(This post should be re-read in light of the world wide erosion of First Nation and minority rights, the ‘vagaries of justice’
It is the first part of the Dispatch on the Vagaries of Justice of 15 Sep 2011)
¿Que tal amigos?
When I was attending primary school in Argentina, ‘Justicialismo’ was a compulsory subject. It had very little to do with ‘Justicia’ and everything to do with ‘Dogma’, Peronist Dogma that is.
I’m quite happy to have lived without being subjected to Peronist Dogma. I’m eternally grateful to Señor Isasmendi , my teacher, for having given me the opportunity to do so, by refusing to teach it.
To fill the void left by the dismantling of bilingual education, Yuendumu School holds a ‘culture day’ once a fortnight. Older Warlpiri people come to the school to tell Jukurrpa stories and to teach children how to make artefacts. Whilst the idea to subject these Warlpiri teachers to compulsory police checks required for anyone ‘working with children’ was quietly dropped, a form none the less has to be filled in for these people to get paid. Napaljarri was asked her birth-date: “ No birthday, lawa, no birthday” she replied. There is no Warlpiri word for ‘birthday’.
Older Warlpiri people can take you to the tree they were born under, if it’s still there, not to mention the place where they first ‘quickened’ in their mother’s womb.
During the last decade a trend has emerged whereby young Warlpiri parents hold lavish birthday parties for their babies and toddlers.
Thus societies change, without the need for anyone to force change. Self appointed arrogant enforcers of change don’t realise how superfluous and counter-productive their efforts are. Warlpiri people are too polite to tell them how obnoxious they are. White people are much more inclined to tell them to f*ck off.
Once a month Court is held in Yuendumu. One or two days. Overworked lawyers (defence and prosecution) descend on Yuendumu. The court list for 16th. August listed 57 matters involving 48 defendants (28 male, 20 female) and 134 charges. Fight/violence related charges numbered 50 (20 male, 30 female), the most common being: “Armed with an offensive weapon”, “Going armed in public”.
Before you start envisioning Baghdad or Tripoli street scenes, I should point out that the Yuendumu weapon of choice (especially for women) is a kuturu (“nulla-nulla”) or mulga wood stick.
Whilst over the last few decades some serious injuries have been sustained from contact with a kuturu it is fair to say that usually a kuturu is used for symbolic/ritualistic effect, a bit like the Maori Haka.
I can’t think of a single dispute in which a rifle or pistol was used, even if in the past many rifles were held in Yuendumu. In this regard Yuendumu is safer than the streets of Melbourne.
I don’t believe that there has ever been an RPG at Yuendumu, neither one of those oddly named IEDs.
There were also 50 motor vehicle related charges (60% male) plus 11 involving alcohol (55% male). By far the most common charges: Drive Motor Vehicle while unlicenced and Drive Motor Vehicle while Disqualified.
Only 15% of defendants (5 men, 2 women) were charged with alcohol related offences. All of the alcohol related charges were for motor vehicle offences (none for violence related charges)
Not a pretty picture I grant you. Yuendumu is a nest of criminals.
But are we a dysfunctional community of perverts and violent men bashing their wives and abusing their children under the influence of rivers of grog? Look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions.
(The second part comes next week.)