This is a guest post on Crikey blog The Northern Myth by author Marie Munkara, of Tiwi, Chinese & Rembarranga descent with extensive family connections through Arnhem Land, the Tiwi Islands and Darwin.

Ten Tiwi people have died over the past two weeks.

These are ten family members that I will never see again.

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Most died of preventable health problems. If I’d had the chance to ask I bet none of them were ready to die. And why?

Well I’ll tell you why.

Tiwi people are a multimillion-dollar industry.

From health care, local government, missionaries, education, researchers and political parties who want our vote, hundreds (if not more) people have been employed to take care of us. As one of the largest Indigenous communities we help to sustain the Northern Territory economy. We are not people to them, we are a commodity.

The mission arrived one hundred and six years ago. Despite having a perfectly functioning society for thousands of years, they came to “save” us, but since their arrival we have the highest incidence of suicide on the planet and domestic violence is rife.

So what does that tell you? They were too busy coveting our souls to really Love Thy Neighbour weren’t they?

We are not people to them, we are objects of religious zeal.

Millions is spent in medical research. They come and do their longitudinal studies ad nauseum, but, despite their filing cabinets full of data, renal failure, heart disease, diabetes are epidemic in our community.

Ninety per cent of our children start school with both ear drums perforated from Otitis Media. If they can’t hear the teacher they can’t learn, and if they can’t learn they don’t bother going to school.

Medical researchers study Tiwi people like they are animals in a zoo.

We are not people to them, we are subjects.

And still my family die.


Marie Munkara was born on the banks of the Mainoru River in central Arnhem land. Her first book (see here, and Bob Gosford’s two-part interview from 2009 here and here) Every Secret Thing won the David Unaipon Award in 2008 and the NT Book of the Year Award in 2010.

This article was originally published at The Northern Myth

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