Bess Price, the Member for Stuart in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and a full blood Warlpiri woman:
I now take this opportunity to talk about an issue that has always been close to my heart. Within the last four months, two more young mothers related to me were killed in Alice Springs Town Camp. One was injured mortally in the public, in front of several families. Nobody acted to protect her. Dozens of my female relatives have been killed this way. Convictions usually lead to light sentences. I was told by a senior lawyer that no jury in Alice Springs will convict an Aboriginal person for murder if the victim is also Aboriginal and he or she is only stabbed once.
We all have done nothing effective to stop this from happening. It has been going on for decades. This week we heard outrage from the Stolen Generation Association because this government wants to put the safety and wellbeing of our children first before their (inaudible) culture. I am not talking about the children of the Stolen Generation. It is our children.
Why hasn’t there been the same outrage over the continuing killing of our women and abuse and neglect of our kids? If these women victims were white, we would hear very loud outrage from feminists. If their killers had been white, we would hear outrage from the Indigenous activists. Why is there such a deafening silence when both victim and perpetrator are black? I believe that we can blame the politics of the progressive left and its comfortably middle class urban Indigenous supporters.
Because I have spoken out on this issue and others close to my heart, I have been routinely attacked by the left. Professor Larissa Behrendt claimed that what I say is more offensive than watching a man having sex with a horse. Her white professional protester colleague, Paddy Gibson, told the world that I was only doing it for the money and frequent flyer points. The Queensland educationist, Chris Sarra, said that I was ‘pet Aborigine’ who only said what the government wanted me to say. Chris Graham, the white editor of Tracker magazine called me a ‘grub’.
A white woman in Victoria, Leonie Chester, calls herself Nampijinpa Snowy River, on the internet. She tells the world that my people, the Warlpiri, are ‘her mob’. She and her friends have obscenely insulted me on the internet, over and over. Marlene Hodder, a white woman from Alice Springs and her protesting friend, Barbara Shaw, have called me a liar several times.
The Crikey blogger, Bob Gosford, who calls himself ‘the Northern Myth’, calls me Bess ‘Gaol is Good for Aboriginal People’ Price and accuses me of ‘vaguely malevolent and populist buffoonery that is designed to capture the attention of the tutt-tutterers and spouted by politicians that inevitably have a short tenure in power’.
In Brisbane, Tiga Bayles, using an Indigenous community owned radio station, told the whole world that I am ‘a head nodding Jacky-Jacky for the government’ and that I am ‘totally offensive and arrogant’ because I do not want people like Tiga who know nothing about us, speaking about my people. He and his friends laughed as they told the world that I am only interested in money.
When my daughter went to Sydney for the Deadly Awards, an Aboriginal interviewer for the Koori Radio Station in Redfern advised her not to tell anybody who her mother was. This is how these people show respect for family. In the last month, I have watched three of my sisters and a grand-daughter being buried.
These racists and sexist hypocrites sneer at our grief and care nothing for our suffering, but they are the darlings of the left. I wonder what would happen if Andrew Bolt had used insults like these against any Indigenous Australian. The hypocrisy of these people is incredible.
But I am in good company. When Mantatjara Wilson, a wonderful strong compassionate women I called mother, told the world about the crimes against her children on national TV, back in 2007, with tears streaming down her face, the left-wing activist moved to undermind her. They went into the communities not to protect the kids but to find women who would oppose Mantatjara.
They talked about outrage and shame, not because of the crimes you all know about but because somebody else was brave enough to tell the world about them and ask for help. That was what they called shameful.
They worry about the shame felt by perpetrators once they were exposed, not because of the agony of the victims and families. It is easy to find women who will support their men even though they are killers and rapists. Families are always stand up for their own and those who call themselves progressive will always find those willing to stand beside them and betray their own women and kids.
A few others have stood up and faced the vicious criticism of the left. I acknowledge the wonderful work of Dr Hannah McGlade in Perth and Professor Marcia Langton in Melbourne. Warren Mundine and Noel Pearson have also spoken out. A conference of Aboriginal men in Alice Springs publicly apologised to Aboriginal women and kids for the violence and abuse men have inflicted on them. None of those people have received support from the left or from Labor governments.
The left has tried really hard to call us liars and to put us down for speaking the truth and for wanting to stop the killing and the sexual violence. But they have put no effort, none at all, into protecting our kids and women. The exception to this has been a determination of Minister Jenny Macklin, who I acknowledge for her courage in the face of strong criticism from her own party and the Greens.
I recently went to Sydney for the launch of a book called Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence by wonderful caring friend of mine Dr Stephanie Jarrett. My words are on the cover of her book. We need to support those who tell the truth.
Dr Jarrett does that and she cares, maybe too much for her own good.
I have seen the tears in her eyes and heard the passion in her voice when she talks about her murdered and bashed ones. I trust her completely, but, of course, those who are not interested in the truth are out to bring her down.
She has been attacked in the Monthly magazine by its editor John Van Tiggelen in an article called Thinking Backwards. Dr Jarrett is saying there are elements to our traditional culture that we must change if we are to stop the violence that is destroying us, and she is right.
Things are much worse now than the old days because of the grog, the drugs and the awful welfare dependency that is sucking the life out of us. There are elements of our culture that are really good and should be kept, but we should be prepared to do what everybody else in the world has done and change our ways to solve the new problems we have now and that our old law has no tools to solve.
Some people call this integration, others call it simulation because they want us to continue to live in poverty, violence and ignorance so we can play out their fantasies on what the word culture means. I call it problem solving and saving lives. The left has its own agenda and liberating our people from violence is not part of that agenda.
Van Tiggelen talks about the book Black Death – White Hands written by Paul Wilson in 1982. In that book Wilson argued that when a man called Owen Peters killed his girlfriend in Queensland it was actually because of white colonialism and racism.
It was not the killer’s fault it was the whitefellas’ fault. This argument worked. Peters was only given a short sentence. Dr Jarrett started to worry about Aboriginal women’s rights when she saw David Bradbury’s film State of Shock. This was made in 1988 and was based on the same case.
Bradbury brought the film to Alice Springs and brought Owen Peters with him. In the film, Bradbury gave only the story of Peters and his family. Nobody from the victim’s family was given a chance to give their point of view. They would not have backed Bradbury’s arguments so they were ignored.
I remember Alwyn Peters telling us, ‘She has ruined my life; he was talking about the one he killed’. He went on to say, ‘She comes to me in dreams’. This made me feel sick.
When my husband asked David Bradbury, ‘Why did you not talk to the victim’s family, you would have got a different point of view?’. He said, ‘Alwyn Peters’ family are victims too’. In other words, all our sympathy was meant to be for the one who killed and his family, and not for the one he killed or her family.
In 1991, Audrey Bolger of the ANU’s North Australian Research Unit, wrote a wonderful little book called Aboriginal Women and Violence. At last, somebody was taking notice. At last, a white woman was trying to get governments to act. She was ignored and, as far as I know, nobody tried again after that.
Her voice was drowned out by the politically correct who took their lead from Wilson and Bradbury: just keep blaming the whitefellas and everything will be fine. When governments says sorry, everything will be fixed. Audrey Bolger said in a book way back then, that in the final analysis the problem of violence against Aboriginal women will only be solved by Aboriginal people themselves.
The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody said the same thing. In a way, she was right: my people need to act now to stop our own violence. But, in another way, this has given governments and the wider community an excuse for the big cop-out.
Okay. We whitefellas caused the problem but only blackfellas will solve them, so we sit around waiting for that to happen.
She also said: The problem is a complicated one, bound up as it is with other issues connected with changing lifestyles. Working through these issues towards satisfactory solutions is crucial to the future wellbeing of all Aboriginal people.
She was right, but in the 22 years since she wrote that, there have been no satisfactory solutions found and things are much worse now. It has not happened and I am sick of sitting around waiting for my loved ones who are being killed. We have had committees and research projects, and advisory councils, and ATSIC, and now we have A National Congress of Australia’s First People. Billions of dollars have been spent. We have had visits from the United Nations special rapporteurs, and Amnesty International Indigenous officers.
Not only have solutions not been found, but the most important issues are not even raised and talked about. I want to work through these issues and find solutions. For the left and for many Aboriginal politicians on the national stage, it seemed the only issues worth talking about were the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
These are real issues that have to be addressed, but they were not the only issues. In the meantime, women still died, children did not go to school, epidemics of renal failure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease grew worse, suicides increased, young men went to gaol, and we kept killing each other and ourselves.
Australians were not told that the death rate amongst our young men was higher outside custody than in, and that more Aboriginal women died at the hands of their menfolk than Aboriginal men died in custody. Since then, so many more women have died and have been sexually abused, assaulted …
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