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Central Australians unsurprised by violence r -

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Broadcast: 16/05/2006

Central Australians unsurprised by violence reports

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

TONY JONES: Well, last night's program highlighting horrific cases of violence and rape against
women and children in central Australian Aboriginal communities has prompted disgust and outrage
across Australia. But those who live and work in the communities say they're not surprised at the
examples cited by the region's Crown Prosecutor, Dr Nanette Rogers. And they say Aboriginal culture
is being destroyed by the depraved violence that's now rampant in their communities. While they
search for solutions, one constitutional expert says the Federal Government has the power to
directly intervene if it chooses to. Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN: Betty Pearce is as tough as they come, raised in central Australian Aboriginal
culture until the age of 14, then on cattle stations across the Top End but today, she was
struggling to contain her emotions as light was cast on the horror of what is happening to her
people.

BETTY PEARCE, TRADITIONAL LAND OWNER: I wouldn't hesitate to expose any rotten animal. It's not
even an animal because animals don't rape their babies.

TOM IGGULDEN: She says what was aired last night were not isolated examples.

DR NANETTE ROGERS, CROWN PROSECUTOR FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA: The offender woke up, took the small
child, carried it out bush, had the child out bush for some hours, undressed the child and
inserted, simultaneously, two fingers in her vagina and two fingers in her anus and moved his
fingers up and down a number of times causing injuries.

TOM IGGULDEN: And today, frontline workers in other Aboriginal communities came forward with
frighteningly similar stories.

SARAH ROZENBES, INDIGENOUS FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP: I do know of babies being raped digitally. I do
know of cases of very young children being molested in these communities, children five, three,
seven years of age and upward. There are communities in this area where very few young children,
young girls, shall we say, would be still intact medically.

TOM IGGULDEN: Betty Pearce says Aboriginal communities have been warning of the problem for decades
with little result.

BETTY PEARCE: It's been happening for years. They just get away with it and use the excuse of
Aboriginal culture. Well, there is no Aboriginal culture if they are raping the kids. These men
don't know what they're on about, they've lost their culture and that's all there is to it.

TOM IGGULDEN: Chief Minister Martin insists police numbers in the Territory are on the rise and
stressed the issue was difficult but workers in the Aboriginal community in the Top End went
further today. Mick Gooda gave evidence at the Western Australian Government's inquiry into
Indigenous violence following the suicide of an alleged teenage rape victim. He now works in the
Northern Territory. He says Central Australia is in crisis. A situation that warrants a
proportional response.

MICK GOODA, ABORIGINAL HEALTH WORKER: If it means the Federal Government using its authority or
power of the purse, call it whatever you like, to ensure it happens out in those communities, I
think it should happen.

TOM IGGULDEN: And Canberra stepping in over the head of a floundering Territory government may not
be as far-fetched as it sounds.

PROFESSOR GREG CRAVEN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: That power which is contained in Section 122
gives the Commonwealth full power over the territories. The territories' governmental system is
based on the law of the Commonwealth made under that power so it follows logically that if it wants
to the Commonwealth can pass any law it wishes in respect to the Territory.

TOM IGGULDEN: For Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister and former soldier Mal Brough the crisis is
an invitation for the Federal Government to step in at the Top End. He has already said Aboriginal
self-determination hasn't worked in central Australia. Native title or not, the Federal Government
has the power to make laws over traditional Aboriginal lands.

PROFESSOR GREG CRAVEN: The real question is whether prospectively on an ongoing basis the
Commonwealth could move to take control of particular social issues and problems within the
Territory. The answer is that it could.

TOM IGGULDEN: And as for those on the frontline of the horror confronting Central Australia, they
welcome any attempt to improve things, federal or territory. In end, though, there's consensus that
solutions begin with the community itself.

MICK GOODA: We need more men standing up and saying these things. The women are fighting the good
fight. I think it's about time us men stood up and said something.

BETTY PEARCE: The women are going to have to get up and save the kids and the whole society and the
social structure and this is the only way to do it. And if they can't do it as in just families,
for God's sake, let's all women in central Australia get together and have a really strong force to
see that these men are punished for what they're doing.

TOM IGGULDEN: Dr Rogers for one will be hoping those calls find their mark. Tom Iggulden, Lateline.

(c) 2006 ABC