Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Mt Isa wants itinerant Aborigines sent back t -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Mt Isa wants itinerant Aborigines sent back to NT

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: A western Queensland town has appealed to the Federal Government for help in dealing
with a problem with itinerant people, who are apparently crossing the border into the town from the
Northern Territory in increasing numbers.

Mount Isa is the latest community to complain that it's the Federal Government's intervention in
the territory that has caused a rise in itinerancy.

But the Mt Isa Council says its support services are struggling to cope, and a short time ago the
Federal Government announced a $10,000 fund to help feed the newcomers.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: They're often alcoholic, hungry and sleeping rough, and they're not wanted in Mount
Isa.

JOHN MOLONY: The intervention is sending the wrong sort of people here to Mount Isa.

ANNIE GUEST: The Mayor of Mount Isa City Council is John Molony.

He says Mount Isa is seeing the fallout from the Federal Government's emergency response to protect
Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, known as the intervention.

The alcohol bans and restrictions on takeaway sales came into force in September.

JOHN MOLONY: The people who are affected by it and restricted in their drinking habits and their
availability of money and that sort of thing, and as a result they're moving over here to Mount
Isa.

ANNIE GUEST: About 21,000 people live in Mount Isa.

Estimates of the number of itinerant people range from 60 to 200.

But they're not all refugees from the Territory intervention. Some are believed to be fleeing the
Queensland Government's grog restrictions in Aboriginal communities.

Mount Isa's support services say they're feeling the strain.

Terry Lees is from the North West Queensland Indigenous Catholic Service.

TERRY LEES: We've been forced into the situation, we've actually had to close down two of those
nights because of the high costs associated with feeding the people that are coming through.

We notice basically an increase by about 50 per cent. We work extremely hard to try and make sure
that we do meet as many of the needs as we possibly can and that becomes very much a driving force.

ANNIE GUEST: The City Council has had enough of the itinerants.

Cr Molony is demanding the Federal Government step in, and remove the newcomers.

JOHN MOLONY: Well, first of all the Federal Government needs to supplement the availability of
money to the welfare agencies in Mount Isa who provide relief for people who need food and that
type of thing.

ANNIE GUEST: And would you like to see them help move these people back to the Territory?

JOHN MOLONY: Exactly, of course.

ANNIE GUEST: And how do you see that being done? For instance, through getting buses and bussing
people back over the border?

JOHN MOLONY: If that is the way it is to be done, there would have to be security on the buses.

ANNIE GUEST: A short time ago, some assistance was promised by the Federal Minister for Indigenous
Affairs, Jenny Macklin.

JENNY MACKLIN: We've just contacted Catholic Social Services in Mount Isa and have informed them
that we will provide an immediate injection of $10,000.

This is just interim funding for additional food, because we do understand that they are under very
significant pressure, so we do want to make sure that people are fed and we're also speaking with
the Queensland Government about making sure we get a coordinated response to this situation.

ANNIE GUEST: The Mount Isa City Council also wants the Federal Government to help take these people
back to the Northern Territory on buses if necessary.

What do you say to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course, people in Australia have got freedom of movement, so I think we have
to recognise people are free to move wherever they like.

ANNIE GUEST: The problem is not unique to Mount Isa.

Alice Springs, along with towns in Western Australian, South Australian and Far North Queensland
have previously reported waves of people escaping the Territory's welfare quarantining and alcohol
bans.

JENNY MACKLIN: This is an issue right across the board that our major review of the Northern
Territory emergency response is going to have to look at because it certainly wasn't properly
considered when the whole intervention was designed.

ANNIE GUEST: But there could be further hurdles ahead before Queensland's itinerancy problems
improve.

Yesterday, the State Government introduced legislation that'll ban alcohol from homes in Indigenous
communities.

There are efforts to provide greater alcohol rehabilitation services in some areas, but it remains
to be seen how many people can be helped to stay at home, rather than seek alcohol elsewhere.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie Guest with that report.