The Cairns Post


Mayor’s call to beat booze scourge which is hurting island kids


MORNINGTON Island’s mayor has made a desperate call for action to help his community blighted by home brew, which has left a generation of neglected kids.

Kyle Yanner (above) said prohibitio­n had been a failure and it was time for a different approach. “(Children) don’t have a clean bed to sleep in,” he said. “Parents aren’t teaching them life skills.”

A MORNINGTON Island leader has made a desperate call for action to end the preventabl­e deaths of Indigenous people falling victim to toxic home brew and type 2 diabetes.

Despite politician­s a world away in Brisbane acknowledg­ing the problem, nothing has been done.

From the air, the sleepy Gulf of Carpentari­a community looks to be an island paradise, surrounded by brilliant blue water lapping at golden sands. But on the ground, the reality is very different.

Children are sleeping rough in overcrowde­d houses, drunks walk the street and booze-fuelled domestic disputes are common at what is meant to be an alcohol-free community.

And it’s the island’s children who are suffering.

Mayor Kyle Yanner said kids as young as four were forced to fend for themselves while their parents – under the influence of a dangerous backyard brew – were unable to fulfil their parental responsibi­lities.

He wants the dignity of his people restored – healing from the brutal removal of children by missionari­es – and a chance to forge a new direction through tourism, market gardens, an Indigenous-run cattle enterprise and controlled alcohol sales at a local tavern.

“Parents forgot how to be parents. Kids forgot how to be children. We lost a millennia of parenting skills over a 30year period of the missionary homes,” Cr Yanner said.

“(Children) don’t have a clean bed to sleep in. They don’t even have a bloody bed to sleep and they drag mattresses around and sleep on the floor.

“Parents aren’t teaching them life skills – how to cook, how to survive, how to wash your clothes. They don’t get taught that here.”

Cr Yanner said prohibitio­n had been a failure and it was time for something different.

“Give our rights back, our rights as normal people. We’re not animals,” he said.

“We can manage ourselves, we just never got educated. The missionari­es just gave us (alcohol) and we binged, and that’s how we’ve come into this bad drinking behaviour.

“Do they want to keep us on the bottom? That’s my question.”

In May, island leaders reached out for help, exposed the booze-ban myth and revealed the plight of a community in which up to 40 per cent of the population suffers from chronic illnesses.

Meaghan Scanlon, the Environmen­t Minister and a champion for the island, and Queensland Health directorge­neral John Wakefield visited in September.

Ms Scanlon’s office and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnershi­ps has been contacted for comment.

There has been talk of a government services audit to direct funds where they are needed most, but Cr Yanner is growing weary.

“I’ve given them solutions. We need to put that process into play and start getting stuff on the ground so we can drive that change – the sooner the better,” he said.

Cr Yanner said despite other non-Indigenous Gulf towns in the region being in negative population growth, places such as Richmond, Julia Creek and Karumba received more in Queensland government general purpose grants.

“If you compare Mornington and Doomadgee to other rural towns, we get ripped off on all accounts,” he said.

“Hughenden has 20 people less than Doomadgee yet Hughenden on the general purpose grants get $6.6m, Doomadgee only $1.6m and Mornington Island only $2.5m.

“How do we have a good life here? We don’t know. We don’t have the money to build facilities like a library, a skate park or splash park or swimming pool. State and federal (government­s) really have got to prioritise where their money is being spent.”

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 ?? ?? Mornington Island Mayor Kyle Yanner has ideas to restore hope to his community. Pictures: Peter Carruthers
Mornington Island Mayor Kyle Yanner has ideas to restore hope to his community. Pictures: Peter Carruthers
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