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Steve Bunbadgee Hodder Watt is a Lardil man with English heritage who lived in central Australia for 30 years and has worked in Aboriginal media and theatre. He now lives back on Lardil homelands at Gununa and works as a media and youth manager.
Alice Springs town councillor Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has been at the receiving end of community criticism from groups in Alice Springs recently. Last week a petition was circulated on social media to protest against mainstream media’s representation of Ms Price as a community leader.
The petition, titled ‘As an Aboriginal Person Jacinta and Bess Price DO NOT represent me or speak on my behalf’ was started by Awabakal woman Tracey Ray who says both Jacinta and her mother Bess Nungarrayi Price – a former Housing minister of the failed Adam Giles-led Country Liberals NT government – are not at all representative of many Aboriginal people.
“I started it because I want our people to have a voice and for the rest of Australia to know that the ordinary Aboriginal person did not share the views of Price. That she didn’t speak on our behalf.” she says. “I have been upset with the Prices now for some time.”
More recently, a collective of Aboriginal women from the central Australian region presented a statement to the first Alice Springs Town Council meeting for 2018 that called for an end to lateral violence, racial profiling, discrimination and constant vilification. “[…] it is hurtful, it is divisive, it is unnecessary. It fuels tension in our community and incites bullying and racism towards us” claims the collective’s statement.
Debra Maidment, from the Arrernte and central Australian Strong Aboriginal Women’s Group said the statement was a grassroots intervention to have Price follow respectful cultural protocol when discussing issues related to other Indigenous people’s regions. “This is the first time we’ve had to do this. She was speaking out against the Aboriginal flag flying on the (Sydney Harbour) bridge. Now, did she ask any Sydney mob if they didn’t want to fly the flag?”
Trisha Morton Thomas was also party to the strong women’s collective statement and says it is equally about a unified approach to dealing with our shared past and a reconciled future.
“It was the Arrernte women leading the charge and rightfully so. It is their country. The statement was a response but the women decided to address the nonsense in a constructive way, which was to highlight that leadership in Aboriginal communities is decided by the people and not by media or governments. They also wanted to address comments about Alice not being a racist town by stating that they have been at the brunt of racism their whole lives.”
The meeting was not attended by Ms Price, but her mother and father did attend with some extended family. Posts to social media later suggested that the Price family objected strongly to the Aboriginal Women’s Group statement.
Aboriginal councillor Catherine Satour says she was threatened with violence after delivering the statement to the Town Council on behalf of the strong women’s group. Ms Satour wrote about the incident in a Facebook post:
“The ask was clear, “that Council support us in our endeavour to strive for unity, reconciliation and harmony amongst our Community of Alice Springs, so we can work together to address our problems and move forward”. This was unanimously supported in principle by the entire council.
“What followed this peaceful presentation has absolutely shaken me. I received threats of violence towards me from someone unidentified at this time. This has left me vulnerable and exposed with genuine fear for my safety. Police were called to the Council chambers where there remained a group of people on the lawns of Council. It concerns me that other Councillors have been exposed to similar threats.
“Let me be clear any threat or act of violence against women is completely unacceptable and should never occur. I will do all I can to stand strong against domestic violence and violence perpetrated against women…
“…This is happening as Traditional owners are very concerned with what is happening in the town and want to be included in addressing with the problems.”
The allegations of threats of violence follows Councillor Price’s decision to counter last week’s petition with a plea to her Facebook friends to report the petition to that platform’s community standards administrators. In a Facebook statement Price described the petition as “abusive”. A video depicting community support for Ms Price from within town camps surrounding Alice Springs was also posted.
Tracey Ray insists her petition is not abusive and says Price has double standards when it comes to freedom of speech.
“The petition was started to give our people a voice, so they could be heard, so the powers-that-be know that Aboriginal Australia does not agree with the views of the Prices,” says Ray. “They are out of touch with community, not just their own but across all the nations of this country.”
Prominent Anmaterr filmmaker Trisha Morton Thomas says she supports the petition.
“As far as I can see the petition is merely stating that Jacinta Price does not speak on behalf of the seven thousand plus Aboriginal people who have signed it,” says Thomas. “That’s no more abusive than someone saying they don’t like eating Brussels sprouts.”
* This article was updated on 8 February to emphasise that the Arrernte and central Australian Strong Aboriginal Women’s Group were in no way responsible for the petition created by Ms Tracey Ray
STATEMENT BY THE ABORIGINAL WOMEN OF CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
We are a group of Aboriginal women representing various Central Australian language groups residing in the community of Alice Springs.
We are grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, Traditional Owners, custodians and land owners. We are professional working women, advocates of our community, mentors, and business owners.
We have always worked hard and strived for unity, reconciliation and harmony amongst our Community of Alice Springs, so we can work together to address our problems and move forward.
To those who have taken the time to engage with us, to walk with us in support of our community, we say thank you.
If ever there was a time where we needed your support, this is the time.
We are the recognised Leaders of our communities and we would like you to know that, to be an Aboriginal leader it requires you to be appointed and recognised as such by the Aboriginal community.
As The Honorary Linda Burney, MP so rightfully put:
“Leadership in an Aboriginal cultural context is not given or measured by how much media you get or if you earn big money. True Aboriginal leadership does not come from high-level appointments or board membership. It doesn’t come from and cannot be given by white constructs. Leadership is earned; it is given when you have proven you can deal with responsibility and you understand that responsibility.”
As Leaders, we do not condone any harm or wrongdoing to people, we hold our Elders with the upmost regard, and we certainly do not undermine our own Culture or self-determinance.
Collectively we have 200 years of a lived experience as Aboriginal women in this region, working tirelessly with engaging and empowering our people to overcome the trauma and injustices that our people are subjected to everyday.
We have experienced lateral violence, racial profiling, discrimination and are constantly vilified. We are told over and over again, that we are not good enough – it is hurtful, it is divisive, it is unnecessary. It fuels tension in our community and incites bullying and racism towards us, undoing all the positive hard work that has been carried in out in our community.
We are tired of being hurt, we are tired of our men being stereotyped and demonised. From this time on, we are victims no more. We are looking for unity, reconciliation and harmony.
We ask that our community to support us in our endeavour to strive for unity, reconciliation and harmony amongst our Community of Alice Springs, so we can work together to address our community’s problems and move forward.
Together, we stand together united as one!
The Arrernte and Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Group
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