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Economically viable communities - land the mob in Sydney

By Graham Ring - posted Thursday, 8 December 2005

Remote communities are simply not viable. The news is just in and it’s come as a bit of a shock.

The blackfellas had been making a fair fist of living out in the bush for about 40,000 years without an American Express card between the lot of them. Anthropologists acknowledge that these “no-bill savages” lived happy and rewarding lives despite the fact that they knew nothing of mobile phones.

But the wheel has turned. From Rome to Ramingining, all anyone wants to talk about is economic viability.


The painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is getting pretty long in the tooth and starting to look a bit grubby. Perhaps it could be replaced with a super-size cable television screen where they could show footy matches and generate advertising revenue?

In this spirit of entrepreneurial innovation, let’s run with this “ditch the remote communities” brainstorm for a minute and see where it takes us. Imagine that the accountant’s edict has been received by the desert-dwellers.

After not a little bit of persuasion, the good folk of the Centre have put aside the twinge of affection they feel for their country and jumped into Toyotas bound for Alice Springs - and the lure of a “viable existence”.

The trip takes much longer than usual. The corrugated roads are choked with bush-bombs packed to the gunnels with blackfellas who have seen the error of their economically non-viable ways. They are heading, suitably chastened, for the “medium smoke” of Alice.

What exactly, you may be wondering, are they going to do when they get there?

Truth is, I’ve been pondering the same thing myself. It seems that this minor detail may have been overlooked by the rocket-scientists who issued the eviction order.


Then again, Alice does have an airport. Maybe the jumbo jets will be lined up nose-to-tail on the tarmac ready to take the refugees to remote communities like Sydney (you can’t get much more remote than a joint that is clinging to the edge of the continent more than seven hours' travelling time away).

So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that we’ve landed the whole mob in Sydney. What happens next?

These good folk are undoubtedly capable in a great many ways. But whether they have the key survival skills for living in 21st century cities - the ability to build spreadsheets and the capacity to moan about taxes - is less certain.

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First published as 'There's no accounting for taste' in the National Indigenous Times issue 94, on November ,2005.

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About the Author

Graham Ring is an award-winning writer and a fortnightly National Indigenous Times columnist. He is based in Alice Springs.

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