The long walk to Canberra

Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 07:21 pm
Hygiene pact in deal for blacks
By Meaghan Shaw
December 9, 2004/the AGE

Aboriginal communities will have to meet certain standards in return for government money under "mutual obligation" agreements.

Children in a remote Aboriginal community will be required to wash their faces twice daily as part of a deal with the Federal Government that will deliver them benefits, including new petrol bowsers and improved health checks.

The deal is the first revealed under the Government's controversial mutual obligation policy, under which conditions are attached to federal grants.

Members of the Mulan community in Western Australia have agreed to a long list of obligations that include keeping their homes and yards clean, ensuring students attend school, emptying rubbish bins twice a week and the frequent face washing of children.

In return for fulfilling their obligations, the community will receive $172,260 in federal funding for petrol bowsers, while the West Australian Government will provide regular testing for the eye disease trachoma, skin infections and worm infestations.

The Federal Government said last night the draft plan had been drawn up in consultation with the East Kimberley community, and defended it against charges that it was paternalistic and punitive. Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone said it was an excellent example of governments and indigenous communities working together to improve lives.

The administrator of the Mulan Aboriginal Corporation, Mark Sewell, said the agreement was the initiative of the community of 150, which has the worst rate of trachoma in the world.

Community members also wanted their own petrol pumps to save them driving 44 kilometres to Balgo, and to benefit from passing tourists.

"It came from the community talking about what they wanted - which was fuel bowsers - and what they were worried about - which was kids' health," Mr Sewell said.

Mr Sewell is a non-indigenous person hired by the council to administer grants for the community. He said the plan was devised in consultation with elders, the school and health workers.

Federal Parliament's only Aborigine, Democrats senator Aden Ridgeway, said the plan was appalling and sanctimonious. "When will they start dealing with the real issues: proper spending on health, serial underperformance of government departments and creating real jobs for communities?"

Labor indigenous affairs spokesman Kim Carr, who released the plan, described it as unfair and said it showed the shared responsibility agreements were not "so shared after all".

Senator Vanstone replied: "I'm not sure what problem Senator Carr would have with Mulan getting petrol bowsers and the trachoma problem being improved. Which of those outcomes is Senator Carr unhappy about?"

Indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt, head of law and indigenous studies at the University of Technology, said the agreement made a mockery of the term "mutual obligation".

She also criticised the "paternalistic tone" of the agreement, which reminded her of the obligations of mission societies.

The release of the agreement follows a shift by veteran indigenous rights campaigners Pat and Mick Dodson to support the concept of mutual obligation following their meeting with Prime Minister John Howard last week.

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Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 07:25 pm
Deaths in custody protest planned
December 9, 2004 - 7:58AM/the AGE

Up to 800 people are expected to march through the streets of Townsville today to protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody and call for equity, truth and justice.

Protesters will march through the north Queensland city's streets on a 3.5 km route, passing the police station and other government buildings, before a rally at Central Park in the inner city.

An organiser of the peace march, Kanat Wano, - a member of Townsville's indigenous justice group - said his community wanted to call for calm and an end to the "hatred" of recent weeks seen on nearby Palm Island.

He said Aboriginal leaders were also calling for a unified stance by indigenous people to call for equity, truth and justice.

"We want non-indigenous Australians to work with us and show support," he said.

Townsville Catholic Bishop Michael Putney is set to join other church leaders, unions, migrant and women's groups to call for an end to the hatred and violence.

Police have flown in officers from the Public Safety Response Team in the wake of rumours protesters from Redfern in Sydney - the scene of violent police clashes this year - were attending the event.

However, Mr Wano said the event would be called off at any sign of violence.

"There will be agitators on both sides but I also hope people show a bit of leadership," Mr Wano said.

"We need people to negotiate - we don't need riot squads - we don't need people bumping chests - that's when you get conflict."

A group of 80 indigenous elders will act as marshalls during the march.

Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has asked for the march to be conducted in a "peaceful way".

A riot erupted Palm Island on November 26 after local man Cameron Doomadgee died in police custody.

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Reply Thu 9 Dec, 2004 04:57 am
Hi Olga

You obviously watch the news, has anyone talked about the origins of the Palm Island community?

My understanding is that it was originally a penal settlement for aboriginals who were taken there from all over. Displaced incarcerated aboriginals. That sounds like a great basis for a happy community....
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Reply Thu 9 Dec, 2004 05:09 am
I didn't know that, hinge. What wretched, wretched place it looks!
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Reply Thu 9 Dec, 2004 06:15 am
The Shameful white history of Palm Island:

...Of the many Aboriginal reserves set up across Queensland, Palm Island in particular gained a reputation as a "punishment place", a reputation which still lingers today.

(complete article)
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Reply Thu 9 Dec, 2004 06:42 am
Thanks for chasing that up Olga, it's nice to know my memory isn't so bad. Terrible to know it's actual history.
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Reply Thu 9 Dec, 2004 06:46 am
Grim stuff indeed!
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Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2004 06:08 am
Hygiene pact stymies race accord
By Meaghan Shaw
December 10, 2004/the AGE
The Mulan Aboriginal community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.

The optimism following the meeting between Michael Long and the Prime Minister has lasted less than a week.

Hopes for a dramatic change in black-white relations have been dashed by a controversial deal linking funding for an indigenous community with behavioural change.

Less than a week after key Aboriginal leaders hailed the results of a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, one of the parties to that meeting has blasted a deal in which a remote Kimberley community has agreed to meet hygiene standards in return for petrol pumps and health checks.

Patrick Dodson, widely regarded as the father of reconciliation, yesterday described the arrangement with the Mulan Aboriginal community as "lunacy".

Mr Dodson said the deal, which links $172,260 in Federal Government funding for petrol bowsers to a demand that children wash their faces twice daily and families keep their homes free of rubbish, belittled Aboriginal people.

"It smacks so much of the old days when the superintendents of missions lined people up and checked whether they'd cleaned their teeth or put their rubbish bins out at the right angle," he said.

Mr Dodson emerged from a meeting with Mr Howard last Friday saying he believed indigenous leaders could work with the Prime Minister.

"We want to re-open dialogue with the Prime Minister," Mr Dodson said after the meeting, which followed a symbolic walk by footballer Michael Long to raise awareness of indigenous disadvantage. "The mutual obligation stuff has a lot of resonance within Aboriginal culture."

But Mr Dodson said yesterday the Mulan agreement was not the sort of thing he had had in mind. He urged the Government to rethink the deal and to commit to improving health and job opportunities.

He said it was an indication of the Mulan community's desperation that it was prepared to forgo civil liberties to get essential services. Under the deal, the West Australian Government will provide regular testing for the eye disease trachoma, skin infections and worm infestations.

The policy of providing funding to Aboriginal communities in exchange for behavioural change has spilt the Aboriginal community.
... cont.

(complete article)
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Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2004 07:32 am
AGE letters to the editor on the issue of "mutual obligation"/10/12/04

An insulting policy that just won't wash

So now Aboriginal children have to wash their faces twice daily to receive basic medical attention in a place that has the highest rate of trachoma in the world (The Age, 9/12).

It might work if federal and state governments ensured adequate education funding so the kids could count. And they wouldn't have trachoma at such levels if there had ever been decent health checks.

Tying the human rights of equal health services for all to the ludicrous idea of face washing is puerile in the extreme. Areas most affected with trachoma are desert areas - see how clean your face stays in the dust out here.

What offensive nonsense and insult from Amanda Vanstone. A few dollars for doctors would be more appreciated.

-Trisha Dann, co-ordinator, Ikuntji Art Centre, Haasts Bluff, NT


Something has been turned on its head here. Should not the WA Government have been providing this health care already to this small community that has the worst rate of trachoma in the world? Why is there a need for provisos, or a deal being struck?

Face washing and rubbish removal issues should be a matter of public information and education, not a bargaining tool for what should be an essential human right - that is, basic health care to needy people. This seems to me to be a variation on the Federal Government's education policy: "We'll fund your school if you have a flagpole."

-Bob Graham, Hawthorn

Blame and racism

The hygiene pact deal for the Mulan Aboriginal Community in Western Australia is one of blame and racism. Nothing as insulting as this has been seen in decades. There is no way that communities like Palm Island, Mulan and Redfern can meet "obligations" without respect. The implication that blacks are unhygienic is itself an insult.

Aboriginal and Islander communities already suffer disproportionate poverty, mortality rates, access to education and other rights without having to meet special requirements for money.

Real respect would be to give back the political and financial rights of the community through its own elected bodies. I hope that self-determination rather than paternalism will win out in the end.

-Melanie Lazarow, Brunswick

Brave New World

I hang my head in shame that our elected Government has seen fit to put forward a proposal to introduce what can only be described as a draconian plan for the Mulan Aboriginal community in Western Australia.

If these measures are to be put in place in this community, these types of "shared responsibility" conditions will surely be implemented for all welfare recipients.

Which benefit will be next? What ethnic or minority group will be singled out for sanitisation and reprogramming? Will we all have to start attending church on Sundays to receive any sort of benefit? Is this the genesis of a Brave New World?

-Alison Richardson, Highett

Mutual obligation

Everyone knows that suburban children are ruining their health, their education, getting drunk, fighting, and having abortions - because the Government continually tells us so.

So why don't they impose their "little black children behavioral modification plan" on the kids in the metropolitan suburbs? Deny them and their parents access to medical facilities and petrol. Deduct the baby bonus and family benefits from parents who can't make their children behave, have good literacy skills, and practise abstinence.

-Dennis Matotek, North Carlton

Not this way, but

Mutual obligation need not be an unreasonable concept, but will the WA Government do regular testing for trachoma, skin infections and worm infestations only if obliged to do so? Is a tit-for-tat trade-off the only way to get Aboriginal children to wash their faces and their parents to clean up their yards?

And what happens when the health programs slip up, as they have done over the years, and the Federal Government lets Aboriginal issues slip off the agenda? Clearly, the kids stop washing their faces. Great.

-Brigid Walsh, Upper Ferntree Gully

Back to 1854

"Hygiene pact in deal for blacks"? Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the term "blacks" was a defunct, racial term used during the White Australia policy of the last millennium.

I have to wonder, is The Age using terminology from its 1854 origins in its 2004 headlines? Or is the Federal Government regressing to the White Australian policy with the present treatment of refugees and what appears to be the conditions of assimilation placed upon remote Aboriginal communities for Government support?

-Aaron O'Shannessy, Collingwood
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Reply Sat 11 Dec, 2004 01:07 am
Island buries Doomadgee as protesters rally
December 11, 2004 - 2:50PM/the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Island home ... Friends and family walk ahead of the hearse carrying the body of Cameron Doomadgee.

Cameron Doomadgee, who died three weeks ago while in police custody, was buried today on Palm Island, off north Queensland.

A coroner's report showed Mr Doomadgee had four broken ribs and a ruptured liver when he died.

The release of the report sparked a riot on the island. Twenty-eight residents were charged with 64 offences, including a 60-year-old woman who faced a charge of riotous demolition of a building on the island.

Earlier, up to 1,000 people marched in Brisbane to protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody.

The start of the march was delayed by about two hours as the supporters, both black and white, gathered at Roma Street forum to hear addresses by Aboriginal leaders and Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister Liddy Clark.

At the rally, a lone didgeridoo sounded during a minute's silence to represent the moment the funeral was to begin on Palm Island.

Attending the protest was Mr Doomadgee's cousin, Alex Doomadgee, who said that while it was a difficult decision not to be at the funeral he was heartened by the turnout.

"I am going to be seeing my family in the coming weeks so hopefully I can get to go with them and put some flowers on my brother's grave," he said on ABC Radio.

"But [I am] here today for this march and to make a point to the Queensland Government and the Queensland Police Service that we are not going to let you get away with what you did."

The protesters made their way through city streets to end the march at Musgrave Park in South Brisbane, where they were gathered in a show of support for the Doomadgee family.

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Reply Sat 11 Dec, 2004 01:18 am
No, unfortunately I don't Deb. Should we look?
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Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 10:19 pm
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Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 10:33 pm
More on "mutual obligation". I thought these 2 letters to the AGE editor today shed some interesting insight on the pact between the the federal government & the Mulan Aboriginal Community:

Building healthy Aboriginal communities
December 14, 2004

In 1993, I had the privilege of working as a nurse in a traditional desert community a few hundred kilometres from Mulan. The community was alcohol-free, domestic violence was rare, and nobody had heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease. It was administered by a community adviser, the equivalent of Mulan's Aboriginal Corporation's administrator.

Access by non-indigenous visitors was severely restricted. Only people who could contribute health, education or craft knowledge were welcome. By decision of the elders, diesel was the only motor fuel available. Petrol bowsers, which are a magnet for sniffers and tourists with clicking cameras, were the last things these people wanted.

Hygiene and school-attendance programs equivalent to those now proposed by the Howard Government were working before I arrived. The principal, Mike, would drive through the camp, collecting stragglers. Each day began with every child showering and donning a uniform, and having their scalps, skin, noses, eyes and ears inspected by me three times weekly.

Shopping was packed in brown paper bags. Forty-four-gallon drum incinerators were near every house. All rubbish was burnt. On Fridays, the garbage truck collected non-combustible remnants, along with rubbish collected by old ladies (paid $5 a bag), and buried it at the dump several kilometres from town. Women used the clinic waiting-room as a meeting place and bathed their preschoolers there several times weekly. When the perishables ute arrived with fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products, people raced across the camp to buy these scarce and outrageously expensive items.

Two specialist doctors visited in April. An ophthalmologist, Dr Ian, examined the eyes of every child for trachoma and congratulated us on our low incidence. Two days later, pediatrician Dr Rex did comprehensive health checks on every child. He had been flying his Cessna from Perth to visit the communities for years. All these activities were carried out voluntarily by people proud of their community.

Government money for Aborigines would be better spent on subsidising healthy food, a dog-health program (to protect children from scabies and worms) and on training and employing community members to do maintenance and repairs to their houses. With no strings attached.

-Sue Currie, Mathoura, NSW

Striving for equality - in every way

We, the community people of Mulan, want you to understand what we are saying and doing. We are a strong and proud community - we always have been. We have always, and will always, look after our community and our country. We already have programs - such as health - in place, through our clinic, school and families. But we still have some problems that we are addressing.

Our plan helps us to see the gaps and solutions. We need to develop further programs and have the resources to carry them out. This is what we have worked on with Government. We haven't had fuel at Mulan for 16 months. The fuel bowsers we are installing will help us build our community economy. This will help us to build our health. And, please be assured - we will always work as hard as we can to ensure petrol abuse does not occur here. We already have a good record on this.

We want to be recognised as Australians - not separated as blacks and whites. We want to be equal - and this means in our health, too.

-Bessie Doonday, Fatima Lulu, Monica Whisputt, Anna Johns, and all the elders, council and families of Mulan Aboriginal Community, WA

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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 01:25 am
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 02:15 am
Laughing brilliant! - and sad when you think of the reality of this throughout history
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 02:23 am
Oh, it's still going on, Vivien, believe me!
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Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2004 03:12 am
I found this article by Aboriginal leaders, Pat Dodson and Noel Pearson, really interesting. Particularly their take on "mutual obligation", which is quite different to the federal government's interpretation.

The dangers of mutual obligation
December 15, 2004/the AGE

The Prime Minister must not play at social engineering with Aborigines, write Pat Dodson and Noel Pearson.

A number of Aboriginal leaders, ourselves included, have decided to combine our energies to advance the situation of Aboriginal people from an abysmal state of social and economic inertia to a circumstance more closely approaching the reality of non-Aboriginal Australians.

People who see themselves as advocates of Aboriginal rights have accused us of everything from political opportunism to purveying denial of the inherent rights of Aboriginal people in this country. On the other hand, when one or other of our group criticises the Federal Government's indigenous policies, our commentary is interpreted as a death blow to the new "indigenous accord" that gives priority to the struggle against passive welfare and abject dysfunction. It is probably also seen as a sign of division among us and of Aboriginal leaders' inability to find common cause.

All Australians should be on notice that the commitment we have given to the "war on welfare dependency" is not a cause from which we will be diverted merely out of sensitivity to those who would confine Aboriginal people to the status of victim forever..........<cont.>

(Complete article)
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Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 07:30 pm
Nicky Winmar's great gesture
I was at Victoria Park on this day (but not anywhere near the Collingwood Cheer Squad, as a St Kilda supporter - one of the few to make it into "enemy territory"!)
The most telling image in the aftermath was a phot that appeared in (I think) The Age that had then Collingwood President Allan McAllister talking to journalists standing in front of an advertising hoarding on the fence ... for Black & White whisky! I kid you not!
I'd love a copy of THAT picture!
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Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 11:27 pm
Hello, Chiefie & welcome to A2K! Very Happy
(Are you from Melbourne, too?)

Wouldn't mind a copy of that picture myself! :wink:
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Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 04:48 am
Another Long walk planned, in the city this time...:

Michael Long and Cathy Freeman hope 20,000 will join them on their walk.
Photo: Ray Kennedy

IT WAS desperation last year that spurred Michael Long to set out on foot to Canberra to see Prime Minister John Howard.

... <cont>

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