MDFF 17 February 2018

A territory Tale

I’d like to do a song of great social and political import…  it goes like this….
(Janis Joplin- ‘Mercedes Benz’)…

I’d like to tell a tale of great social and political import…  it goes like this….

A young mother we know and are very fond of lives in a flat in Alice Springs.

Some time ago a ruckus broke out near the flats. Noisy damage to motor vehicles and drunken swearing led to our friend calling the police. The police failed to attend, and still haven’t.

A week later, through circumstances, our friend found herself all alone in the flat with her baby daughter. Her mother was away at a “no signal” outstation (homeland).

Our friend suffered an anxiety attack and had no one to turn to. She called Lifeline and told them she wanted to talk to someone. The person at the other end of the line (and presumably it was a real person), had a questionnaire at the ready:

“Are there any dangerous objects in your home?” Naively: “There are kitchen knives in the kitchen”

“Is your daughter safe?”  “Yes, she’s asleep, I just want to talk to someone”

“Is your daughter in any danger?” “She’s fine, I just want to talk to someone”

“Are you having suicidal thoughts?” “No, I’m not, I just want to talk to someone”

“Are you hearing voices in your head?” “No, only my own voice”

“Is your voice louder than usual” and so it went on…. The Bushwakers- The Drover’s dream… when a very strange procession passed me by, first there came a kangaroo…..

Soon, first came the police, then the paramedics, and then the child protection social welfare mob.

“Is your daughter OK?” “Yes” “Can we see her?” “Sure, just don’t wake her up” All naivety having by now evaporated, she added “You might notice the place is clean and tidy and there are lots of toys”

“We’ll take care of her, while we have you assessed at the hospital?”. “ I’ve called my mother (who had just got into phone range on her return from her homeland) and she will look after her” “If you don’t co-operate we’ll register your daughter as being at risk”, “You’re not laying a finger on my baby”….

After her mother arrived they took our friend to the hospital. She returned home with a pharmacy of pills (I guess ‘pharmacy’ is the collective noun for pills)

Our friend wasn’t born yesterday, she wasn’t swallowing the pills without first looking up her medication on the internet. The pills were anti-psychosis medicine for schizophrenia etc.

The pills remain unswallowed.

In hindsight all she needed was a good sleep and someone to listen to her. She’s since had both, and all is well that ends well.

We’ve recently been sent a photo of the baby and her first ponytail.

All the same somewhere in a filing cabinet, our friend and her daughter are in some report. Some busybody may well keep an eye on them, and jump to conclusions.

Our friend told us that if in future she needs the police to attend to any matter, she’ll call Lifeline! She told us this with her tongue firmly placed in her cheek.

That our friend is Aboriginal should not be relevant to this tale, neither are non-Aborigines exempt from such experiences.

This happens to be the Northern Territory of Australia. If you’re Indigenous, your chances of being caught up in the euphemistically named Welfare net are significantly higher than if you’re not.



PS- If you haven’t seen it yet, you should look at the clip of Lucky Dubé’s “Respect”

Well may it be South African, but the tale is very familiar to us in the Northern Territory.