Or, in a bid to be linguistically egalitarian:

Veni, vidi, ba-ya-nggi¹.

Kybrook Farm was visited yesterday by one of the federal government survey teams that are travelling around aboriginal communities in the Territory in a bid to explain the policy changes involved in Howard and Brough’s intervention.

Wamut, in Ngukurr, writes about his experience with the intervention on Wednesday. The Kybrook version was a different survey team from that of Ngukurr, and it appears that it was much more friendly and constructive here. The interpreter too, was utilised frequently, though I suspect the need was less apparent. They made it clear that their role was to allay any misinformation that we may have had about the proposed legislation, to take note of any concerns and questions, and pass them on to the relevant department.

I have to say I feel somewhat sorry for the bureaucrats whose job it is to explain the details of the legislation since, for one, the legislation is yet to pass and in fact, may well not go through for all we know, which may render their efforts pointless. Secondly, they appear to not have all the information that communities require.

Serious questions were raised about the logistics of the quarantining of commonwealth welfare payments, the centrepiece of the intervention, designed, apparently, to ‘stem the flow of the rivers of grog’.

How would the quarantied monies be accessible? Who decides which items are allowed to be purchased with quarantined money? What will small shops in remote areas have to do to facilitate the proper use of money?

The only question that we received an answer for on this topic was how long the quarantining of money would go for. The answer was twelve months. This naturally provoked a whole slew of other questions, the main one being ‘what then?’ Would all the money that had been quarantined and not spent become immediately accessible, for any purpose?

The community’s concern was that without adequate foresight as to what to do after the twelve months, the situation may just immediately revert back to the current scenario, meaning that the twelve months of quarantining would have done little but cause humbug for those who do the right thing.

The survey team had no answers for this, but emphasised that part of their role was to relay the community’s concerns back to the taskforce in Alice Springs.

The Problems

Overwhelmingly, the biggest problems here are housing and roads.

The most recent house to have been built in Kybrook Farm, is now fifteen years old. Most of them are over thirty years old. All need urgent repairs to insulation, electricals, plumbing, roofing, sewerage and the solar hot water systems. Overcrowding is also a problem, especially in bohba, the wet season, when the community population swells.

The community association has for decades been sending applications to whoever normally funds such things. Each time, the applications have been rejected. They are understandably cynical then, when government bureaucrats come into town and suddenly start paying attention to their needs. That said, such is the situation that they’re quite happy to take advantage of the fact that the spotlight is currently focused on these matters.

Kybrook has been trying for years to have their access road from the highway bitumenised. The failure of Pine Creek council to do so has indirectly caused property damage to just about every vehicle within the community. It may have also been responsible for deleterious health effects. Just last week, a child was sent to Katherine with athsma, caused by the dust when cars drive even slightly too fast.

The road also effects education. The Pine Creek school bus won’t go to Kybrook because the road is too hazardous. The community is left to find another way to get their kids to school, which usually means making a couple of trips in the Rangers’ troop-carrier, unless it is otherwise engaged. I have, on a number of occasions now, had to pick up kids stranded in town. I don’t mind, of course, but it really isn’t part of my job description, and I wonder what would happen, after I leave and there just isn’t an available car. It’s a long walk through the bush to Kybrook, especially on a hot ngurugun (‘Sunny time’) day.


So by the end of the meeting, most of us were only a little more enlightened as to the government’s plan, and I still can’t shake the feeling that the intervention is ill-prepared, lacking in detail, and fundamentally designed as an election-year issue, rather than as a plan with the primary goal of helping the country’s most disadvantaged people.


¹As david pointed out, both veni and vidi are inflected (or declined, if you prefer, yes, for we all know that Latin demands its own nomenclature) for 1st person singular, “I came, I saw”, while Wagiman ba-ya-nggi, as the English version of the title suggests, is inflected for 3rd person plural “they left”. But as it’s a classical allusion, I don’t really care about the inaccuracies. I should also credit David with the idea for the Latin/Wagiman title, as he mentioned to me a similar Warlpiri title Veni, vidi, yanulu.