Lead­ers in wel­fare plea

North West Telegraph - - Telegraph News - Tay­lar Amonini

Abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers have called for con­trol to be given back to the peo­ple as hopes for a Pil­bara cash­less wel­fare card were doused last month.

Newly formed Abo­rig­i­nal con­sul­ta­tion group Strong Lead­ers has re­sponded to Town of Port Hed­land Mayor Camilo Blanco’s public chal­lenge to bring him a so­lu­tion to the drug and al­co­hol-re­lated is­sues in the town.

As re­vealed by Seven West Me­dia last month, the highly de­bated cash­less wel­fare card is set to be next rolled out in the Gold­fields, by­pass­ing the Pil­bara de­spite be­ing heav­ily pushed for by Mr Blanco.

Strong Lead­ers mem­ber Ray­lene But­ton said while com­mu­nity mem­bers had dif­fer­ent views on the cash­less wel­fare card, they were uni­fied in find­ing a new so­lu­tion to the drug and al­co­hol­re­lated an­ti­so­cial is­sues among the lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity.

“We say, let us take care of our own af­fairs,” she said.

“If you want to save our peo­ple and get their life back in or­der, then give back our com­mu­ni­ties and give back our sup­port there.”

Ms But­ton said hav­ing to come into Port Hed­land to ac­cess health ser­vices made ac­cess­ing drugs and al­co­hol eas­ier than in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, which was the rea­son for the in­creased so­cial is­sues in Port and South Hed­land.

“We had our com­mu­ni­ties closed and ser­vices taken away, so then ev­ery­one came into town and prob­lems es­ca­lated in town,” she said.

“So the Govern­ment cre­ated prob­lems for our lo­cal towns here, and that then started all the talk about the wel­fare ba­sic card. It just went from one ex­treme to the next.

“So we say let us take care of our own af­fairs.

“Your so­lu­tions are great, but let us try ours now.”

The call for con­trol comes af­ter Mr Blanco said in an in­ter­view no one had a work­ing so­lu­tion to the is­sues in Port Hed­land af­ter he re­leased CCTV footage of so­cial is­sues in the South Hed­land Square.

“Give me a so­lu­tion that will ac­tu­ally work,” he said.

“Every time I ask that ques­tion to some­one that op­poses the cash­less wel­fare card, they come up with noth­ing.”

Mr Blanco said when he met with Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull ear­lier this month, he was told rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the of­fices of Fed­eral min­is­ters Alan Tudge and Chris­tian Porter would be coming to the Pil­bara to con­sult about the card trial.

Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guage groups from across Port Hed­land have joined forces in an ef­fort to have a strong, uni­fied voice in the Pil­bara.

Spear­headed by Ray­lene But­ton, the group has named it­self Strong Lead­ers and con­sists of el­ders and lead­ers from among the dif­fer­ent Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guage groups in the Hed­land area.

Ms But­ton said she formed Strong Lead­ers as a way for there to be con­sis­tency among Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in Port Hed­land.

“We want to be­come the voice of this re­gion, work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Govern­ment and agen­cies and make bet­ter and in­formed de­ci­sions for our peo­ple,” she said.

“We also want to bring ac­count­abil­ity to the ser­vices and the peo­ple as well.”

Ms But­ton said she came up with the idea af­ter re­al­is­ing agen­cies around Hed­land ad­vo­cat­ing for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were not ef­fec­tive be­cause they did not di­rectly deal with peo­ple on the ground, un­like lead­ers and el­ders among the dif­fer­ent lan­guage groups.

“Th­ese agen­cies deal with the Govern­ment and the Govern­ment fund­ing but they’re not ac­tu­ally ser­vic­ing on the ground,” she said.

“We went to the meet­ings and the fo­rums and asked how many of them ac­tu­ally went out to the peo­ple on the streets, telling them about what ser­vices are avail­able, and not one had.”

Ms But­ton said while the ser­vices many agen­cies pro­vided were ben­e­fi­cial, they were rarely com­mu­ni­cated to the peo­ple, which ren­dered them fu­tile.

“We want to make th­ese peo­ple and agen­cies ac­count­able, be­cause they’re ac­cess­ing all the fund­ing and they’re set­ting up th­ese pro­grams,” she said.

“If you want peo­ple to get to your pro­grams there needs to be con­sis­tency with peo­ple fol­low­ing through and we want to en­sure that con­sis­tency.” Since its in­cep­tion last month, Strong Lead­ers has started to make its pres­ence known.

Meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous min­is­ters’ of­fices, South Hed­land mag­is­trates and South Hed­land po­lice in the past week, Ms But­ton said the group was quickly gain­ing trac­tion.

“We’ve been at­tend­ing fo­rums and mak­ing more of an im­pact and since start­ing, peo­ple now know this is who we are and our con­tact de­tails,” she said.

“We’ve been hav­ing calls non­stop. Peo­ple have been ring­ing ask­ing who to talk to, how to con­tact dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, so we’ve been on the go con­stantly.”

Strong Lead­ers has con­tacted the Town of Port Hed­land to help de­velop mission and vi­sion state­ments, and grow to be­come the cen­tral con­tact for all lev­els of govern­ment and agen­cies when tack­ling is­sues and grow­ing the town.

“At the end of the day the goal is to bet­ter ser­vices and bet­ter the life of our peo­ple,” Ms But­ton said.

“That’s what we want.”

Pic­ture: Tay­lar Amonini

Some of the mem­bers of Strong Lead­ers, a united group rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guage groups in Hed­land.

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