The Northern Territory Government cuts off water to Irrkelantye

Without any notice to the impoverished community of Irrkelantye, also known as Whitegate, the Northern Territory Government cut off the water supply. In the past, the United Nations has slammed as “an affront to human rights” such scandalous measures to shut down communities and move on people. Irrkelantye is all that its residents have known as home and indeed they have nowhere to go.

One of the residents, Felicity Haynes said she has been living there since 1996 because it is safe, distant from the substance abusing and dysfunction that permeate through some of the forever neglected communities closer to Alice Springs. Irrkelantye is three and half kilometres east of Alice Springs, impoverished and shanty but at least it is a safe space, in the midst of Country and surrounded by sacred sites.

“Irrkelantye is our Country, it is on our traditional lands. It is a safe camp away from the untraditional ways that are elsewhere. Irrkelantye here is part of our traditional ways,” said Ms Haynes.

“There are no (alcohol) drinkers here, this is a no (alcohol) drinking camp. We feel safe here.”

Ms Haynes said that Walpiri woman Bess Price thinks otherwise. Ms Price is the Country Liberal Party’s member for Stuart in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Ms Price is the Minister for Community Services. Apparently Ms Price shares a different view of Irrkelantye to that of its residents. Last week, Irrkelantye residents and their supporters protested outside her Alice Springs office. They will convene more demonstrations calling for the reconnecting of the water supply rather than be shuffled off into homelessness or to some of Alice Spring’s squalid town camps rather than at least the safety and open air existence at Irrkelantye.

“We are human beings. We should be treated like human beings. It makes me feel really angry and sick inside at what is happening. The Government promises lots of things but it never gets done. They lie all the time,” said Ms Haynes.

Ms Haynes said that on August 8 she and several others “went to town and when we got back the water was cut off.”

“At first we thought it had something to do with nearby construction but then we learned they had removed some of the pipes and cut off the mains.”

“This is not right.”

“How are we to drink water, shower, wash our clothes, and what of the animals? Myself, I have four dogs and a goat.”

“We will protest again outside Bess Price’s office. We need people to come and support us.”

“The Government cannot just force us off our land like this.”

“They have always let us down, they made this a restricted area with the Intervention and have never helped us with our housing needs, with power, water, always we are ignored into poverty.”

They cart water from 400 metres away.

The United Nations has slammed as abuse the cutting off of water to communities wherever in the world. In Detroit, a third of its residents face having their water supplies disconnected because they are too poor to pay their bill. The United Nations has said this is outrageous – “an affront to human rights”. What may soon occur in Detroit, is a dime a dozen in remote Australian communities – services are shut down, residents forced off their homelands and many of them into homelessness. Not long ago in the Kimberley, Oombulgarri community was shut down and its 62 homes are destined for demolition. Most of its residents are now homeless. There are also moves to demolish the Kimberley shanty of Kennedy Hill, with the families having nowhere to go. And so it continues.

What will the Northern Territory Government say if someone dies at Irrkelantye attributable directly to the closing down of the water supply?

I have left a long message with questions on the mobile of Chief Minister Adam Giles.

by Gerry Georgatos (The Stringer)
September 3rd, 2014

PICTURED: Back row, from left – Harry Hayes, Christiana Hayes, Angelina Hayes & babe, Janessa Ryder, Shirleen Hayes, Ursula Nicoloff, Shawn Johnson, Tyrell Impu-Hayes, Julie Hayes (in shadow), Felicity Hayes and (walking into frame), Kaileen Webb. Image –

One thought on “The Northern Territory Government cuts off water to Irrkelantye

  1. It seems that Irrkelantye is on vacant crown land just outside of the Alice Springs municipal boundary. There is a neighbouring pastoral station called Undoolya which has at various times had an interest in the land.

    There’s another protest meeting at the camp soon. Traditional owners live on the land.

    For some historical reasons (not fully understood), Whitegate and another camp (that was bulldozed about two years ago) called Namatjira were never granted a special purpose lease by the NT government in the way that other town camps were in from late 70s – early 90s. So the area is not zoned in anyway as a residential area and the NT government therefore has no obligations to provide water, electricity, sanitation or rubbish collection.

    Historically, the Tangentyere Council have used their discretionary funds and CDEP workers to contribute to the upkeep of the camp. There is a solar power rig there that’s been long broken. There is a water tower and Tangentyere ran a hose from a nearby (400m) town camp to fill the water tank, or brings water on a truck. But the hose was sabotaged recently and Tangentyere no longer have the discretionary funds or workers to cart water.

    There is a diesel generator there they use for the washing machine and TV occasionally.

    It has been a long struggle to get the land rezoned and a town camp lease granted. The NT government could do it tomorrow if they wanted to.

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