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HomeIssue 3Martin Luther King III 'disheartened' by what he saw in Alice

Martin Luther King III 'disheartened' by what he saw in Alice


p2529 Reconciliation MLK flowers 430There was star power at today’s Reconciliation Week gathering at the Telegraph Station: Martin Luther King III, son of the great civil rights activist, together with wife Andrea and daughter Yolanda were the occasion’s special guests, which was particularly moving for the older people among the crowd.
Right: Martin Luther King III and wife Andrea presented with native flowers as part of the welcome to country. The school children present, many of them non-Indigenous, were invited to present flowers to all the elders present, including non-Indigeous elders. 
As William Tilmouth said, thanking Mr King for his presence: “I grew up with the speeches of Mr King’s father.
“He gave all of us who lived with injustice and who fought for justice, he gave all of us strength and hope.
“Mr King, like his father has given me strength. I thank you sir, thank you.
“You being here, spending time with us, sitting with us, listening to us, is an honour for us.
“It honours our struggle, it bears witness to our truth, it gives rise to our voice, thank you.”
p2529 Reconciliation MK & Yolanda 430When Mr King took to the microphone the witness he bore was unsurprisingly not altogether complimentary to the present state of affairs in Alice Springs.
Left: Arrernte elder Margaret Kemarre Turner directs the schoolboy towards Mr King. Alongside her is Yolanda King who was travelling with her parents. 
Coming from the USA where “some conditions are not as good as they should be”, he was “a little disappointed” with what he had seen.
He had been taken to visit White Gate, the homeland east of town where Arrernte native title holders are continuing to fight for recognised land tenure so that they can build houses there.
The gathering had heard from Felicity Hayes about the “simple wish” of her aunty, the late M. Hayes, who had “fought for native title and won”. (She was the lead claimant in Hayes v the Northern Territory, which resulted in the first successful native title claim over a town area in Australia).
Mrs M. Hayes wanted  “a house for our family and her to live on land at Irrekerlantye (White Gate). We lived in a tin shed and demountables. We all did. This is where I raised my children. Eighteen years on we are still not allowed to build houses. We have no connected water, no power, the town has grown and we still wait.”
Mr King was shocked: “How do you justify mistreating human beings who really were here first? I don’t get that.”
p2529 Reconciliation MLK podium 430His next disappointment came as they drove through the city: “The central building you see is the brand new Supreme Court, which some are probably very excited about. For me personally I was a little disheartened,” said Mr King (left), “because I was told if you go down to the court looking for justice, much of what you will find is ‘just us’, who are Aborigine people.
“There’s something wrong with that. We’ve got to find a way to challenge your nation to do better.”
That challenge was central to all of today’s speeches, but they all also expressed hope for the future.
Mrs Hayes said there was “too much violence within our own community, injustice is part of our lives, discrimination everywhere we turn. There is racism in our streets, in our prisons, our schools, in hospitals, when we go to the shops.”
But she also acknowledge the “many Indigenous and non-indigenous people working together with respect and understanding”.
She speculated about “why Alice Springs is suffering so much”, asking “Is it because our land was stolen and we couldn’t continue our traditional law?”
She said: “Mparntwe land covers the whole of Alice Springs and some of the surrounding areas. These are our lands. We never gave them up. We have to live by white law. We accept this but we want to live on our own country with dignity.”
p2529 Reconciliation F Hayes, Comm White 430If that were to be achieved she saw the opportunity for us here “in the heart of Australia” to be able to “show the world how Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people can stand together in harmony and respect.”
Right: Felicity Hayes, speech still in hand, Commander Michael White of the NT Police, and Pamela Kngwarraye Lynch, one of the Strong Arrernte Grandmothers group, walking hand and hand through ceremonial smoke. 
Mr Tilmouth, chair of the organisation Children’s Ground, painted a sad picture of the present “complex situation” we are in, “born through our shared histories”.
“Our land was taken from us in the 1870s, we were stripped of our life blood … removed from our land and our families.”
The stolen generation, of whom he is one, were kept there at the Telegraph Station  “until they were farmed out across the country.”
Today “our children continue to live with racism every day, we bury our families too often, I get really sorry going to too many funerals.
p2529 Reconciliation Tilmouth 430“The courts are filled with our families.” And so are the prisons, the hospital, public housing.
“We are made to feel inferior but we are not … Our people are dismissed as a problem, something to be fixed, but it is not us that are broken but the system we are forced to live in.”
The way forward must start by listening to the Arrernte people “not through the organisations but directly to us. Our law was here before non-Aboriginal people. We know who we are.
“I invite our organisations to be of service to our people, not assume the voice of our people.”
He spoke of the situation of young people.
“This year, as in many years gone by, there’s been tension in our community because our children are walking the streets at night. They walk the streets because of violence, poverty, homelessness, hopelessness.”
Reconciliation, he said, requires us “to understand them and not judge them”:
“I watch our young people struggling, they are wondering where they fit in, what does life hold for them.
“I ask young people to remember our laws and hold your identity. We need you as the next generation to hold on to our culture, our language.”
Too may are getting lost, he said: “Grog, drugs, violence is not who we are. They were the poisons given to us.”
Like Mrs Hayes, he ended on a positive note. Indeed, he had started on one, encouraged to see the many school children who were at the gathering and actively participating in it: This was “refreshing, it gives you hope that people are interested.”
He saw a possible “new future for our children … We are survivors, we are the longest living culture in the world because our knowledge and society evolved and is deep and sophisticated.”
That means First Nations people have a lot to offer, from which we all can learn: “Let’s start a new chapter in the history of Australia.”
Today’s events were organised by Children’s Ground and Akeyulerre Healing Centre, with support from Lhere Artepe.

Below: Drum Atweme, pupils at Yipirinya School, put on a  crowd-pleasing performance and then all the school children were invited to join in a kangaroo dance (at bottom).

p2529 Reconciliation Drum Atweme 660
p2529 Reconciliation Drum Atweme roo dance 660


  1. Challenge the elders to fight violence, poverty, homelessness, hopelessness.
    Elders have this responsibility. STREET KIDS MUST BE TAKEN FROM PARENTS without recourse and educated to have any future.

  2. Unfortunately a lot of these kids have no respect for the elders. Everyone says these kids are scared and shy and hungry. From what I’ve seen around town shyness is not one of the traits and as for being hungry, well the take away outlets are doing just fine.
    The challenge is to get the parents to begin parenting, showing these young kids how to live a good and decent life. I’ll be damned if a young kid who is climbing a balcony to break into a unit is said to be looking for a sandwich or that if a teenager is breaking car windows with rocks to gain entry to look for something to drink. Any visitor to this great town says they feel sorry for certain groups and this should not be. Ask the elderly gent from Rosebud in Victoria travelling towards Darwin who stopped to buy groceries from a shopping area who had take away containers thrown at his feet. Not our trash mate, white mans, you pick it up. Words that have surely been passed on and one would assume not from the elders.

  3. In not accepting some responsibility and changing their own actions, the parents of these troubled kids are condemning their children to a life of crime and prison.
    All through my school years the Aboriginal culture was said to be a very proud culture which had a strong family bond.
    Well, unfortunately for some kids this isn’t true and these are the kids tourist will see around our town, getting into trouble and breaking laws, harming the perception of the culture.
    I would be curious to see a comparison graph to what the government is willing to let happen to Indigenous people and kids compared with any other race.
    It is disgusting and in my point of view racist. All children should have the same opportunities to succeed in life. By not allowing them to have a good upbringing due to fear of labels you are holding them back and enabling this shame to continue.

  4. Unfortunately there is very little respect for elders, full stop. Arrernte elders and leaders put a full page ad in the paper inviting people to this re conciliation event, saw no councillors or pollies there. Catherine Satour sent an apology, though.

  5. James T Smerk and Psuedo Guru I agree with you, and our leaders be politicians or elders should copy 100 times UN Article 29: Aims of education, learn it by heart and put it in good use.
    It states parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
    (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
    (b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
    (c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
    (d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
    (e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

  6. The kids you call “street kids” Pseudo Guru are not true street kids: they are mainly running away (mostly temporarily and for fun) from their families or foster care homes or government residential care homes.
    These families or carers can’t or don’t or won’t control them.
    There is no point in taking them off residential care to put them into residential care.
    The carers of all descriptions have to be taught how to control children and how to set boundaries to achieve control, and then required in parental contracts or in their funding contracts to take and keep control of the children who are in their care.

  7. Although William Tilmouth is partly correct when he says that the kids “walk the streets because of violence, poverty, homelessness, hopelessness,” the answers are not simple, and they require that the parents and all other carers (particularly those employed in government and NGO residential homes) be made accountable for their own behaviours in relation to these children, wherever this is possible.

  8. Be interested to know if the issues these people talk about are in any part of the responses that link to “turning the tap down!”

  9. The “turning the tap down!” I see, is becoming the “Carthago delenda est” of Alice Springs.

  10. Having read his bio, I’m not sure how relevant it was to have Martin Luther King III be the keynote speaker at such an event.
    Seems to me that yet another “gravy eyed seagull” has had their hand out and nose in the trough.
    Not sure how much it cost to be graced with his presence, but as they say “any publicity is better than no publicity”.

  11. I think you are going to have to rethink that one, Evelyne. We come not to destroy the grape, but rather to reduce its consumption to acceptable civilized levels. Do you not agree?

  12. Yes Eugene, I agree with you totally, but tap off does not mean reduce.
    Mabel swearing does not help a debate, neither “turn the tap off” in every discussion.
    Yes we have a problem in Alice, but “the tap on” is not the only culprit, the biggest one is racial bigotry.

  13. @ Evelyne Roullet. I am not sure that your reference to this Latin phrase fits the critical grog problem social situation in Alice.
    The full Latin phrase is “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam”. Roman statesman Cato the Elder 200 years before Christ was reported by Livy and other historians as saying “furthermore, it is my opinion that Carthage should be destroyed”.
    Carthage was Ancient Rome’s major enemy, sitting on its doorstep about three days’ sail away in what is modern day Tunisia. Long after Cato’s death, the Roman army on the Third Punic War left not a stone upon a stone of its rival city, decreeing that nothing was to be built on the site thereafter.
    I don’t think anyone envisages the “tap being turned off” completely, leaving not a keg upon a keg in the pubs and takeaways of the Alice.
    We have learnt the lesson. Grog is entrenched in the DNA of every race in human culture throughout the world.
    We found that out in the western world with Prohibition that will never be revisited in Alice or anywhere else after the failed experiment in the USA of the 1930s.
    The trick will always be now to wisely navigate the perils of over-indulgence, especially in our young people of all races and colour who are hammering themselves for whatever reasons with the added beast of drugs.
    Like Ancient Rome, the grog solution in Alice will not be built in a day. We just have to keep looking for answers.

  14. @ John Bell: If we had sound on Alice Springs News Online you would hear me laughing loudly when I read the history lesson you gave me. I believe you missed the point I was trying to make with diplomacy.
    Cato consistently repeated his wish for the destruction of Carthage at the end of every speech he delivered regardless of its content. Now in Alice we have too often heard “turn the tap off” regardless of the content of the discussion.
    “Ceterum censeo, Carthaginem esse delendam,” the famous phrase with which Cato the Elder used to finish all of his speeches, no matter how unrelated the topic was.
    It was an effective strategy – as another well-known political figure put it: “Repeat the most ridiculous thing a thousand times, and people will start to seriously consider it.”

  15. Evelyne, you haven’t been paying proper attention in class again. The phrase that is normally used is “turn down the tap”.
    Mabel did in frustration ask you sarcastically, ‘would you prefer “turn the f#$!n tap off”?’
    Now you are the one suggesting that everybody else is saying “Turn off the tap!” but you are the first to have started regularly using this term.
    Wake up and pay better attention in class please!

  16. I stand corrected Eugene and will stay on the Donkey desk in the corner for the rest of the week.


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