Whitegate row headed for national attention?


PHOTOS: Above – Barry Abbott addressing the rally. Amelia Turner with the sign, “Turn on the tap!”. MLA Alison Anderson with the “Build homes not jails” sign. At right (seated, from left) – Felicity Hayes, Theresa Ryder, Leonie Palmer and Margaret Kemarre (MK) Turner OAM. Behind Mrs Ryder is Ursula Nicholoff-Johnson. Jack Hayes (with hat). At right in the photo are Natalie Wasley, Rod Moss and Kat Hope (with baby).
A call by Alison Anderson on Bess Price to move her electoral office from Todd Mall in Alice Springs to Yuendumu, and Margaret Kemarre Turner’s suggestion that the United Nations should “come and see what the governments are doing here” were examples of the outrage expressed by speakers at a rally this morning over the disconnection of water to the Whitegate camp.
Other comments made it clear that the Whitegate residents, and their supporters, are determined to launch the row into the national arena.
Ms Price, the NT Minister for Community Services and Women’s Policy, was firmly the target of the 50-strong protest outside her office.
She did not appear – according to her staff she was in hospital. She did not respond to a message requesting comment. Neither did any of the other local CLP politicians put in an appearance.
Ms Anderson, the NT Leader of the Palmer United Party, represents Namatjira, adjoining Ms Price’s Stuart to the south.
Most of the speakers gave part of their addresses in Arrernte.
Ms Anderson said the community of Alice Springs is given the opportunity to co-exist with the Arrernte native title holders: “Let’s give them the same respect back.
“The strongest leaders of the Arrernte tribe are in front of you this morning, Mrs Ryder, Mrs Turner, Mum Turner, and of course the traditional owner herself, Felicity [Hayes]. They are the traditional owners. They are not animals.”
She called on the town: “Let’s not tolerate racism. We all know how good the CLP is at that. I’ve been with them, so I can tell you that. They are just like their forefathers. Exactly the same rednecks.
“If the Minister wants to use her upper hand on these people, then I think it’s time that you, Bess Price, move your office over to your country, in Yuendumu.”
This is not CLP country, said Ms Anderson: “This is Arrernte country … the CLP can pack your bags and go.”
Amelia Turner (daughter of  MK) said: “Bess Price, you are an Indigenous person. You can’t take over someone’s land just because you work for the CLP.”
Barry Abbott said the relocation of the Whitegate residents into other camps, as proposed by the government, is not an acceptable solution: “Too many people go into the town camps these days … from different tribes … from all over the country … instead of leaving them in their own communities. That’s where the problem is.
“Don’t push these people around. They’ve been there for 40 years. Please give them their water back.”
We own this place, said Mr Abbott, “not to be pushed around like bloody chooks.”
Leonie Palmer is the aunt of Myra Hayes, who led the plaintiffs in the successful Alice Springs native title claim in the Federal Court. She said her niece was at Old Timers seniors village now: “She really wanted a house built at Whitegate” which is a “big place for ceremonies, for sorry business.”
She addressed Ms Price by her ‘skin’ (kinship) name: “Please turn the water back on, Nungarrayi.”
Mrs MK Turner took up the issue of people from different tribes being “all piled up, all the other different language speakers are piled up where Arrernte land was.
“All the families at Whitegate were very happy there. We need the United Nations come and see Whitegate, what the governments are doing here.
“They go and sit on the government chair, look down on our families. A lot of people supported you as well,” she said to the absent Ms Price.
In the town camps are “all these people who don’t belong to this country,” she continued. When people were transferred to Hidden Valley “it was just like hell”.
Author and artist Rod Moss said it was “a shocking thing” to have received the Chief Minister’s literary  award for each of his two books about Whitegate, written over 30 years: “To think of him shaking my hand and looking me in the eye.”
Maybe the protest “is just what is needed for attention on a national scale, the thing that may backfire on them, the beginning of the momentum to get the change that we need,” said Mr Moss.
Artist Dan Murphy (at left) asked the rally: “What’s the point of recognition in the constitution if you can’t recognise people on their own land?”
FOOTNOTE: Just as the rally wound up local police issued the following media release: “A 37-year-old man will appear in Alice Springs Magistrates Court today after he allegedly stabbed a 42-year-old man.
“The two men were involved in an altercation at a residence at Hidden Valley Camp on Friday evening 12 September, when the offender allegedly stabbed the victim.
“The 42-year-old man was taken to Alice Springs Hospital to receive treatment for injuries to his chest.”


  1. Bess Price in hospital? Her Facebook page has a snap of her at Santa Teresa yesterday with Adam Giles’ wife. Flew to a community that’s less than an hours drive away. Note to Bess and staff: If you are going to lie about your whereabouts it’s a good idea to avoid Facebook.

  2. @ Melanie Ross: Maybe Melanie it is in fact possible that she was being treated in hospital before continuing her work and visiting the Santa Teresa and Finke communities, both in Alison’s Electorate, which is what happened!
    She met with women who wanted to talk to her about issues rather then to Alison Anderson because they hadn’t seen her in over a year and were wondering where she was.
    The Hayes family from Santa Teresa were asking Bess Price to help fix Philipson Bore Outstation as Alison had promised to do so over a year ago and never returned to fulfill her promise.
    By the way, why should a house be built for one person who is the only traditional owner for Whitegate when she already has a house on an Undoolya Outstation?
    If it is the land that is most important and not the easy access to alcohol then that’s where you’d think she’d want to live right? But that’s right let’s meet the demands of a single traditional owner because she is entitled to two houses?
    And move office out to Yuendumu … ha! What a laugh coming from Clive’s puppet who wouldn’t even know what her own electorate looks like.

  3. Jacinta Price: Your comments do not assist Minister Bess Price nor the people at Whitegate.
    I’ve read both of Rod Moss’s books on the Whitegate community and there’s a lot more to residence there than access to alcohol.
    Arguably the use of alcohol has more to do with appalling living conditions made worse by cutting the water off.
    From what I’ve read the Whitegate people are not making demands for housing and the like, they want their taps to flow water again and eventually secure land tenure. The issue at the moment is the water being cut off by Minister Price.
    Whether Bess was treated in hospital or not, she given the strong impression of hiding away from the debate while relatives, first husband Dave and now you, defend her publicly.
    This only adds to the perception that Bess is “not her own man” so to speak, and does what she is told by the CLP. If that’s the case she has been betrayed by her own party by taking the fall for inflicting a huge injustice on the Whitegate people.

  4. Firstly: Jacinta Price make sure in doing a bit of research before making remarks about people quote: “By the way, why should a house be built for one person who is the only traditional owner for Whitegate when she already has a house on an Undoolya Outstation?”
    If it is the land that is most important and not the easy access to alcohol then that’s where you’d think she’d want to live right? But that’s right let’s meet the demands of a single traditional owner because she is entitled to two houses?”
    Secondly: Traditional land; country connection / kinship to country and that’s where story line travel doesn’t sit in one place / country. Is very much the relevance and argument to government (no matter which party) and an important point to say.
    It’s clearly family as whole that’s wanting whats best for them. It’s just the single traditional owner wants her voice to be heard and a leader of her family if thats OK with you?
    No matter what they do in their personal lives, we can’t all be “prim and proper” as you passed them off to be nothing but DRUNKS! So what is the priniciple of humanity? WATER, better living conditions.
    And the other is that she does not have a house or houses at Mt Undoolya Oustation. Go have a look and ask the family there. And what’s wrong with being transient from outstation to Whitegate? Everyone else does that, no matter what their reasons or community they may come from.
    Alison Anderson keep up the good work, it’s people like you that make a change and difference and when you deal with politics / politicians you can never have your way, no matter what you say, or may have promised. It all boils downs to someone else’s approval, you should know that.

  5. Really, I don’t think well-off middle class people from eastside like the young Ms Price understand how difficult it is to live on the breadline.
    Money for food and the basics can be hard to find, let alone the luxuries that, I’m sure, you take for granted.
    Then if you are somehow able to buy a car, the fuel to get in and out from Undoolya outstation, puts another hole in your budget. Think about it, Jacinta. What right do you have to live where you live right now? Whose land was stolen to build your lovely house and suburb?
    I’m sure you can go and walk around your family’s traditional lands anytime you like.
    But the Mparntwe-arenye people and others, who have had their country stolen for housing and cattle stations, don’t have the same freedoms. They have to fight for it.
    The Hayes family have been living at Whitegate for probably longer than you have been alive.
    As a proud Aboriginal woman, a self proclaimed desert diva, surely you should be proud of your fellow indigenous cousins and support them to maintain their culture and connection to country.
    Or is being Aboriginal just a cute thing to say and valuing Aboriginal culture and rights something too hard?

  6. Re: Chris Hunter Posted September 20, 2014 at 9:54 am: Yes, “Enough is enough.” They need signed leases like everyone else.
    They need also to arrange pay for water to be connected, for decent sewerage, for submission of development plans for housing to be constructed, and the cost of the housing …
    Money for food and basics is NOT easier for low income recipients.
    Many despite lower incomes, still pay costs for their homes, so yes, for them luxuries remain scarce. However their experience making such payments improves their budget skills.

  7. I think that targeting Jacinta Price for her comments is not going to solve any issue.
    Why should she take the flak for all your misdirected anger and energy?
    I live in Broome – previously Alice Springs for 4.5 years, and can’t believe that there is still an issue regarding “equality” there. Let’s face it, this is what it comes down to.
    Jacinta actually highlighted an important issue there regarding access to alcohol. Whitegate – a town camp that I frequented a lot whilst working for the department was a derelict hole.
    Smelly, stinky and full of drunks and bums who did not work, and unfortunately had a lot of children in care by the state. Why? BECAUSE THEY CHOSE TO LIVE IN THESE CONDITIONS.
    Housing is ALWAYS provided, but not always given because why should our taxpayers’ dollars be spent on people who can’t even look after themselves or their property? Let alone their own children.
    I have lived and worked in 3rd world countries for 10 years doing volunteer work, and until I moved to Alice Springs, never knew that this beautiful country we call Australia, was home to a culture who cannot move on from the past, and get educated and get a job.
    You want equality? Then start acting like the rest of the country and do something constructive and positive. Using the likes of social media, stories that unfortunately happened to your people, but not by those who are there helping you – will not change what happened. Only you can change.
    Whitegate residents need to CLEAN UP THEIR ACT … why give them water if they don’t use it to shower? You think it’s OK to walk around and stink up the place and smell of piss and sweat and alcohol?
    What do you do with the water anyway? It is certainly not used for showering.
    As for two houses, I agree. Why should one traditional land owner have two houses? Why not push for two Prados and a swimming pool while your’e at it? Ridiculous? Thought so.
    Alice Springs is a beautiful town, marred by scars of the past, and far too many white people trying to be do gooders and not achieving nothing. Good on you Alice. Still stuck in the past.

  8. Kai thank you for your ill considered emotional comments that demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of the issues and how history interplays with current social realities.

  9. @1:
    Thank you for stating the obvious. Consider this: Kai is not that bright considering she worked in the department and didn’t see a thing?
    Apparently not, but only the bad in people.
    And it’s not targeting, it’s letting Jacinta know its the real world out there with issues way past her back yard.
    And yes it’s all about the WATER, and yes, they should be paying for it, if there was service provider to pay to.


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