Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 We can recall Senator Richardson, the then federal Minister for Community Services and Health, standing up to his ankles in slush and mud in some Aboriginal community adjacent to Katherine and saying that it was a disgrace, and that something had to be done. I seem to recall him making a promise that SI00m would be spent per annum, but I stand to be corrected on that figure. Nevertheless, the indication was that there was to be considerable funding in the next Commonwealth budget for Aboriginal health. Of course, he was gone before the next budget was brought down, and what we see now is $103m over 4 years for Aboriginal health. What about housing and education? We had a debate not so long ago about Aboriginal housing. It is a horrendous problem. The real difficulty for Aboriginal health is living conditions - overcrowded and inadequate housing. I referred in that debate to houses with no furniture, people sleeping on concrete floors, inadequate sewerage, inadequate water and poor hygiene. I know that the opposition and some Aboriginal groups like to lay the blame at the feet of the Northern Territory government, but the reality is that the blame lies fairly and squarely at the feet of the federal government. This government does what it can with the meagre resources made available to it whereas the federal government has misused the huge barrel of money. Instead of committing it to Aboriginal health issues and Aboriginal housing, where the money can be spent properly, it gives it to ATSIC to buy pastoral properties which will not assist Aboriginal people to improve their health one iota. Let us talk about lifestyle, and poor nutrition. Instead of their eating healthy food and being encouraged to buy the right food from the community store, I have seen Aboriginal people eating Chicko rolls and fish and chips and other junk food from little takeaway food shops. Combine the result of this with excessive smoking and alcohol abuse and the outcome is diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. I am not talking about the normal, average rates of those conditions found in a non-Aboriginal community, but about extremely high rates. As the minister mentioned, low birth weights and damage are caused by the massive infections occurring throughout those communities. The member for Barkly smiles, but she knows full well that what I am saying is absolutely true. She has a number of Aboriginal communities in her electorate. Instead of smiling and thinking it is a great joke, she should be showing some concern about this issue because this is one of the greatest problems facing the Northern Territory today. As a result, there is the risk of infections, lung damage and cancer. As a result of alcohol abuse, there is an increased incidence of violence, road accidents, social disruption, liver damage, brain damage and, of course, the serious problem of renal failure which is more prevalent among Aboriginal people than any other group in Australia. Indeed, I would say that it occurs among them at one of the highest rates in the world today. Something has to be done about this. It is about time the federal government became serious about the problem and stopped playing politics with Aboriginal people. It is very good at playing politics in various ways with Aboriginal people. We see it on the television almost every night. We hear it on the radio almost every day. Aboriginal people are exploited by this federal government to suit its own political ends and, of course, it blames everybody but itself. The Territory government is serious about solving these problems, unlike the federal government, which is not. M r SPEAKER: Order! The honourable members time has expired. 3555