listening to the people on the ground.

  9. Always a problem for people who contest elections as part of a political machine. Party rhetoric takes precedence over the people that members are elected to represent. Just look at Peter Garrett – sold his soul to the ALP and his integrity went with it!!! Knife-wielders in the CLP machine are no better – Jodeen Carney ‘sacked’ as leader when she was the brightest tool in the shed? Go figure! Because she wasn’t Darwin-centric?
    Independent members represent those in the electorate who elect them. Simple! It’s all about representing people … not establishing power!
    Alice Springs deserves a strong, IndependeNT voice that represents people. Bring it on!

  10. Great Article and comment, the Country Liberals are immensely richer because of your membership Bess and Dave. I wish you all the best in the upcoming election. It’s going to be a huge asset, especially to us in the southern regions, to have you in the Parliament Bess. It will also be another big step for all of us who believe in a community in which our Aboriginal citizens are accepted and treated as equals, allowed to determine their own individual pathway in life without any interference from patronising voices of paternalism, or from the parasitic industry that relies on continued Aboriginal misery and dependency to make their Living. Getting on Top of, in front, and eventually rid of, this lot is the fight we have to win before we can create a better life for all our children. Best of luck you two.

  11. Wow man! What an article Erwin. This paper just blows Alice Springs Advocate back to mini league.
    After all is said and done we still have a problem in the NT. The people are calling it the “BLACK PROBLEM!” Add to the above rip, on a local scene the Congress dilemma, Mt Johns Lhere Artepe Enterprise catastrophe, the Yuendumu business, the intervention, the shires, alcohol / drugs, child protection, health, education, break away Land Councils, the list is endless. It seems to me that NT is the biggest employers of managers and they are all managing Aboriginal people and the lives of Aboriginal people! CLP say that they can turn the corner in Aboriginal Affairs and bring back services and hopefully that can create a good quality of life for all. Labor are saying that they are getting results in this field and can continue to make the NT grow and get it all rosy again. The sad and true fact is … a political party is a political party and neither of the major parties are going to fix the above problems that the NT have overnight, by not supporting the people who put them in there.

  12. Applause. Thank you, Bass and Dave price for bringing it out in to the open. We need to start dealing with the problems.


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