Northern Territory friends Barb Shaw and Marlene Hodder have spoken out against statements by Bess Price on Q & A last Monday night, 11 April. Clearly, on matters of public policy there will be at least two sides to the issue. Rarely, does any public policy issue attract long-term bi-partisan support.
Bess Price had her national hour on Monday last on Q & A. Bess supports the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) commonly known as The Intervention. Aboriginal voices in support of The Intervention are seldom heard in the major centres of the nation. Many of us who are opposed to The Intervention have worked from the very beginning to facilitate the voicing of Aboriginal opposition to The Intervention.
In assessing policies, the key question must always be "Cui bono?". To whose benefit is the Northern Territory Emergency Response? To whose detriment is the Northern Territory Emergency Response?
It was clear within approximately eighteen months of the Intervention that - except for the basics card and income quarantining - there was widespread antagonism to the policies of the Intervention. On the matter of income quarantining and the basics card, opinion was either evenly divided or too close call across Aboriginal communities.
Bess Price appears to be an uncritical supporter of The Intervention. If anyone reading this post can advise of any criticism from Bess, please email me and I will correct this post. When one examines Bess's CV, one view could be that Bess does benefit from government policy. Bess sits or has sat on numerous government entities or bodies which work closely with government entities. It is not surprising if people who benefit in such a way might be acquiescent on the public policy of governments who appoint them. Conversely, people who are not brought into the kindly light of governments at public policy level might not be willing to be acquiescent - particularly if their firm belief is that such policy is, in their daily lives, working to their detriment.
This has been the experience of Barb Shaw who fought strongly to keep her home in Mount Nancy Town Camp in control of Aboriginal people. Barb is articulate and energised. She took her anti-Intervention stance to the voters of Lingiari in the last Federal election as a candidate for The Greens. Barb was well supported within Aboriginal communities and, as can be seen, the long-standing Member for Lingiari took a substantial hit.
Shoulder to shoulder, with Barb in Alice Springs is Marlene Hodder. I prefer to let Marlene speak for herself on The Intervention, so please go here.
Controversy has reared its head this week with Larissa Behrendt and Bess Price as the dominant characters. Marlene and Barb have spoken out on this and have, this morning, issued a media release:
April 15 2011
for immediate release
Town camp leader outraged by Bess Price claims on Q and A
IRAG says Mrs Price's comments have caused distress amongst people living in prescribed areas under the Intervention, whose experiences of deteriorating social conditions continue to be ignored by government and mainstream media.
“It is outrageous that Bess Price can continue to go on national media and spread false information on the Intervention while life in our town camps and communities gets harder and harder”, says Barbara Shaw.
“We now have a massive crisis in Alice Springs as people come in from the bush because of the failure of the Intervention. On Monday night, while Bess was on Q and A talking about our kids being safer, I was dealing with multiple situations of children needing emergency care.”
“The Intervention has done nothing to help. I find it harder to look after my family because I am still on the Basics Card. If things are so good, why do government statistics show more children being admitted to hospital for malnutrition and more young people committing suicide and self-harm? Why are more and more children being taken away from parents and put into care?” Ms Shaw asks. "
“Bess says education is the key to improving lives. But she didn't say that Yuendumu school attendance rates have halved and are now down to only 30 per cent since the Intervention came in and bilingual education was banned by the NT government.”
Ms Shaw says she is very concerned that Bess Price is misinforming the wider community about the feelings and views of NT Aboriginal people about the Intervention.
“Marcia Langton wrote in The Australian today that Bess Price ‘resides ‘in Yuendumu’. This is untrue and The Australian needs to correct the public record. Bess does not live under the Intervention. She lives a comfortable lifestyle in the eastern suburbs of Alice Springs, not in a prescribed area. She does not have a Basics Card and she does not work for the dole. She doesn’t have her home raided. She doesn’t have her alcohol taken away at the bottle shop,” Ms Shaw concluded.
Bess says Aboriginal women have been given a voice by the Intervention - but which ones?
- Thousands of women have lost their jobs as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down,
- Many women leaders have lost their positions of authority as community councils were closed and Government Business Managers and Shires took over.
Ms Shaw said, "In the last federal election, I out-polled all other candidates in remote communities in Central Australia because people agree the Intervention and Shires have failed.”
"Women do need a voice - we need for the government to listen, to scrap the Intervention and empower us with resources and jobs to go forward." An Alice Springs based community worker and IRAG member Marlene Hodder says, “Many Warlpiri women living in Alice Springs are very unhappy that Bess Price assumes she can speak for them.
Last year they sent a strong recorded message to Minister Macklin as she refused to meet with them on more than one occasion. They are tired of not being listened to as they feel the Intervention is an insult to them as mothers, grandmothers and carers. These women say they struggle to maintain their dignity with racist taunts being thrown at them as they walk into town and the unfairness of the BasicsCard when the reality is that there is no work for them."
Strong in their culture and staunch Christians, they pray every night for the Intervention to end.”, concluded Ms Hodder.
Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) meets
Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) meets
every Monday, 6.30pm at the New International Bookshop (NIBS).
The bookshop is easily found in the basement of the Trades Hall building