We spent four years (2003-6) teaching at Maningrida Community Education Centre in Arnhem Land. We were lucky enough to be part of the extension of mainstream education to year 12 at the school. It was an exciting and challenging time.
Twenty-three students completed their Northern Territory Certificates of Education during the past three years in their community. The eleven students who finished last year did so in the context of Monica, the extreme Category 5 cyclone that battered the town and tore the roof off three of the Senior School classrooms. Maningrida recovered from the disaster without even words of support from the Federal government.
Although he was in the NT the following week, Mal Brough did not visit or make any public statement at the time. Nor did Peter Costello who took time to burn Indonesian fishing boats in Darwin. As Ben Cubby reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (Remains of the day, June 3 2006)
The Herald repeatedly contacted the office of the federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, to discuss help for the area and ask if he intended to visit Maningrida, but Brough had made no comment by last night. A spokesman said the minister regularly visited indigenous communities.
Last year the community also uncovered and dealt with a case of child sexual abuse in a responsible and effective way.
That’s the point from which I view today’s passing of the Federal indigenous laws.
Pat Anderson, co-author of the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report spoke of betrayal today:
What the Prime Minister (John Howard) and federal Indigenous Affairs Minister (Mal) Brough have done is just a further form of abuse," Ms Anderson told a gathering of peak physicians convened in Sydney to address Aboriginal health…What we have is a prime minister and his ministers who don't have a heart…Their approach isn't going to nurture any kind of development ... nothing.
We can only hope that Labor wins the election and stands up on this issue.
According to the same story in The Age, 850 children have had medicals so far and no cases of sexual abuse have been reported. Meanwhile the government are implementing most of their indigenous policies in the name of the emergency, whether they are relevant or not, without the usual scrutiny they might have received.
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