The Guardian 10 August, 2005

Traditional owners speak out:
Outrage in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

Yami Lester*

The joint South Australian and Commonwealth health care plan for Anangu youth to address the problem of "glue ear" by providing chlorinated swimming pools under the "no school, no pool" policy, is a "sheep dip" health care. It is on par with the outrageous nursing home practice (now banned) of using kerosene to eradicate senior citizens' head lice.

This outrageous policy, endorsed by SA Premier Rann, punches a hole in claims that the State's response is a comprehensive and coordinated way to deliver critical programs in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands that will ultimately lead to much better outcomes for the people.

"Glue ear" is a vital health issue that needs specific health remedies and is not a sport issue. This type of degrading treatment is unacceptable, and creates a race issue.

The fact is the government has lost control of the governance issue on the lands in same way that there is no operational effectiveness over health and well being here.

It's just a tragic joke for the Premier to say: "that communities are given better access to services and a better say in how they're delivered", by any 'recent' new initiatives.

First, where is the development of strategic commercial planning for the lands?

The new "focuses on Arts Centres, native food gardens, improving water quality and healthy food in stores", is not meant to be taken as a serious commitment to equal opportunity in employment and essential services. It is only tatty window dressing.

Secondly, critical programs to ensure that fundamental change in the living conditions of people on our lands are not raised by the like of: "Mustering and holiday programs, declaring petrol a drug, isolating sniffers from supply while encouraging traditional activities". As necessary as these measures seem, they are no more than side shows.

Likewise, bragging about "extra youth, mental health and psychiatric workers, family support, disability support and suicide prevention initiatives", is just that, bluster and bravo; and a very hollow posturing at that. Our lands need planning for proper programs, and detailed prior consultation with our traditional owners to see what will work and what all our communities and councils on the ground will support.

Claiming we now have: "Community-based programs tackling substance misuse, establishing youth centres, enhancing nutrition and musical interests", is empty words. Action in governance on the ground is the critical issue. This means listening to what the communities, their council members, and the traditional owners want to happen. We all want effective prior consultation based around the provision of adequate independent expert advice, so that there are in fact community- based outcomes.

Substituting engagement with the structures of the community for the destruction of what already has been painfully established, is more what President Mugabe does.

*Yami Lester is chairman, Yankunytjatjara Council, Wallatina
located in the north of South Australia.

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