Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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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 11 November 1986 As the member for Nhulunbuy indicated, the white community has taken responsibility for the care of its .disabled children. However, petrol sniffing occurs in the Aboriginal communities. I do not know of 1 white person who has been hospitalised in the Northern Territory because of petrol sniffing. That point is appreciated by Aboriginal Affairs Ministers throughout Australia. In particular, I cite Hon Clyde Holding and Hon Ernie Bridge, who is the Western Australian minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and is himself an Aboriginal. I have taken note of this problem since I became Minister for Community Development and assumed responsibility for Aboriginal affairs, juvenile justice and correctional services. I raised the subject at the Aboriginal Affairs Ministers' conference in Cairns some time ago. I signalled then that I would be looking to all ministers to cooperate with the Northern Territory government which once again was acknowledged as leading the field in terms of working on the petrol-sniffing problem. I spoke about the new Local Government Act in the Northern Territory, particularly the part that relates to community government. For those who have not been listening, the community government scheme under our Local Government Act is recognised throughout Australia. At a meeting yesterday in South Australia of ministers responsible for local government, ministers acknowledged that they are using our legislation as the model for revamping their acts. It was acknowledged that the community government scheme was an innovation in the management of Aboriginal affairs not previously seen in Australia. Professor Turner supported that view in his report. I know that the opposition will be fishing at some time in the very near future for another crony like Mowbray to try to put together an academic document that will criticise the Turner Report. Mr Speaker, I will give you a cryptic clue to the name of the fellow who will be coming up with this rather staggering assessment. His name can be likened to Santa Claus and also to the best premier in Australia. If that can be put in Hansard, we will see if I was on the ball when this guy's report comes forward. The opposition will use it in some way to criticise' the Turner Report because it supports the community government scheme that has been introduced in the Northern Territory and applauded by the rest of Australia. Mr Deputy Speaker, community government gives Aboriginal communities the opportunity to look to community-based care of their behaviourally-disturbed people, particularly those who have arrived in that condition through the terrible phenomenon of petrol sniffing. Several committees have operated in places such as Kintore, Docker River and Yuendumu. They have been extremely successful in assisting people to almost eradicate petrol sniffing. Other Aboriginal communities, such as one at Umbakumba, have used traditional law, if you like, and physically beaten children involved in petrol sniffing. I am told that the beatings were so severe that bones were broken. Bones healed, the petrol sniffing stopped and the problem has ended at Umbakumba. Just across the way, the community at Angurugu has an enormous problem. They have not come to terms with it yet, but they are looking to the community government council system to bring pressure to bear on the community to have the children - and it is their suggestion, not mine - taken away from the parents to Bickerton Island where they will be exiled with an elder until they have petrol sniffing out of their system. I applaud their initiative but many do-gooders around the country will not. I have had discussions recently in Perth with Hon Ernie Bridge, and he has agreed to cooperate fully with the Northern Territory government. Likewise, we have agreed to give him access to all of the knowledge we have available on petrol sniffing. There was a Health Ministers' conference in Canberra last week, which convened a special meeting on combating the problem of petrol 801