Maria spoke first, mostly about her experiences of growing up in an Aboriginal community, and about her aspirations for her own children, a daughter aged 14 and a son aged 8, who are with her in Darwin. She is worried for them, as all parents worry about their kids. In this respect, it is worth commenting that Aboriginal parents are the same as the rest of us. Don't throw something at me - it is not something which is self-evident, at least not to everybody.
Rollo then spoke of his experiences (over 30 years or more), and illustrated his talk with photos and extracts of various reports and statistics. He commented how the situation had deteriorated since 1967, which was the date of the Referendum. Although I don't think anyone would wish to say the referendum result was a bad thing, one of the side effects was the introduction of welfare payments. These payments have become known as "sit down" money - money received for doing nothing at all, which was not the tradition in Aboriginal communities beforehand.
But with the recognition of Aboriginals as citizens came the availability of alcohol (previously it had been an offence to supply alcohol to Aborigines). More recently, the twin problems of alcohol abuse and addiction to marijuana ("Gunja") have been identified as destroying Aboriginal family life. They are both linked directly to violence in the communities, and to sexual abuse.
I spoke this afternoon with Katherine Wood, the convenor of this morning's function. I asked her what she thought was the most important thing she wanted to see come out of this meeting. Her answer was "to increase the awareness of the problem".
His first point is:
"Make the connection between substance abuse and violence"
"The report of the Queensland Women’s Task Force contained numerous references to this connection (between substance abuse and violence): “All we want is for the violence to stop. We don’t want our men to go to jail. But by the same token we as a community have to try to address the issues of alcohol, drugs and violence [quoted from a submission].”
“The consultative process advanced alcohol as the most pressing concern of Indigenous people ... 91% of the overall submissions, and 100% of those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including Community Councils and organisations, cited alcohol and other drugs as major factors for attention if the issue of violence is to be successfully addressed ... It is vital to recognise the role of alcohol in deaths and injuries through violence, in general ill-health, and also in family and Community breakdown.”
At the end of this paper, Noel Person says:
"6. Reject illegal handling of addictive substances
If we are serious about attacking violence, we cannot accept people breaking the law in relation to addictive substances. Indigenous people who have any contact whatsoever with any illicit drug or the illegal alcohol trade or encourage or tolerate that close kin engage in such behaviour, have disqualified themselves from taking on a leadership role. Non-indigenous people who have any contact with illicit drugs or illegal alcohol trade or encourage or tolerate that close kin engage in such behaviour, cannot work in our organisations or our communities or in Indigenous affairs."
Quoted from: "Underlying Principles of a New Policy for the Restoration of Indigenous Social Order" - By Noel Pearson. Read his views here.
That is a staggering 16% of the community's entire wealth going on dope.
Who benefits? Someone must. And the people who spend the money know who it is spent with. They are continuing to deal with these persons, as members of the community, be they indigenous, or non-indigenous.
It is time to apply Point 6.
And that is just marijuana. How much is spent on grog, as well?
In regard to alcohol, Pearson says:
"Lionel Quartermaine significantly mentioned alcohol and substance abuse first among the issues we have to consider in this context, and pointed out that “[i]n remote Indigenous Cape York communities alone, person to person conflict is the single biggest cause of injury, with these injuries representing 43% of all injuries recorded and of these injuries, 89% involved alcohol.”
"The immediate goal is to rebuild intolerance of abusive behaviour in indigenous communities to a level where functional and responsible people, not addicts and irresponsible people, set the tone of daily life."
Noel Pearson: "Stop addicts shaping our grog policies" 25/4/04
When did you last see a public figure call for "intolerance of abusive behaviour"?