Thursday, 21 March 2013

Another post for the long-grassers out the back

This year I am taking postgraduate studies in Aboriginal policy.  Today, national Close the Gap [on Indigenous Health] Day, I spent immersed in reading about child protection policy: a history, with particular focus on Aboriginal child welfare.

It's poignant reading that  stuff when you live in the NT - where the pointy end of neoliberal approach to Aboriginal policy is playing out, where a "national emergency" in Aboriginal communities  was declared, supposedly in response to child abuse, and Aboriginal affairs was set back 40-odd years.

I read all about the ongoing legacy of the years of taking Aboriginal children away: intergenerational trauma, imprisonment, drug and alcohol abuse ... you name it. And how fraught any new child protection policy is going to be, given the such recent memory Aboriginal families have of police coming into town and taking babies out of their mothers' arms.

And how, despite the Bringing them Home report, the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody, the apology, and everything else that has acknowledged the wrongs, the rate of Aboriginal children being removed from families continues to rise.... It is a form of genocide, this taking of black kids and placing them with white families.

Anyway. Today, while I studied at home, the long-grassers in the park out the back got themselves a ghetto blaster, and all day as they had their drinking session they were listening to awesome Aboriginal music: Blakbala mujik, Gurrumul, East Journey. They got pretty raucous for a while there, but it sounded like they were having fun, and I appreciated the soundtrack to my otherwise fairly heavy day.

Some time later in the day, though, it sounded like things might be getting out of hand. I went out to make sure everything was ok. And it was - the widely respected Larrakia Night Patrol workers were there, chatting quietly to the women separately, calming the men down. It was all fine. I don't know what will happen after June 30, when the night patrol is due  to lose its funding. I guess the police will turn up instead, and cart people off to the mandatory drying-out centres and work farms for "problem drunks" the CLP keeps talking about.

As I turned to go inside, I noticed that the song blasting out from their cheap tinny speakers had changed. It was Archie Roach's Took The Children Away.

This story's right, this story's true
I would not tell lies to you
Like the promises they did not keep
And how they fenced us in like sheep.
Said to us come take our hand
Sent us off to mission land.
Taught us to read, to write and pray
Then they took the children away,
Took the children away,
The children away.
Snatched from their mother's breast
Said this is for the best
Took them away.

The welfare and the policeman
Said you've got to understand
We'll give them what you can't give
Teach them how to really live.
Teach them how to live they said
Humiliated them instead
Taught them that and taught them this
And others taught them prejudice.
You took the children away
The children away
Breaking their mothers heart
Tearing us all apart
Took them away

It was pretty hard not to cry, after everything I'd been reading and thinking about all day.

I guess what I'm saying is, go easy on these survivors of [ongoing] trauma. Be gentle and understanding of the sometimes unhealthy, unhelpful ways they express - or escape from - the pain of what they've been through.

Friday, 1 March 2013

What's been happening in the NT?

... Certainly enough to keep us busy.

The Country Liberal Party government has done a deal with Rio Tinto to keep its polluting alumina refinery open at Nhulunbuy, byguaranteeing a gas supply, at taxpayers' expense, so Rio can make the switch from diesel to gas. Great to see the government locking us in to another non-renewable energy source for the near future.

Will this put even more pressure on nearby Aboriginal people to say yes to shale gas mining on their land?

The Environment Centre NT  has been doing some great organising around this issue, which kept us busy for a while - and hopefully will continue to do so if we can get  a community campaign happening.

Meanwhile new mandatory sentencing have come into effect in the NT, at the same time that diversionary programs such as Larrakia Nation's Night Patrol are being defunded. Presumably, though, this is all a good thing because according to CLP MP Bess Price prison is good for Aboriginal people.  They get three meals a day, sober up and  come out a lot healthier, she says. Well... yes, either that or they, you know, don't come out at all.

According to the NT News, the monsoon is finally arriving. Although it's been reporting that for most of  this horrendously hot, dry "wet" season.

And here's a pic of smoko time at the home office.