“The government comes, has a look and goes back to their air-conditioned office”: Miriam Charlie. Residents in the four town camps - Mara, Yanyula, Garawa 1, and Garawa 2 - face overcrowding, insecure tenancy, water contamination, and failing health hardware. The recently released Town Camps Review classifies 34 per cent of Borroloola houses in “very poor” condition, and another 25 per cent in “poor” condition.
Helen Ester led by example, her belief in social justice and equal rights for all people never wavering while she kept kicking against the pricks to the very end. Her affiliations were with those consigned to the margins: working-class men and women, immigrants and refugees, and especially Indigenous peoples, who she considered her greatest educators and mentors. We champion you now, Vale Helen.
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.
Despite poverty and marginalisation, there was a spirit of defiance and pride amongst the Elliott mob. The slogan from the previous year’s anti-bicentennial – ‘we have survived’ – had continuing resonance. There was respect for the endurance and fortitude of the many former stockmen who lived in the town. Through their skill and discipline they had earned a limited degree of autonomy, despite working for white bosses, and they had managed to maintain culture and ceremony under difficult conditions.