- Parliamentary Business
- Senators and Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
House of Reps
- Parl No.
- Committee Name
Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
CHAIR (Dr Stone)
Ramsey, Rowan, MP
Snowdon, Warren, MP
Neumann, Shayne, MP
Laming, Andrew, MP
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Snowdon)
Giles, Andrew, MP
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
Content WindowStanding Committee on Indigenous Affairs - 08/04/2015 - Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
BARA, Mr Nesman, Private capacity
HANSEN, Mr Keith, Private capacity
LALARA, Mr Jabani Paul, Anindilyakwa Land Council
WURRAMARA, Mr Joaz, Private capacity
Committee met at 10:49
CHAIR ( Dr Stone ): I declare open this hearing and acknowledge the traditional owners of the country. This is a public hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Having said that, let me emphasise that harmful use of alcohol is not just an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander problem in Australia. We have high-risk levels of drinking right across Australia in our migrant communities, in our refugee communities and in our long established non-Indigenous communities. We are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island standing committee so we are particularly focusing in this inquiry on the risks of drinking in Indigenous communities. I want to make the point that we are not suggesting for a second that we do not have an issue right across Australia.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, Anindilyakwa. We pay our respects to the elders past and present. The committee also acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who now reside in this area. Please note that these meetings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Everything said should be factual and honest and it can be considered a serious matter to attempt to mislead the committee.
Mr Lalara : I just want to ask you a question.
Mr Lalara : I did not inform myself and nobody else informed me about why you are here. I want to know the reason why you are here.
CHAIR: I can very easily explain it to you. We are group of parliamentarians and our minister, Senator Nigel Scullion, who you probably know, has asked us to look at a number of issues that are a problem for Indigenous communities in relation to drinking grog or alcohol. We want to look at whether the problem of drinking grog is getting worse or better over the last few years. Is it changing? Are there more kids and younger people drinking compared to before or more women or girls compared to before?
We want to look at what communities have come up with as a solution to problems that they have found in their own communities. Here on Groote Eylandt, we know that you spend a lot of time thinking about what to do about the grog issues and you have got some strategies. We want to look, right around Australia, what has worked to reduce the number of people getting drunk and then being violent or getting sick or ending up in jail or losing their jobs perhaps, or problems with their families. We want to ask: what has worked? What have you come up with that has worked? Or what has failed? What has been a bit of a go but it has not worked?
We also want to talk about foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is the problem if a woman drinks when she is pregnant, the baby can be born with brain damage and other disabilities. So we are looking at what communities have been doing with that problem, which is not just an Indigenous problem of course; it is right around Australia anywhere where a woman drinks while she is pregnant. That is another issue we are considering.
The whole thing is about: what can we do to make the problem better in Australia where too many people are drinking to a point where they become less whole people. They become sick or end up in jail or die too early and their lives are shortened. That is what the inquiry is all about. We have come here because we believe you can tell us what it was like in the past. Why had people been drinking too much in the past from their own health? What have you tried that has worked or not worked to sort out the problem? We want to learn from you about what you might have done to change things here. Does that explain it? Does anybody else on the panel want to add to that?
Mr RAMSEY: It is just important to say that we are going all over Australia. Later on we go down to Coober Pedy and Ceduna. We have been up to Halls Creek and up to Cairns—so all around.
Mr Lalara : All right. I will start, because you have to go to these two gentlemen too. We will listen to each other. Back 15 years ago, I think, or 14, we had a canteen built at Umbakumba. In those days, we had people of Angurugu and Milyakburra, or Bickerton, and there were two places they were drinking: Umbakumba and here. In those days, for a couple of years, people were killing each other. People never looked after their family, because of alcohol. In those days, it was not drugs. In those days, no ice. What I think, if I say something, because I believe, I grew up in this place. My family at Umbakumba, my family here, my family across the ocean. At the time when we met with Umbakumba and Angurugu, we were discussing about the liquor and how we were going to do, because too much death and fighting. In those days, we decided that we had to meet with the people. People got together, a few strong people from Umbakumba and Angurugu, and said, 'How can we solve this problem?' So we had a meeting—'How can we stop this problem?' Some ladies in those days—very strong ladies—stood up and said, 'We want to close this beer, alcohol.' Most of the women would not stand for this alcohol and then, after, some men were not quite happy with the closure of alcohol. But in the meantime, in that meeting, they said: 'All right; we'll help the women,' because the women were thinking about the children. The women were thinking about sending their children to school, because they didn't want their children to be unhappy. Not many people were working in those days.
I was there, I was in that meeting, so I said, 'We're going to close this beer forever.' My uncle was responsible for Umbakumba, and we had a very strong talking to other people too. When the ladies made that decision, then the men had to have the same one otherwise the women were facing a problem. So we did. We did stop the alcohol; no more at Umbakumba. So when people heard—people who used to live here then went to camps in Darwin. That is where they were getting their alcohol. These days, when a flight comes into Groote, white people bring alcohol through the plane—not Indigenous people. Indigenous people only bring maybe one bottle or whatever, but not a great deal. In the town, when we had meetings all through this year with the people, no alcohol. When a person working from here was bringing alcohol in from somewhere, they used to go quietly to the family and drink with the family—no problem.
We had a situation, looking at GEMCO, when most Indigenous people were working for Indigenous GEMCO then. In those days, if they wanted to go and have a drink with a mate because he had a permit to take alcohol from the club to his house and not out, we told them told them, 'You drink with that man because he's got a permit; he's looking after you'. But white man, if you give him trouble then he is out of the club; he is out of the premises and he will not get that permit again. GEMCO will take the permit out, and of course we have the police too. Everyone who is here, police and the company and everyone who works together, they want to see people live here in this place.
So we feel that in the past at Umbakumba, Bickerton and here, we want to try to have one voice and one nation, and we have to work on that while we are still alive. The elder leaders have a short time. There are not any elder leaders at Umbakumba, only a few young men. Because we have started working together, no alcohol is within the community. People are feeding back to the people—people from way up north, not people from here—alcohol in Maningrida, Oenpelli and everywhere. These things are moving, we are not. They want to try to put somebody put a voice to it—appointing a person in the mine to have accountability in the community. That is not on here. People like to live a normal life, but the only problem is—and a while ago you said people are going to jail—drugs. We just heard a story last month they have ice on the island too. Who brings it in? It would be white people who bring it in and some black fella buys it from them. These sorts of things have to stop. That is how people go into jail. Again, he has to come back: he is not a drunk from there—some people are drunk on the plane and police just rest them in a cell here—but he has got that habit. Between his wife and family, he is going to sit there as a king, asking the family to go and look for his drugs, and when he makes a mess of it—they are doing it today; that is why young people are in jail today, from the three places. But otherwise, at this stage, what I think they will probably tell you is: there is no grog within the community but only that ganja business. We are trying to get this thing over. But we, from four places, are going to try to form something so that we can work together, as one voice.
Besides that, on ice, I was looking to say something more; I have got nothing to say but, in that area, what I said: that we watch him properly. But I have got nothing to say more about this, because we want to be working within the community very carefully, and otherwise we have no more—we have got nothing to say, anyway. Thank you.
CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Lalara. Are you happy to take some questions from this committee?
Mr Lalara : Yes, I am happy to take their questions.
CHAIR: Will we have questions now or go straight to Nesman and Keith? If we hear from each of our panel and then we ask questions at the end, would that suit you, Mr Lalara?
Mr Lalara : Yes.
CHAIR: Then we will speak to Nesman now and then Keith. I do not think Tony has arrived yet? No. So, Nesman, can you begin—
Mr SNOWDON: Chair, can I interrupt just for a moment?
Mr SNOWDON: I just want to make it clear, so that you, Jabani, Nesman and Keith, understand: the Northern Territory government, the police on Groote and the health clinics were invited to participate. They were not allowed by the Northern Territory government. We wanted to hear the police, so they could tell us how things have changed as a result of the actions that Jabani has talked about. But they are not allowed to talk to us.
CHAIR: And we are very disappointed about that. We have had the police association from the Northern Territory help us before and give us some information. But that is very disappointing.
Mr Hansen : I find that amazing, because I am a member of the liquor committee and we had a meeting only last week where I raised the issue, and I gave the person from the liquor commission all your contact details; I do not know whether they have contacted you. It is amazing that they are not here, because they form part of our strategies—of how we develop things on the island.
CHAIR: I think the Northern Territory government is saying that they are going to give us a combined—
Mr SNOWDON: No, they have given us—
CHAIR: Their submission, they are saying, is complete, and they do not need to add anything to it.
Mr SNOWDON: But, from our point of view, that is totally unacceptable, for two reasons. Firstly, what is in their submission is written by someone in Darwin and may not represent precisely or exactly what is happening on the ground—
Mr Hansen : I would have to agree with you, but I am just very disappointed that that would be the case.
Mr SNOWDON: But what is most important is to allow the local coppers and the local clinics to tell us about their experience, because that is what we are interested in. We care about the Northern Territory government, but we are more interested in hearing from you, and from the local community and the local police and the local nurses and the local doctors, about the changes that have taken place, so we can tell a positive story—a good story—about what has happened on Groote Eylandt, as opposed to what might be happening elsewhere. That is why it is disappointing that they are not here.
CHAIR: We also have an apology now from Mr Tony Wurramarrba; he is unable to come. So it is fortunate that we began with the panel rather than continued to wait for him.
Let me just say particularly, given that some of our other witnesses will perhaps be able to talk to us about the medical and policing situation: please feel free to talk to us about that.
So, Mr Bara, would you like to now introduce yourself for the Hansard record and then make a statement, like Mr Lalara, about your thoughts on the alcohol issues on Groote Eylandt, as to how they have perhaps, in your experience, changed over time, and how your strategies have worked, but also, perhaps, as to why people have used alcohol in a high-risk way here—as, of course, people have in most other parts of Australia. Why have people drunk to high-risk levels in the past and why do they do that now? It is so we can look at that side of things as well and get a sense of what we need to change or help people change so that they do not want to reach for the grog or drugs in the future. Would you like to begin with your full name and the job you hold which you are representing here today.
Mr Bara : I am Nesman Bara and I am from Umbakumba. I am executive officer for Aminjarrinja Enterprises, which is the major company for Umbakumba. Alcohol is still a problem nowadays because alcohol comes in on the plane. We do work closely with the Northern Territory Police, the local police here. They do check-ups and check the planes. There are other people in the community who are also involved with the coppers. If they know there is grog coming in on the plane, they will ring the cops and tell them who is coming on the plane and who has that.
Alcohol has not been the major problem in the community for the last 15 years. We were the first people to set up the alcohol management plan back in those days. It was really hard for us.
CHAIR: Mr Lalara has given us some of the history. Fifteen years ago—2005 or so, or further back; 2002—was when your alcohol management plan was being developed and that really made a difference.
Mr Bara : Yes, it made a difference.
CHAIR: What were the key things in that plan that meant it worked? Was it the permits or what?
Mr Bara : The ladies said that if you are going to keep drinking, we are going to go.
CHAIR: To the mainland or somewhere?
Mr Bara : Yes, we are going to leave you. That is the message that came from the ladies. Back in those days, we had the strong women and strong babies program running at the same time. That is what the ladies said. So we give a lot of credit to the ladies of Umbakumba for what they did.
CHAIR: Absolutely. Besides the ladies laying down the law, you then worked with the clubs—the golf club and the other recreational club—that sell grog and you got them to agree not to sell to certain people.
Mr Bara : It used to be 30 cartons a day every day—
CHAIR: Of beer?
Mr Bara : Yes. Then we dropped to 14 cartons and then to seven and now it is none.
Mr SNOWDON: Can I perhaps help here. The crucial point was that the community were able to work with the police and the community generally, and with GEMCO—BHP—and got them all to agree that this was what was going to happen, that no-one could actually get takeaway alcohol without a permit. You had to apply for a permit to get takeaway alcohol. As Jabani was just saying, if you had a permit and you took it to your house and you had someone drinking there who was not on that permit, you would lose your permit. So it was a very strong law which was made. It effectively meant no takeaway alcohol could be consumed in the communities as a result of the permits. People could still go to the club, and they still can, and drink in the club but they cannot take alcohol out.
Mr RAMSEY: Is that the current arrangement now?
Mr Bara : Those three communities are not allowed—
Mr SNOWDON: To bring the grog.
Mr Bara : Yes, only the person who is resident of Alyangula could go in and have a few drinks.
CHAIR: So some people are banned from going to the club.
Mr Bara : Out in the communities, we are not allowed to go into the club.
CHAIR: Are people resentful about that and say, 'We should be allowed to'? Or do people accept that and say 'That's good' because it keeps our grog controlled?
Mr Bara : Yes, people are accepting it.
CHAIR: When you brought those rules in, as you explained, you phased them in over a period of time. Have those rules stayed strong? Are the ladies happy still?
Mr Bara : Yes, they are.
CHAIR: So you kept these strong rules in place. Mr Lalara was telling us you now have some drugs coming in, which is happening right across Australia—very bad. Is the smuggling of grog on the planes getting worse again?
Mr Bara : No. There is just a little bit that is coming in. The biggest problem that we have mostly is drugs that come in nearly every day.
CHAIR: This is ganja, marijuana, and now some ice. Does that come in on the planes in passengers' luggage?
Mr Bara : Yes. It is not just a plane that flies from here to Darwin with Airnorth. There are other jets that do bring it in as well.
Mr SNOWDON: What is coming by sea?
Mr RAMSEY: What about by the boats? There are prawn boats coming here, and there must be mining supply boats and things like that.
Mr Bara : Last year we did have that problem. There were trawlers that came in, and there were a couple of fellas who went out in the dinghy and bought some grog.
Mr RAMSEY: But that is not common?
Mr Bara : That is not common, no.
CHAIR: Were they caught? Did the police get involved?
Mr Bara : Yes, they did.
Mr Bara : I am disappointed that the Northern Territory local police are not here and the health mob—
CHAIR: It is a big disappointment, yes.
Mr Bara : because I sit on the First Circle as a First Circle member.
Mr SNOWDON: Can you explain what a First Circle is, Nesman?
Mr Bara : A First Circle talks about all the issues that are happening in the communities, and we get to talk to the Northern Territory cabinet.
Mr Bara : Directly.
CHAIR: They come out here, do they?
Mr Bara : No, we go to Darwin.
CHAIR: Right. You feel that you have open communication there?
Mr Bara : Yes.
CHAIR: But we are not going to have that benefit.
Mr RAMSEY: Are health workers and police and council, that type of thing, on there as well as local Indigenous reps?
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr Hansen : First Circle is only Indigenous.
CHAIR: Has there been a big drop off in your medical clinic with people suffering from fighting injuries because there is less grog now than there was 15 years ago? Has there been a big drop off in the clinic of people with broken limbs, needing stitches and that sort of thing?
Mr Bara : Yes.
CHAIR: Do you have any statistics on that?
Mr Bara : No.
Mr SNOWDON: The police have good data. Many years ago I would visit the police and they would show me the weapons that were being used on the island. They had a big store of weapons because there was a lot of violence. People were being sent away to prison for grog-related violence. That is all but non-existent.
Mr SNOWDON: Yes. Similarly, with the clinics, people were being treated for trauma related to violence. Well, there is still some violence clearly, but not related to alcohol in the same way. The data should show us, if we can get hold of it, that there has been a dramatic decrease in that sort of behaviour and its impact on the community. Again, that is sad that we cannot talk to the people who can tell us.
Mr NEUMANN: How many police officers are based here on Groote? Do we know?
Mr Hansen : Fifteen.
Mr NEUMANN: What period of time are they stationed here for?
Mr Hansen : Normally two years.
Mr NEUMANN: Are there any locals?
Mr Bara : One.
Mr NEUMANN: How many are Indigenous? Just one?
Mr Bara : Three.
Mr NEUMANN: What is the relationship with the police like locally?
Mr Bara : Pretty good. We work closely with the police.
CHAIR: Are there any women police amongst them? You have some women?
Mr Bara : Yes. We have an ACPO.
Mr Hansen : Five.
CHAIR: Five lady police? That is good.
Mr LAMING: How many of those police live in the Indigenous community where they serve?
Mr Bara : None.
CHAIR: So they just travel around in patrols, or whatever?
Mr Bara : In patrols, yes.
Mr RAMSEY: You said that if you live in community you cannot get a drink at the tavern or the club, or whatever. What about if a local Indigenous person is working in this community at the mine? Can they get a permit and go to the club?
Mr Bara : It is only if they are a resident of Alyangula. If they have got a house in town they can go into the club and have a drink.
CHAIR: In this town?
Mr RAMSEY: If they live in this town?
Mr Bara : Yes. The people who are working for GEMCO who are living in the community are not allowed.
Mr RAMSEY: I understand that. Thank you.
Mr LAMING: That rule applies whether you are Indigenous or not?
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr LAMING: So if you live outside of the township, it does not matter who you are, you cannot come in to this town to drink unless you go to the club, where you are a member?
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr LAMING: Who can you bring with you as a guest? If you are a member, can you take a guest, and how often can you take a guest?
Mr Bara : No-one from the community, except Alyangula.
Mr RAMSEY: This is a completely different question, but does this community have problems with people going to Darwin for health or family reasons and getting on the grog there and not coming back? That is an issue I deal with in my electorate. It is very strong.
Mr Bara : Yes. There is a cast of thousands of Groote Eylandters in Darwin, drinking.
Mr RAMSEY: Anyone have any ideas on how we can get those people to come back and dry out and get their life back on track?
Mr Bara : We have got Larakai out there who are doing their best to bring those people back, but grog always pulls them back to where there is pubs.
Mr RAMSEY: Do they often leave families behind—like if it is the man who goes and just leaves their family here?
Mr Bara : Yes.
CHAIR: For people who are still here on Groote who might have a drinking problem, is there some treatment here at the clinics, like a dry out program or something to get themselves sorted here on the island?
Mr Bara : No.
CHAIR: Is it needed, do you think?
Mr Bara : Yes, I think we need it.
CHAIR: It is needed. There are big nods from our audience as well. So there is no Alcoholics Anonymous—AA—which is very active in some places? Or there is not even a dry out-type program somewhere?
Mr Bara : The way we do it is if a person comes in and he is an alcoholic, the way we treat him is not through the clinic. We take him out fishing, hunting.
CHAIR: With some of the elders, you try and—
Mr Bara : Or with family.
Mr LAMING: Jonathan was here before. He wears a shirt that says: 'sobering up shelter.' Can you tell us about the sobering up shelter, Jabani?
Mr Hansen : Jonathan is part of the night patrol program. The sobering up shelter is at Nhulunbuy, so he gets the shirt from over there. It is only a shirt.
CHAIR: Is the night patrol you just mentioned here or over at Nhulunbuy?
Mr Lalara : Both.
CHAIR: Is that where you pick up people late at night who need a drive back to their home? Is that what the night patrol does?
Mr Hansen : The three communities have a night patrol. The night patrols work during the day and during the night. It is run by the shire—East Arnhem Regional Council—but we have just been advised that funding is being reduced and they are going to have to reduce the numbers of people they are employing and the numbers of hours when the night patrol can work.
CHAIR: What exactly does the night patrol do?
Mr Bara : Youth at risk; kids walking around, break and enter.
CHAIR: Teenagers, younger kids, girls and boys?
Mr Hansen : Cars getting around.
Mr Bara : Cars getting around.
CHAIR: So they are picked up and taken home? That would be basically what it does? Yes, very good.
Mr NEUMANN: Why is the funding being reduced?
Mr Hansen : You would have to ask the federal government about that. That is federal government funding.
Mr NEUMANN: The Indigenous Advancement strategy.
Mr Hansen : I do not think the funding has been reduced. I think it is remaining the same; it has not been increased to go up with CPI and other costs related to it. This is one of the issues that I have had for many years with funding. I know it is an issue. It is run out of Nhulunbuy East Arnhem shire, and X amount of dollars is given. What about the 65 to 70 per cent admin costs that come out before it even gets to the program? It is just ludicrous.
CHAIR: Is that the amount?
Mr Hansen : That is the amount. We have to look at other ways of finding other service providers who do not cost that much. If they have got premises, every square metre of premises they use gets costed. Their vehicles get costed. Everything gets charged—all their admin, all the staff, the whitefella staff that administer this.
Mr Bara : A lot of money is being spent on administration and less money spent on the community, on what we need.
CHAIR: I understand.
Mr Hansen : And you guys who are members of parliament would be aware of these things. It is not only night patrols; it is in aged-care—it is in all those areas.
CHAIR: Mr Hansen, do you now want to make your opening remarks—given we have moved into this general discussion session, which is great—and then we will ask questions?
Mr Hansen : Fine. I have a fair bit of stuff, which I should possibly leave to 2.30.
CHAIR: It is up to you. Do you want to make any comments about whether you think the strategy which was put in place about 15 years ago was spot-on in the early days and does not need to evolve, or has it evolved into something a little different, and you feel that it does not need to be tweaked, that it is still working pretty well? Mr Lalara or Mr Bara might have thoughts about this as well. Around Australia, we have been looking at what works and what does not. Very often we find that things work fantastically well for a year, maybe two years, and then the leaders or the strong ladies or some strong elders—something happens and they are not there as they were before. Tell us: is this as strong as it was when it was first implemented? If not, what are the issues and what can we learn from your experience here?
Mr Hansen : I think it is still as strong as when it started and when it was legislated in 2005. Let's go back a little bit in history. Umbakumba used to have a club, and then the club shut. Then they had a ration. The ration was able to be purchased from the Alyangula recreational club. As Nesman was saying, it was 40 cartons and then it went to 30 and then it went to 14—
CHAIR: Was this for personal use?
Mr Hansen : No, for the community. You can imagine, in the nineties, which is when I am talking about, it was 40 cartons a day when we probably did not have 400 people in the community. That was total men, women and children—that is a lot of grog. We used to have the inner circles and the outer circles. Even in those days, we still had break-and-enters. Younger people who could not get to the grog used to break in and steal the grog because they were precluded from the rations. That is a true story?
Mr Lalara : Yes.
Mr Hansen : There you go! As Nesman was saying, we had a lady called Bernadette Shields come out from the health department in Darwin, an Indigenous lady who ran a Living with Alcohol program. That was very successful. That got the women motivated, and that is where the strong women come in, as Jabani was saying and Nesman was saying. The strong women gained strength because of this. That is when they told the men, 'Give up the grog or we're going.' They were adamant about it. They were fair dinkum. They were sick of the family abuse; they were sick of everything that was happening. I will relate quickly to a few things. Then we got the liquor management plan into place. Even when the liquor management plan was in place, Umbakumba was still able to get rations—only seven cartons—but that never worked, because the rule was—
CHAIR: Was that per day?
Mr Hansen : Seven cartons a day, and the police had to deliver it to Umbakumba. It never worked, because the community's rule was then that, if anyone played up, that would be it—they would be off the ration list. Very quickly they had all come off the ration list anyhow, so there was no need for grog anymore. That was the strength of the women—'No, he's off, he's off, he's off.' Remember in those days that we had community to government councils. The elders and the clan leaders would run everything. They were the ones who were the decision makers. We do not have that now. We have two counsellors—of which Jabani is one and the other is a young man from Umbakumba who is on the council—but there is no real on-ground stuff happening. We used to do everything in those days.
In 2002 it was Walter Amagula, who was the chairman of the land council, who came along, and we talked with Rick Peters, me, Geoff Woods from the ARC and Tony Fuller, who was a senior sergeant. We did a number of drafts, went to and fro and went back to the people, and it was finally in 2005 that they had a hearing on the island. Alan Clough, who was the commissioner at that time, came over. We knew Alan very well because he was involved with marijuana and getting people off drugs. So he was a very well known person who was very well received. They had meetings at Umbakumba, Angurugu and Alyangula. Sixty Indigenous people turned up at Angurugu, 30 Indigenous turned up at Umbakumba. How many do you think turned up at Alyangula, the whitefella organisation that was going to benefit out of this? Eight people. Absolutely ludicrous.
Anyhow, it finally became written into legislation that the liquor management plan would take place, and it has evolved from there. It has been very good, very positive with meetings every month. Permits are approved and taken away by the committee.
Mr SNOWDON: How does that process work?
Mr Hansen : It has changed. The process used to be that, if you got picked up for DUI, it was an automatic loss of your liquor permit for 12 months, and after 12 months you could apply for a permit and would get put on light beer. Then after three months you could apply for an increase and would be put on mid-strength beer. After another three months you could apply for full-strength beer and then you would be put back on. So it was a progression. You were not immediately given back your permit after you served the 12 months; you had to go through a procession of light, mid and full strength. That was a way of bringing people up to a level where they would not be straight back on the grog.
If you have a look, you will be fully aware that what has happened now is the liquor commission has completely changed. We are finding now that, if someone is charged with drink driving, we cannot revoke their permit until they have been convicted, which is wrong.
Mr Lalara : I say there is a majority. We always have enough grog, everybody is happy and we always act together in a situation we want to do.
Mr Hansen : I have to say that, right throughout this period of time since the permit system came into place, we have had very few issues with the Indigenous people. It is mostly whitefellas.
CHAIR: The whitefellas bringing grog onto—
Mr Hansen : Yes. Whitefellas family violence, whitefellas driver's licences, whitefellas selling grog to Indigenous people—all of that type of stuff. Very few Indigenous permit holders have lost their permits. They respect their permit. They know that that is their right.
Mr Bara : The rules, yes.
Mr Hansen : Those are the rules, and they understand those are the rules, whereas the whitefella is looking for a quick quid, you know what I mean?
CHAIR: Is a permit a little card like a licence?
Mr Hansen : Yes, that is right. At the clubs the system is that your licence goes through with your photograph on it. Every time you go buy alcohol it is scanned and it records what you bought and when you bought it, which is excellent. That means that, if there is an issue with someone supplying, the liquor commission or the police can go immediately to look at that system, find out who bought the grog and, bam, they have them straight away. That is one of the most positive things about it. The worst thing that is happening is the liquor commission have not been talking to the committees that are on the ground and really formed this. We have got a lot of abuse and we have a lot of hard decisions we have had to make in the 10 years it has been in place, because we saw the need to protect the rights of the people living in the communities. There have been fellas working for our organisation who have been guilty—sacked immediately, window seat, goodbye. Teachers? Same thing: window seat, goodbye, see you later.
CHAIR: That is if they have supplied alcohol or—
Mr Hansen : Yes, or have alcohol in the community.
CHAIR: Outside this town?
Mr Hansen : Yes. The communities of Milyakburra, Angurugu and Umbakumba are dry for blackfella and whitefella—no difference.
Mr Lalara : If my crowd have grog in the house—whitefella. They go visiting him every day! But no.
CHAIR: So he is breaking the rule. Okay.
Mr Lalara : That is right.
Mr Hansen : So there is a lot more to it than that. If you are looking for some figures, I have some figures for you of crime reductions and things like that. I can do that later.
CHAIR: We appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Mr Hansen : So that has given you a complete overview of what is working and how it is working. The sad thing about it is that on our committee we are supposed to have a representative of the Anindilyakwa Land Council and very rarely do we get a person coming along. Nesman goes to meetings, but he is not a representative of the land council. We have representatives from Angurugu and we are supposed to have Umbakumba, GEMCO, police, health, land council and two community members. So it is a wide spectrum of people who are on the committee. Very confidential information is given out at these meetings, and you have to swear yourself to secrecy and things like that. It has been good; the committees have been working well. And the other members are the members of the licensed premises on the island also.
CHAIR: Right. Are the members of the licensed premises privately owned clubs where there is an individual who holds the licence?
Mr Hansen : No they are not. You have the Alyangula Recreation Club, which is registered under the Northern Territory Associations Act; the Alyangula Golf Club, which is again under the association act. It is only Dugong Beach Resort, which is owned by GEBIE, which is Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island Enterprises, and it is a fully licensed premises, so you cannot become a member. To be able to drink there, you have to have a permit. You cannot drink there unless you have a permit, being a licensed premises. At the other ones you can get membership to the other two clubs to consume but not purchase.
Mr LAMING: Could you clarify the guest arrangements for club members?
Mr Hansen : I am not sure of what they are. I do not know whether there is anyone from the clubs coming along.
Mr LAMING: I will put on the record that it is my understanding that you can bring a guest once a year to a club.
Mr Hansen : I think each of them have changed. The golf club is that. The ARC is entirely different. They have no limit.
CHAIR: Obviously there was terrible grog related harm prior to you bringing in this special set of regulations and rules. Mr Lalara has talked about ice now coming in and ongoing marijuana issues. Why do you think people were hitting the grog as hard as they were before? What makes people drink to the point of getting really inebriated and causing harm to others? Why do you think people drink till they drop?
Mr Hansen : I think you would have to ask the people who are drinking. There are a lot of circumstances. When they had the club at Umbakumba and the rations going out there, you would have your inner circle and your outer circle, and the guys in the inner circle would sit there all night. They would be drinking all night. They would not even get up to go to the toilet; they would dig a hole in the sand and release themselves so they would not miss a shout. I do not know. It is just a type of thing—'We've got 40 cartons. We need to drink 40 cartons.' That was that mentality. The bush club got involved because the Angurugu residents could not drink out at Umbakumba unless they were invited. You would find then the bush club would come into play. People from Angurugu would then be searching around about who was going to give them grog in town a long time ago. Then they would drink in the bush. They would find secret spots in the bush to go drinking. But they were easy to find; you would just ask someone, and they would tell you where they were. But that all stopped. With this, the availability to get alcohol stopped, and overnight there was a massive change. Bear in mind that at the same time we fought and got our 8C funding for Opal fuel, so the sniffing stopped at the same time—from 150 snippers to none overnight. It was so quick like that. So we had the sniffing problem and the grog problem at the same time, and it was a massive change to this island. We are talking about 70, 80 per cent crime reduction in certain areas—just massive.
CHAIR: That was all about dealing with the supply?
Mr Hansen : Yes. Grog and sniffing at the same time.
CHAIR: There weren't social issues changing: more people employed, more people—
Mr Hansen : People started to come out and people started to work. The community started to get better and better. Everything evolved. The whole thing changed. Family life has changed—the cohesion of the family. Whereas once the husband would be drunk all the time and come home and abuse the wife or belt her or something, that would stop overnight with no grog around. The women were very adamant about it at both Angurugu and Umbakumba: 'You guys stop it, or we're gone.' They were really strong about it.
CHAIR: That is wonderful.
Mr Hansen : You have to admit in those days—and Warren was around in those days too. He knew there was some very strong elders here. Warren, wasn't there?
Mr SNOWDON: Absolutely.
Mr Hansen : Very strong people. This man here—very strong. His brother was very strong. We have his uncle, who is my brother, from Umbakumba, who is very strong—the strength of the elders there where they had the culture behind them and they had the respect of the young people. We know culture is going from everywhere at the moment no matter where you are and what society you are in. Young people are losing respect for elders everywhere at the moment. True story?
Mr Lalara : It is killing me.
Mr RAMSEY: Can I just follow up on this—
CHAIR: Just before you do, Andrew had a question.
Mr SNOWDON: Before you do, can I just make an observation, which will not interrupt your question. I think one of the key elements to understand is—and the women were very strong—once the men understood the gravity of the issue and how important it was, they were the ones who actually made the changes.
Mr Hansen : You are dead right. They made the changes, yes.
Mr SNOWDON: To their endearing and everlasting credit, once the issue became very clear in the most obvious way as to what the implications were if change was not made, the men, supported by the women, drove the change. So it was a very positive thing.
Mr Hansen : Walter Amagula, the chairman, used to be a long-grass drinker in Darwin.
Mr SNOWDON: Walter was terrible, and he would say: 'Mate, I go into town. I get on the grog. But I am not having grog here anymore.'
Mr Hansen : He came back and said 'nothing here.'
CHAIR: That is wonderful.
Mr Hansen : That was the strength of what was happening.
CHAIR: Wonderful. Andrew?
Mr SNOWDON: My apologies.
CHAIR: No, that was a good explanation.
Mr LAMING: Could I ask a question that is related to substance abuse—that is, the risk of violence. What I noticed last night was the number of young people carrying weapons. I have never been to a community where I have seen that many axes and machetes.
Mr Hansen : Are you talking about Angurugu?
Mr LAMING: Yes. This was the sign that was recently put together in the last few days. So it is really a question historically—
CHAIR: Do you want to explain that sign for the record.
Mr LAMING: I think I have shown it to them.
CHAIR: No, I am talking about—
Mr LAMING: It is a sign that says that if you bring weapons or fight the program or the disco will be shut down. It is a nice, simple, clear message without needing a high level of English to understand. I wanted to know, first of all, Jabani, was this the situation 20 years ago—young people carrying machetes? And, for Nesman, is it an issue in Umbakumba?
Mr Lalara : It is like what I said last night when we had tea. You had not shown me that—now you are showing it—but we already have talked about it. Kids today cannot speak English. Somebody has to interpret for kids to go to court. That is why when you show them something, even though they cannot spell it or they cannot read it, because kids pick up something when you say something from other children where they are taught differently. They think that machetes are good to use for fighting or any weapon they have.
Mr Bara : Protection.
Mr Lalara : Protection. Maybe someone walking around the street and somebody walk on that street. That is just a protection. You never know. It can happen. That is why, when you said that they did not read that, then you have to show them and they understand. That is how we are still working on kids when they are walking around. Walking around is dangerous for other kids too. Thank you for bringing that one up. That was brought up last night when I was talking to you about it.
Mr LAMING: Is there a similar situation in Umbakumba with young people carrying weapons?
Mr Bara : No. We stopped that. A number of years ago, we had ladies going through houses and talking to the boys telling them that the coppers were going to come in, and if they saw any weapons in the houses they would grab them and charge them. That worked well. We do not have any issues with young people walking around with weapons.
Mr Hansen : I respect Jabani very much and we work and talk together all the time. The elders of Angurugu are having tremendous issues with the young people not having respect of the elders. In Umbakumba we have different dynamics. If there is a fight at Umbakuma, either Nesman and myself or the strong women there will walk into that fight and if there are any weapons around—and everyone has a shovel-nosed spear; that is part of culture—we say: 'Put your weapons away. Fight with your fingers or fight with your fists.' That is how we stop the arguments and the fights in Umbakumba. Angurugu is a very volatile type of community. There are a lot of different people from different cultures. You have Nhulunbuy, you have Yolngu Matha and you have Wurrumiyanga people—people from other areas.
Mr SNOWDON: It might be useful to explain the history Angurugu, that this was the mission. It is the centre where the mission was set up and people were brought in and many have remained.
CHAIR: Lots of clans and languages all mixed.
Mr Hansen : That is exactly right. Jabani was saying that people cannot read English. That is part of the 30 years of no education in the community—three decades of no education in the community; 18-year-old, 19-year-old people cannot even sign their own name or fill out a form, which is terrible.
CHAIR: There are schools but children did not attend?
Mr Hansen : That is exactly right.
CHAIR: Are children attending school now?
Mr Hansen : You would have to ask the education department that. I believe some days there are as many teachers as students at the school.
Mr RAMSEY: About respect—a lot of us think that the grog is what leads to lack of respect. You tell me that you do not have so much grog yet the respect is not much better and you are still losing children—is that right? Are you losing the authority of the elders even though there is no grog in the communities?
Mr Bara : A lot of the younger kids nowadays see themselves. They go forward with their lives. They never stop and look backwards at who they are, where they are from and where their culture is from. That is what every young person is missing. They intend to be themselves and go forward with their lives, but never stop and look backwards and see where they come from and who they are.
Mr Hansen : Who their grandmother or their grandfather was, or what their country is and all this type of thing.
Mr RAMSEY: But the lack of respect is not just coming grog; it is coming from other things as well. We are losing them.
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr RAMSEY: That is very concerning.
Mr Hansen : At Umbakuma, we are building a culture centre on an outstation at the moment where people can go. Jabani is willing to come out and we are going to get a lot of people involved in this—the elders—and bring young people together to teach them who they are, where they are from and where their country. We have to get some culture back into them.
Mr SNOWDON: There are going to be three culture centres—aren't there?
Mr Hansen : This is ours. This is Aminjarrinja's. The other ones are three or four years away. We will have one ready in two months, up and rolling. There is an urgent need for it. When you talk to the GEMYDU mob, the youth diversionary program here, they are getting more and more youth onto diversion programs. It has gone up dramatically. There are more children at risk. There are more young girls with STDs and all this type of stuff.
Mr Bara : Suicides.
Mr Hansen : We were only talking with them this morning about it. In recent years, we have had 12 suicides here and numerous attempts at suicide by others. They are the things we are trying to address. They are important issues. I am getting a bit old and doddery, but I still have a big, strong voice and I can yell and scream.
Mr RAMSEY: It is concerning. When you talk about education, you say that you have 17- and 18-year-olds who cannot speak English and cannot write their names. Are the schools here bilingual or English?
Mr Bara : We used to have bilingual schooling years ago but not anymore. The education department does not allow bilingual education in the school.
Mr RAMSEY: Do you have an opinion on that? I know this is wide-ranging and getting away from the alcohol issue, but people's disconnect from society for whatever reason is a driver. Should it be bilingual? When you went to school, was it bilingual?
Mr Bara : Yes. We used to have the strong mothers and strong babies program a long time ago. That worked well. The mother took the kids to the school and worked with the kids. The teacher came along and said, 'How come you are doing that and the kid is not doing it?' The teachers did not know that the mother was teaching the child her way.
Mr RAMSEY: We have some programs like that in my electorate. That is not happening here anymore?
Mr Bara : Not anymore. That was based on our CDEPs.
Mr SNOWDON: Just as a matter of history, when CDEP was operating most communities across the Northern Territory had invested CDEP into community development activities, including mothers and babies programs. Once CDEP was stopped, they all stopped.
Mr Hansen : We had 35 students going to our preschool program. What Nesman is saying is exactly right. We were getting mothers, grandmothers and aunties bringing the children to school—from the babies on the tit to the toddler in the nappy to the kids in preschool.
Mr RAMSEY: Those programs would have been about when today's 16-year-olds were children, yet they cannot speak English.
Mr Hansen : Nesman and I are specifically talking about Umbakumba; we are not talking about Angurugu. Umbakumba has always had very good education, very good attendances—a lot better than anywhere else—and we have had some reasonably good programs. Education is about having a good principal and good teachers, and then you get good results. We are going through a program now where that is not happening. That has to be addressed. We cannot say anything about it. We can see what is happening and we can be vocal, but when you are living here and you have to associate with these people, you have to be so careful about what you say. If you get vocal about it, they ostracise you, talk behind your back, run you down and do everything else. That is up to the education department.
We have had some wonderful results with people. We have two people who have gone through apprenticeships with GEMCO as diesel fitters. We have nine people now working in GEMCO. We have two leading hands working there. We have three other people out in the mainstream. That is just from Umbakumba alone. It is because they had a reasonably good education and as an organisation we grabbed those kids when they came out of school and immediately put them into the workforce. We did not give them time to hit the ground. We grabbed them and put them into work straightaway to give them a work ethic, to get them used to getting out of bed of a morning and working five days a week.
Mr Bara : We did not wait for them to fall.
Mr Hansen : We did an intake recently. Four people started work two weeks ago with GEMCO. Of those young people, a couple were straight out of school.
Mr Bara : Finished year 12.
Mr Hansen : Yes, year 12 at Cathedral college in Townsville. He graduated and now he is going to work as an apprentice mechanic with GEMCO. So there are opportunities.
As I said, you have got to look at the dynamics of the communities. You have Umbakumba, which has never been a mission. You have Bickerton Island; it was never a mission. You have Angurugu; it always was a mission. And, as Jabani said, all the mixtures of people together is creating a lot of disharmony. You have got Jabani, Danny, Johnny, Benjamin and Murrubudda—only a few elders left. Everyone comes to them, everyone asks them everything, and the pressure these guys are under is tremendous. They have been there for years and people are still wanting them to give. And there is no-one coming up behind.
CHAIR: Thank you for that, Mr Hansen. That is most useful.
We have with us Mr Joaz Wurramara, who has been very patient. Would you like to come forward, please, and join the panel. We have decided that, instead of having people individually, we will have a group discussion; I hope that does suit you. You have a strong health background and have worked in the community for a very long time. You were not here when I said to our other panel members earlier that this is a parliamentary proceeding, despite us sitting here overlooking the sea! We will supply you with a transcript of what you say, for you to check to see if it is accurate. It is being recorded as we go, for other people to listen to. I also began this part of the hearing by acknowledging country. I have to rush out in about three minutes time and then our deputy chair will take over as chair for a time, but, Mr Wurramara, could you now introduce yourself for Hansard and say the position that you hold and how you can help us in this inquiry today.
Mr Wurramara : My name is Joaz Wurramara and I am co-CEO of the new Aboriginal corporation on Groote Eylandt, ASAC. ASAC stands for Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation. Actually, ASAC was formed by the Anindilyakwa Land Council in regard to the Anindilyakwa Land Council's 15 year strategic plan. ASAC came onto the scene also because the ALC were given a budget from ABA to build compound offices for the ALC and GEBIE on Groote Eylandt. Then, in regard to the ALC's 15 year strategic plan, as I was on the committee of the ALC and also deputy CEO of the ALC during that time, we visited the history of the Anindilyakwa culture—
CHAIR: I will stop you at this point, Mr Wurramara, and Deputy Chair Snowdon will take over. I will be back in three minutes. Just excuse me.
Mr Wurramara : So what I am saying is: dating back to the time when visitors were visiting Groote Eylandt, back in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, or even longer, the visitors that we mostly had on Groote and Bickerton Island were the Makassans. The Makassans were people who lived in Indonesia who came to Groote seeking a food source called trepang, the sea slug. We date the history back to there and then to the present.
During that time, we discovered that we needed to preserve our culture and language. It was very important. That is why the ALC, with the ABA budget, plan to build three cultural centres right across the islands. Keith was talking about the cultural centre at Thompson Bay, near Umbakumba. That is one of them. It will be built in 2016. There will be another one at Angurugu community. There is one now nearly finished at Milyakburra, Bickerton Island. The government built a cyclone shelter. Within that, we had to utilise the cyclone shelter as also a cultural centre base. That is nearly finished. Come the end of May, there will be the opening of the first centre.
Before I went to the Aboriginal land council, my first career was as an Aboriginal health worker, in Angurugu. I have been a health worker for 16 years. I took leave without pay from the health department, and then the ALC approached me for a job as a community liaison officer for the ALC. From then on I did not look back, until where I am at now, right here.
ACTING CHAIR ( Mr Snowdon ): One of the things we have been talking about is how the liquor permits have changed the way people behave. One of the things we talked about was less violence and not as many issues for the clinics. Do you have any observations or comments you would like to make about that?
Mr Wurramara : As the liquor permit committee on Groote clearly understand, the liquor issue here with the Indigenous people is not 100 per cent. It is only when people go into town. Some people bring in alcohol illegally, but apparently sometimes they get caught, which is a good thing. We would not have Indigenous people drinking in outlets out here, which is a good thing for the communities, for the families and for everyone. The only time Indigenous people consume alcohol is when they are living at Alyangula or they work for the mine. That is the only way they can get access to alcohol. But, like I said, now alcohol is not an issue. It is well under control, but we get the old break-ins once in a while.
Mr NEUMANN: One of the aspects of our inquiry is to look at the social and economic determinants of alcohol in Indigenous communities. Keith, you were talking before about school attendance. How many schools are there on Groote?
Mr Hansen : There are three.
Mr NEUMANN: School attendance, you mentioned before, in some of these schools was okay and in others it was not.
Mr Hansen : When you look at Milyakburra, they have 95 per cent attendance, which is not too bad. I believe Alyangula, which is the mining town here, has about 88 per cent. Angurugu have been as low as four. Umbakumba is normally about 60 or 65 per cent. So you can see the dynamics of what is happening. You are getting education, education, education. As Jabani was saying, there are people out there that cannot even read English. While Joaz was talking about preserving language and culture, there are a lot of people on this island who cannot read and write their language. That is what Joaz, through the language centre, is attempting to do—to teach people to read and write their own language. It is about the preservation of that language. They can speak it, but they cannot write it.
ACTING CHAIR: Both Kerry, who is at the back here, and I used to work at the jail. One of the things I used to do was run a literacy program in Anindilyakwa language for the prisoners. There was a real issue about them not being able to read or write their own language. That is just to explain that Kerry and I have both been in jail.
Mr Hansen : And there are different languages spoken on the island also. You have strong Anindilyakwa, a weaker Anindilyakwa, then Nunggubuyu, then Yolngu Matha, then Kriol. So here is a problem that also arises. You know yourself that the language spoken at Umbakumba is what they call strong Anindilyakwa, and you have a weaker Anindilyakwa—with different pronunciation and different words—then you have all the mixtures of Nunggubuyu, Yolngu Matha and Kriol. That creates a lot of havoc with people understanding what people are saying.
ACTING CHAIR: Would you say there is one language that all people understand—perhaps Kriol?
Mr Hansen : No, Anindilyakwa. Even though the words are different, people pick up very quickly what the different words mean.
Mr NEUMANN: You said that the school education here is not bilingual.
Mr Hansen : They do have bilingual classes at Umbakumba now.
Mr NEUMANN: Are they done by Education in the Northern Territory government or by outside elders or—
Mr Hansen : I am not a member of the school council; I cannot answer that question.
Mr NEUMANN: Do you have truancy officers under the federal scheme here?
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr NEUMANN: Obviously in one of the communities it is not working, but in others it seems to be doing well. Is that the case?
Mr Hansen : We had some people from the department out last week and the week before at Umbakumba. We call them 'yellow shirts'. At the meeting I said openly that the yellow shirts were not working; the program was not working successfully—and did I get revved. Betty Herbert, a senior constable who is an Indigenous ACPO, backed me and said it was not working. She comes to the communities all the time. I got fronted two days later by the yellow shirts because the GDM told them that I said that they were not doing a good job. I did not say that. I said the program was not working. So they got the wrong information. I sorted that out. That was a minor thing to sort out. In saying it was not working, I said to them, 'Surely you can identify the families at risk or the families not sending them. Why aren't we targeting them? Why aren't we talking to these families?' In the old days, Angurugu school was good; there were people attending it. But the dynamic changes. It is the same with Umbakumba. As a council, we would go and talk to the people. We would find out why their children were not going to school. Was it lack of food, family violence, loud music? Whatever the problem was, we would try to get the children back to school. Our attendance rate was up to about 85 per cent at times. As I said before to you, the person there and the person under them makes a big difference in school—whoever is the principal and how the principal wants to run the school, you will get the results.
Mr NEUMANN: Are the Commonwealth government officials taking any steps to assist to change?
Mr NEUMANN: Are the Commonwealth government officials taking any steps to assist the changes?
Mr Hansen : No. All they said to me is, 'No, it's working,' and then two days later the person who was running the RAS program came out and said, 'The best thing we can do—we've got plenty of money there; we'll employ more people.' Great.
Mr NEUMANN: One of the issues under the RAS program has been employing more people and getting people to stay in those jobs.
Mr Hansen : Yes. Employing more people is not actually going to solve your problem, unless you identified the reason that children are not going to school. You can drive by and blow the horn all you like, but, unless you walk around and go into the houses and find out why the children are not at school—
Mr NEUMANN: Keith, you are saying that one of the problems is interaction with the school itself. It is not working with the program.
Mr Hansen : I am not sure whether the schools are working with the program or not. Where I see the fault is that the RAS people used to walk around. They are not now; they are driving around in Toyotas. The whole thing we used to do in the old days, before this was around and kids were not going to school, is identify the children, go to the school at 10 o'clock or nine o'clock in the morning and say, 'These are the kids who aren't at school.' We would go around, house by house, and find out why the kids were not at school. It is not happening now, which is a disappointment. My wife is educating three children in Queensland at the moment. They are going to mainstream school over there and they are loving school. So no-one can tell me that Indigenous kids do not love school. They love it. It is the environment of the school. If the environment is not right, you will not get them there. I am telling you right now.
Mr RAMSEY: I have a question but not on schools. I just point out that, where I have seen the program working really well it does tick all those boxes, where they do go into the houses. In fact, in one town I went to, when they work out which kids are not there by half past nine, they read their names out over the town speaker system and uncle can pick them up. Joaz, you have a background as a health worker. I asked a question earlier when you were not here about the people who go to Darwin and will not come home. They go in on the grog, they go there for health, they go there for family and they will come back. Do we have any idea of the number of people who would be living in Darwin like that when they really should be home here?
Mr Wurramara : Sixty per cent of people.
Mr SNOWDON: How many people—100?
Mr RAMSEY: Let's say 2,000 people live on Groote. Are there 50 people in Darwin who should come home or are there 200? Do we have any idea?
Mr Wurramara : There are 300 or so.
Mr RAMSEY: It is not your job to know. I know that. I just thought I would ask.
Mr Hansen : A lot of people have elected to live permanently in Darwin.
CHAIR: That is their choice. That is their right as Australians, of course, to stay if they wish.
Mr Wurramara : About 60. These people also lack housing. Even in communities, black people do not get the support.
Mr SNOWDON: The Larrakia Nation might be able to tell us what the numbers are. We had Larrakia Nation appear for us in Darwin, so we can perhaps go back to them.
CHAIR: Mr Wurramara, you have been involved with health, as we said. After the big crackdown on alcohol some 15 years ago, when you had your strategy come into place, did you see a huge difference in the health of people, not just in terms of injuries from fights that grog had caused but maybe people getting better food to the children and being able to care for children better? Did you see a change in health?
Mr Wurramara : Yes, I saw a big change.
CHAIR: Can you describe to us what that change was?
Mr Wurramara : The change was that men started discovering who they were and what they were doing. And the women, they were very strong. Because of the women's background, there was also the crackdown on stopping the alcohol issue on Groote. Families now are healthier, eating better. Only the ones that now move into Darwin are the ones with the problem.
CHAIR: Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or the syndrome, as you would be aware, happens when the mother drinks to excess or at the wrong time during her pregnancy. And 15 years ago, presumably, a lot more women were drinking—no? Not necessarily? They were not? Women do not drink much?
Mr Wurramara : Not many women drank in that time.
CHAIR: Just the men. Have women started to drink more in recent times, do you think?
Mr Wurramara : In recent times, more.
CHAIR: In recent times they have—is that including younger women or ladies, girls?
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
CHAIR: Have you got a program here about educating not just women and girls, but the men as well, about the dangers of drinking alcohol when you are pregnant? And do you know if there are any children who have been diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?
Mr Wurramara : During my time as a health worker I never experienced that.
CHAIR: So you do not have any programs here now or posters or pamphlets or information in language about drinking when you are pregnant?
Mr Hansen : There would not be more than two handfuls of women who are drinking alcohol on Groote. It is a very limited number.
CHAIR: That is excellent. So why are women and girls drinking more than they used to before, do you think?
Mr Wurramara : I think it is because of the harmful use of domestic violence in communities, which drives a woman out of her community. That is the purpose why women leave the communities—because of bad behaviour of men.
Mr Hansen : You asked me for some statistics before: when the liquor management plan came into place in 2005 we saw assaults down 67 per cent.
CHAIR: In what period of time?
Mr Hansen : Within the first six months of that period of time. Break-ins were down 80 per cent; public drunkenness was down 75 per cent; it was a massive change. Massive compared with what it used to be.
CHAIR: And that has been retained?
Mr Hansen : It is a lot different now. They were the dynamics then, and you would have to get what is happening now from the police. But when you look at it, and Jabani was saying before, our major problems now is drug-related violence. There are a few incidents of grog break-ins, but those are very minimal. We have a lot of young people walking around the town here looking in houses, looking in boats, ay? The first thing they do is look in the GEMCO people's boat; they then look under their house, in their fridges, and they grab the grog from there or then they can break into the houses. We have fits and spates of that, but it is not a major issue. We have periods of time where it is an issue, then the police get them, lock them up and it is quiet again.
Mr SNOWDON: What youth workers are there are on the island? Is there a youth program operating?
Mr Bara : There are a number of youth programs happening, but it is too many of them doing one thing for the whole.
Mr Hansen : Joaz, is the sport and rec program working in Angurugu successfully? Is it working?
Mr Wurramara : Yes, twice a week.
Mr Lalara : Twice a week.
Mr Wurramara : Just going back to my corporation, ASAC was given five programs from the ALC to take on, and one of them was youth strategies. In regard to that, like Nesman was saying, there were about 40 programs on Groote but people did not know.
Mr Hansen : Everyone was running off on their own—
Mr Wurramara : Yes, running off and doing their own thing, not working together to make it happen for the youth.
Mr Bara : For the benefit of our own people, our own youth.
Mr Wurramara : For the benefit of our own youth. What ASAC was supposed to do, because I spoke a couple of months ago to the shire in Gove in regard to sport and rec at Angurugu, where I live, and I have spoken to a few other youth stakeholders in regard to—we should have one big youth organisation which will deliver to all those other programs.
Mr SNOWDON: Are there any youth workers or youth counsellors on the island? Is there a drop-in centre for youth?
Mr Bara : GEMYDU.
Mr Wurramara : There is a drop-in centre at GEMYDU, where the youth diversion unit are based, in Angurugu, and Umbakumba have a drop-in at the sport and rec.
Mr SNOWDON: Do they have an after-hours program?
Mr Wurramara : Yes, even at the shire sport and rec also, in Angurugu.
Mr SNOWDON: For young men and young women?
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
CHAIR: Is it based on the footy pretty much, AFL? It is not footy based? When you say sport and recreation, is it based on sports like playing football and netball? How are you getting the kids to come along and be involved?
Mr Wurramara : That is the shire sport and rec's responsibility, and it is their program to deal with that.
CHAIR: When young people come along to one of those programs, would they be involved in a team sport perhaps?
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
CHAIR: Would that be mostly football?
Mr Wurramara : Football, yes.
CHAIR: Do the girls play netball?
Mr Wurramara : Sometimes. Mostly basketball.
Mr LAMING: And softball. At the moment, they are trying cricket.
CHAIR: They are trying cricket? Boring game!
Mr LAMING: Of the two sport and rec press officers, Sue is one and the other one is the man who is the cricket player—what is his name, the young sport and rec man from India?
Mr SNOWDON: What I am trying to get at is: are there youth workers who are sitting down, talking to young people about sexually transmitted disease, drugs and alcohol—
Mr SNOWDON: and all of those issues?
Mr Hansen : GEMYDU are the only ones who are doing that, and GEMYDU's funding expires in June and they will have no more money and they will be out of business. They are doing all the diversionary programs at the moment. We have got Lana Williams and we have got Shane out there. Lana is a qualified teacher. She is a local Indigenous person. They are doing a damn good job.
Mr SNOWDON: They did not get funded under the IAS?
Mr Hansen : No.
Mr SNOWDON: Like every other youth focused—
CHAIR: Will some of the royalties be diverted to those programs?
Mr Hansen : They are having talks now with the land council, and they have been having talks with you, Joaz, haven't they—GEMYDU?
Mr Wurramara : Yes. GEMYDU applied to the ALC for funding in regard to that, but still the ALC—
Mr Hansen : GEMYDU are now waiting for advice from ORIC, because they have now applied to be a registered ORIC association, because you can only get funding under 64(3) moneys if you are an ORIC association.
Mr SNOWDON: Who are they responsible to?
Mr Hansen : They get money through Attorney-General's Department.
Mr SNOWDON: Who auspices it?
Mr Hansen : They have their own committee.
Mr SNOWDON: Where does the money go to? They have got to be an incorporated body to receive money, so where does the money go? Who owns them?
Mr Hansen : It is owned by the people of Groote Eylandt.
Mr SNOWDON: Is there a committee structure?
Mr Hansen : There is a committee structure, yes. Betty Herbert is the chairman of that organisation.
CHAIR: Do you have many issues with teenage girls having babies before they are married, like I have in my electorate? Lots of young girls are now having babies at 13, 14, 15. Is that an issue you are worried about on the island? It isn't a worry?
Mr Wurramara : We are not worried about that, no—only the other ones. Not 13 and 14, no. It is only one or two.
CHAIR: Okay, so the girls are older—the ladies.
Mr Hansen : What we are noticing just recently is that the younger ones are getting together.
Mr Wurramara : Yes, very active at the moment.
Mr Hansen : We are getting 15- and 14-year-olds together and their parents are letting them live in the house as husband and wife. That is creating some issues and some problems. Another problem is we have young boys moving into houses and taking over the house and saying: 'We're big men. We're heroes.' That's a story, eh.
Mr Wurramara : Yeah.
Mr Hansen : That is another issue we have with delinquency and break-and-enters. These young fellas get together and they reckon because they are living in a house and they are looking after themselves that they are men, but they are only little boys still.
CHAIR: They are 15.
Mr Hansen : Yes.
Mr LAMING: We have stepped into this youth area. We have talked about GEMYDU. We have talked about the diversionary activities of the sport and rec officers employed by council. They really just do diversion sport, discos, art and that kind of activity. The third group is the RJCP. Can I have your honest opinion of the role of RJCPs in the community? Are they supported by the senior men and women?
CHAIR: What is RJCP?
Mr LAMING: What role are they playing in young people's future? Maybe, Joaz, you could talk about whether RJCP are playing an important role in community and do they have community support?
Mr SNOWDON: Who is the RJCP provider?
Mr Hansen : GEBIE and IS Australia.
CHAIR: It was placing young people in jobs? Is that the program?
Mr SNOWDON: No. It is the employment service provider.
CHAIR: Oh, that is the name of the employment service provider.
Mr SNOWDON: No. RJCP is the Remote Jobs and Communities Program, which replaced CDEP and every other program. It expires at the end of July and the government is going to have compulsory Work for the Dole.
Mr NEUMANN: It is not expiring; the government is getting rid of it.
Mr Hansen : It is a five-year program, but the structure of how it is to be delivered is changing in July. In other words, people between a certain age and a certain age will have to participate in an activity 25 hours a week.
CHAIR: Yes, if they have been 12 months out of work.
Mr Bara : That will start at the end of June this year, 1 July.
Mr Hansen : We work very closely with RJCP in Umbakumba. We assist them, but they have a lot of difficulties in getting young people to come to activities. The people are not motivated to get out of bed. They are not motivated to work. It is a major issue. We have seven job vacancies at the moment in our organisation and I cannot fill them—seven full-time jobs. We had one interview yesterday and we got one yesterday.
Mr RAMSEY: The changes will be interesting.
Mr Hansen : It will be very interesting. Also, RJCP is not job placement; it is preparing people for jobs—and that ain't happening, I can tell you. Everyone we get, we have to train at our own expense. That is where that system is not working at all. They are supposed to make people job ready for us. They are supposed to have job cards. They are supposed to have a certain amount of training. Forget about it—there ain't nothing.
Mr NEUMANN: They will be getting Work for the Dole in perpetuity from 1 July.
Mr Hansen : Yeah, that is for sure.
Mr LAMING: Joaz and Jabani, I know you were quite reluctant to answer this question. When you look at RJCP, do you see a body that you can trust will look after your young people and take them from school to work or do you think that the senior people in the community have doubts about this body?
Mr Wurramara : I have doubts about that, honestly.
Mr LAMING: Can you tell us why that is?
Mr Wurramara : I observe. I do not ask questions. I see where things are at. I do not see kids going to RJCP, except when they are in need of receiving their Centrelink payment.
CHAIR: Are most of these young people on Newstart or Youth Allowance?
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
CHAIR: They are all on that.
Mr Wurramara : They are all on that. So that is the only time I see kids go to RJCP. But with the other opportunities, like what you were saying—I have never seen anything like that.
CHAIR: Is there any technical training or TAFE type training available on Groote Eylandt? If someone wants to be trained as a tradesperson—a plumber, a hairdresser, an electrician or a boilermaker—how do they get trained?
Mr Lalara : Can I put that towards you?
Mr Lalara : Somebody has got to be honest and somebody has got to be fair dinkum about it. When we used to have CDEP, within the council, and when we had a contractor working for the community, building houses, the Australian government was paying money and young people used to get paid good money. But now, on Centrelink, everybody is broke. People live on about $200 or $300 a week. It is just peanuts money. I am just sitting here wondering, because I am working with those areas. Two of my grandsons are working there. We always ask them, 'Why would you want to work for just a little bit of money?' I am wondering. As a leader of Angurugu, I am with the tribal people, and am a tribal person today; for ceremony, elsewhere, I have the knowledge. Can somebody from your table tell me: RJCP—who is paying it? The government? Who?
CHAIR: The taxpayers of Australia put their money to the government which, in turn, helps support people who, the idea is, are unable to get a job, who perhaps have a disability. We have just heard that there are seven vacancies, or six now, that have just been described by Mr Hansen. So I guess our question is: how are we going to get the unemployed people thinking about a different life—a life of going to work each day and being paid a good salary, not peanuts; a good, real salary—so they can make choices?
Mr Lalara : Somebody asked, 'Why don't you work for a company? There is more good money.' But you have got a lot of people working in that area. We are wondering, and I am: how can you expect me to tell you something like this? But I am not in it. I am only working for the shire for another one and a half more years yet. It is just the councillors. As to things I want to try to put towards you, I have got nothing to put something towards you because—
Mr SNOWDON: I think, Jabani—
Mr Lalara : We really do not know where the trouble is.
CHAIR: I understand what you are saying.
Mr SNOWDON: Can I ask this question: do you think, as a result of changes which have taken place over a number of years, you have less influence in your own communities about what is happening?
Mr Lalara : Yes.
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
Mr Hansen : Jabani, under the old Angurugu council days, did you have more say in what happened in your communities than you have now?
Mr Lalara : Yes, we did.
Mr Bara : Yes.
Mr Wurramara : Yes.
Mr Lalara : I want to try to say something to you people now. I have got knowledge; I am 72 now. I worked all through those years with the council, the Northern Land Council. And it is kind of funny about it, you know? We have learned something: go along with it. And something is wrong, between community or the government. So, I am not really sure. I cannot say anything.
Mr SNOWDON: It is not connected.
CHAIR: And if our young people, if they go to school or sometimes go to school, are not learning English, which is what is required in the job if you are working for GEMCO or for the health department, they cannot perhaps get a driving licence. That is a real problem. Those young people have been let down, in a sense, by the education system.
Mr Lalara : Around three or four or five years ago, way back, was a time when young people were working, training, with a carpenter. They wanted to become a tradesperson. All of a sudden, something is wrong—
Mr Wurramara : It all stopped.
Mr Lalara : and they stopped—not training. One building down at Angurugu today—a training centre—nobody is using it.
CHAIR: Really? There is a training centre there.
Mr Lalara : So we do not know where the problem is.
CHAIR: Right. Are there staff working at the training centre?
Mr Wurramara : There are people already there.
CHAIR: Oh! So it is not a TAFE? It is not a technical and further education centre? Mr Lalara has a smile on his face. He wants to say something.
Mr Lalara : It is frustrating.
CHAIR: Well, you see a training centre, but you do not see anyone using it. I can understand the frustration.
Mr Hansen : It gets back to your whole school structure.
Mr GILES: On the other side of this: the seven jobs. What is the nature of those jobs? What is the skill requirement?
Mr Hansen : The skill requirement is nothing. We have to train. The biggest problem with getting training and delivering training is: we will never get apprentices because of the numeracy and literacy issues, but we can get trainees very skilled in various areas, if they will stay in their jobs long enough. The thing is, we have carpenters; we have boilermakers; we have painters; we have electricians; we have refrigeration mechanics; we have all of those people working for our organisation. The jobs are available in all those areas. We have a structure, a mentoring system, of one on one: one trainee, one trade; one trainee, one trade.
Mr Bara : Training in the classroom does not work out, but on-the-job training works better for us.
Mr Hansen : Of course it does, but we get nothing for it. The worst thing about it is, as you know yourself, if you are a tradesman and you have a trainee there with no skills, it takes you 40 or 50 per cent of your time to train that trainee. That is where we have problems with winning tenders and government tenders, because we have to tender against organisations on the mainland who do not have any of those things happening to them. We have to incorporate that in our cost factor. Therefore, we do not win tenders. You get the fella flying in from Darwin, who wins the tender to do a job. The money leaves the island. I have to admit that we are finally getting through to the Northern Territory government, now, that this is happening. What we are doing now is getting more select tenders coming out to Groote Eylandt where the Indigenous organisations that have the capability of doing that job get a select tender to do the job, which is the best thing that has happened for a long time. We fought hard for that, Nesi and I did. We have had many meetings with cabinet ministers and put proposals forward to them, and they have finally woken up to the fact that there are Indigenous organisations on the island that can do the jobs, and they are giving us that select tender. Getting back to trainees: as I said, the one-on-one mentoring situation, this training on the job, is far better than anything else. That is where we are having our success. How many houses are we building, Nesi?
Mr Bara : Six.
Mr Hansen : In Umbakumba?
Mr Bara : In Umbakumba.
Mr Hansen : How many have we built?
Mr Bara : Four at the outstations?
Mr Hansen : We have just built four houses on our outstations with Indigenous trainees. Those trainees are now going to build six houses in Umbakumba for Indigenous people with Indigenous money. It is all Indigenous all the way through. Plus we have a $4.5 million housing maintenance program starting very shortly to renovate houses that the government cannot do in Umbakumba and Alyangula and Milyakburra, and that is going to create more opportunities.
Mr SNOWDON: Where is that money coming from?
Mr Hansen : I have $1.5 million from the Northern Territory government, and I fought hard for that. We have $1.5 billion from 64(3) moneys and, as soon as GEAT have their first meeting, we will get $1.5 million from GEAT, which is the Groote Eylandt Aboriginal Trust. That gives us $4.5 million. That will do the housing maintenance program. That will create more Indigenous opportunities.
Mr RAMSEY: What happens with the rental of those houses in Groote?
Mr Hansen : The Northern Territory government keeps that money. Under the old schemes, in Jabani's day, when we were all in the old councils, we used to keep that money—and that is how we could employ carpenters in the old days, and that is how we could get money. We could spend that money on things. It is not happening now, so we have to take your own initiative.
Mr Lalara : The last thing that I would like to say, and I would like you to know this: this is not good. This is bad. Today's people are not happy. I had my leaking tap for three months now. They are supposed to be doing that job, because there is a lot of leach stink around the village. Who talks about good thing? Who would not talk about bad thing?
Mr SNOWDON: Who is supposed to be doing that?
Mr Lalara : If you want this to work, because people have got an outdoor—there is no excuse. A lot of people have a leaky tap. They are having a problem with the plumbing. How many plumbers do we have on the island for three communities? How many electricians do we have? Where are the carpenters to mend and maintain houses? We want to know where they are, today. That is my complaint. Today I am bringing this to you to the front. I just want you to know, because there is something wrong here within the community. We talk about something else, but we do not take something at the back and give it back. That is all I would like to say. Thank you.
Mr Hansen : What has happened is the Northern Territory government let a tender out, and we and GCC, which is another Indigenous organisation, were equal in price. We have been doing it for years, but they gave it to GCC. It has been an utter failure. The same things have happened in Milyakburra and Angurugu. No-one is doing the work. They are not doing anything. They are not providing the service. But I am not going to argue, because they would say it is sour grapes on my part.
Mr SNOWDON: I think it was Northern Territory's housing department's responsibility.
Mr Hansen : Then they got together—and we used to have contracts with DPI, the Department of Infrastructure—and they then got a panel of contractors right through the East Arnhem area. We are on that. We do get work and Territory housing work. You have two different things. You have Territory housing letting work out. Then you have GCC, who are supposed to be doing these types of work that Jabani is talking about. No-one has ever told the people in the communities: 'Hey, these are the people you have to go and see.' They are supposed to have someone in Umbakumba, someone in Angurugu and someone at Milyakburra. The person at Umbakumba is never there, and Jessica, she is the one at Angurugu. I do not even know if she goes to work—and there is someone at Milyakburra. I do not know who that is. But the system is not working, and the government have to understand that. You can hear Jabani, one of the senior elders there, voicing his complaint about it.
CHAIR: It is frustrating, and we can understand your frustration.
Mr Hansen : He is very frustrated, and I believe it is very frustrating.
CHAIR: Thanks for giving us that explanation. If any of you gentlemen would like to be with us this afternoon as well, you are very welcome. Mr Hansen is required to officially be here for further grilling. But we will now take this break. Thank you very much.
Proceedings suspended from 12:44 to 14 : 05