No running water. Beds made of milk crates. Properties with no roofs. Disease and infection running rampant. To many Minyerri children and infant babies, this is home. This is not Third World Africa. This is our backyard.
BABIES, children and families living in utter poverty with filthy water, milk carton crates as beds and disease spreading like wildfire.
This is not some Third World country in Africa — it is our backyard and it is our national shame.
It is Minyerri, home to about 400 people living in the remote community about 160km east of Mataranka.
What started out as a good news story to upgrade remote housing in Minyerri has become a life threatening disaster of critical proportions.
These pictures, sent to the NT News by a whistleblower, show the appalling third world conditions the displaced residents of the Minyerri houses marked for upgrade have been forced to live in since they were told to leave their homes several months ago.
The whistleblower described the billabong camps these people are now living in as a hell on earth where disease is rife and people’s lives are being put at risk with every passing day.
“It is a scene of despair and hopelessness — children, some only infants, men, women and grandparents forced to live in filth and squalor beside a billabong simply because no-one in government cared enough to think about the need for emergency accommodation when the people were forced from their homes,” the whistleblower said.
“People started to move out of their homes in April. They were excited because people were coming to fix their houses.
“It’s now September, the Wet season is coming, and these people have been living out in the open with no proper drinking water, sanitation. They are eating and drinking contaminated food and water.
“There are about 15 billabong campsites with around five or so people living in each camp in conditions that no one should have to live in. There is one particular family living there which had their house bulldozed.
“They have three young children, one which is a baby in its mother’s arms.
“There are other families as well. All the children have been sick at some stage with dysentery and dehydration.”
The whistleblower said most have skin sores, ring worm, boils and it was their understanding that a number of babies have had to be medevaced out with illnesses.
“Sick people are getting worse out there.
“The nursing staff out there are doing the best they can in a repeating cycle of illness. “This situation isn’t right. The people need emergency accommodation, they need fresh water because their water is running out.
“Why the Government did not think there would be a need for emergency accommodation when these people had to leave their houses is beyond belief.
“Where did they think they were going to go? No one seems to have shown any care about this. It is an absolute disaster.”
Minister for Housing and Community Development Gerry McCarthy announced on August 30 that “the Territory Labor Government is improving remote homes and the lives of Territorians living in the bush with the release of a tender to upgrade 22 remote houses in Minyerri.
“Good housing is a right for all Territorians,” he then said.
The whistleblower said the Territory Government’s mission to build better houses was “admirable” but it has now just “completely added to the problem by forgetting about where these people would live once they were out of their homes.
“The situation is desperate. “If you think of a hierarchy of people’s needs, safe water sanitation cannot be met at a billabong. The billabong itself is rancid. It is not a flowing billabong. It is littered with nappies, human faeces, food scraps and other waste around it and that is the sole source of water down there. It’s a breeding ground for disease.”
Squalid conditions at Minyerri near Katherine
Scenes of squalor at Minyerri.
Children have to sleep here
Families are forced to live in the open
Makeshift accommodation near the billabong