Community seeks change
Nanna Pansy Hicks speaks quietly, but with unmistakable determination.
“I had five boys at my house last night,” the Ngarluma elder tells two Government ministers over tea.
“Made a bed for them in the lounge.”
The boys’ mothers were out gambling and they had nowhere else safe to stay.
“I tell their mothers the night time is no good for kids in the dark,” she says.
“I tell them they need to look after the kids, but they don’t listen.”
A 2014 review found outcomes in closing the gap barely registered after more than $50 million was spent by 63 agencies on 200 programs for Roebourne’s 1400 residents.
But the community itself wants to do more. Its project 6718 aims to bring decision-makers together for common goals.
Rather than disparate programs to treat the symptoms of Aboriginal disadvantage, leaders want to focus on three core areas: safety, education and community.
Mawarnkarra Health Service director Jolleen Hicks said the people never felt they owned their services.
Mawarnkarra is the primary healthcare provider for Roebourne and has deep cultural roots, yet providers visit and compete with or duplicate its services.
Ms Hicks said the group had the highest accreditations and the only reason for others to offer the same services was because it was an Aboriginal corporation subjected to stereotypes that needed to change.
Elders such as Nanna Pansy have the cultural authority to help rebuild communities, but there is a sense progress must be made while the generation that grew up with few rights but a strong culture can still teach the young ones before time runs out.
Roebourne elder Pansy Hicks at of her Roebourne home.