Russell, I have no problem with you holding different views from …

Comment on MLA Bess Price on ‘the killing of our women, abuse of our kids’ by Dave Price.

Russell,

I have no problem with you holding different views from my own. Good on you.
I am a bit of a contrarian and enjoy a good debate if it has a purpose – or sometimes just for the hell of it. I am not trying to dismiss an argument. I have far too many other things to do than spend my days responding to everything I disagree with posted on the internet.
None of this argy bargy has any effect whatsoever on the drinking habits of those I am concerned about.
I prefer to spend my time trying to convince drunks to change their ways through direct conversation. I also spend a lot of time supporting my wife’s ongoing efforts to ask the voters in an electorate of over 380,000 square kilometres, 73% of whom are Aboriginal, what they think of government policy and how they would like it changed.
I do this voluntarily by the way at no cost to the tax payer. In this case I was asked for my opinion and I gave it. Your response has not changed it. I agree with most of the other points you make, but my opinion doesn’t matter that much. Aboriginal opinion matters in relation to Aboriginal alcohol abuse specifically.
I had seven and a half years as a bush teacher, 15 in Aboriginal programs for the APS and NTPS including the management of Commonwealth education and training programs across Central Australia and the Barkly and a short stint in SA.
I have run cultural awareness training and carried out social and educational research for 16 years. I have a Master of Letters in linguistics specialising in indigenous languages. I have been called an “expert” myself. I’ve been called a lot of other things as well, not all of them complimentary and I reject the label “expert” for myself.
By far the experience that is most significant to me is 34 years of marriage to a feisty, determined and courageous Warlpiri woman. She is the expert in these matters, not me. Many of my dearest loved ones are Aboriginal. According to the law my daughter, my grand kids and all of my descendants forever can legitimately claim to be Indigenous.
For me all of this is personal and I don’t always get things right. I learn something new that I should have known 30 years ago in almost every conversation I have with my in-laws.
When John Boffa called a meeting many years ago to set up his People’s Alcohol Action Coalition I attended with two other whitefellas – both teachers with extensive experience in the bush – married to Aboriginal women from bush communities with deep concern about what alcohol was doing to our loved ones.
We were not made to feel welcome and we were all put off by the way the thing was put together. So we pulled out. The name of the organisation makes me think of North Korea or one of those adolescent, undergraduate organisations trying to recruit the ideologically committed on campus.
If a nation state calls itself “democratic” you can bet it isn’t. If an organisation calls itself the people’s something you can bet it doesn’t have much to do with your average citizen. I still don’t doubt John’s sincerity, intelligence and good will I just think he goes about things the wrong way.
I want to see more of the “people” involved in his organisation, particularly Aboriginal people directly suffering from the deadly effects of alcohol putting the organisation’s arguments to “us the rest of the people”.
And as for Bob Durnan, I have the deepest respect for him and I’m proud to call him a friend. I am a little jealous of his ability to put an argument with much greater finesse and elegance than I can muster. All power to him though we don’t agree on everything. If we did our conversations would be too boring to bother.
When I use the word “expert” I don’t mean it as an insult. Technocrats have a right to express their views like everybody else.
I’m just tired of being preached at by lawyers and doctors in particular and I don’t think they are necessarily smarter than mechanics, plumbers or child care workers.
In fact I’ve met bush nurses and police officers a lot wiser than a lot of doctors and lawyers I know. I resigned from the Catholic Church as a teenager because I was sick of being told what to believe and how to think. Now I’m tired of the sermonising of doctors, lawyers and other technocrats on all sorts of issues but particularly on Aboriginal issues, the ones I’m most concerned with.
I know how easy it is to fiddle statistics. Statistics are very selectively used. When the NPY women’s council told us that, for a period a few years ago, women in their part of the world died from what we coyly call domestic violence at 67 times the rate of other Australian women there was deathly silence from the experts.
I have also worked in enough research projects to know that you have to work very hard at achieving objective results. It isn’t hard to fudge the outcome if you think you know what that should be before you start. You need more than expertise to get it right. You also need a passionate commitment to objective truth and the right of free speech regardless of education or status and respect for the opinions of those on the bottom of the ladder.
So, I’m interested in what I see and hear directly from the Aboriginal people I know. I learn more about domestic violence at the funerals of its victims than I do from the views of defence lawyers whose job it is to get the perpetrators off with minimal punishment.
I learn more about alcohol abuse from talking to drunks and their children than I do from activists and medicos.
I find your statement that “the people I know and live with are not likely to voice their opinion in the public arena for a variety of reasons. Not everyone has the courage for a start”, intriguing.
A statement like that applies to most of the whitefellas I know as well. We just had a nationally historically significant election result in the NT. We now have five Aboriginal members of our government, four representing bush electorates with majority Aboriginal populations, and the first Aboriginal head of any Australian government in our history. In three electorates only Aboriginal candidates stood.
My wife won against two Aboriginal male candidates, one the incumbent, representing two other parties, one an indigenous party. She achieved an 18.5% swing.
Alice Springs has been the base for some of the most significant, most influential, most heavily funded Aboriginal organisations in the nation for over three decades. They are all run by Aboriginal management committees and boards. And yet we can’t find an Aboriginal talking head to replace Dr Boffa’s. What have those organisations been doing all these years?
I live with a woman who was literally born under a tree, was a mother at 14, survived a childhood bout of meningitis, survived a very violent marriage, lost a son to leukemia, suffered end stage renal failure, went to Adelaide to dialyse for six months all up, tried CAPD for several months, has had a transplant for 26 years, had a sister removed from her family as a baby, has been directly threatened with death by armed and drunken men, watched three brothers drink themselves to death, has had too many relatives murdered and raped to count, whose mother lost eight of her 11 children before she died herself and has, just this year, buried three sisters in three weeks and two nieces, young mothers, who were killed by their male partners.
Now she’s a member of our government and has acted as Speaker of the Assembly on several occasions. Wherever she goes in the bush people of both sexes and all ages and ethnicities are delighted to see her, tell her she truly represents them and encourages her to keep speaking out. And there is still a thuggish Aboriginal shock jock on the east coast and a middle aged white lawyer blogger in the NT attacking her every chance they get.
They see themselves as experts you see and her life experience counts for nothing because in their view she belongs to the wrong political party.
I have seen the delight in the eyes of Aboriginal school girls in the bush when they meet the “government woman” who is just like them. Teachers tell them they too can be nurses and police officers and store workers.
We tell them they can be Prime Minister and Governor General – they can run the country. But through all this time the “experts” who bother me so much have never approached her for her opinion on anything. You’d think that an Aboriginal woman told by the renal unit in Alice Springs that she is the most successful transplant patient they’ve ever had would be approached for advice by Aboriginal health organisations – and by the researchers they’ve employed – but nothing.
Maybe the experts, the lobbyists, the concerned whitefellas have been talking to the wrong blackfellas. Maybe it’s about time they figured out how to give the ones they care for the support and encouragement they need to, not only to voice their opinions in public but to take control in a real way of their organisations. It would be about time wouldn’t it? They’ve been telling us they’ve been doing that for at least 30 years to justify the funding they’ve been getting.
I heard a wise, middle aged Aboriginal man say at a conference many years ago: “You can’t stop a man from drinking if that’s what he wants to do.”
That rings in my ears every time I hear the experts criticise governments, police, hospitals, the voting public – everybody except the drinkers.

Dave Price Also Commented

MLA Bess Price on ‘the killing of our women, abuse of our kids’
My personal view is that the BDR didn’t work. But I haven’t seen anything else work much either.
I think that governments need to attack both the demand and supply side of the grog problem and I will argue that line whenever I get the chance to those who make the relevant decisions.
Mostly however I am convinced that governments alone can’t fix the problem. My 15 years experience as a public servant convinced my that governments don’t solve the problems of those who don’t think they’ve got a problem.
I’m sick of “experts” theorising about the problems that my wife’s people face as if they are mindless automatons capable only of reacting to government policy and incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions.
The problem won’t go away until the people with the problem decide first that it is a problem and second that they want to do something about it with the support of governments and the wider community.
I don’t want to hear any more from the Boffas of the world though I don’t doubt his sincerity. I want to hear from the people with the problem in the public arena.
This is why I have always supported my wife. She can speak from her heart and from the inside of her culture in a way that neither I, nor John Boffa, nor any of the other “experts” can.
She will not always be right but she has a bout a million times more chance of being right than I have. I challenge all those who tell us that they know, understand and support Aboriginal people to tell them they are killing themselves and that only they can solve the problem.
I do this on a personal level and have gained the reputation of being cranky, hard headed, stubborn and hard to get on with.
I don’t think I’m listened to very often but I keep trying. There is no excuse for self destruction and for murder, rape and sexual abuse. Let’s stop looking for excuses.
To explain criminality is not to condone it. Keep trying to explain but never excuse.
So the BDR wasn’t going to work. As long as the ones with the problem are self determining to self destruct nothing in the world will stop them except a change of mind and heart.
Let’s encourage that, including by shaming and condemning the intolerable and indefensible.


MLA Bess Price on ‘the killing of our women, abuse of our kids’
I always knew that if my brave wife spoke out that so many others who are just as sickened by the deaths of our loved ones would support her.
Both Bess and I are very happy to work with anybody, from whatever background and with whatever political loyalties, who are truly committed to stopping the violence.
So far it has only been those on the left who have tried to shut Bess down.
The other critics are those who benefit directly from the presence chaos. We have always recognised that there are truly decent people right across the political spectrum but the most vicious attacks on Bess have always come from the left.
In response to J. It was the anti-Interventionists who initially attacked Bess and tried to close her down and that, of course, included Ms Shaw and her white supporters.
We saw Amnesty International in action in Alice Springs and what they did was farcical. It was a set up. They were not interested in anybody with an opinion that didn’t suit their agenda.
The same happened when the UN rep came to town. They were in the hands of the protestors. They ignored Bess and every body else who thought like her.
Equally we have never heard anything that makes sense from Human Rights Commissioners on the plight of Aboriginal women and kids – absolutely nothing.
When they all start admitting to the truth and showing genuine interest in these issues and canvassing a wide range of views instead of pushing their predetermined agendas I for one will rush to support them and work with them.
We are one community and the suffering women and kids belong to us all.
They are all Australian citizens.
They don’t belong to the Stolen Generation, to the protestors to the UN to some fairy tale indigenous culture that puts them into an anthropological zoo.
They deserve exactly the same rights and protections as all other Australian citizens.
I hope the day quickly comes when the insults stop and co-operation begins.


Recent Comments by Dave Price

Jimmy Cocking: Council not an ideological pedestal
I agree completely with you Jimmy on almost everything you’ve said.
But drawing attention to past politically inspired actions and their consequences and asking questions relating to significant issues is not smearing, it is asking for honest responses.
The divisions are already there and the campaigning for allies make those divisions worse.
A supporter [of a party] abused a young woman today bringing her to the point of tears. Now that’s divisive.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
You are right Evelyne I don’t know for certain who is behind this disgraceful action but my experience of the behaviour of Labor supporters in the last NT election makes me pretty confident that I’m on the right track. I have been told by another candidate that she has had the same happen to her posters but doesn’t want to talk about it. I condemn whoever is doing it to anybody’s posters.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Somebody has started stealing or vandalising Damien Ryan’s, Jamie de Brenni’s and Jacinta Price’s posters around town.
Worse was done out bush during Jacinta Price’s mother’s campaign last year. Her property was also vandalised, vicious graffiti appeared, her life was directly threatened.
She was advised not to do anything about it by the stalwarts on her side of politics and so the perpetrators got away with it.
We are urging our supporters not to react by vandalising and stealing the posters of the opposition. We condemn criminal behaviour and we are almost as tired of seeing our loved ones locked up as we are of burying them.
Respect for the rule of law is the only way we can heal our community and allow it to thrive.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have abolished Australia Day at the request of a tiny minority of radicals who want to tear us apart and destroy our culture.
Jimmy Cocking is not a member of the Greens but his list of preferences will show you how close he is to them.
The Greens have put up Barb Shaw, our resident loud, cranky protestor, as a candidate in the past.
She and her friends have gone out of their way to close down those with views different from their own.
It is totally reasonable for the voters in this town to know the views of each of the candidates on whether we should celebrate Australia Day or not.
As one commentator has already said it would make sense to sort this issue out in the NT rather than in inner urban Melbourne.
We are already hearing protests from Aboriginal leaders in Melbourne and Sydney that they haven’t been consulted and are happy to celebrate Australia Day.
If it comes up in a meeting of an Alice Springs council dominated by the Greens and their close friends I would like to know how the candidates would vote.


Surprising conservative on council: Jacinta Price
All of this kerfuffle over a few words. You are spot on John. The terms left and right, usually interpreted by the lazy media as really nice and very nasty came from the beginning of the French Revolution.
We could probably come up with some better terms all these years later. I would have called myself progressive for most of my life, now I am happy to call myself conservative because I want to preserve the planet but I don’t want to destroy our economy in the process. I want Aboriginal people’s lives to vastly improve but I don’t think they are going to do that without changing some of their worldview to make it work better. I am keen to preserve the bits of my own culture, and theirs, that still work well. And I don’t think that getting rid of Australia Day is going to help.
When I was a ratbag, overconfident youngfella, I called Noel Fullerton a racist in public and had a stand up argument with him because I was a newly arrived ignorant idealist.
If he were still around I’d apologise to him and tell him that I now agree with what he was saying at the time. I was wrong.
My conservatism, like that of my mate Jamie de Brenni and his wonderful hard working wife Alice, is of the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind.
And I believe that if you’re going to make big changes do it carefully so that you don’t cause more problems than you fix – like the 1968 equal pay law.
You can’t argue against the principle of equal pay but did they have to do it in such a way that it took away the jobs of around a third of the Aboriginal workforce across Northern Australia?
I think they should have been more careful.
To me conservatism is about common sense, which, as my Mum used to say, ain’t all that common.
People very quickly forget that it was conservative coalition governments that gave Aboriginal Australians the right to vote in 1962, repealed the Aboriginal Ordinance in 1964, that made my parents in law and their family, including my wife, citizens for the first time.
It also gave them the legal right to destroy themselves with alcohol, the world’s most damaging drug – put the much lauded, constitution changing referendum to the people in 1967, gave Aboriginal people equal pay in 1968 and passed the NT Land Rights Act in 1976.
And during that period they thoroughly dismantled the White Australia policy. Not a bad record for a bunch of predominantly middle aged, white, male conservatives that Labor would rather we forgot.
The ALP was the last political party in Australia to formally give up the White Australia Party.
When I was a young Lefty I underwent union training as the Teacher’s Federation Rep at Yuendumu. One of the old union stalwarts told a group of us assembled faithful that we should have shot all the blackfellas when we had the chance.
At the Worker’s Club in Darwin I was told by another old union stalwart that they sent Bob Collins off to the Senate because the NT wasn’t ready for a Chief Minister with a gin for a wife.
That was in the seventies and that’s when I started to think about changing my political loyalties; it took a while after that though.
I would see Martin Luther King as a Christian conservative.
He insisted on ridding the US of the hideous perversion of racism and wanted to bring back the essentially conservative Christian value of the equality of all of our species despite the fact that many Christians ignored that value at the time.
My proudly multicultural family take him very seriously when he taught that we should judge people by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin.
Some of my best friends are white males and my daughter actually lives with one – a left inclined Margaret Thatcher hating Scotsman who puts his family first in everything.
We don’t mind conservatives of any colour and agree passionately with many progressives in relation to some issues.
What we don’t like is being called names and threatened by those who call themselves progressives but who would deny us the right to disagree with them.
I have disagreed with many things that Steve Brown has said and agreed with others.
We have managed to have conversations without resorting to name calling and threats, I can’t say that about many who position themselves on the extreme left who act as if they speak for all Aboriginal people and any don’t hesitate to call anybody who disagree with them racist.
My wife’s and daughter’s lives have been directly threatened many times. Those doing that think of themselves as indigenous activists, and anti-racism warriors. They have never been threatened by genuine racists, who tend to be a mentally ill and cowardly lot rather than a real threat to anyone.
Oh, and another thing. Considering that two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have now decided to abolish Australia Day maybe it’s about time that journalists here asked the local Greens if that is what they intend to do here if elected. Just a thought.


Be Sociable, Share!

A new way to support our journalism

We do not have a paywall. If you support our independent journalism you can make a financial contribution by clicking the red button below. This will help us cover expenses and sustain the news service we’ve been providing since 1994, in a locally owned and operated medium.

Erwin Chlanda, Editor