So how are you? Sitting comfortably? Good, ‘cos there’s plenty in this country who aren’t.
Reading this made me squirm in my seat:
Consider this scenario: you live in a remote desert community, in a house owned by the Commonwealth. Fifteen people share the house, including six school-aged children. Water pipes to the house are broken and the toilet is blocked. The closest working tap is 100 metres away.
There are not enough beds and so family members sleep four to a bed, or on the floor. You have no washing machine; your clothes are washed in a bucket.
Electricity supply is by means of a generator, which sometimes breaks down. When this happens, any fresh food in the refrigerator is spoiled. In any case, fresh produce has to be air-freighted in, for sale at the community store, and is prohibitively expensive for those on low incomes and benefits.
The family tends to eat bread and canned food, as these are affordable and will keep without refrigeration. Some of the adults, especially the older ones, don’t enjoy good health. The lack of fruit and vegetables in their diet contributes to chronic illness.
You want the house’s plumbing fixed and the broken windows replaced. You ask your landlord, the Commonwealth, to fulfil its responsibilities for household repair and maintenance. But the Commonwealth refuses to help. It won’t help because your community has signed up to one of the new “Shared Responsibility Agreements” (SRAs) saying that, unless the kids go to school 80 per cent of the time and are bathed every day, there will be no maintenance for the house.
Okay, obviously this is just a theoretical scenario, and the author is an opposition politician having a go at government policy. But I suspect it’s not a million miles from the truth. The events on Palm Island and elsewhere recently seem to point to endemic problems in parts of the indigenous community.
There’s no easy answers to these issues, but it’s obvious that as a nation we’re not doing very well in dealing with them.