Another perspective on the government intervention
It’s not often we who are far from the Northern Territory hear the perspective of the people who are being affected the most by the new government policies on indigenous communities. Such a view was published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and I reproduce it here.
Go back. You are intruding on our lives and our safety
October 2, 2007
I live at Eva Valley in the Northern Territory. It is one of the communities affected by the Federal Government’s intervention. I am a single mother. I look after my family, and I support my family. I have six children, some grown up, but we still live together in the community.
I was living at Barunga when I first heard about the intervention. I was told by mobile phone. It was on the news. When we found out, everyone was worried. The girls wanted to go to hide in the bush. When we saw the army on TV, I felt frightened. Some people, not just children, but adults, too, thought they might come with guns.
I have been thinking about those words “Little children are sacred”. Who are the little children? Are they talking about all the children? Black children and white children? That’s what it says to me. We should be protecting all the children. Aren’t white children sacred, too?
I work at the local school, tutoring. I love the children, and teaching them to write and how to sound the alphabet and how to read books. After school, I prepare for church. Our church is a little shed on a cement slab. No power, no water. We use an extension cord from a nearby house so we can have lights and play music. We pay for our electricity with power cards. We try to make sure that there is enough money on those cards so we have electricity all the time, but when it runs out we go outside and make a fire.
When I was a young woman I used to drink. I’m a Christian person now. Christianity helps people to fight bad things, like alcohol. My belief in God gives me courage.
Eva Valley is a dry community. Before the intervention the drinking people would sit at a community place, along the road to Barunga. All the drinking people sat there together, and it was a safe place. Now, they are drinking along the highway. The roads are dangerous and I’m worried there might be an accident.
We don’t know what the Government is planning to do. At Eva Valley, we have got no email, no internet, no newspapers. Most people don’t have a TV or a radio, so we can’t keep track of what’s going on. You need a big outside antenna to get TV reception. Only four or five houses have this. We don’t have mobile coverage and we have to use a pay phone – but to use the pay phone we have to drive 100 kilometres into Katherine to buy a phone card. We haven’t got a bus. Our bus is too old now, so we have no transport to go into town to get food. We all put in whatever money we’ve got to pay for a taxi. That costs $190, one way.
The permit system made me feel safe. People could only enter the community with the permission of the traditional owners, so we knew who was coming in. Anybody can come in now. We don’t like to have strangers come in. They might bring in drugs and alcohol, and we don’t want that.
This Government intervention is making life harder for Aboriginal people. I am worried we might lose our land, our rights. I feel like the Government is attacking our culture, and that it wants to change everything. The Government should be helping to make families strong, but what is happening now is hurting us.
These are really serious matters, and we need to deal with them seriously. We are talking about the future of Aboriginal children. Everything needs to come out in the open. We need to be honest if we are to make better lives for our children. I want to work with Aboriginal organisations, because I feel comfortable with them. The Federal Government has lost our trust.
I am writing this because I want to stand up and protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. We don’t want to go back to the days when we got paid in rations, and every community had a white superintendent. We want to move ahead. We want to live and work on our own land. We’re not going to let them come and run the show. We’re going to stand up. We have rights.
Rachel Willika is a Jawoyn woman. She writes about her views on the intervention on the website http://www.womenforwik.org.