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Brough warns child abuse legislation could ta -

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Brough warns child abuse legislation could take three weeks

Broadcast: 28/06/2007

Reporter: Murray McLauchlin

As special survey teams prepare to brief the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister on their
assessment of a number of Aboriginal communities, Mal Brough today warned it will be at least three
weeks before legislation can be drawn up to allow the Commonwealth to crack down on child abuse in
the Northern Territory.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: As special survey teams prepare to brief the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister
tomorrow on their assessment of a number of Aboriginal communities, Mal Brough today warned it will
be at least three weeks before legislation can be drawn-up to allow the Commonwealth to crack down
on child abuse in the Northern Territory.

As the paperwork is drafted, residents of Mutitjulu, a town which has been in the national
spotlight on and off for the past year, say they received little information after officials
visited yesterday and are still unsure about the fine detail of the Government's emergency plan.

Residents hope the new plan will deliver a desperately needed boost to resources. Mutitjulu's been
without a doctor for more than a year, the childcare centre is yet to open, and council services
are non-existent.

Murray Mclauchlin returned to the Central Australian town today to test the community's mood.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Four hundred thousand tourists a year got to see Uluru in Central Australia.
They leave unaware of the Aboriginal community at the western end of the rock which has dominated
national headlines for the past year.

The 100-odd Aboriginal residents of Mutitjulu are still reeling from a welter of allegations of
maladministration and child sexual abuse.

MARIO GUISEPPE, FORMER MUTITJULU COUNCILLOR: This community is scarred, it's hurt, and there's
accusations made about this community. Now, this community's at a loss, where no one's been
charged, that there's no police evidence, was it just a beat up, was it because Mutitjulu is the
icon of Australia? Sitting at the icon of Australia, or was it?

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: The accusations a year ago of child sexual abuse at Mutitjulu precipitated the
Northern Territory Government inquiry which provoked the Federal Government's emergency response a
week ago.

The inquiry went to Mutitjulu. It found no evidence of a paedophile network, but it did find a
bewildered community.

PAT ANDERSON, NT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE INQUIRY: We have a very sad community, really upset about a lot
of the publicity. The same time, people did speak to us and was a bit guarded.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: The spotlight refocused on Mutitjulu yesterday. It was the first Northern
Territory community to be visited by a party of federal officials, police and army and told about
the Commonwealth's emergency plan.

STEVE VAUGHAN, FEDERAL DEPT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES: This is really important and if a community is
happy to now ask the media, they've got their shots, and the introduction, that we could have some
private discussions about what the issues are in this community.

MAUREEN CAMPBELL, MUTITJULU RESIDENT: You have come to a meeting here and why are you afraid of the
media?

MARIO GUISEPPE: They come here with an empty box and they was looking for something to put in
there. And they was asking the community what they wanted and the community was at a loss. They
were the ones who wrote us a letter and said, "We want to meet with the community".

Everything we ask they didn't have an answer. So I don't know what that meeting was all about, and
the community doesn't know what the meeting was all about.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Whatever their concerns about impending Federal intervention, the people of
Mutitjulu were just as keen to tell the man from the Government yesterday about a decline in
services since the Federal Government appointed an administrator to Mutitjulu a year ago.

HARRY WILSON, MUTITJULU RESIDENT: We need essential services back here. We had the Minister running
this community from Perth and all you can see of the services they provided for this community,
nothing has happened. We need firewood for the elders and all the vehicles are unregistered. We
need the Minister to come and register these vehicles so we can get firewood for the elders.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: The Mutitjulu Council has not sat in this officer since mid last year when the
Federal Government put in an administrator. Council services has ceased since then.

The transport fleet, for example, has been quarantined. A former councillor Mario Guiseppe won a
Federal Court case two weeks ago when the appointment of the administrator was found to be invalid.

MARIO GUISEPPE: This has been like this for the last 12 months since we've had an administrator put
in. There's a sport and rec car there, there's a community bus there, we used to take the kids out
with an old woman and man to do food gathering. There's a fully equipped workshop. You, know, we
can't get the vehicles registered for these people to run the programs and the Government has cut
the funding, because the administrator is in charge of it.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Mutitjulu's health clinic, too, is under administration. The doctor here resign
beforehand the administrator was appointed 18 months ago.

But while the Federal emergency plan is to send doctors to do compulsory health checks on all
Aboriginal children in Northern Territory communities, the Federal Government was reminded
yesterday that Mutitjulu remains without its own doctor.

HARRY WILSON: All them years they've been singing out for a doctor to put in the clinic and now
you're bringing on a doctor. Why? They've been asking the clinic to get a doctor, they've been
asking the Government to bring a white doctor to this community and now they're coming in with
doctors.

MUTITJULU RESIDENT: We don't want administrators, we want doctors.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Reports over the past few days have mothers at Mutitjulu fleeing with children
to outlying sand dunes to evade Federal officials have no substance.

MARIO GUISEPPE: Just rumours I think Murray and yeah, it's just been made up, I think. People with
a bit sceptical of what was going to happen, because when it was announced it was just the army's
coming, the Federal Police coming, so what do you expect? What's going to happen? Aboriginal people
never had this happen to them before.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: But the man from the Federal department of Family and Community Services
yesterday was still keen to quell alarm.

STEVE VAUGHAN: We want to make your community safe so you can live here without any fear, so that
your children are safe, a very important thing. So your children can go to school safely and it is
not about taking away children.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory like Mutitjulu, can expect the
arrival of more than just Government officials, police imported from interstate and army soldiers
to back them up once the Federal Government's assessed and needs for support.

Civilian volunteers, too, will be enlisted to provide services. And at Uluru yesterday, the
conscience of at least one tourist was touched so she's now reviewing her Christmas holiday plans.

HELEN LEMARQUE, QUEENSLAND TEACHER: There's going to be a lot of need for nurturing and talking and
you know, you have to really get the feel of the people and be there among them and live with them
and sleep with them and eat with them and then you can only reach out. And I'm thinking we've got
six flat weeks during December, maybe I'll come this way again.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Murray Mclaughlin reporting from Mutitjulu.