Town camp leader outraged by Bess Price claims on Q and A

Media release    April 15 2011 for immediate release

Barbara Shaw, spokesperson for the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs and resident of Mt Nancy Town camp says that comments by Bess Price on Q and A about the “success” of the Intervention ignore the huge evidence of continuing failure.

IRAG says Mrs Price’s comments have caused distress amongst people living in prescribed areas under the Intervention, whose experiences of deteriorating social conditions continue to be ignored by government and mainstream media.

“It is outrageous that Bess Price can continue to go on national media and spread false information on the Intervention while life in our town camps and communities gets harder and harder”, says Barbara Shaw.

“We now have a massive crisis in Alice Springs as people come in from the bush because of the failure of the Intervention. On Monday night while Bess was on Q and A talking about our kids being safer, I was dealing with multiple situations of children needing emergency care.”

“The Intervention has done nothing to help – I find it harder to look after my family because I am still on the BasicsCard. If things are so good, why do government statistics show more children being admitted to hospital for malnutrition and more young people committing suicide and self-harm? Why are more and more children being taken away from parents and put into care?” Ms Shaw asks.

“Bess says education is the key to improving lives. But she didn’t say that Yuendumu school attendance rates have halved and are now down to only 30 per cent since the Intervention came in and bilingual education was banned by the NT government.”

Ms Shaw says she is very concerned that Bess Price is misinforming the wider community about the feelings and views of NT Aboriginal people about the Intervention.

“Marcia Langton wrote in the Australian today that Bess Price ‘resides in Yuendumu’. This is untrue and the Australian needs to correct the public record. Bess does not live under the Intervention. She lives a comfortable lifestyle in the eastern suburbs of Alice Springs, not in a prescribed area. She does not have a Basics Card and she does not work for the dole. She doesn’t have her home raided. She doesn’t have her alcohol taken away at the bottle shop,” Ms Shaw concluded.

“Bess says Aboriginal women have been given a voice by the Intervention – but which ones? Thousands of women have lost their jobs as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down, many women leaders have lost their positions of authority as community councils were closed and Government Business Managers and Shires took over.”

“In the last federal election, I outpolled all other candidates in remote communities in Central Australia because people agree the Intervention and Shires have failed.”

“Women do need a voice – we need for the government to listen, to scrap the Intervention and empower us with resources and jobs to go forward.”

An Alice Springs based community worker and IRAG member Marlene Hodder says, “Many Warlpiri women living in Alice Springs are very unhappy that Bess Price assumes she can speak for them. Last year they sent a strong recorded message to Minister Macklin as she refused to meet with them on more than one occasion. They are tired of not being listened to as they feel the Intervention is an insult to them as mothers, grandmothers and carers.”

“These women says they struggle to maintain their dignity with racist taunts being thrown at them as they walk into town and the unfairness of the BasicsCard when the reality is that there is no work for them. Strong in their culture and staunch Christians, they pray every night for the Intervention to end.”, concluded Ms Hodder.

Contacts: Barbara Shaw 0401 291 166

Marlene Hodder 08 8952 5032

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