Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Overcrowded Utopia a Land Short on Toilets, Not Hope; Third World Conditions in Some Remote Communities a Humanitarian Disaster Threat

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Overcrowded Utopia a Land Short on Toilets, Not Hope; Third World Conditions in Some Remote Communities a Humanitarian Disaster Threat

Article excerpt

WELCOME to 21st century Australia, where a little girl in a pink dress will one day be potty trained in a household without a toilet.

Toilets are flushed without a second thought across Australia's towns and cities.

Sanitation is only a problem in the third world, we assume. Surely not in a rich country like Australia.

But far away, hidden out of sight is a national shame: Aboriginal people living in overcrowded slum-like conditions on Northern Territory traditional Aboriginal homelands such as Utopia.

For some residents of the remote outpost, 260 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs, households without working toilets, showers, running water, electricity and washing machines are quite common.

Karlishia Raggatt, 10 months old, claps and pulls funny faces in her mother Noranda's arms in front of their house at Mosquito Bore, Utopia.

Home sweet home, is a tin shed.

Noranda, 21, shyly admits there is no toilet.

Camp dogs and bare-foot children wander among the red desert dust, scattered rubbish and car wrecks.

The head of human rights agency Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, is shocked by the conditions.

aI've been to many places in bad shape in Africa, Asia and Latin America but what makes it stark here is when you remind yourself you're actually in one of the richest countries in the world,a Mr Shetty said in Utopia this week.

Amnesty is concerned homeland communities like Utopia, which is world famous for its Aboriginal dot paintings, could slowly be wiped off the map.

Starved of money for proper housing, repairs, maintenance and basic services like rubbish removal Utopia's future is uncertain.

Amnesty says 21 ahub townsa are unfairly receiving the lion's share of federal and territory dollars for housing.

One third or 35% of the Top End's indigenous population lives in remote homeland communities, compared to 24% who live in the hub towns.

The Utopia region has about 1200 residents in 16 different communities.

Community leader Rosalie Kunoth Monks accused the governments of ainsidious game playinga and said the Northern Territory Intervention had failed Utopia.

aIt's not that they're coming here with bulldozers or getting the army to move us, it's that they're trying to starve us out of our home,a she said.

aIf you're made to feel a second class humanity, if it's not ethnic cleansing please let me know what it is.a

Mrs Kunoth Monks was discovered by filmmakers in the 1950s and became the first Aboriginal actress to star in a feature film, playing the title character Jedda in the 1955 Australian classic.

Her people desperately want to stay on their land, she tells Mr Shetty.

She is surrounded by several grandmothers in their 80s and 90s, who can still dance alike butterfliesa and whose art works hang in some of the finest art galleries in the world. …

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