Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A voice from the heartland

The Age yesterday received the following letter from a 13-year-old girl, written on behalf of her grandfather, a Warlpiri man from the NT.
I COME from one of the largest remote communities in the Northern Territory. Mal Brough and his team consulted the wrong people. He talked to only a handful and some are offenders themselves How can we come to meeting when I can't tell time? We wanted to say things but he left so fast. Some of the things he said are not what we agree on. Traditional owners cannot speak for us.
We never heard of all this rape and constant drinking here. That stuff happens mostly in the town areas. There is some but not the same as he says. Maybe same as Sydney or Adelaide.
If we have problem we always sort it out ourself. Spears stop even the worst of them. If bad stuff happens, they wait till night. Police don't patrol at night and our night patrol can't get money. Me and my family feel safer (with) night patrol than police. Police treat us like dogs sometimes.
Most drinking here is done by whitefellas who have drinking permit and we know they touch our kids but they all stick up against us when we talk. How can we talk when they are our boss for work? They are all drinking mates as well. Nurse drink with mechanic, store manager, police and more.
We don't like our kids to enter the white housing areas in our community. They don't even want to live with us. This makes us feel less than them.
But they love us at royalty time when they sell us a cheap bomb car for thousands. Some cars don't last a month. I sell a painting for $50 and in town my painting sell for $1000.
I love my kids same as you. Kids are my future. I do everything I know to help my kids, but Howard calls me a raper and will take half our money as punishment. Is that fair? How would you like that to happen to you?
Our law is strong in communities and we have strong rules for marriage. I want my kids to learn but why should our kids get education? There are no jobs here anyway, all the big jobs are taken by whitefellas.
They won't give us a go because they want the money. We don't have a say in our own programs and the salary money goes to their mates they bring up. We don't even know some of these people who work here. Who picked them? Like we are not good enough. We have ideas too and we want to do things but no one can help us.
If we make mistake, is that OK? That's how we all learn, by mistake. In the city you get many choices, sometimes we don't get a single choice. If we report any problems here, no one listens. They call us troublemakers or radicals. They rubbish us to our own family. They say our own family is against us, they try to make us feel shame.
I can't speak good English but I want a say in things. We can stop most of these tricks and whitefellas from touching our kids and selling us porn and grog, but permit system gone now.
Maybe it's best to just keep quiet and say nothing. We never took up a gun before because fighting is wrong. But I think they want a war with us now. What did we do wrong? How can I lead when I'm scared too? I want you to come to our communities to see how things really are and hear our stories. I think you will cry when you hear them.

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