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Scrymgour on the NT Intervention – rivers of grog and acres of leases

This is the third of four extracts from the speech given by Marion Scrymgour on 8 October 2014 at the 2014 H.C. “Nugget” Coombs Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University, Darwin.

You can read the first here and the second here.

The NT Intervention consisted of those measures which impacted in that way on a whole population. The term does not apply to the good stuff which everyone wanted to happen.

I’m only going to touch on two of the Intervention measures tonight.


Firstly, alcohol restrictions.

Pat Anderson coined the term ‘rivers of grog’, and it was seized upon by the media and Mr Brough. Unfortunately, the impression that seems to have taken hold down south was that the place where the rivers of grog were flowing was in remote Aboriginal communities.
The vast majority of those communities were alcohol-free areas under existing Territory law. While interdicting the illegal transportation of alcohol into such communities was an ongoing challenge for Police, to suggest that the alcohol problem in communities was in any way comparable to the carnage which was taking place in the main population centres was ludicrous.

BOB GOSFORD | October 12, 2014 | ANIMALS | |

Strange Fruit. The Dingo trees of Western Queensland

Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.*

These few chilling words by Abel Meeropol, made her own by Billie Holiday, came immediately to mind when I first saw these pictures posted on a Facebook page run by a mob called “Ringers From The Top End.”

This picture* from the Narbethong Road outside Blackall appeared first at the top of a May 2013 ABC Background Briefing program with the emotive title ”The dogs that ate a sheep industry by Ian Townsend.


Marion Scrymgour: The NT Intervention disinformation campaign – from allegations of child sexual abuse to moral panic

Child sex abuse is only one aspect of child protection. General child neglect and associated social dysfunction was the underlying problem which could have, and should have been focussed on by Mr Howard and Mr Brough. By using paedophilia as the emotive hook for their PR campaign, they indiscriminately and irresponsibly labelled the male population in remote Territory communities as predators of the worst kind. That was the second, again almost immediate, negative impact of the Intervention declaration.


Marion Scrymgour. From Elliott, Robinson River, the Tiwi Islands and beyond: “Recognise” that blackfellas have survived.

This is the first of four extracts from the speech given on 8 October 2014 at the 2014 H.C. “Nugget” Coombs Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University, Darwin.


Until its recent relegation by events in the middle east and the war on terror, constitutional reform, involving some kind of specific acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians, was hanging in there as a top order topic in the national media. The ‘Recognise’ movement has had some success in recruiting celebrities to its cause, and Noel Pearson has published a Quarterly Essay, bringing his not inconsiderable powers of persuasion to bear on the issue. The usual suspects have expressed concern about bills of rights and making blackfellas a specially favoured and privileged class of citizen. As if.

Going back 10 years or so, my support and enthusiasm for ‘Recognise’ would have been almost automatic. Even now there are probably some arguments from the no-change camp that will fire me up and make me bite back hard. Like the one which equates us with immigrant minorities, and characterises  Aboriginal identity and culture as just one feature panel in the national multicultural patchwork quilt.

BOB GOSFORD | October 05, 2014 | ART | 1 |

Tri-state bickering: The politics of dialysis resource allocation


Here I can eat proper Yolngu food.

Here I can be with all my relatives.

Here I can take part in ceremonies.

Here I can talk my own Yolngu language.

And here I can look after my own country.

Here I am feeling much better than I ever did in Darwin.

Dr M Yunupingu speaking of his own experience with ESKD shortly before he passed away in 2013. 

BOB GOSFORD | October 04, 2014 | ART | 1 |

“Our organs are sacred”: how we fail Aboriginal Australians with Chronic Kidney Disease

This post is an extract from the catalogue for the exhibition “Get Well Soon: A Diagnosis” by Therese Ritchie and Chips Mackinolty currently showing at David Hancock’s Gallery Two Six in Darwin through 11 October 2014.

The statistics around chronic kidney disease[CKD] among Aboriginal people are not pretty.

Chronic diseases and associated risk factors are responsible for approximately two-thirds of the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal non-Aboriginal people. For males in the Northern Territory, this stands at around 17 years, with a national average of 11.

BOB GOSFORD | October 04, 2014 | ANIMALS | |

Bird of the Week: Yilingkirrkkirr – the White Throated Grasswren

This is a guest post from Peter Cooke that was originally posted at his wonderful Tumblr page, “Life is a Carnivore

You won’t find Yilingkirrkkirr anywhere other than in the rugged sandstone massif of Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land.

Yilingkirrkirr is the name for this handsome and elusive bird in the languages of Kundedjnjenghmi and Gundjeihmi. The scientific name is Amytornis woodwardi and the common name is the White Throated Grasswren.

BOB GOSFORD | October 02, 2014 | UNCATEGORIZED | |

Get Well Soon – wealth and fame gets a turn “on the machine”

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles looks mightily pissed off. Never the readiest man with a smile he sits alone, glaring at you with a quiet fury.

From his arm run the bloody tubes that give him at least a chance at a normal life and filter the toxins from his blood. Three times a week he sits swaddled in a cold room for five hours, hooked up to a whirring, blinking machine.

Behind him the icecream-cake-parliament-house that was once his palace looms large through the window, curtained with the puckered-arsehole of the desert rose and southern cross that adorn the Northern Territory flag.

On the wall a campaign poster shows a younger happier man with his favourite campaign slogan.

“No more sit down money.”


Vale Jangala Robertson

I’m saddened by the news overnight of the passing of Mr Jangala Robertson, a wonderful artist from Yuendumu and one of the diminishing core of senior artists based at Warlukurlangu Artists at Yuendumu, a small township 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

BOB GOSFORD | September 30, 2014 | ABORIGINAL & ISLANDER ART | 2 |

“Speaking with one voice” – WA’s changes to Aboriginal Heritage law rejected at bush meetings

This is a guest post from anthropologist Dr Stephen Bennetts.

Aboriginal leaders in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Perth have rejected WA Government plans to amend the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Act to further streamline provisions under section 18 of the AHA which allow for the destruction of Aboriginal sites by developers.

At a bush meeting last Friday at Yule River, south of Port Hedland, representatives of all major Pilbara Aboriginal language groups voted to reject the AHA amendments, calling on WA’s Legislative Assembly to form a Select Committee to develop a new framework for reform of the AHA with meaningful participation by Aboriginal people. A Pilbara Aboriginal delegation will also be sent to Perth for talks with Premier Colin Barnett — and also — if necessary, to Canberra, to discuss their concerns with the (de facto) Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Tony Abbott.


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