Everyone up here working in Aboriginal child health and sexual assault knows that the medical checks are at best a waste of time and money and good intentions and at worst, going to make things worse for those of us already working with Aboriginal communities. The best that can be done is to try and control the damage, given that we accept that it is policy on the run, that there is plenty of data already collected on children’s health needs and that the Federal Government cannot now back down. We are all really relieved that at least there don’t have to be sexual assault examinations! There are further meetings on Friday with paediatricians, the Sexual Assault Referral Centre and health bureaucrats to try and ‘explain’ what the Government is doing. We all know that it’s not going to do anything. Most of us actually feel that the Govt response is really undermining of the excellent programs and work that is done on an absolute shoe string, and has been done for years. Hopefully there will be some data collected on “new” diagnoses, as opposed to re-diagnosing children we already know about. Most of us will see far more than 14 children in 2 days at a community. However, the Dept of Health and Community Services (DHCS) has kept a tight gag on everyone so that none of this comes out in the media. But basically, there is unanimous opinion amongst pediatricians, sexual assault workers, public health workers, child health workers and community nurses that this is bad bad policy on the run in an election year. And we wish our organisations would stand up and say so clearly.

Further to your story about the misuse of the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account – there is more to this story than meets the eye. While Brough has suggested that NT Aboriginal people benefited from his decision to grant funds to the Woodward Folk Festival’s 2005 Indigenous off-shoot – he has failed to mention a few pertinent facts, including: – The Northern Territory Government funded the flights, accommodation and expenses of the NT performers – The grant to the festival far exceeded the cost of the NT performers – The NT performers booked to appear at the festival were high profile acts whose appearance increased the prestige and credibility of the festival (and generated ticket sales). The performers from Nhulunbuy (aka Yothu Yindi) are paid over $35,000 per performance. The Galiwinku dancers have appeared all over the world. On day 1 of Brough’s term as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs he announced his support for the Dreaming Festival. Sometime afterwards, a strange (and unnamed) application was made to the ABA Committee. It did not say “Queensland Folk Festival” or “Woodford Festival” or “Dreaming Festival” – it was blank. The individual acts were refused direct funding – even the NT’s Garma Festival has been regularly refused ABA funds. Even more odd – the festival organisers have said they made their application a week after the Committee meeting. Has anyone asked them why they applied at all? The ABA is hardly on the usual list for those seeking arts funding for Qld events. Despite coordinating Indigenous arts events for many years, the Dreaming Festival has never previously applied to the ABA. Who suggested this? More oddly, the Dreaming Festival is not the only application to the ABA from non-Indigenous businesses in Sth Qld in recent times. There is at least one more (a private hotel? and possibly a third. The ALP sat on this story for months – perhaps they don’t want to establish a precedent for the use of the ABA.

A hard working Gunns tree planter has told me that going to the pro-pulp mill rally this Thursday is regarded as compulsory, despite no pay or anything, “they’ll just pick you up.” They wouldn’t give me names or any other details as this would be a sure fire way to lose his job. They added, “I tell you more after Thursday.”

From yesterday’s Item 5: “Andrews’ powers come from Section 501 of the Migration Act which says in part: … ” Not that Andrews himself knew that. On Melbourne radio yesterday morning he hesitated and then said it was Section 503. Considering all the controversy, you’d think he’d know the legislation backwards.