MLA Bess Price on 'the killing of our women, abuse of our kids'


Bess Price, the Member for Stuart in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, is a full blood Warlpiri woman, married to a white man, Dave Price, and they have a daughter, Jacinta, who is proud of her mixed ancestry.
Ms Price made Territory history last August when she clinched the former blue-ribbon Labor seat for the Country Liberals.
Yesterday she made national history when, in the adjournment debate, she crashed through the politically correct barriers, speaking no holds barred about her grief-torn life, the brutality around her, day in, day out, and the soul-destroying denigrating of her by fellow Aborigines, and whites, in the national spotlight.
Here is what Ms Price said, as reported in the yet uncorrected NT Hansard (obvious transcription errors shown in square brackets), to her electorate – and the people of Australia. She is pictured with Warlpiri elder Tommy Jungala Rice, her brother-in-law.
Mrs PRICE: I now take this opportunity to talk about an issue that has always been close to my heart. Within the last four months, two more young mothers related to me were killed in Alice Springs Town Camp[s]. One was injured mortally in the public, in front of several families. Nobody acted to protect her. Dozens of my female relatives have been killed this way. Convictions usually lead to light sentences. I was told by a senior lawyer that no jury in Alice Springs will convict an Aboriginal person for murder if the victim is also Aboriginal and he or she is only stabbed once.
We all have done nothing effective to stop this from happening. It has been going on for decades. This week we heard outrage from the Stolen Generation Association because this government wants to put the safety and wellbeing of our children first before their (inaudible) culture. I am not talking about the children of the Stolen Generation. It is our children.
Why hasn’t there been the same outrage over the continuing killing of our women and abuse and neglect of our kids? If these women victims were white, we would hear very loud outrage from feminists. If their killers had been white, we would hear outrage from the Indigenous activists. Why is there such a deafening silence when both victim and perpetrator are black? I believe that we can blame the politics of the progressive left and its comfortably middle class urban Indigenous supporters.
Because I have spoken out on this issue and others close to my heart, I have been routinely attacked by the left. Professor Larissa Behrendt claimed that what I say is more offensive than watching a man having sex with a horse. Her white professional protester colleague, Paddy Gibson, told the world that I was only doing it for the money and frequent flyer points. The Queensland educationist, Chris Sarra, said that I was [a] ‘pet Aborigine’ who only said what the government wanted me to say. Chris Graham, the white editor of Tracker magazine, called me a ‘grub’.
A white woman in Victoria, Leonie Chester, calls herself Nampijinpa Snowy River, on the internet. She tells the world that my people, the Warlpiri, are ‘her mob’. She and her friends have obscenely insulted me on the internet, over and over. Marlene Hodder, a white woman from Alice Springs and her protesting friend, Barbara Shaw, have called me a liar several times.
The Crikey blogger, Bob Gosford, who calls himself ‘the Northern Myth’, calls me Bess ‘Gaol is Good for Aboriginal People’ Price and accuses me of ‘vaguely malevolent and populist buffoonery that is designed to capture the attention of the tutt-tutterers and spouted by politicians that inevitably have a short tenure in power’.
In Brisbane, Tiga Bayles, using an Indigenous community owned radio station, told the whole world that I am ‘a head nodding Jacky-Jacky for the government’ and that I am ‘totally offensive and arrogant’ because I do not want people like Tiga, who know nothing about us, speaking about my people. He and his friends laughed as they told the world that I am only interested in money.
When my daughter went to Sydney for the Deadly Awards, an Aboriginal interviewer for the Koori Radio Station in Redfern advised her not to tell anybody who her mother was. This is how these people show respect for family. In the last month, I have watched three of my sisters and a grand-daughter being buried.
These racists and sexist hypocrites sneer at our grief and care nothing for our suffering, but they are the darlings of the left. I wonder what would happen if Andrew Bolt had used insults like these against any Indigenous Australian. The hypocrisy of these people is incredible.
But I am in good company. When Mantatjara Wilson, a wonderful strong compassionate women I called mother, told the world about the crimes against her children on national TV, back in 2007, with tears streaming down her face, the left-wing activist[s] moved to undermind her. They went into the communities not to protect the kids but to find women who would oppose Mantatjara.
They talked about outrage and shame, not because of the crimes you all know about but because somebody else was brave enough to tell the world about them and ask for help. That was what they called shameful.
They worry about the shame felt by perpetrators once they were exposed, not because of the agony of the victims and families. It is easy to find women who will support their men even though they are killers and rapists. Families [will] always stand up for their own and those who call themselves progressive will always find those willing to stand beside them and betray their own women and kids.
A few others have stood up and faced the vicious criticism of the left. I acknowledge the wonderful work of Dr Hannah McGlade in Perth and Professor Marcia Langton in Melbourne. Warren Mundine and Noel Pearson have also spoken out. A conference of Aboriginal men in Alice Springs publicly apologised to Aboriginal women and kids for the violence and abuse men have inflicted on them. None of those people have received support from the left or from Labor governments.
The left has tried really hard to call us liars and to put us down for speaking the truth and for wanting to stop the killing and the sexual violence. But they have put no effort, none at all, into protecting our kids and women. The exception to this has been [the] determination of Minister Jenny Macklin, who I acknowledge for her courage in the face of strong criticism from her own party and the Greens.
I recently went to Sydney for the launch of a book called Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence by [a] wonderful caring friend of mine, Dr Stephanie Jarrett. My words are on the cover of her book. We need to support those who tell the truth.
Dr Jarrett does that and she cares, maybe too much for her own good.
I have seen the tears in her eyes and heard the passion in her voice when she talks about her murdered and bashed ones. I trust her completely, but, of course, those who are not interested in the truth are out to bring her down.
She has been attacked in The Monthly magazine by its editor John Van Tiggelen in an article called ‘Thinking Backwards’. Dr Jarrett is saying there are elements to our traditional culture that we must change if we are to stop the violence that is destroying us, and she is right.
Things are much worse now than the old days because of the grog, the drugs and the awful welfare dependency that is sucking the life out of us. There are elements of our culture that are really good and should be kept, but we should be prepared to do what everybody else in the world has done and change our ways to solve the new problems we have now and that our old law has no tools to solve.
Some people call this integration, others call it [assimilation] because they want us to continue to live in poverty, violence and ignorance so we can play out their fantasies on what the word ‘culture’ means. I call it problem solving and saving lives. The left has its own agenda and liberating our people from violence is not part of that agenda.
Van Tiggelen talks about the book Black Death – White Hands written by Paul Wilson in 1982. In that book Wilson argued that when a man called [Alwyn] Peters killed his girlfriend in Queensland it was actually because of white colonialism and racism.
It was not the killer’s fault it was the whitefellas’ fault. This argument worked. Peters was only given a short sentence. Dr Jarrett started to worry about Aboriginal women’s rights when she saw David Bradbury’s film State of Shock. This was made in 1988 and was based on the same case.
Bradbury brought the film to Alice Springs and brought [Alwyn] Peters with him. In the film, Bradbury gave only the story of Peters and his family. Nobody from the victim’s family was given a chance to give their point of view. They would not have backed Bradbury’s arguments so they were ignored.
I remember Alwyn Peters telling us, ‘She has ruined my life’. He was talking about the one he killed. He went on to say, ‘She comes to me in dreams’. This made me feel sick.
When my husband asked David Bradbury, ‘Why did you not talk to the victim’s family, you would have got a different point of view?’. He said, ‘Alwyn Peters’ family are victims too’. In other words, all our sympathy was meant to be for the one who killed and his family, and not for the one he killed or her family.
In 1991, Audrey Bolger of the ANU’s North Australian Research Unit, wrote a wonderful little book called Aboriginal Women and Violence. At last, somebody was taking notice. At last, a white woman was trying to get governments to act. She was ignored and, as far as I know, nobody tried again after that.
Her voice was drowned out by the politically correct who took their lead from Wilson and Bradbury: just keep blaming the whitefellas and everything will be fine. When governments says sorry, everything will be fixed. Audrey Bolger said in a book way back then, that in the final analysis the problem of violence against Aboriginal women will only be solved by Aboriginal people themselves.
The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody said the same thing. In a way, she was right: my people need to act now to stop our own violence. But, in another way, this has given governments and the wider community an excuse for the big cop-out.
Okay. We whitefellas caused the problem but only blackfellas will solve them, so we sit around waiting for that to happen.
She also said: The problem is a complicated one, bound up as it is with other issues connected with changing lifestyles. Working through these issues towards satisfactory solutions is crucial to the future wellbeing of all Aboriginal people.
She was right, but in the 22 years since she wrote that, there have been no satisfactory solutions found and things are much worse now. It has not happened and I am sick of sitting around waiting for my loved ones who are being killed. We have had committees and research projects, and advisory councils, and ATSIC, and now we have A National Congress of Australia’s First People. Billions of dollars have been spent. We have had visits from the United Nations’ special rapporteurs, and Amnesty International Indigenous officers.
Not only have solutions not been found, but the most important issues are not even raised and talked about. I want to work through these issues and find solutions. For the left and for many Aboriginal politicians on the national stage, it seemed the only issues worth talking about were the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
These are real issues that have to be addressed, but they were not the only issues. In the meantime, women still died, children did not go to school, epidemics of renal failure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease grew worse, suicides increased, young men went to gaol, and we kept killing each other and ourselves.
Australians were not told that the death rate amongst our young men was higher outside custody than in, and that more Aboriginal women died at the hands of their menfolk than Aboriginal men died in custody. Since then, so many more women have died and have been sexually abused, assaulted …
Mrs LAWRIE [the Opposition Leader – ED]: A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker! I have to draw your attention to the clock, it is a standing order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: In adjournment we do have a bit of leniency. Continue, Member for Stuart …
Mrs LAWRIE: A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker! We do not actually. I appreciate Bess’s speech, by the way, and believe this should be normally spoken in full length. I am sure you can do it another time, but there are conventions …
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will check with the Clerk, member for Karama.
Ms Lawrie: Seek leave to table it if you want. Yes, seek leave to table it.
Mrs PRICE: Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to leave the table.


  1. I have long wondered why this violence was not spoken of and nothing done about it. Thank you Bess for speaking up in this way. This is certainly something that has to be stopped. These victims need to be acknowledged in full, the violence acknowledged for the awful thing it is. I’ve also known victims of this violence – a long time ago now, but I haven’t forgotten, and I’ve never understood how it has been accepted and excused. Keep speaking up, Bess. I have not written or spoken up about anything for quite a number of years now, but if I’m able to assist by writing, please let me know how and I would be happy to try.

  2. Good on You Bessie Price. About time someone has got the ability let alone the gall to stand up and speak about an issue that is always swept under the carpet. It is all true in what you say. Drugs and alcohol are the only reason why women suffer at the hands of their menfolk. My grandfather was a half caste married to my grandmother a full blood.
    He never had an education but he worked for rations to provide for his family. He never once put his hand to my grandmother. They were never allowed to be in town after 4pm let alone drink.
    The stolen generation was a terrible thing for those people that lived through that but they had pride for themselves and their families.
    What Pride does the Aboriginal generation of today have!!!!
    Thank you Bessie for speaking up and making people take notice. Those people who badmouth you have never walked in your shoes and never will. They have no idea of what you speak about.

  3. Wow! What an extraordinary speech.
    And Delia Lawrie, Leader of the Opposition in the NT Legislative Assembly and foremost elected member of the Australia Labor Party in the NT, used a point of order to shut her down.
    I hope we all remember that.

  4. I would like to offer my support to this beautiful, brave woman, Bess Price, who I cry for. I have seen this in suburbia and it breaks my heart. Abuse is abuse, murder is murder and should be punished as such no matter who.
    I don’t know what the answers are, so much damage has been done.
    I hope that she is listened to which doesn’t sound like it with Mrs Lawrie putting a stop to her speech.
    Mrs Lawrie, you need to examine your conscience and try to understand what Bess Price is talking about.
    All people who consider themselves human beings should be listening to her.
    No place for political game play, just do whatever it takes to save lives.
    I am so sorry that you and your family have suffered so much, Ms Price.

  5. Extraordinary speech, should be published nationally. This is so true and I hope things may change.

  6. Item number one, thank you Bess Price for your courage to bring this issue to the public’s attention, using the proper venue of the House of the People to put this on the public record.
    Item number two, shame on you Delia Lawrie for insisting on a point of order to silence Ms Price. Shame on you.
    You have proved that making a political point is more important to you than the content of an important speech of a democratically elected member.
    I am speechless at your brazen insensitivity and it beautifully demonstrates Bess Prices point that “authority” turns a blind eye and does not want to know.
    All strength to you and yours, Ms Price.

  7. Bess – Absolutely fantastic – at last – your spoken words are what I have always thought.
    Delia Lawrie listen and learn shame on you for trying to gag these words which all of us need to hear and act upon. I was a Labor voter. Now I will not be voting for you!
    I have seen and been concerned about the violence and abuse of Aboriginal women and children over the last 36 years that I have lived here.
    I always wondered why the fly in fly out “moralising do-gooders” whom I have known and observed in Alice Springs perpetuating their condescending and patronising treatment of Aboriginal people as if they knew better are still getting the last word, long after they have done their damage and gone.
    I always wondered why Aboriginal people put up with them. I can clearly see now how insidiously this repressive and bullying treatment is and you were not putting up with it, you were being silenced.
    Good on you Bessie Price you have my support.

  8. Good on you for speaking out Bess Price; we recognise you as another strong Aboriginal woman of whom we in Alice Springs are very proud, my friend. I know many more who support you nationally too. The fact that your points were made before Delia shut you down is a true strength. All power to you, Adam Giles, and the CLP Government for tackling the hardest issues head on and not just paying lip service to these problems!

  9. My respect for your strength, guts and determination grow by the day Bess Price; don’t ever let them shut you down. Those that push their so called “culture” at the completely uncaring expense of so many lives are always going to criticize and mock you.
    Take heart from it, the louder they yell the more success you are having!
    Take comfort from their squeals and criticism, it’s a good way of knowing your on the right track. No decent thinking Territorian would ever want to be anything but opposed to these pushers of paternalistic garbage.
    I hope you take the time somewhere soon to continue at length this remarkable speech, one that should mark a pivotal moment in the Territory’s history, the beginning of the end of paternalism. Go Bess!

  10. As a political leftist I have to admit that Bess is right in her criticism of the left’s general slowness to speak up publicly and strongly about this issue over the last few decades.
    There are still some sections of the left (and also sections of other political formations) who choose to sweep the issue of Aboriginal violence under the carpet.
    They usually prefer to comfort themselves with the fiction that nothing can be gained by publicly acknowledging and trying to act on this issue until poverty or disempowerment or lack of self-determination or sovereignty or education are dealt with, or other social and economic problems are overcome.
    Bess is one of those who have led the way and shone much needed light on the problem of the completely unacceptable levels of violence in most Aboriginal communities, especially the violence against Aboriginal women.
    Her critics need to take a long look at their own track records: have they made efforts to confront the need for personal responsibility by everybody, and especially by those men who choose to privilege traditional attitudes to women as being subservient? This issue is of fundamental importance, whether we are talking about Aboriginal society and culture, or Irish or English or Scottish or German or any other.

  11. When human rights clash with racial / religious / other-rights, only defend human rights, or your support is for bigotry.

  12. @ Steve Brown. You define paternalism as a general statement by which you argue that Aboriginal people have been denied the same social benefits afforded other Australians, but when you include alcohol, you confuse social policy and racism. Racism is one thing, but excessive alcohol supply is another

  13. I applaud Bess for her courage to speak up about this. I applaud her for not ‘pandering’ as has been done in the past. Delia should be ashamed for trying to silence something so intolerable and unacceptable (well it certainly wouldn’t be acceptable in her world would it?).

  14. Well said Bob Durnan, a really thoughtful and genuine response. Paul Parker, though, makes it all seem too simple … Human rights yes, but the situation that Bess finds herself in is partly because of conflicting views of human rights.
    Mal Brough highlighted these conflicting views when he introduced The Intervention, saying that he would put the rights of women and children to be free from abuse over the rights of indigenous people to be free from government intervention (ie paternalism).
    Jenny Macklin has continued this approach. Many of Bess’ critics are vehement opponents of the Intervention because they say it conflicts with indigenous rights to self-determination etc.
    I think many local supporters of self-determination have now come to terms with the need for the Intervention and would support Bess’ call to protect people from violence and abuse.
    There are however many people ‘down south’ who remain strong critics of the Intervention (since renamed), and of course some here too.

  15. Mal Brough and Jenny Macklin applied Commonwealth racist policy theories through the “The Intervention” experiments to resolve social and legal problems arising from earlier Commonwealth racist policy experiments.
    Problems created by racism will not be resolved by continued racism.
    Apartheid was not resolved by apartheid policy, rather by ending apartheid policy.
    Resolving these problems requires Commonwealth to end its purported claim of legal right to implement racist policy upon Australians.
    Unfortunately our Commonwealth keeps purporting needs for it to maintain racist policies.
    Treating everyone as fellow Australians, sharing the same rights and same responsibilities in accordance with our Constitution is the only solution.
    The Commonwealth’s ongoing qualification of all our rights and responsibilities by racial testing maintains the problems.
    Exclusion of refugee landings on mainland Australia from being considered as arrivals in Australia for immigration purposes is similarly futile.

  16. Truly enlightening and the most intelligent truth from a woman who deserves and needs the support of people, who will stand next to her and see the whole picture as she does.
    Extremely informative – I lived in the Alice for two years and the Davenport Ranges for only a few months. This is a topic I am passionate about and YOU HAVE MY VOTE!!!

  17. I was recently in a community in turmoil over how kids would be fed during school holidays, the school having long established its duty to feed them. The plight of the hungry kids was levelled squarely at the school.
    Responsibilities are easy to take but well neigh impossible to hand back. So I hope this story also attracts a wide Aboriginal audience because our readiness to take on responsibilities in Aboriginal society far exceeds our capacity to successfully do so.
    The most beneficial role for non Aboriginal society is to support changes that people are making for themselves. So what are the Aboriginal responses to domestic violence? The old tradition of a man moving to his wife’s country (and her family rather than his) is making a welcome comeback. There is a burgeoning growth of resilient young women who have left their husbands and returned to the safety of their own families. They are part of a flourishing single mothers group, not the traditional single older Aboriginal woman whose husband has passed away. These are young women, content to remain single and draw on extended family support to grow their children up.
    The use of social media such as Face book is taking off, and with it support networks beyond the community and family are expanding. The independence of women and their readiness to use DVOs and report violence against them is growing apace. It cannot be said that governments don’t care or ignore violence when their involvement, expenditure and level of support for women who report violence is the highest it has ever been.
    Among Indigenous men, domestic violence is now openly acknowledged as a problem and the term ‘woman basher’ has become an insult. That’s a recent and positive development.
    Aboriginal society is responding, albeit not fast enough for many, and to support the process it is important to not be distracted by the idea that outsiders can do the job for them. We can assist by supporting change but not by over reacting to tragic circumstances by taking away responsibility.

  18. Leftist ideology fixes nothing – other than making its true believers feel good about themselves.
    After all, they can stare down from their moral high ground and speak words of judgement which is particularly satisfying.
    Meanwhile the slaughter continues.
    Well done Bess, and keep up the rage because someone has to take pragmatic moves to deal with the problems.
    And if we get the language and the posture right, the left might claim the credit.

  19. ‘Star-picket’? Really? Someone has contributed to this thread under the alias ‘Star-picket’?
    Erwin, about time you got real about people owning up to their opinions on your site I think. It was bad enough on another thread reading ‘Taxpayer’ make sweeping generalizations about people stinking. I think I have had enough of your anonymous contributors. I don’t always agree with people like Steve Brown, Paul Parker, Hal Duell or even Bob Durnan, but I respect the fact that they put their names to their contributions. What sort of a person wouldn’t?
    [ED – Many thanks, Ian, but like you, people will make their own judgment about this. We have policy for Letters to the Editor – full names required – and comment pieces – nom de plume is OK. Of course, we have the email addresses.]

  20. @Ian Sharp
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm
    Here’s another comment you may not agree with, and it’s from me, not from people like me: If someone doesn’t want to sign their name, we (me, you, and people like me and you) have little choice but to suck it up.
    Or stop reading and contributing if it really gets up your nose.
    Please keep up the good work, Erwin.
    Many voices and many views seem to cover the full spectrum in Alice. Anonymous or not, we all get a fair go on these pages.

  21. I support Alice Springs News enabling anonymity of contributors to discussion, where anonymous is to other readers.
    I accept legal reasons for good media like Alice Springs News Online being able to identify their contributors prior to publication, with credit for their ongoing efforts to maintain all our contributors’ privacy.
    I acknowledge many still each day suffer consequences from vicious revenge and abuse of authority, arising from being identified, whether correctly or incorrectly, for promoting equality, from defending those not able to defend themselves, from providing evidence, from challenging barriers within our status quo, then seeking egalitarian opportunities for all.
    Darkness remains preference of those who promote ignorance and bigotry, who obstruct others’ ability to learn, clear visible are the consequences with created problems, delayed improvements, so many clearly continue to suffer.

  22. All people must face the consequences for their actions, white, black, female, male, children – everyone.
    Bess is dead right! Feminists would be up in arms about the violence endured by women and children in Aboriginal camps.
    It is like living in a parallel universe seeing the lengths that some commentators will go to in an attempt to absolve violent perpetrators of any responsibility.
    A lot of the children in these camps are being brought up in communities where there is no responsibility taken for any actions. Shoplifting, wagging school, hitting out at playmates and even adults – no consequences.
    I once witnessed a young man kicking an older man while he was on the ground. I called the police and the whole group that was surrounding the action (men, women and children) converged on me yelling at me and telling me it was okay – because the man on the ground was the young man’s uncle.
    When the police arrived the young man ran and was assisted in getting clear by the actions of those with him. The police caught up with him and took him into custody, but I am unaware of the consequences.
    I have witnessed female on female violence and called the police, only to be threatened myself.
    I will continue to call the police every time I see violence, no matter the perpetrator and victim.
    The people involved always seem to think they should be treated differently because “it is family” or “none of my business”.
    The most distressing aspect in all of these incidents is the children witnessing it and knowing that they are being warped and there is a very high risk of them perpetuating that behaviour and attitude into the future.
    The children must be protected or we will not have a stolen generation, we will have a missing generation.
    I know Bess to be woman of very high integrity who is rightfully distressed at the state of Aboriginal welfare in this country. She deserves support and recognition as a woman who can and will make a difference to her people and in doing so, to all Australians.
    She is a true feminist and Aboriginal leader.

  23. I applaud Bess for speaking up and more importantly tabling this in Parliament where one would hope there will be some action taken at a political level to make positive changes.
    I have been involved in Aboriginal Health for longer than 30 years and it has been with great sadness and feelings of helplessness that I have been confronted by these issues that Beth is describing on many occasions.
    The system that has been created makes it a government problem to fix when in fact these issues should be individual and family responsibility, not just community responsibility. We hear a lot about rights and responsibility (it is introduced in schools) but very little about also accepting the consequences that go with these.
    I also complement the Alice Springs News Online for leading the discussion on many social justice issues that affect our community. The main stream media in many cases shy away from such issues or sensationalise them in the guise of selling papers. In many cases their reporters appear not to have the intellectual capacity to report factually an unbiased controversial story that would even promote discussion to affect social change.
    I wish to also comment that “yes” I am one of those faceless people who requests that my name not be published. Not because I am in fear of recrimination but because this is my view and not the view of my employer.
    Unfortunately, in many areas of employment to speak or have an opinion on many matters in the media could be seen as in breach of employer Code of Conduct and a disciplinary matter in the workplace.

  24. Why is it that if you are a left wing supporter of human rights and cultural diversity, you are assumed to condone violence against women and children?
    Why can’t we listen (really listen) to Bess’ heartfelt speech, without knocking those that campaign for human rights?
    People like Bess and Barbara Shaw may not see eye to eye on many matters, but this they have in common: both strive for the betterment of the circumstances the First Australians find themselves in.

  25. It’s about time someone with guts tells it all how it is to be indigenous and how women and children suffer. Why haven’t we heard that more women have died than men in and out of custody. Good on you Bess keep up the good work and when can we read the rest of your speech.

  26. I always knew that if my brave wife spoke out that so many others who are just as sickened by the deaths of our loved ones would support her.
    Both Bess and I are very happy to work with anybody, from whatever background and with whatever political loyalties, who are truly committed to stopping the violence.
    So far it has only been those on the left who have tried to shut Bess down.
    The other critics are those who benefit directly from the presence chaos. We have always recognised that there are truly decent people right across the political spectrum but the most vicious attacks on Bess have always come from the left.
    In response to J. It was the anti-Interventionists who initially attacked Bess and tried to close her down and that, of course, included Ms Shaw and her white supporters.
    We saw Amnesty International in action in Alice Springs and what they did was farcical. It was a set up. They were not interested in anybody with an opinion that didn’t suit their agenda.
    The same happened when the UN rep came to town. They were in the hands of the protestors. They ignored Bess and every body else who thought like her.
    Equally we have never heard anything that makes sense from Human Rights Commissioners on the plight of Aboriginal women and kids – absolutely nothing.
    When they all start admitting to the truth and showing genuine interest in these issues and canvassing a wide range of views instead of pushing their predetermined agendas I for one will rush to support them and work with them.
    We are one community and the suffering women and kids belong to us all.
    They are all Australian citizens.
    They don’t belong to the Stolen Generation, to the protestors to the UN to some fairy tale indigenous culture that puts them into an anthropological zoo.
    They deserve exactly the same rights and protections as all other Australian citizens.
    I hope the day quickly comes when the insults stop and co-operation begins.

  27. Dave, I just finished reading Kieran’s poignant and wonderfully well written story “trouble at the turn off” and was struck by the need for positive action to address the ills that Bess and Kieran describe.
    I recall that once before you were asked what you think of the BDR but you didn’t respond to the question, so would you please do so now and also tell us about the steps you think we need to take.

  28. My personal view is that the BDR didn’t work. But I haven’t seen anything else work much either.
    I think that governments need to attack both the demand and supply side of the grog problem and I will argue that line whenever I get the chance to those who make the relevant decisions.
    Mostly however I am convinced that governments alone can’t fix the problem. My 15 years experience as a public servant convinced my that governments don’t solve the problems of those who don’t think they’ve got a problem.
    I’m sick of “experts” theorising about the problems that my wife’s people face as if they are mindless automatons capable only of reacting to government policy and incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions.
    The problem won’t go away until the people with the problem decide first that it is a problem and second that they want to do something about it with the support of governments and the wider community.
    I don’t want to hear any more from the Boffas of the world though I don’t doubt his sincerity. I want to hear from the people with the problem in the public arena.
    This is why I have always supported my wife. She can speak from her heart and from the inside of her culture in a way that neither I, nor John Boffa, nor any of the other “experts” can.
    She will not always be right but she has a bout a million times more chance of being right than I have. I challenge all those who tell us that they know, understand and support Aboriginal people to tell them they are killing themselves and that only they can solve the problem.
    I do this on a personal level and have gained the reputation of being cranky, hard headed, stubborn and hard to get on with.
    I don’t think I’m listened to very often but I keep trying. There is no excuse for self destruction and for murder, rape and sexual abuse. Let’s stop looking for excuses.
    To explain criminality is not to condone it. Keep trying to explain but never excuse.
    So the BDR wasn’t going to work. As long as the ones with the problem are self determining to self destruct nothing in the world will stop them except a change of mind and heart.
    Let’s encourage that, including by shaming and condemning the intolerable and indefensible.

  29. @ Dave Price. Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:15 pm.
    Thanks for replying to these requests, Dave. I think yours is worthy of a reply.
    Your personal view that the BDR is not one I share.
    I believe that the ID scanning system for obtaining take-away alcohol is the best to emerge so far, as one measure of supply control in the increasing alcohol-abuse crisis in central Australia. The BDR was part of that.
    As one who works near and among roadhouses for many years, I can say that at a bare minimum, the BDR was cause for some whom I know very well, to comment that the government had introduced something that shows that they cared about their alcoholism and, for some, it was a point of honour that they were on the BDR because it was considered a positive intervention in their situation.
    This goes to the heart of your post. Governments have the responsibility of education, although, as you may know, many Christian missions established education prior to government of the day including Aboriginal children.
    Cultural education, whether it be in the basic three Rs or drink-driving campaigns, of which I was personally involved in the NT in the early 1980s, serves to educate citizenry in what is going on in the changing world around them (I also organised dances in the Yuendemu town hall most months for a year or two in the mid-1980s).
    So, while not an “expert” – an unfortunate term that ranks with “Loopy Left” and “Do-gooder” as a way of dismissing an argument without engaging with it – I guess I’m one of the “Boffas” of this world.
    However, I agree with you that “governments need to attack both the demand and supply side of the grog problem.” It is heartening to see the NT Licensing Commission making supply side modifications at Top Springs.
    I hope they listen to the Borrooloola police as well and I’m encouraged by the Chief Minister’s comments about listening to those who wish to involve themselves in alcohol management plans.
    Mr Giles is referring to Aboriginal people, but non-Indigenous should be able to do the same and in this respect, I make my contribution.
    I offer my support as a member of the community to all those who face problems with alcohol, something which in my decades-long advocacy, I have observed to be an increasing social problem and one into which I was acculturated.
    I wrote an article for the AS News Online last year in which I noted that certain alcohol producers were advertising that their product now contained “Over 33% More” by way of a sticker on the bottle.
    I also think that a floor price is an excellent supply side modification in that it makes the price of a unit of alcohol the same in every product on the floor and cuts out the cheap plonk, which we both know is heavily abused, a cause of self-harm that impacts the public health burden and responsible for many deaths. Evidence has shown that this is an effective measure in several countries.
    I am not so much of an “expert” as someone like Dr Boffa or Bob Durnan, in that they post with greater evidence based knowledge than I, but I respect the fact that they do and I’m grateful that they exhibit good citizenship by doing so.
    You write that you “don’t want to hear” from them and would rather hear from “the people with the problem,” but the people I know and live with are not likely to voice their opinion in the public arena for a variety of reasons. Not everyone has the courage for a start.
    To conclude, some of us have long experience of living with alcohol in the NT and have family, like you, who have lost their lives to alcohol-abuse, unfairly I might add, at a young age and I still think about those friends who did so back in the mid-1980s when I was based in Tennant for a while and when Dr Boffa cared for them.
    Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that we can all knock down the walls between the cattle carts on this road train.
    The debate is still polarized, but if we focus on the things that we have in common and I have tried to note some of them in this post, we may get a more sensible outcome. The last sentence in your earlier post at this site supports this.

  30. Russell,
    I have no problem with you holding different views from my own. Good on you.
    I am a bit of a contrarian and enjoy a good debate if it has a purpose – or sometimes just for the hell of it. I am not trying to dismiss an argument. I have far too many other things to do than spend my days responding to everything I disagree with posted on the internet.
    None of this argy bargy has any effect whatsoever on the drinking habits of those I am concerned about.
    I prefer to spend my time trying to convince drunks to change their ways through direct conversation. I also spend a lot of time supporting my wife’s ongoing efforts to ask the voters in an electorate of over 380,000 square kilometres, 73% of whom are Aboriginal, what they think of government policy and how they would like it changed.
    I do this voluntarily by the way at no cost to the tax payer. In this case I was asked for my opinion and I gave it. Your response has not changed it. I agree with most of the other points you make, but my opinion doesn’t matter that much. Aboriginal opinion matters in relation to Aboriginal alcohol abuse specifically.
    I had seven and a half years as a bush teacher, 15 in Aboriginal programs for the APS and NTPS including the management of Commonwealth education and training programs across Central Australia and the Barkly and a short stint in SA.
    I have run cultural awareness training and carried out social and educational research for 16 years. I have a Master of Letters in linguistics specialising in indigenous languages. I have been called an “expert” myself. I’ve been called a lot of other things as well, not all of them complimentary and I reject the label “expert” for myself.
    By far the experience that is most significant to me is 34 years of marriage to a feisty, determined and courageous Warlpiri woman. She is the expert in these matters, not me. Many of my dearest loved ones are Aboriginal. According to the law my daughter, my grand kids and all of my descendants forever can legitimately claim to be Indigenous.
    For me all of this is personal and I don’t always get things right. I learn something new that I should have known 30 years ago in almost every conversation I have with my in-laws.
    When John Boffa called a meeting many years ago to set up his People’s Alcohol Action Coalition I attended with two other whitefellas – both teachers with extensive experience in the bush – married to Aboriginal women from bush communities with deep concern about what alcohol was doing to our loved ones.
    We were not made to feel welcome and we were all put off by the way the thing was put together. So we pulled out. The name of the organisation makes me think of North Korea or one of those adolescent, undergraduate organisations trying to recruit the ideologically committed on campus.
    If a nation state calls itself “democratic” you can bet it isn’t. If an organisation calls itself the people’s something you can bet it doesn’t have much to do with your average citizen. I still don’t doubt John’s sincerity, intelligence and good will I just think he goes about things the wrong way.
    I want to see more of the “people” involved in his organisation, particularly Aboriginal people directly suffering from the deadly effects of alcohol putting the organisation’s arguments to “us the rest of the people”.
    And as for Bob Durnan, I have the deepest respect for him and I’m proud to call him a friend. I am a little jealous of his ability to put an argument with much greater finesse and elegance than I can muster. All power to him though we don’t agree on everything. If we did our conversations would be too boring to bother.
    When I use the word “expert” I don’t mean it as an insult. Technocrats have a right to express their views like everybody else.
    I’m just tired of being preached at by lawyers and doctors in particular and I don’t think they are necessarily smarter than mechanics, plumbers or child care workers.
    In fact I’ve met bush nurses and police officers a lot wiser than a lot of doctors and lawyers I know. I resigned from the Catholic Church as a teenager because I was sick of being told what to believe and how to think. Now I’m tired of the sermonising of doctors, lawyers and other technocrats on all sorts of issues but particularly on Aboriginal issues, the ones I’m most concerned with.
    I know how easy it is to fiddle statistics. Statistics are very selectively used. When the NPY women’s council told us that, for a period a few years ago, women in their part of the world died from what we coyly call domestic violence at 67 times the rate of other Australian women there was deathly silence from the experts.
    I have also worked in enough research projects to know that you have to work very hard at achieving objective results. It isn’t hard to fudge the outcome if you think you know what that should be before you start. You need more than expertise to get it right. You also need a passionate commitment to objective truth and the right of free speech regardless of education or status and respect for the opinions of those on the bottom of the ladder.
    So, I’m interested in what I see and hear directly from the Aboriginal people I know. I learn more about domestic violence at the funerals of its victims than I do from the views of defence lawyers whose job it is to get the perpetrators off with minimal punishment.
    I learn more about alcohol abuse from talking to drunks and their children than I do from activists and medicos.
    I find your statement that “the people I know and live with are not likely to voice their opinion in the public arena for a variety of reasons. Not everyone has the courage for a start”, intriguing.
    A statement like that applies to most of the whitefellas I know as well. We just had a nationally historically significant election result in the NT. We now have five Aboriginal members of our government, four representing bush electorates with majority Aboriginal populations, and the first Aboriginal head of any Australian government in our history. In three electorates only Aboriginal candidates stood.
    My wife won against two Aboriginal male candidates, one the incumbent, representing two other parties, one an indigenous party. She achieved an 18.5% swing.
    Alice Springs has been the base for some of the most significant, most influential, most heavily funded Aboriginal organisations in the nation for over three decades. They are all run by Aboriginal management committees and boards. And yet we can’t find an Aboriginal talking head to replace Dr Boffa’s. What have those organisations been doing all these years?
    I live with a woman who was literally born under a tree, was a mother at 14, survived a childhood bout of meningitis, survived a very violent marriage, lost a son to leukemia, suffered end stage renal failure, went to Adelaide to dialyse for six months all up, tried CAPD for several months, has had a transplant for 26 years, had a sister removed from her family as a baby, has been directly threatened with death by armed and drunken men, watched three brothers drink themselves to death, has had too many relatives murdered and raped to count, whose mother lost eight of her 11 children before she died herself and has, just this year, buried three sisters in three weeks and two nieces, young mothers, who were killed by their male partners.
    Now she’s a member of our government and has acted as Speaker of the Assembly on several occasions. Wherever she goes in the bush people of both sexes and all ages and ethnicities are delighted to see her, tell her she truly represents them and encourages her to keep speaking out. And there is still a thuggish Aboriginal shock jock on the east coast and a middle aged white lawyer blogger in the NT attacking her every chance they get.
    They see themselves as experts you see and her life experience counts for nothing because in their view she belongs to the wrong political party.
    I have seen the delight in the eyes of Aboriginal school girls in the bush when they meet the “government woman” who is just like them. Teachers tell them they too can be nurses and police officers and store workers.
    We tell them they can be Prime Minister and Governor General – they can run the country. But through all this time the “experts” who bother me so much have never approached her for her opinion on anything. You’d think that an Aboriginal woman told by the renal unit in Alice Springs that she is the most successful transplant patient they’ve ever had would be approached for advice by Aboriginal health organisations – and by the researchers they’ve employed – but nothing.
    Maybe the experts, the lobbyists, the concerned whitefellas have been talking to the wrong blackfellas. Maybe it’s about time they figured out how to give the ones they care for the support and encouragement they need to, not only to voice their opinions in public but to take control in a real way of their organisations. It would be about time wouldn’t it? They’ve been telling us they’ve been doing that for at least 30 years to justify the funding they’ve been getting.
    I heard a wise, middle aged Aboriginal man say at a conference many years ago: “You can’t stop a man from drinking if that’s what he wants to do.”
    That rings in my ears every time I hear the experts criticise governments, police, hospitals, the voting public – everybody except the drinkers.

  31. @ Dave Price. Posted June 9, 2013 at 10:53 am.
    There’s a difference between a technocrat and an autocrat, Dave. Your opinion does matter.
    I define an alcoholic as someone who drinks to the point of knowingly self-harming, but unable to moderate or rehabilitate. That addiction is fuelled by an over-supply of alcohol, e.g., the current ridiculous personal daily limit available at take-away outlets seven days per week.
    The Mandatory Rehabilitation Bill seeks to rehabilitate while not moderating supply. I don’t believe it will ever get on top of the alcohol problem and that more needs to be done.
    I’m suggesting supply modification as a means of dealing with the crisis of alcoholism in Australia, just like Britain has done by introducing a floor price. We should learn from that.
    It’s my opinion that much Indigenous male-on-female violence has its source in stress and anger which is expressed by the lowering of inhibition caused by alcohol.
    The six recommendations encapsulated below, which I have titled “Six Steps to a Better NT” are, I feel, deserving of comment.
    1. Across the NT, takeaway alcohol should only be available from 2pm.
    2. Limit on site trading hours at licensed premises from Noon to 2am.
    3. The return of alcohol sales-free days, especially Thursdays on which all Centrelink payments should be synchronised.
    4. For productivity sake, take-away should be banned on Sundays.
    5. Restore the BDR as a crisis management tool.
    6. Introduce a floor price so that a unit of alcohol cannot be sold for less than an agreed price.
    I look forward to comment on these six steps by statesperson citizens such as yourself.

  32. What does this article mean by using the description “full blood”? We are all full blood, aren’t we, unless you’ve had a serious accident or just finished donated some?
    About time this antiquated, unscientific and frankly, ignorant phrase was no longer used.
    Should we refer to half-castes? Or to quadroons and octoroons? Or what about part Aboriginal (to which the best reply is undoubtedly, which part – my hair? My leg?). Ms Price is Aboriginal, full stop.

  33. I am a nurse who has worked in many remote communities. I am white. I have always been shocked by the sadness of the women and children. What they are up against out there. I believe Bess has so much to say. I am also a writer and poet. I wrote this poem a while back, but actually had to cool it down. I couldn’t be so graphic, to what I actually see out in remote communities. This is a gentle version. And I dedicate this poem to Bess and her great efforts to save Aboriginal women and children. Keep up the good work Bess.
    Rivers of Sand
    Women and children are dying and crying.
    Hung like a thick twisted tree branch
    Sobbing under closed wet fists
    Bodies lay still,
    The ligatures of time, bounded
    Smoke billows over the trees bands
    Ochre paints the early nights red dust.
    Thumping chests
    Day’s end turned now, a shade of dewy grey dusk.
    Grief makes a sound,
    As more bones litter and seal the ground.
    Gathered in a circle to mourn the innocence
    A girl scorned,
    A wail to the good spirits of the land
    Spirits take her to the other good mothers and children,
    Who fill the rivers like sand—
    A violent curse, beyond the dreaming
    Silenced to fear they hide behind their faces
    The frankness of inner screaming
    The shame,
    As brutality continues to maim
    The law says there is no one to blame
    Guarding chests
    Speared with a broom handle
    Burdened with broken ribs
    What next in this traditional right?
    Silently resisting and a step up to fight
    Laws abound grievous bodily harm,
    A state of alarm
    Isolated in a sea of bruised flesh and bones
    A sacred land of brutal zones
    Women and children lay, dying and crying
    Cries for a baby
    It’s all too bitterly cold.
    Violence is a catastrophe and should not be given any propriety.
    A violation of human rights
    Trauma for future generations
    It’s time to stop the heartless crimes
    She speaks!
    ‘Callous penetrations
    Spears in the thigh,
    Cross bars to the head
    Blood is shed
    As if it’s our turn to die.
    Ancient and traditional purpose beguiles.
    Our scars tell the story.
    There is no glory
    Over two hundred years of physical and mental abuse,
    Our men have lost and watched us
    Taken, raped and slaughtered.
    The story line changes
    Abandoned to pain, anger and rage
    This has surely endangered us all.
    So now we sadly fall.
    Women and children share screams in the night,
    Connection will never be as tight.
    It’s no traditional right
    We stand up to the unforgiving way.
    We are now impoverished,
    A state of poor physical and mental health
    It’s no traditional wealth
    Our human rights to live free of violence must abound,
    Until this happens our culture will continue to fail.
    As we live upon this sickening murderous sandy trail.
    Those who haven’t survived,
    Go to the land for peace.
    Until we are to join them,
    We sign the rights to freedom
    From Violence
    Our law is not used to violence.
    We must stand tall and plead our defense.
    We must meet change, or we will be forever hopelessly rearranged.
    We will find a description, and a prescription
    To stop our contemporary violence
    One stab wound is violent enough. One whack too.
    It is too much. Enough is enough.
    Violence is not healing.
    This is our endless fight to be free.
    The judiciary is not working,
    By any black and white degree
    White fellas don’t hear our screams.
    White fellas don’t hear us cry.
    They don’t know about us.
    White fellas don’t take us into their hearts.
    They don’t know us for our land
    Our tears apart
    No more can we stand alone.
    Warrior men gone
    Under this sun and moon
    We fight for our natural tune.
    No more can we be broken and shamed.
    We are the power to our people
    Our children crying
    Our women dying’
    In these bony Rivers of Sand
    By Nicole M Nugent

  34. Thank you Bess Price, for who you are and the way you are standing up for the truth of what is happening to Aboriginal women and children.
    When I read your husband Dave’s account of your life it filled me with sorrow, you are truly a brave woman and I pray both you and your daughter Jacinta will continue to tell the truth and to work for the good of the women and children, and ultimately for all Aboriginal people and all of us.
    Thank you, dear woman.


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