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Wirrimanu ask Jenny Macklin: Where did the money for Balgo playgroup go?


The Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation’s Michael Gravener recently asked the question: “Where DID the playgroup GO?” as more Federal Government funding appears to have disappeared in full view of the Federal Minister responsible, Jenny Macklin.

Two years ago, in April, 2011 Jenny Macklin, the Minister for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) visited the remote Aboriginal community of Balgo in Western Australia.

As a result of that visit Ms Macklin announced $264,000 would be granted to the community through the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) for the purpose of developing a community women’s initiative playgroup which has been fully sponsored and supported by the BoysTown Charity for over two years at a cost of about $100,000 per year.

Research suggests early intervention in the form of playgroups play a vital role in the social and cognitive development of a child as they progress through the early years of their life and as they enter into the schooling system.

Brian Butler, Director of Chamber 3 of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples who is also a life member of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), is adamant that when preschool and playgroup programs are developed by community, for community and ensuring the participation of Elders, children have the potential to develop positive social skills and cognition through maintaining a strong connection to culture and maintaining kinship ties.

“A self-determination approach allows children to see this leadership and to grow strong in culture, through caring, sharing and nurturing which in turn fosters empowerment and the necessary sense of cultural safety needed for survival within mainstream Australia both now and into the future as they shift into adulthood,” Mr Butler said.

Unfortunately it would appear that after much effort by many concerned people, who continue to inform the Department that nothing has changed, there still remains no development where this important work is concerned.

Mr Gravener advised that BoysTown stood aside in September 2012 for WAC to take on the development of this community women’s initiative but the $264,000 promised by Jenny Macklin still does not appear on the annual financial accounts, yet Canberra bureaucrats insisted that WAC has been running the service since October, 2011 and under the full view of Departmental staff.

So where did the taxpayer’s money promised by Ms Macklin go? Mr Gravener and the rest of us want to know.

One of the main fundamental provisions Brian Butler has continued to call for over the past 30 odd years is for an Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) auditing body, with the primary responsibility and function of assessing all Government and non-government departments and organisations which receive funding grants and monies intended for the benefit of Aboriginal and Islander people and their communities.

Mr Butler made this call so everyone could be seen to be held accountable and to ensure that all of the individuals within each community had access to and benefit from the funding being provided and the initiatives, services and programs that are developed.

Mr Gravener is asking what, if anything, has Ms Macklin done to address what seemed to have become such a personal issue for her when she visited Balgo in April of 2011?

Where are the accountability measures for the responsible use of federal grant funding?

These questions and the many arising out of the growing number of accounts of the misappropriation of taxpayers money that have come to light in recent months, money that has supposedly been directed to Indigenous initiatives that just seems to evaporate with no real outcomes or success or sustainability for our people needs to be addressed. Something must be done to turn this dire situation around.

Mr Gravener also asks the most important question of “where did the essential services of early intervention programs go for severely disenfranchised Aboriginal children in the community of Balgo?”

“Young babies and their Mums need this program now otherwise another generation of the community’s children will be lost,” he said.

In a world where our young babies are considered sacred and our families continue to be caught up in Lateral Violence and suffer from the perpetual grief of intergenerational and trans-generational traumas with domestic violence and abuse reaching astronomical proportions, it really begs the question as to what the true intentions are of this colonialist government and its heads of State?

We continue to see our people suffering across all levels of society with many remote communities existing in below third world standards while mainstream Australia continues to exist in what many still regard as the “lucky country”.

It all smells a bit too much like genocide by stealth if you ask me.

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