Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Indigenous Leaders Want Their Community Back

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Indigenous Leaders Want Their Community Back

Article excerpt

ON MONDAY, June 18, a delegation of indigenous leaders alongside the Tennant Creek Mayor went to Canberra to see Malcolm Turnbull.

It was straight after Question Time. Niceties and formalities usually associated with a meeting in the Prime Minister's office were kept brief. They came from the bush, but they weren't there to beat around it. Their community was in crisis and something needed to be done.

Alcohol abuse and drug use, they said, were contributing to increasing crime. Government services were lacking or ineffective because of decentralised decisions being made 500 kilometres away in Alice Springs. They wanted their community back.

It wasn't a whinge fest. They weren't putting their hands out for more money. They wanted a new approach involving all levels of government working with, not against each other.

Much had already been achieved with the Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion (he's a straight talking hero in these parts - his colleagues should keep that in mind if they're thinking of rolling him at the next reshuffle), but they invited Mr Turnbull to Tennant Creek to send a message that everyone is in this together.

The Prime Minister arrived on Sunday joined by the Northern Territory's Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner. The visit comes six months after the rape of a two-year-old girl in Tennant Creek.

When news broke of this horrific crime in February there was almost a collective gasp of horror across Australia. We were disgusted in ourselves as a nation. City dwellers were especially shocked.

Tennant Creek residents were not. Local police were not. Welfare workers were not.

Since July 2015 this toddler, still in nappies, had been the subject of 21 notifications to the child protection department, 16 of those had come directly from police. It was not an isolated case. …

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