August: We Meet Here To Talk About Water

2014   102 x 170 cms

Synthetic Ppolymers and graphite on Stonehenge

Thursday Sept 18th, 2014, I was privileged to be invited to a meeting of key Central Arrernte/Mparntwe familes chaired by former Territory Administrator, Ted Egan, whose 60 plus years in the Territory championing indigenous rights is well documented public knowledge and no better articulated than in his publication, Due Inheritance.

Among the assembled were members of the Liddle, Martin, Hayes and Kunoth families all who spoke passionately and articulated grievances with the present state of impotency they feel before governments and The Central Land Council ( a government construct established in the 1970s to represent expressed indigenous interests).

People were encouraged to air their disappointments and dissatisfactions. Land Council was accused of derailing numerous projects initiated by Mparntwe Traditional Owners. It was commonly believed that CLC had erroneously, even mischievously placed wrong indigenous people in positions of power, people who could be manipulated. The Native Title organisation, Lhere Atirpe was a case in point.

It was felt that much of the government money funding the CLC organisation stayed within the administration and that finances gained from businesses operating on Mparntwe country(mainly town) and resources from mining were not shared equitably with the Traditional Owners. Suspicions were that the white administrators and lawyers at CLC were prime beneficiaries.

The Mparntwe Group desires to assert its position and identity as the TOs in it recognised country and to have Land Council working for them rather than dictating to them.

The glaring example of disadvantage and inequity at Whitegate filled the afternoon's agenda. Felicity Hayes continues to live in conditions no better than her grandparents and spoke of her desperate need of support. That the camp's water supply was cut off without warning by the Minister of Community Services has caused outrage with media coverage and street protests.

Whitegate Camp is critical  for the Hayes, where they conduct ceremonies which I've attended over the decades and whose trees, rocks and so on demand they be there to maintain well-being. The present housing situation is a national disgrace. Lack of facilities and a sense of disadvantage has lured younger families into public housing which they would never have assented to had the promised housing of years ago been delivered.

I'd like to see the Hayes mob share in the common wealth.