When the Utopia learning centre is shut down, will teenagers gravitate to Alice Springs and get into trouble? Tristan Ray, from the Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service, says locals are asking this question.
Stories and pictures you won't see in John Pilger's film
Priorities are shifting at Arlparra, also known as Utopia. Traditional owners did not want it to develop as a community, but to rather be a resource centre, delivering services to people living on their homelands. But in a visit to the area this week Member for Namatjira, Alison Anderson, was told that the push from locals is now for “housing, housing, housing” at Arlparra. KIERAN FINNANE travelled with Ms Anderson ahead of the heavily promoted broadcast of Pilger's Utopia on SBS this Saturday.
Last night's Q&A on the ABC was hugely useful for understanding the popular national debate about Aboriginal issues: Its perverse uselessness, to be precise.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (pictured) commented on the Federal Intervention, costing millions of dollars, in the wake of the chilling "Children are Sacred" report into abuse and neglect. She recalls that army, police and bureaucrats arrived in her home town of Utopia and proceeded to "hunt us like dogs".
Moderator Tony Jones did not ask for an explanation nor elaboration.
It was a notable addition to Mrs Kunoth-Monks vocabulary: Last week she accused Australia of "ethnic cleansing".
Was the Darwin audience outraged? No way. It applauded. Profusely. Photo: Mrs Kunoth-Monks makes a point during the show, flanked by NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson (left) and moderator Tony Jones. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The one-day visit last Saturday by Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, to the Utopia homelands generated the usual round of headlines: conditions are "devastating", comparable to those in the "Third World", policies amount to "ethnic cleansing" (this last from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Utopia resident and Barkly Shire President).
What the so-called "fact finding mission" did not do was shed any light on the challenges facing governments and Aboriginal people about the future of the homelands at Utopia and elsewhere. This was done incisively by the outgoing Northern Territory Coordinator General for Remote Services, Bob Beadman (at right), in May of this year. His few pages of analysis provide far more insight into the situation than all of Amnesty's rhetoric, either in Mr Shetty's pronouncements or Amnesty's report, The Land Holds Us, released in August.
Mr Beadman also recommends some immediate (catch-up) steps for governments to take. There's no sign of the Northern Territory Government doing so. Minister for Indigenous Development Malarndirri McCarthy declined to answer the questions put to her by the Alice Springs News. Amnesty also declined to be interviewed by the Alice
However, a spokesperson for Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says her government "respects the rights of Indigenous Australians to live on their traditional lands and acknowledges the profound connection which many Aboriginal people have with their homelands" but "housing investment is currently focussed on larger Indigenous communities where more Indigenous people live and which are faced with poor housing and overcrowding".
And the spokesperson says Canberra has provided to the NT Government $80 million for provision of basic municipal and essential services to homelands in the Northern Territory over the past four years but "future funding from July next year will be discussed with the
Northern Territory Government." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
PHOTO ABOVE:Lenny Jones, 73, and Albert Bailey, 79, Chairperson of Urapuntja Health both from Soapy Bore, speak with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty. Photo courtesy Amnesty International.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has released what
it calls a research report, focussed on the changes in government
policy, particularly since the Intervention, that have affected the
Utopia homelands in the Northern Territory.
The report argues that through leasing and inadequate
funding governments are actually taking land away its traditional
Nowhere in the report is there an acknowledgement that leasing only
applies to a tiny fraction of Aboriginal lands, that is the land on
which government is building and maintaining infrastructure.
A "group of Aboriginal elders" is quoted as saying in part:
"Through harsh changes we have had removed from us all control over our
communities and our lives. Our lands have been compulsorily taken from
us. We have been left with nothing." There is no explanation nor
qualification of this dramatic claim.
The only named contributor to the report is senior Aboriginal woman
and activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, of Jedda acting fame, who provides
the Foreword for the paper which lambasts the new shire system without
mentioning that she is the president of her shire.
And the report advances mixed evidence of the benefit of living on
homelands, including that they are a "central" component of the Northern
Territory's $775.78m tourism industry, with no scrutiny of the
realities, including welfare dependency. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photo at top: Jeffrey
Pepperill Kemarr and family at Camel Camp on the Utopia homelands,
about 30 kms from Arlparra. Source: Amnesty International, Lucas Jordan. Above: Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, with daughter Ngarla and granddaughter Ruby, in 2006. From the Alice News archive.