I would guess that there are few people who have even a moderate understanding of the breadth of the impact that the intervention is going to have on the East Arnhem population. There has been no consultation with Yolngu. People are aware that small teams of people are visiting Yolngu towns, in some cases with no notice. Reports from some Yolngu are that the teams have been unable to answer many of the questions being asked.
I’d like to comment on only one aspect of the intervention, the transference of all CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) wages to Centrelink payments. If you would like information on other aspects of the intervention please visit this website.
At the time of writing, all peoples living in Indigenous areas prescribed by the Minister will have their CDEP payments converted to Centrelink payments. Without exception all people receiving Centrelink payments (including such benefits as service pensions) will have 50 per cent of their money quarantined. This is a racist policy that unnecessarily targets the most vulnerable and marginalised peoples in Australia, and again treats them as wards of the state. This quarantined money can only be spent at designated shops.
This will have severe ramifications for people such as the residents of Mapuru, the place where the Arnhem Weavers live. Mapuru is a small town on the mainland adjacent to Elcho Island in north-east Arnhemland. It has a population of about 150, and with about 40 children attending school every day. The residents of Mapuru have struggled to stay on their country for over 35 years because they are determined to forge a future for their children, but it now seems with the “Intervention” these struggles might have been in vain.
For nearly six years the people of Mapuru have been successfully running their own community co-op. The co-op runs on a non-profit basis and benefits all community members. In the co-op people can only buy healthy foods, fishing lines, tyres and other necessities needed to stay at Mapuru.
Two years ago the Mapuru co-op won a National Heart Foundation award for their initiative. In the co-op you cannot buy soft drinks, chips, lollies or many of the other foods that are bad for health.
The co-op is not a registered organisation but is run on a trust basis by the residents. With the changes from CDEP to Centrelink payments and the compulsory quarantining of 50 per cent of people’s income, people will not be able to shop at their local co-op. They will be forced to shop at Galiwin’ku which is a charter flight away or drive many hours to Gapuwiyak.
People will not have enough money to pay for charters and food. If a solution cannot be found then implementation of this policy will force people to leave their country at Mapuru, and move them into the town of Galiwin’ku where they are unwelcome, unsafe and unrepresented. This will have a severe and detrimental effect on the health of the Mapuru residents and their children.
These forced changes will also result in the closure of the ecotourism business that the residents have been successfully running for five years. The ecotourism business Mapuru residents operate like the co-op has been initiated and funded entirely by Mapuru residents without any external assistance.