By ERWIN CHLANDA
There will be two Aboriginal women from the NT in Federal Parliament if Jacinta Price is successful as the CLP candidate for Lingiari, and Labor’s Malarndirri McCarthy (at right) retains her Senate seat (Territory Senators serve for the same term as the House of Representatives).
Ms Price’s prospect is clouded, at least so far, by being more popular interstate and with national media than in her own community.
Senator McCarthy, a former journalist, has significant runs on the board.
As the NT Minister for Children and Families as well as Child Protection in 2008 and 2009, under Chief Minister Paul Henderson, she introduced amendments for mandatory reporting of domestic violence in the NT.
“That was a courageous step. It was quite difficult at the time, given that no jurisdiction in Australia had made it mandatory to report domestic violence.
“We put $15m into awareness and education trying to change the culture in the Northern Territory [making the point] that domestic violence is everyone’s business.”
Senator McCarthy says up to that time many people “were looking the other way.
“Irrespective of whether you we a victim, or you were just someone who observed what was going on, it was still your job to ensure that person was OK, by reporting.”
She says, for example, the Katherine women’s shelter, now 30 years old, commented on how tough it was initially for some people to cope with the mandatory reporting.
“But they say now it’s part of Territory culture. People recognise domestic violence is just not on. When you see someone hurt or violated, it is your business to report that.
“I was sick and tired of seeing women being bashed and family members thought this was normal. And it was the children of the Northern Territory who were witnessing this, and thinking it was OK behaviour. That was a culture I was determined to change.”
However, fundamental change of society’s culture relating to domestic violence still has a long way to go, she says, although more women and their children are now turning up at women’s shelters.
Having moved from the Territory Parliament to the Federal one, what can she do?
While dealing directly with domestic violence is a state-type function, the Commonwealth can do much to fix the underlying causes, mostly poverty “entrenched particularly here in the Northern Territory,” says Senator McCarthy.
“Let’s look at CDP, for example. When people are breached they have no money. We know from evidence, when there is no money available then the outcome is usually violence. That is certainly something that I can influence change in.”
She says Labor’s policy is seeking ways for women to be financially empowered “to not only advance into a career, or to finish their education, but to remove themselves from financial dependence in situations where domestic violence is rife.
“The Federal Government isn’t doing this. It’s a policy that Federal Labor is working on. That’s what we want to take to the election, the financial empowerment of women.”
The Alice Springs News Online has invited Ms Price to respond.
By ERWIN CHLANDA