Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An open letter to Bess Price

Dear MLA Price,

I read with much interest the direct report from the NT Hansard of your speech to the Legislative Assembly as published in the Alice Springs News on the 17/5/13. I was alternatively moved, saddened, angered and perturbed by what you said to the point of where I have felt the need to write this post on my blog. I could, of course, send this to you directly and privately, but by posting it publicly I hope to achieve more than just exchanged notes between two people. I hope, like you would have through making the speech in the first place and then agreeing to the publishing of the Hansard record in a news publication, to raise awareness. I therefore hope that you will recognise that my reasoning for choosing public, rather than private, means of exchange is one that is made with the purest of intentions and with a true dedication to progress.

I am writing to you as an Arrernte woman, as a black feminist, and as a dyed in the wool member of the left. I am also writing to you as someone who lives in Melbourne (although half my life has been spent on the Stuart Highway) and whilst I am definitely not "middle class", I am clearly urban and am an educated professional. I am a committed trade unionist. I identify as being a "critical thinker" rather than a "cultural relativist" (a fact that has led to some conflict with family over the years), and the right to self-determination is of the highest importance to me, in all possible ways. Politically, I am not affiliated to any party at this point in time and whilst I have held memberships to a couple of parties over the years, I find it difficult to adhere to a party line because generally speaking, Indigenous and Feminist politics are what are at my core and my personal beliefs do not always align with a Political party's vision. On the spectrum, I have described myself as "socialist" and "anarchist" but generally speaking, I am radical left. I wanted to put this all upfront because in your speech you have levelled your criticism at the left, and whilst I have first-hand experience of the left not always getting issues related to gender or race correct, I feel that your criticism of the left is somewhat misplaced and erroneous and I hope that I can show you why I feel this is the case. At the end of the day I believe in striving for an egalitarian society and I don't believe the ability to buy into what are essentially corrupt practices of a coloniser society, whether this is "celebrating" Aboriginal women's beauty, or whether this is the ability to exploit people and land to achieve material wealth, is the way forward.

Additionally, in the interest of openness I will state that we have made acquaintance before, although not actually met. We were both on that fateful episode of Insight. I saw you looking at me prior to the show and felt that you may have recognised me through my family, although I could be wrong. My family is known to you regardless, as you are a resident of Alice Springs. You know many members of my family and of course are aware that there are streets, natural features and hostels named after members of my family in the centre. In that forum, I accused you of "social Darwinism" as I felt, very strongly, that your opinions stated within that forum reflected those principles. Additionally, as you do reside in the Alice and are therefore profiteering off the displacement of the Arrernte through murder, removal policies leading to the Stolen Generation, and numerous other practices, I felt that your opinions showed a neglect of the significance of those facts and how they may shape the identity of those around you. That comment barely made it to screen; I was almost inaudible and really only our reactions to it were clear. I don't take that comment back, incidentally, for I still feel it was true. You made it clear in that forum that your claim to Aboriginality is stronger than those of us who are of mixed decent because you are "full blood" and you know language, culture and song, yet you are living on lands of acknowledged "frontier battles" and could not acknowledge that some may not have had that same access to culture because these things occurred on their lands. Culture is not a static entity. It has never been pre-or-post-colonisation, and I believe that shared historical experience is as valid a cultural element as anything else.

Speaking of culture, as stated, I identify as a critical thinker rather than a "cultural relativist". This very fact has made for some rather "interesting" conversations over the years. To give a small example, I have had arguments with people when I have felt those people have idealised gender roles in traditional society. I don't necessarily believe that gender equivalence equals gender equality and whilst indeed we are a culture that celebrates strong women who have authority, there are enough well-known cultural markers (for example, marriage rites) to indicate that "equality" may not be a completely accurate description in most tribal circumstances. Hell, we are the most studied people in the world, or close to, and even those with little knowledge are able to crack open a book and read passages that have been written, including ones from Marcia Langton, detailing patriarchal practices within desert cultures. Also, having set roles in a society based on gender has rarely been consistent with "equality" anywhere in the world. This is one of the many reasons of why I am so for the concept of "self-determination"; we must have the ability to critically examine ALL culture and assert our identity, both as Aboriginal people and as women, in order to move society forward as a strong and healthy unit. I argue that through having to continually defend ourselves in the face of colonisation and gender inequality, individually and structurally, we are currently denied that right of self-determination and are therefore diminished in our ability to re-imagine society, social structures, legal systems etc in ways that are inclusive and owned by us. Long story short: I question and will always do so. I don't believe everything I was told and I certainly will not forgive what are transgressions of basic human rights when arguments of cultural practice are used. It is completely possible to practice culture and respect culture whilst questioning elements of it and pushing for change, in my opinion.

Here's where I get to the nitty-gritty of this open letter: despite my clear left-wing views, I do not stand for the abuse and murder of our women as you assert that the left does. The cases you mention are shocking, and the fact that there may never be justice AND that people stood by and watched it happen sickens me to the core. It reminds me of cases a few years back that reached the mainstream media across the country involving rapes and bashings of girls being hidden or legally glossed under the cultural guise of "promised marriage". This should NEVER have been allowed to happen and the fact that so many stood back; for years in one of the cases; and allowed it to just is incomprehensible. I know that because these cases were so outrageous; due to the age of the victims, the brutality of the crimes, and the amount of people who turned a blind eye to it all; that this is why they made the mainstream media on the East Coast. I also know from my broader knowledge of women's rights that for every one case that does make the media there are countless others that do not; because the crimes go unreported; because the victim is not quite so young; because they were not quite so brutalised by the perpetrator; because the community was not so blatantly aware. Unfortunately the situation does not always seem to get a whole lot better for those Aboriginal women who live in the cities and have a number of support mechanisms at their disposal that they try to call on, as the case of Andrea Pickett shows us. The system, the media, the communities and the ignorance of the greater Australian community continually fail our women. That is why this has never, and will never be a simple left-right divide for me. This is sexism, compounded by racism, and the suffering it causes is unacceptable.

You state in your address that "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 that you agree with this summation. I remain a huge proponent of self-determination and I believe that a core part of that is the ability to proudly engage in, and celebrate culture in ways that reinforce one's identity and sense of pride. This includes acknowledging systematic oppression and how this contributes to situations and issues in our communities because it is, most certainly, a factor. I don't believe that this ever means glossing over culture and failing to cast a critical eye upon those practices that need to be examined from a basic human rights perspective. Indeed, I think that to fail to examine all culture would run contrary to the goals of self-determination. What I do find difficult to stomach though are the additional arguments supplied by Jarrett whereby an apparent answer lies in the ability to have a greater ability to share in mainstream Australia and assimilate, to an extent. I state this as one who lives in mainstream Australia and who experiences it every day as an Arrernte woman. Mainstream Australia is not free from sexism and it most certainly is not free from racism, therefore it really cannot guarantee a better life for those that access it.

Whilst you're fighting to stop violence against women on communities, the trade union I work for is currently trying to get domestic violence clauses into collective agreements in universities in acknowledgement of the approximately 1/3 of the women who work in the sector and will experience domestic violence. These clauses will, of course, cover the approximately 700 Aboriginal women (including some who live in remote communities) that work in the sector and who are, it is estimated, twice as likely as their non-Aboriginal colleagues to experience violence. It will also cover the approximately 450 Aboriginal men in the sector who are also significantly more likely to experience violence than their non-Aboriginal colleagues. Domestic violence is considered a workplace issue now because, far from being something that simply happens in the privacy of a home, or publicly in an isolated community, it effects a victim's ability to participate in everyday life, and that includes holding down a job. It makes sense that women who have their own income and who are empowered by being in a supportive environment are more likely to be able to take action and leave a situation of domestic violence than those that are not independent and are not being supported. The left may be going about it in ways that are different to ways you would pursue the issue but they are certainly not ignoring it.

Whilst you're noting that community members stood around and watched a young mother be brutally murdered in a town camp, on the streets of Melbourne since the 1970s women have marched to change deeply embedded social attitudes dictating that women ask to be attacked if they walk around by themselves late at night, if they dress certain ways or if they act in certain ways. It is not as blatant as people watching it happen before their eyes and doing nothing (or even, on occasion, joining in) but through the reinforcement of certain attitudes, society, rather than re-educating itself and changing the message, allows these acts against of violence against women to continue. We saw this play out in Melbourne most recently in the case of Jill Meagher who, whilst she was afforded a great deal of coverage in the media which the women you mention were utterly denied down here, was being questioned as to why she was out late that night, why was she drinking, why had she walked home alone? The media, and many members of society, rarely seemed to ask question of why would a man ever feel he has the right to deny a woman of her civil liberties. Simply put, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of it all, society does not believe that a woman has a right to participate fully within it and not suffer repercussions for her actions. Actions men take for granted are the very same things that bring women into question. If she is attacked it will be her fault. Whether they're standing around watching it, or they are questioning a victim's actions in the media, society, such as it may be, is approving the perpetuation of violence against women and allowing it to continue. Assimilation will not solve it, only shift how it is publicly reacted to and perhaps lessen the tallies a little. Much more radical solutions are needed in my opinion.

You state that “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”. As I've already highlighted through the case of Andrea Pickett, whilst this may well be the case in Alice, being in a more urban setting won't always protect the victim either. On a broader social sense though, as mentioned, women who are victims of violence rarely pursue it through the avenues available to them. This is because the legal system and society continually fails them. Sentences are often a joke, conviction rates are low and women are rarely believed. If they do decide to pursue, for example, a claim of domestic violence or rape through the justice system they can expect that their lives and how they conduct themselves will be placed under a microscope. If they are unlucky enough to be attacked by a public figure, for example a top football player, they will also receive trial by the media and by the general public. A lot of women therefore will never come forward. It is well documented that Aboriginal women are significantly more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence, of sexual violence and of homicide and this of course requires specific programmes targeting communities and then tailor-made in collaboration with those communities based on their specific requirements. Targeting domestic violence against Aboriginal women in Melbourne from Aboriginal perpetrators of course requires a different approach to targeting it in Mutitjulu. All these need measures that are again specific from mainstream approaches. Measures that examine how culture, poverty, history and substance abuse can be contributing factors to the unique ways that violence can manifest within our communities in all their different forms (urban, rural, remote). Here's the thing though: our Aboriginal women in the cities with access to what you deem is a fairer system are still presenting to Aboriginal Health Organisations with injuries, they are still ending up in refuge hostels trying to escape violence and they still cannot guarantee that if they pursue the matter it will be dealt with fairly in a legal system that is dominated by white males and based upon laws from another country. White women cannot be guaranteed that they will be dealt with fairly so what real chance does a black woman have at this point in time?

This is the crux of it all for me: are we actually looking to just lessen the impacts and numbers of victims here or do we wish these issues to be eradicated? We may lessen impacts by drawing on tactics of the left-right divide to suit our own purposes but if you ask me, we need to transgress this. Culture needs to be examined and parts that state that women are of lesser value and
men have little control over their actions need to be tossed out. Parts that state that Aboriginal people are of lesser worth and that their social problems cannot be examined need to also be tossed out. I do not agree, being of the left, with top down approaches such as the ones you praise when you talk of the braveness of Macklin, because I believe that these just end up replacing one form of abuse with another. You cannot empower a community to positively address these serious issues by further disempowering them and removing their agency. This is amplified by the fact that the very powers imposing these measures have not been successful in eradicating similar issues within the mainstream. I am for collaboration and those that wish to take a stand and improve situations being given the tools and the power to do so. You state that “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”. I'm here to say that this is not the case. I am Arrernte, I am a feminist and I am most definitely of the left and I want better for our women. I personally can name a number of Aboriginal women and men who are also of the left and who want the same. I can additionally name a number of non-Indigenous members of the left who echo this. There are many of us who would stand up and assist in this goal.

But here's the thing: whilst you continue to deny my existence as an Aboriginal woman and the right of myself and my family, as well as many other Aboriginal families to claim our heritage and history, and whilst you continue to deny that my family, and thousands across the country have been subjected to years of government policies and procedures and you assert that we therefore are not “true blackfellas”, we cannot stand side-by-side in your cause. We are rendered unable to share information because you, with your unique experience of remote communities and culture, are blocked to our experiences from elsewhere and how these may be linked. You deny us the ability to speak of violence in these communities in our own ways because you deem us as having no right due to where we live or what other heritage we may have. I don't want this to be the case but feel that after seeing you reported so many times in the media as well as witnessing it first-hand in a TV studio that you are not particularly interested in what I, and what others like me, may have to say on the topic. If this is not the case then I would be very interested in opening a dialogue with you and seeing how a bit of side-by-side activism could contribute to the combating of these issues and making a better world for our women. I believe that you possess a passion for change and a great deal of knowledge that can definitely assist in the goal of eradicating these issues of violence. I look forward to your response should you deem a response appropriate.

With warm regards,

Celeste Liddle


  1. Nailed it Liddle. Like Dr Sandy, I actually thought parts of Bess Price's speech were very relevant (including the part where she attacks me... which I concede I deserved). But the sum total of Bess Price and what she says makes it impossible (in my view) to work collaboratively with her. Keep punching on Liddle... and FFS, become a journalist already!

  2. wow that was mind blow and great. I will think of you next time she tells me to shut my half cast mouth { i never have shut my mouth}

  3. Interesting observations Celeste - I don't agree with you but its good to hear someone from the left articulate concerns beyond just cherry-picked sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But I have to say rubbish such as "Measures that examine how culture, poverty, history and substance abuse can be contributing factors to the unique ways that violence can manifest within our communities in all their different forms (urban, rural, remote)" is precisely the problem. The system doesn't make people kill each other, that's an individual choice. You yourself state that we are some of the most studied people. More studies are not going to stop Blackfellas killing each other. This constant need to examine measures and appropriateness of measures is just adding to the body count. Unfortunately the left, most SE Blackfellas and academia seem more concerned with this, rather than stopping violence by any means necessary.

    1. Not to mention dispossession and alienation and the entrenched use of shame as a weapon.

  4. Celeste, as laudable as your aims may be, I feel your comments simply seek to detract from the whole issue Bess has tried to draw attention to. I don't doubt that domestic violence is present in your world. It happens in everyone's world, but in my many years of life I have never witnessed such incredible levels of violence as I did whilst living remote. Injuries that would immediately land the perpetrator in jail in mainstream Australia don't even get reported. I vividly remember one Xmas eve being called to the clinic in midst of trying to cook a pork roast for xmas dinner. One of the community men had attacked his wife with a star picket.
    Her arm was broken in 3 places whilst her head had been split open, exposing her skull. She lived, and returned to her partner, but the lack of charges, or even comments on this attack highlighted just how common place such events were. Yet, had it happened in the suburbs it would have made the papers.
    Another aspect never discussed is the affect such levels of violence have on child witnesses. Apart from the psychological and emotional damage, there is the issue of hypervigilence which lasts a lifetime and creates a inability to totally relax and live a stable lifestyle. Most children raised in this environment find a normal, stable lifestyle boring and constantly look for action/distraction to bring some release into their lives. Drug and alcohol abuse, and self perpetuating violence become the norm.
    As for not being able to support the cause of remote women because you are not accepted as "true blackfellas", well that is a load of rot. I don't have a single drop of indigenous blood yet I have always been not just supportive, but active in issues of indigenous child protection and support for women.
    What you can't do, is try to compare your situation with that of remote tribal women. It's like comparing oranges with apples. Both are a small round fruit, but no one would ever mistake one for the other. There is absolutely no comparison.
    Continue your fight for your causes, whilst giving unconditional support for the women like Bess, who are fighting for theirs.

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  6. "Much more radical solutions are needed"..........I couldn't agree with your opinion more!!!! .............may I suggest checking out the Minangkabau matriarchal on the island of Sumatra.........our neighbours............who knows what we can learn from a friendly chat with the neighbours ;)

  7. Celeste, all I can say is - Whacko, woman! Love your work. I hope you don't mind but I have published your post at my blog, The Network. I have done this because: a) I published Price's speech and b)I hope your post can get to as wide an audience as possible and that my re-publication might be a help to do this. It will be linked from my blog to Facebook and Twitter. My original post of Price's speech was done without comment - although I have made comment in the preamble to publishing your post. Price and I don't sing from the same songsheet. I think you and I do because as I read your reply I frequently found myself cheering!

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  9. Well done, Celeste. To the naysayers, I'd respectfully ask that you first read the piece and then consider it for its real value, because discussion has to be had about an issue that affects many communities. I fail to see how undermining genuine efforts by a talented and strong advocate like Celeste Liddle help anyone. More leadership from people like CL can go a long way to fixing the many problems of this country.

  10. What a long - self justification ramble! But cutting to the chase Celeste Riddle is agreeing with Bess Price that violence and abuse is being accepted within large parts of the indigenous community because of cultural and traditional values. She accepts it is wrong!

    Celeste must also accept that a blind eye is being turned, or the full force of the law is not being applied, because indigenous communities are being treated as a special case. After years of 'deaths-in-custody', stolen generation, racial abuse enquiries, no-one wants to be seen taking a hard line against Aboriginal people.

    But where Celeste goes wildly off track is when she implied things are not much better in 'white society' writing: ".....society, rather than re-educating itself and changing the message, allows these acts against of violence against women to continue. We saw this play out in Melbourne most recently in the case of Jill Meagher ....." Trying to draw an analogy with the Jill Meagher murder where the vast majority of media and society were saddened, shocked and abhorred by her brutal rape and murder, with the more ready tolerance and acceptance of physical and sexual abuse among Aboriginal society is ludicrous and grasping at straws and an insult to Jill Meagher's family and the people of Melbourne.

    So Celeste's argument against Bess Price's speech boils down to two key points.

    1. The first is that she will never accept colonisation and believes Aboriginal people have a right to self determination. Therefore should not be the subject to 'white man's laws and rules', even though she goes to great pains to state she does not approve of the cultural violence and abuse and that it must change.

    2. The second is that white society (as evidenced by the Jill Meagher example she gave, have not solved the same problems Bess Price talks about in their own society, so why turn to them for help in improving the situation.

    To the fist point I would say Celeste has to 'get real'. You cannot turn back the clock. We cannot have a separate law for Aboriginal people and another for the rest of society. It would not work, but even if we tried, we would then be swamped with claims from all sorts of diverse groups seeking self determination.

    The only possible way it could operate is if all Aboriginal people who wanted to live under a separate legal system moved to one state. We'd have something like the situation with the partitioning of Pakistan and India, where perhaps all those who wanted to live under Indigenous Law moved to The Northern Territory, or Tasmania or wherever, it is agreed, or a pocket within each state, and the others move out. This is a recipe for disaster!

    To the second point I don't believe Bess Price is suggesting 'White Society' be the ones to resolve the problems of sexual and physical abuse in Aboriginal Society. She is most definitely calling for indigenous people to create change themselves. But she is also saying that it has not been helpful that often well intentioned people, often members of the left, have pushed for a 'hands off' approach when it comes to applying the law to domestic and sexual violence among the indigenous community. This has lead to social workers, police and the courts taking a go lightly approach compared to the 'white community'. This has not worked! Violence and sexual abuse has escalated. It needs to change.

    In her long ramble Celeste Riddle offered no solutions. Bess Price was offering solutions.

    1. I'm sure you meant well but your point was lost on me where you've got the author's name wrong. It's Liddle not Riddle.

    2. James Doogue:

      Your first point establishes your own view that it's EITHER the colonialists way OR the traditional cultural way. Did you even READ the piece? Celeste made it entirely clear that she is not a cultural relativist. The argument you put forward to her criticisms of Bess Price's statement is a false dichotomy. No one but yourself is suggesting that there's no other 3rd, or 4th or 5th way to address these issues. Interestingly, you do mention a third apartheid approach as the only possible 3rd way of addressing cultural differences, which I'm afraid says much, much more about your own line of thinking than it does about Celeste's.

      Your second point is uninformed and entirely misrepresents Celeste's own position. Did you not read her argument against cultural relativism as a valid approach to indigenous issues? I certainly didn't see her place the blame on Indigenous culture, she placed it on the CAUSE - patriarchy. Her point that turning to a system that experiences THE SAME issues as our communities is entirely valid in my view, because she demonstrates that NEITHER colonialist NOR indigenous communities have it right. Now, SOME members of the left - well meaning no doubt - feel that misogyny and paedophilia in the Aboriginal community are an Aboriginal issue. Celeste has identified her credentials as a member of the left and has demonstrated that she does not share that view. Her view is that a radical approach to the SOCIETAL (note: not JUST white, not JUST indigenous) dysfunction of patriarchy is what is needed. I also happen to be indigenous, feminist and on the left of social and political perspectives and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

      As I just demonstrated, she did in fact offer solutions. She in fact addressed the only solution to violence against women and children that can have any lasting societal impact at all, which is I feel the basis of her criticism against Bess Price in this open letter.

      The Jill Meagher case was entirely relevant because the whole passive aggressive approach our mainstream media has to indigenous issues as a whole is not condoned by her or by many other of our mobs. WE aren't asking to be made special cases, THAT has been thrust upon us since the beginning of colonisation and I find your assertion that that's how WE want it, quite frankly, a disgusting indictment of your own ill thought out perspective on these issues.

  11. Dear Celeste. I truly hope and pray that Bess responds to you. I believe you have very honourable intentions. Inter Aboriginal discussion is so rare in the media and this is a welcome dialogue that hopefully will grow and show that we can and do have the ability to engage in civilised debate, are able to reach consensus of important issues and that we have been doing this for a very long time, despite how the mainstream media has constructed us as being either "real Aborigines with authentic voices" (something that Bess appears to be completely ignorant about) VS the not real (yellow fellas) living in the 'mainstream'. As someone who could be described as being 'full blooded' I am appalled that Bess Price evokes the blood quantum racism as a defence and justification for her own selfish political gain. Yes Bess Price has offered solutions, but only to the Symptoms, not to reforming the much more imposing and often invisible structural institutionalised racism and colonialism that exists.

  12. It is not just Aboriginal people looking on at acts of extreme violence, and doing nothing,as the attack in London demonstrates. From accounts many people witnessed the murder and mutilation of a British soldier in Woolwich, with some taking photos of the attack I suspect.


  13. So what has the "right" and their so-called "tough approach" achieved on addressing Indigenous disadvantage??

    From 1978 up until 2000, NT was under a conservative party, the CLP (it should be RNP - the redneck party of Australia). They had 22 longs years and yet, Aboriginal people in the NT are the most disadvantaged anywhere in Australia. With their tough approach why did the CLP and Right fail to lift the lives of Indigenous people? They are blaming it on the Left, but the CLP ruled with absolute majority in the NT Assembly most of the time, so what stopped them?

    Constantly blaming the Left for raising human rights issues and opposing the Intervention? Well, 6 years after the Intervention, suicide rates have skyrocketed in remote NT communities, unemployment has increased, school attendance rates of kids have declined, alcohol is still an issue and the list is endless. The NT Intervention is a big failure (as evident from the NT Intervention review reports and am not talking about human rights here for Gods sake), so why does the Right and Bess Price blame the Left? Why cant they accept their humiliating failure?

    I am keen on listening to Right wing supporters like Our Nanna here... answers for the failure of NT Intervention.

  14. First we are supposed to take seriously the ramblings of a pathetic self-hating neo-con Aboriginal woman who makes a living off the depression, dispossession and desperation of her own people NOW we have someone with a name like Majhid Health providing self-syled tough love advice on Aboriginal disadvantage - what is the world coming too!

    Wakka Wakka Man

  15. Having experienced intimidation and aggression from the illustrious Mrs Price myself, and witnessed her threats on some of her own people the woman is a hypocrite. She continues to espouse the plight of 'her' people and evoke sympathy for tragedies within her family - tragedies which impact on the many other and often closer family members than just her. She ignores the strong and vocal women from her 'home' community who opposed the intervention from the outset and disregards the decimination of that community in the subsequent half a decade or more. She fails to acknowledge the many achievements of that community - the Bush Mechanics film makers, PAW media, Mt Theo petrol sniffing programme, the women who set up the first night patrol, the award-winning Old People's Programme etc. Why isn't she there with her people helping them rebuild what they once had? Ms Price, albeit an intelligent woman, is inept in her public speaking ability. I would question her speeches: I think her non-Aboriginal husband is the puppet-master.

  16. It is completely possible to practice culture and respect culture whilst questioning elements of it and pushing for change, in my opinion." I agree with this for many reasons Celeste and to put it simply we're not what we used to be prior to colonisation nor will we ever be. As much as I mourn the devastation this continent has endured since colonisation there are traditional cultural practices that I think should never see the light of day if they in fact are or were true. However, as a first nations member we have the right to self-determination in any case, which is not at all given the attention it deserves in mainstream Australian society. So thank you for raising this in the public arena. Irrespective of what I believe is failure after failure by the Australian government to "solve the Aboriginal problem(s)", we have the right to self-determination. This to me is the elephant in the room… How can we ever help heal our communities if we're led to believe that the government has to do it for us or even has the right to do it for us?! How fucking demoralising this is for our people. The question is how and when will our communities have proper self-determination and what will this look like. Seriously though, wouldn't it be great to have control over our own affairs for non- Aboriginal people too? I'm sure non-Aboriginal people are sick and tired of not knowing what to do and likewise sick of failed policy after failed policy. Of course, your Clive Palmers and Gina Reinharts just love things as they are… Making money off land that is not even theirs. How sad is this. This country is so wrong.


  17. Well written Celeste!
    As a non-Indigenous Australian I have for over two years been lobbying Bess Price and succeeding Chief Ministers of the Northern Territory about the injustice of a Katherine Magistrate allowing a non-Indigenous 'self-styled grandmother' to have care and control of an indigenous child removed by Dept of Children & Families caseworker. I know this because I was the child protection caseworker ordered by my team leader to go around to where the child's Indigenous aunt was staying in Katherine and remove the child from her capable care. The fact that the magistrate totally ignored section 12 of the Child Protection Act 2007 in NOT allowing the child to remain in the Dept-approved care of the aunt was never challenged by the Dept and when I wrote to the Katherine Times I was recommended for dismissal. Even though I successfully fought this I eventually resigned in disgust due to lack of integrity of the department. The present indigenous Chief Minister and Bess Price have both been made aware of the problem but prefer to 'sweep it under the carpet' apparently. My next step is to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations as a concerned white fella citizen who does not endorse magistrates denying the rights of the child proscribed under the Child Protection Act 2007 to be brought up by an dept-approved extended family member - i.e. the aunt. The current personal assistant to the Minister for Child Protection has advised me last week that the Minister does not comment on such matters due to confidentiality provisions! A nice way of avoiding the problem which should concern ALL Australians whether they are black or white. If you wish to obtain more info please email me at Thanks Peter Johnson BA (Social sciences).