Editor's Note: Currently there is a greater focus in repect of Indigenous health. And about time, some would say. Only very small pockets of the pharmacy profession have attempted to come to terms with this major problem, and they genuinely need your management assistance. Rollo Manning could well be regarded as the pharmacy expert in indigenous health, and he vigorously defends the rights of indigenous people to enjoy good health - just like the rest of the Australian community. Rollo's sympathetic insights reflect his long association with, and understanding of, the issues surrounding indigenous health.
12 months of frustration
By Rollo Manning
June 2008 should not pass without a comment on the feature which dogged Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory for the past 12 months – the NT Emergency Response or the “intervention”
This badly planned and poorly thought through political catastrophe was launched with the force of a tsunami on communities severely weakened by decades of government ineptitude and bad policy.
The suspects, the first people of Australia, were stunned by the rigor of the force that Dr Sue Gordon, Major General Dave Chalmers and their Northforce compatriots stormed into communities erecting army tents, shipping containers as houses and massive communications dishes to tell the world that here was a disaster that had been waiting to happen for years.
(“We are nothing to do with the Army…” Dr Gordon said in a subsequent TV interview!)
In point of fact the disaster had been there for decades and getting worse and it took an upcoming election for the “rabbit” to come out of the John Howard “hat” and be thrown onto the political landscape in the same way as the Tampa incident had some six years earlier.
The trick backfired, the Government lost the election and the two masterminds of the NTER lost their political seats in Sydney and Brisbane.
But what of the real sufferers who had to be humiliated by seeing the laws of the land precluding racism suspended so measures could be put in place which were clearly discriminating against them for being Aboriginal and living in a remote community in the NT.
As if that in itself was a crime and now we find the suggestion (again) that some communities may be economically unviable.
In other words people should not be able to live where their ancestors walked because the government cannot afford it.
What a joke - those same ancestors did not need a government in the first place and it was not their doing that the British launched its raid on the country they called home 220 years ago.
Recently in the same country (Australia) it has been exposed of children dying in houses that were only fit for rodents and children killed (allegedly) by a parent that was taking action to prevent the other parent from seeing the children.
How bad is that and where is the intervention?
Some will say that there have been good points to the NTER and so there should be.
Let’s face it - years of neglect create a situation where there is a lot to do and to do it well means a lot of money – a helluva lot of money.
20 people to a house, children not attending school, no jobs for people to want to work and so it goes on.
Of course there is a place for help and even an intervention – but not one that is racially motivated, rude and confronting to the subjects and lacking in the most suited piece of politeness – consultation.
Yes 12 months has passed, little has been achieved that should not have happened years ago and the anguish goes on for people who quite simply fail to be understood by politicians, bureaucrats and the rest of the dominant culture residing on the southern seaboard of Australia.
Remote living Aboriginals are entitled to housing, education, good nutrition and primary health care as a basic human right – not as an emergency intervention into their lives.
PO Box 98
Parap NT 0804
30th June 2008