The Prime Minister and his Protector of Aborigines continue to treat the residents of remote Indigenous communities as political pawns. It's no surprise then that they cop a bit of curry in the bush.
Word has it that federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough was made to feel more than a little uncomfortable at Mutitjulu recently when he passed through town to open a new police station.
Some accounts suggest that Brough was rattled by an animated group of locals who gave him a well-earned burst for his loose language a while back about “pedophile rings” operating in remote communities.
“You are the minister for racism, the minister for neglect ... You have attacked our men and our people, you are telling lies,” local Aboriginal man Vincent Forrester is reported to have said.
No surprises thus far, except that Brough was apparently taken aback by the warmth of the welcome.
I wonder at the quality of the reconnaissance that the ex-army officer carried out, prior to embarking on his Mutitjulu mission. Given that he's made an art form out of denigrating remote communities - and Mutitjulu in particular - ever since he took over the portfolio, surely he should have been expecting a hostile reception.
Brough visits a broad range of remote communities, but all the evidence suggests that he arrives with predetermined answers rather than thoughtful questions.
As Frank Hardy's character Billy Borker was wont to say: “There are none so blind as those that will not see”.
The minister must realise that if he is going to demonise remote communities at every opportunity he must expect some backlash.
Provision of infrastructure in these far-flung locations is crucial, but Indigenous communities are entitled to have a say in the “what” and the “how” and the “when”.
The people who live in these places are not cardboard cut-outs. Governments must disabuse themselves of the notion that blackfellas will be grateful for crumbs from the table.
Indigenous Australians want a fair go - not presents of beads, mirrors or police stations.
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