Over three days this week I drove from the deep south to the tropical north of the Northern Territory and visited families along the way to gauge early reaction to Howard and Brough’s promise to their children. From what I saw parents are drawing their own lines in the sand – and that line is firmly set at their front gates.
They say that if Howard, Brough or anyone else mandated by Canberra turn up at their houses to take their children away for a compulsory examinations for signs of s-xual abuse they will resist to protect their children.
I was driving from Alice Springs to Darwin when John Howard’s coup of last Thursday was announced. I spent the night in a roadhouse there and all the talk was of Howard’s move. Comment varied from “well-overdue and a good thing” to “we’ll be rooned”. Things were little clearer the next day and I went to the local council to see if they’d heard any more.
The Anmatjere Community Government Council offices are in the centre of the five square mile special-purpose lease excised from the Aboriginal land trust that surrounds the town. Ti Tree is a small, quiet town that provides the usual services to tourists and the people living and working on the surrounding cattle stations and small Aboriginal communities.
Many of the more essential services are provided by the council. Crikey asks the council staff if they have any comment about Howard’s plans but they have nothing to say — all they know is what they have seen in Brough’s four-page press release and on Sky News the night before.
A few hours and 350 kilometres up the road, I pulled into the Julalikari Aboriginal Corporation’s offices in Tennant Creek. Julalikari provides ‘cradle-to-grave’ services to town camps and small Aboriginal communities scattered across the Tennant Creek area and the Barkly Tablelands. The staff can’t say much about Howard’s plans and they’re loath to speak until after council meets this week.
Elliott is another ‘open’ town another 250 kilometres closer to Darwin. The local ‘white’ council administers part of the town, but the Aboriginal town camps and some outstations are serviced by the small and chaotic offices of the Gurungu Aboriginal Corporation.
What do these organisations have in common? They are all squarely in the sights of Howard’s coup. Why does this matter? Because they all stand to have the land they and their people have fought so hard for stripped from them — again.
There are many organisations like Anmatjere, Julalikari and Gurungu in the NT — they are run by good people who do the hardest of jobs with little thanks or government support.
These parents don’t mind their kids having general health check-ups – they think it’s a great idea and this could be done at their local Aboriginal-run and owned clinics and health centres staffed by people that they and their children know and respect.
But they point out what these centres need is real and sustainable resources and a plan which includes them as part of the solution — and not a part of some greater game.
But they are firm in saying NO to compulsory examinations by doctors that don’t know their kids, that they and their kids don’t know, have never seen before, and in four months time they might never see again. They worry what will happen to their kid’s medical reports and most of all, they worry about their kids being subjected to these unnecessary and intrusive examinations by strangers.