Shocking state of 'Outcast' Aborigines Down Under revealed

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Darwin (Australia), Feb.13 (ANI): It seems, that Australia's indigenous Aboriginal population continues to be maltreated, and are in effect, social outcastes in one of the world's largest and lesser populated continents.

A visit to the country's Northern Territory reveals just how badly off this indigenous community is.

Take the case of the Alyawarr Aborigines. Sixty-eight years ago (1942), Banjo Morton forced the owners of the vast Lake Nash cattle station in the Northern Territory to pay him and other Aboriginal stockmen a pound a month when he led a walk-off from there.

Now, Morton has led another walk-off, this time from Ampilatwatja, a settlement in central Australia's red desert country, where the Alyawarr are being treated as outcasts and isolated from white man's decision-making under the 2007 federal indigenous intervention, reports The Age.

Protesting Alyawarr are carving a new community from mulga scrub three kilometres from Ampilatwatja - just outside an area prescribed under the intervention - at a place called Honeymoon Bore, 350 kilometers north-east of Alice Springs.

"We feel free and happy here, away from the all the rules and interference of the intervention," says Morton, 83, who lives in a tin hut at the camp, which has no running water and where up to 70 people are living in tents and crude shelters, including the rusty shell of a long-abandoned vehicle.

Morton and other Alyawarr leaders moved to Honeymoon Bore in July last year to protest against the neglected and overcrowded state of Ampilatwatja, where raw sewage was ankle deep in some houses and overflowing into the street.

They were also upset about the forced takeover of their community store and lack of consultation with white bureaucrats sent to the community under the intervention.

But as the protest - and their plight - fell on deaf ears, they decided to make the walk-off permanent, abandoning Ampilatwatja, where a government-appointed business manager is living in a 500,000-dollar home and office complex and where a sign outside the store names the people who have been ordered to work at the local council or face cuts in their welfare payments.

Morton objects to the intervention's income management, where half of a person's Centrelink payments must be spent on food and other essentials.

"It's like the ration days all over again. We have gone backwards. There's no incentive for my people to work. This makes me feel no good ... it's about our pride,'' Morton says.

Morton says the only benefit Ampilatwatja has received from the 1.5 billion dollar intervention is a BMX bicycle track, which is now eroded and unsafe to use and which most residents did not want. Bicycles remain locked in a container.

"We wanted grass for the football oval," Morton said, because the favoured sport is Australian Rules football.

"They shut us out ... they didn't ask us what we wanted," he says.

Morton claims little work has been done to repair houses in Ampilatwatja, some of which are little more than tin shanties.

This week, raw sewage was flowing from an open hole there.

Ampilatwatja, population 450, has not been allocated any houses under a 672 million dollar government housing program under which 700 homes will be built in 20 bigger remote communities across the territory.

Richard Downs, another Alyawarr leader, says the aim is to show that Aboriginal people can break the cycle of dependency.

Downs, 56, says his people's stand has attracted support from around Australia, including most trade unions, while no federal or NT government MP or minister has visited to listen to their complaints. Protest letters have gone unanswered.

The Age asked federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin about the walk-off and complaints from Ampilatwatja residents.

A spokeswoman replied that decades of successive government failure meant infrastructure in many indigenous communities like Ampilatwatja, was in serious disrepair.

The spokeswoman said work on a significant number of houses in Ampilatwatja was expected to begin in late April. (ANI)

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