The May 1885 depiction of an Aboriginal performance mimicking drunkenness …

Comment on ‘Proper’ drinking: elusive goal but how hard have we tried? by Alex Nelson.

The May 1885 depiction of an Aboriginal performance mimicking drunkenness as “a little satire on civilisation” was echoed in the Bangtail Muster of May 1, 1966, when a float entered by the Amoonguna community attracted comments from two publications reporting on the parade.
The Inland Review noted: “And Aborigines from Amoonguna had their own subtle snipe at the color question and their over-publicised drinking habits on an appropriately decorated float.”
The Centralian Advocate reported: “Amoonguna Aboriginal settlement gave an enlightening enactment of “the old and the new”. Myall, old-style Aborigines preceded the float while, at the rear, the “modern type” sat down with beer and plonk.”
Their float had a sign declaring “Fruit Pickers Unite and Save the South,” a reference to the widespread scheme then operating of despatching Aboriginal workers from remote communities to orchards and farms across Australia to provide labour for harvesting crops.
This send-up of themselves was a sad reflection of how quickly circumstances deteriorated for Aboriginal people in the NT, as it was just two years after the passing of the Social Welfare Bill that gave them equal rights to alcohol. In previous parades featuring floats (the Jubilee Parade of 1951, the Coronation Parade of 1953, and the Bangtail Muster from 1959 onwards, Aboriginal people had pride of place as traditional warriors and performers, staging corroborees on Anzac Oval after the march up Todd Street was completed).
Two months later, in early July 1966, NT Supreme Court judge Alan Bridge made headlines in Alice Springs when he launched a forceful, dignified commentary on the alarming deterioration of behaviour of “wasters” in society leading to “an increasingly disturbing pattern of local crime” and “an acute and growing social problem.”
Justice Bridge asked “that his comments be passed on to the appropriate authorities.” Sadly, momentum on this issue was lost when he died suddenly about two weeks later.
A year later residents at Amoonguna were fleeing to Alice Springs to avoid the mayhem caused by alcohol abuse at that community; but this was just the beginning of a searing period of crime and disruption on many Aboriginal communities and settlements during the 1970s which finally led to many becoming declared “dry” in attempts to reduce the harm.
I’ve become interested in the fate of the Jay Creek settlement west of Alice Springs. A new sign erected there last year states the community was abandoned in the late 1960s when Amoonguna opened – this is completely false.
Amoonguna opened in late 1960 but Jay Creek remained a prominent community right into the 1980s. However, unlike other nearby communities, Jay Creek did not seek to be declared a dry community in the late 1970s so almost certainly it was a haven for drinkers.
Interestingly, there is a small cell block at Jay Creek for which there is no known documentation. It’s assumed that it was built by the white authorities that ran the settlement for many years but there is no evidence for it.
What is overlooked is that many Aboriginal men in the 1950s and 60s were trained, competent builders on the missions and settlements, and examples of their work survive in many places. My suspicion is that little jail at Jay Creek was an attempt by Aboriginal residents to impose control on trouble-makers at that community.
In the end it was too much and by the end of the 1980s Jay Creek was abandoned.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Why aren’t people listening to us? 
I attended the public rally held on the lawn outside the Civic Centre but initially wasn’t going to stay for the council meeting. I changed my mind and am glad I did, for a good deal of what I heard last night was a revelation to me.
My position on this issue is obvious but it was most reassuring to hear the strong opinions voiced by many people who made it clear and unequivocal that the NT Government – and whoever it is that has persuaded the government – has got this issue well and truly wrong.
This is the third attempt in four decades to repurpose the use of Anzac Oval as a “village green” cum open space, and relocate rugby to another oval.
Both previous attempts were made by the Alice Springs Town Council.
In 1979-81, rugby league was going to be moved to the new Head Street (Rhonda Diano) Oval; and in 1994-96 there was a protracted struggle between the town council and the Eastside Residents Association (of which I was a member) over relocating rugby league to Ross Park Oval.
On both occasions there was overwhelming public opposition to the town council’s plans, and the council lost.
Now it’s the turn of the NT Government attempting the same arrogant approach – well, all that the government has succeeded in doing is to stir up the hornets’ nest once more.
History convincingly shows how this struggle will end.


Preaching ‘treading carefully’ then sending in the bulldozers
@ Russell Grant (Posted September 24, 2018 at 11:00 pm): Quite so, Russell, and that area included the property of the Arid Zone Research Institute of which the area now occupied by Kilgariff was once a part.
The original dust control effort at AZRI was divided between the Soil Conservation Unit of the former Conservation Commission of the NT and the Institute’s farm management of the Primary Industry Branch/Department. It was the farm management of AZRI that undertook the dust control work in the southwest area of the property, including Kilgariff.
What’s happening there now is taxpayer-funded, government sanctioned vandalism on a grand scale that beggars anything we’ve seen (and criticised) for years on private rural properties.
The hypocrisy of contemporary NT government policy implementation is simply staggering.


‘Save Anzac Oval’ motion defeated
The current government continuously attempts to mask or deflect attention of its ineptitude by making constant reference to the previous CLP regime. It doesn’t wash – it’s just business as usual, regardless of which party is in power.
Right now there is significant evidence across the nation of most people fundamentally disillusioned with government at all levels, party politics, and (most worrisome) even with democracy. The behaviour we’re witnessing from the NT Government now (and from its predecessors) amply illustrates why this is happening.
Most people have had enough. Large numbers in parliament will not provide sufficient buffers against voter anger anymore.


Town planning farce: Lawler dodges the hard questions
This encounter instantly reminded me of a passage in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” when Winston Smith followed an old man into a pub with the intention of finding out from him what life was like before the revolution that led to the rise of Big Brother.
Yet no matter how earnestly he asked the old man to recall the early years of his life, “Winston had the feeling they were talking at cross-purposes.”
He kept on prodding the old man for information but “a sense of helplessness took hold of Winston. The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish-heap of details. One could question him all day without getting any real information.”
Plying the old man with beer, he tried one more time but failed: “Winston sat back against the window sill. It was no use going on. He was about to buy some more beer when the old man suddenly got up and shuffled rapidly into the stinking urinal at the side of the room. The extra half-litre was already working on him. Winston sat for a minute or two gazing at his empty glass, and hardly noticed when his feet carried him out into the street again.”
Welcome to the Big Brother reality of honest accountable government in the Northern Territory!


Student boarding funding restored – for now
Isn’t that something? A minister of the NT Government has listened to concerns about a government decision, and reversed it in a day.
Little aggravation, and great relief for many, I should think.
Minister Selena Uibo has set a fine example – now, if only certain others of her colleagues would take notice of public concern about the NT Government’s poor decision-making over the location of the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery…


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