Give Them The Power to Decide Jun 8, 2006 14:13:07 GMT -5
Post by tommygun on Jun 8, 2006 14:13:07 GMT -5
MEMBERS of one of Australia's most troubled Aboriginal communities have rejected demands they send their children to school and clean up their homes, complaining the top public servant sent to deliver the ultimatum was a "bully".
Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination secretary Wayne Gibbons went to the Northern Territory community of Wadeye to tell the elders they had a month to fix their homes and ensure children attended daily lessons.
But two elders walked out of the meeting and the Thamarrurr Council wrote to Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough to say the commonwealth's demands could not be met.
Wadeye last month became a national symbol of the troubles facing many indigenous communities when the local council said it might have to evacuate 300 residents to Darwin because of violence between rival gangs.
The elders said Mr Gibbons told them there would be no more money for housing and infrastructure until the houses were fixed up. They also claimed he told them "gang members" must do the work to fix houses.
"We will not be meeting the deadline as demanded by Mr Gibbons," they wrote to Mr Brough. They also demanded a meeting with him in Canberra.
But Mr Brough last night said Mr Gibbons delivered the message he was asked to give, and backed his approach.
"We don't expect them to do any structural work but we expect the houses to have the graffiti removed, and the roofs to have rocks taken off," he said. "We'll provide the paint and material. We also expect children to attend school, and not just occasionally. And they found that to be totally unreasonable. They have to realise that the situation has changed. I'm happy to meet with them back there and deliver the message again."
The row between the Wadeye community and Mr Brough comes less than three weeks before a summit aimed at tackling indigenous violence and abuse.
The Government plans to propose that parents who consistently fail to send their children to school should have their family allowances cancelled. The plan has been flagged by indigenous leader Noel Pearson.
The commonwealth will also offer states and territories extra resources for law enforcement, but not police. This will include "cross jurisdictional" investigators to pursue cases of violence and sexual abuse, if states agree to lift police numbers.
In a draft agenda sent to all states and territories attending, Mr Brough says adequate and active policing is essential.
"The commonwealth is also keen to explore what supplementary supports it can make in parallel with increased state-level enforcement in affected communities," he writes.
The summit, to be held at Parliament House in Canberra on June 26, will also consider a proposal that violent men and accused pedophiles be removed from communities while complaints are being investigated by police.
In its letter to Mr Brough, the Wadeye council said it would need more than a month to repair the houses, given the extent of the work involved, and described Mr Gibbons's behaviour as "verging on just plain bullying".
"In relation to every child must attend school every day, we point out that we have 688 schoolchildren and a school facility that can only hold 420," the council wrote.
It demanded additional classrooms and teachers within the next month and army tradespeople to "supervise" families as they carried out repairs.
Mr Brough said the demand for military intervention was unreasonable.
"To ask the army to come in and do it for them is unacceptable," he said.
Mr Brough said that considering many residents were unemployed and with several people living together in single homes, it was reasonable to expect the work to be done within a month.
In the letter to Mr Brough, the indigenous community describes as a "sad day" the way they were treated by Mr Gibbons.
"Your representative, Mr Wayne Gibbons, came here and blamed us totally for the problems we are having.
"Is this how one partner treats another, by coming into their home and demanding unrealistic things and treating them with disrespect?"