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CRY FROM THE HEART (Extracts from article)

Posted by PeterLain 
CRY FROM THE HEART (Extracts from article)
May 20, 2012 05:17PM
The Weekend Australian Magazine
Cry from the heart, Indigenous activist Bess Price and husband Dave share their thoughts on remote Aboriginal communities and the challenges they face.

by: Stuart Rintoul
From: The Australian
May 19, 2012 12:00AM

A survivor who keeps on fighting

At 51, Price is also hell-bent on "getting on and making changes". Over the past five years, she has become one of the most controversial - and determined - women in Australia. The publication in 2007 of the Little Children are Sacred report on the sexual abuse of children in the Northern Territory, and her outspoken support for the Howard Government's shock-and-awe response to it - troops on the ground, medical checks, income management, increased policing, new alcohol restrictions, the removal of customary law considerations in court sentencing and the threat of new forms of land tenure - propelled her to national attention. Price was given a platform and she used it to say that Aboriginal communities were in crisis.

"The intervention came and turned everything upside down for our people to take a look at what the real problems were, because they weren't admitting that there were all these problems and it was getting worse and worse and worse for our people," she says. "We were living in denial. There was petrol-sniffing, there was suicide, there was ganja. I have heard stories of people showing their children pornography ... and child abuse. Our children were being abused."

She has been vilified by the progressive left and she has in turn accused them of not understanding the sometimes vicious reality of life in Aboriginal communities; of having a "Disneyland" idea of Aboriginal culture and too little concern for indigenous women and children. When opponents complained that the intervention (which has been substantially continued under the Rudd and Gillard governments) was degrading and racist and a breach of human rights, Price questioned whose human rights were imperilled. When they argued for a more nuanced and respectful approach, she said political correctness paved the way to abuse. "You need to listen to the voices that are usually drowned out by the strong, the noisy and the powerful," she says. "You need to find a way to listen to those who don't speak English, who are the most marginalised and victimised in our communities ... If you really want us to have human rights then you have to find ways to protect the victims of black crime as well as white crime."

The criticism was swift and personal. When Price appeared on the ABC's Q&A program last year, indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt tweeted that she had been watching a show (Deadwood) where a man had sex with a horse and she was sure it was less offensive than Price. In the furious row that followed, influential indigenous academic Marcia Langton sided forcefully with Price, describing her as "a first-hand witness of terrifying violence against women" and describing her critics as "twittering sepia-toned Sydney activists" and "city-slicker Aborigines". The conservative magazine Quadrant called Price "an exceptional Aborigine" who "stands out against the pack in an Aboriginal industry suffocating with pretenders".

For her part, Price is politely dismissive of those who have spoken out against the intervention, which include peak Aboriginal organisations, the churches, welfare organisations, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, former Chief Justice of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson and former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, who have all described the intervention as racist. "They don't know anything about our people who live out here with the mangy dogs," Price says. "They're 'sophisticated' people. They think they know us and they think they can tell the rest of the world what is best for us."

It is Price's determination in the face of criticism that has won her admirers within Aboriginal communities, government and among those who began as idealists and have become harsh realists. She is hoping to build on that support to become a conservative Country Liberal Party member of the Northern Territory parliament for the seat of Stuart, a vast electorate that's bigger than Victoria and spans the Tanami desert, the traditional home of her people, the Warlpiri. After a lifetime of voting Labor, she has become the latest high-profile disenchanted Aboriginal convert to the conservative side of politics. Her opponent is Karl Hampton, the NT minister for natural resources, environment and heritage, parks and wildlife, climate change, sport and recreation, information, communications and technology policy, and central Australia - and her nephew.

Price was recruited to politics by the indigenous politician Alison Anderson, a one-time minister in the NT Labor Government who switched to the CLP. Over a late-night coffee in Alice Springs, in a conversation punctured by the wail of rolling drunks, Anderson says she believes Aboriginal people are returning to the conservatism of earlier generations and that Price will be a formidable candidate. "Bess is a fantastic woman, you know," she says. "She's strong and I guess that strength is because of where she came out of. She was raised in a humpy at Yuendumu and the fact that she has her language, law and culture ... that builds the foundation and the strength that she is showing to all of Australia today. You will see great things being done by this woman."

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