TER­RI­TORY’S SHAME

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.

NT News - - FRONT PAGE - GARY SHIPWAY

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

Pic­ture: SUPPLIED

Scenes of squalor at Miny­erri.

Pic­ture: SUPPLIED

Chil­dren have to sleep here

Pic­ture: SUPPLIED

Fam­i­lies are forced to live in the open

Pic­ture: SUPPLIED

Makeshift ac­com­mo­da­tion near the bil­l­abong

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