Australia: military occupies aboriginal communities

Aborigine community leaders in a remote Northern Territory town set to receive the first police and army troops under an Australian federal government’s plan to combat a reported wave of domestic and sexual abuse are questioning the need for “military occupation.” The government last week seized control of 60 NT Aboriginal communities, including Mutitjulu, as Prime Minister John Howard declared the problem of child abuse a “national emergency.”

The intervention, which involves bans on alcohol and hardcore pornography and compulsory health checks for Aboriginal children, followed the release of a damning report on the abuse of youngsters in the region. Mutitjulu community leaders Bob and Dorothea Randall issued a statement warning that women and children of the community are frightened of being forced to undergo medical checks.

State police and Australian Federal Police (AFP) will be supported “logistically” by the military under the plan. The Randalls protested that healthcare, youth services, education and basic housing are lacking in their community. “Where is the money for all the essential services?” their statement asks. “There is an urgent need for tens of millions of dollars to do what needs to be done. Will [Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal] Brough give us a commitment beyond the police and military?”

They charged that government neglect had brought the situation to a crisis point. “We have been begging for an alcohol counsellor and a rehabilitation worker so that we can help alcoholics and substance abusers but those pleas have been ignored,” they said. (The Australian, June 35)

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