TRANSCRIPT - DOORSTOP – Red Dust Announcement


Subjects: Red Dust Funding, NT Housing, RHD


Ken Wyatt:       It gives me great pleasure to be here in Darwin with Scott and Jonathan to announce an additional 1.2 million for Red Dust to continue to roll out their work in eight communities around the Darwin region- around the Alice Springs region, sorry.


The work they’ve been doing has been invaluable in supporting people at the community level.


This allows them to continue to expand their work, deliver on the ground, they employ local people, involve local people as opposed to people coming in and telling a community what they need.


I want to compliment Red Dust for their commitment, but also their respect in regards to the integrity of working with Aboriginal people at the local level.


QUESTION:       Minister, with a program like this, in rolling out such a thing so far out of Canberra, what’s that actually going to entail with on the ground as you mentioned?


Ken Wyatt:       Well, what I might do is allow Scott to make some comments because he’ll be able to describe to you in more detail.


Because if we take that question, I am from Canberra in that literal sense and it’s good to hear from a voice on the ground. So Scott, I’ll let you answer that question.


SCOTT:             Thank you Minister. I’d start by saying thank you to Minister Wyatt and the Australian Government for the support that they’re providing to us.


We are an organisation that’s been around for 20 years and we haven’t had a lot of government support across that time, so we welcome that commitment. And I think it’s important that governments at all levels and all stripes recognise the critical role that they need to play when it comes to building the strength and identity of young people.


This funding is going to allow us to not only further develop the programs we’ve got, but also to expand our footprint to reach more people.


We’ve got a program model that’s quite unique; it’s a program model that draws on the strengths of all the worlds that surround young people.


It’s a program model that ensures that we can work very closely with local people to develop those strengths, and in particular to draw on those vast protective mechanisms that surround Indigenous culture.


QUESTION:      The concepts of the actual program that’s being funded is- would also be suited to be rolled out across Australia because the problems that you’re having in this particular area is synonymous with what’s happening everywhere.


So is there an interest in rolling that out across the country in other Aboriginal communities?


SCOTT:             Yeah, look, that’s a good question. I think that the model we’ve developed is very much about local participation and local capacity building.


The communities that we work with are not places I come from. I come from the top end; I come from [indistinct] country. I’ve been working in these remote communities with Jonathan here for the last couple of years and what we’ve recognised is that the strength comes from building capacity within the community.


A train the trainer model so that we can bring outside skills and expertise, but we don't say that's the solution.


What we're doing is we're building individual's capacity to be able to draw on the strengths that exist already and have existed for tens of thousands of years and combine those with other skills and strengths from the worlds that surround young people.


QUESTION:      What are the biggest issues, Scott, that kids are facing in the Red Centre?


SCOTT:             Look, I think, we believe that it's a lot that comes down to identity. You know, we've got young people, particularly in remote communities, who are struggling in many cases to walk in both worlds strongly.


We know, at the same time there are a lot of strong role models within the community who are achieving that.


We've got to face the reality that these worlds are different, that they've only come together in some recent times and that it's inherent upon all of us in Australia, not just organisations like Red Dust,  not just Government, but all of the corporate citizens in Australia who are making money from this country, need to step up and say – hey, there's a role that we need to play to support young people, to support all of the communities, to better understand identity, to draw on the strengths that have been there for tens of thousands of years and to use that strength to walk proudly into the future and walk in both worlds.


QUESTION:      Do we need- does [indistinct] world need to adapt as well around that [indistinct] because if we look at the way that say, an issue like how a funeral in a remote community can effect smaller [indistinct], do we need to shape policies around those sort of things so that they’re more adaptable to kids who grow up in Indigenous community?


SCOTT:             Yeah, look Matt, I think these are sorts of questions that communities are tackling all the time and it's not a white fellow like me that's going to come in and say that cultural practices need to be changed in order to adapt to a western world.


The reality in my opinion is that remote communities and Aboriginal people in this country have been adapting for 200 and however many years, right? There hasn't been a lot of adaptation from our side.


I put that out there. But the challenge for all of us in this country is to work out how, if we're going to work together strongly in the future, how do we all make compromises so that we can achieve the outcomes we're looking for?


And those outcomes might be different for each individual because aspirations are different. But it's about walking strongly in both worlds and knowing what that success looks like at an individual level and how do we support people to get there.


I might ask Jonathan to step in and say a few words from his perspective.


JONATHAN:     I’ll comment on that last one. For a long time, organisations in the Northern Territory and in any area of Indigenous affairs have typically worked a nine to five model, or in our case the eight to 4:21 model.


And we know for a fact that business on a community, business and family’s lives doesn't end at 4:21, it doesn't start at 8. It carries on into the weekends and carries on after hours. And one of the things that we're very proud of as an organisation is that it's one thing to be on a community, on thing be in a community and it's another thing to be of a community.


And that is that we can come and do our business, we can provide our services and support to individuals and children, which- and regardless of what particular area it's in.


But at the end of the day, when the push comes to shove, it's in the evenings, it's in the afternoons, it's in the times of darkness and community time of course, where issues really happen, where domestic violence takes place, where young people commit suicide, where they turn on one another, they fight [indistinct] and hopelessness and the sense of lostness and they don't know where- who to turn to and who to reach to.


One of the things culturally for us is that eldership isn't a choice; eldership isn't a matter of if but when.


Leadership isn't a matter of if but when. Role models is not a matter of if but when.


So we often, in a dominant culture context, or a white fellow world, we say that only the good role models are the ones that we want to focus on.


No, in actual fact you work with all role models and that's all of those who have the sphere of influence over a young person's life, who influence their behaviour, who they follow, who they follow in the footsteps of, that’s their big brothers, its the big sisters, it’s the locals, it’s sororities, it’s their extended kinship family and the mob that ultimately, at the end of the night they roll out in the morning they want to become like.


And one of the things that we find is that a great, I guess stressor for young people at bush, there’s not an equality of opportunity in the Northern Territory and we want to give that.


So we bring role models and if they want to dream to be Olympic superstars, if they want a dream to be a scientist that works in space, but at the same time if they want to be a CEO or a local role model who runs a school or the store or whatever it might be, we want them to know that we can give them that opportunity to believe in themselves.


And there's no representation or very little representation on a remote community. You know, mob who actually can look out their window and say I want to be a schoolteacher like my big brother.


I want to be the principal like my aunty. I want to be one of those workers that I see on the road fixing the bitumen.


In my community in the south, the reality is we don't see those people and who- why do we expect kids to dream any bigger than what they have right in front of their face and what they see every day?


And I think for us it becomes to primary prevention of youth suicide and hopelessness, we want to- and offset their suffering, we want to give them a sense of A-pride in themselves culturally, both white [indistinct] and black [indistinct].


That they can be strong on their community and speak language, but also they can go to the city and learn in an educated western context to bring those skills back so they can be authentically both Indigenous and both educated, and both successful and thriving in both sides of their worlds.


QUESTION:      Is there a frustration with governments that they don’t- that the issues just don’t really- the issues that you’re talking about don’t get addressed on the ground.


I’m looking at just a current example where the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Government are squabbling over housing funding.


I mean, do people in remote communities look at that and just go – come on, just sort this out. We’ve got 20 people living in the one house; can you just get on with it?


JONATHAN:     Look, I can tell you 100 stories about how that plays out in a remote community and I don't want to I don't nit-pick too much on the politics of it all because we love our politics - black politics, white politics, we just love politics full stop.


I think it's about listening first and foremost; if you've got a family home of 20 people and it's only a three or four bedroom home, you go and build a family.


And we've had this case in our family, another four or- three or four bedroom home, and you wonder why 20 mob from that house go to the next house and all live together again without considering perhaps the design of the building and the consultation around that.


But of course things are never going to work out and of course, it's also about government and organisations taking a responsibility and saying you know what, things haven't been working and they haven’t been working for a long time and yet we've been given a lot of money.


We continue to blame the community, we continue to blame the people as the problem rather than looking into ourselves and say our models need to change, our systems need to change.


We need to be more flexible, we need to be more committed to giving time to solving these problems as well and do so in a bilateral sense, do so with support from both sides of that political divide. And ultimately for who?


For the purpose of the people, for the purpose of the community. And that's- I could say that around a whole range of things - designing our school programs, designing our government systems around things that are very important to the community and that is ceremony, that is things like funerals, that is things like significant moments in a communities life that they take great pride in.


Even things like sports carnivals which community take great pride in. Communities are expected to change because of fitting into the school schedule and I would argue actually if you want to put the community first, if you want to engage with them, if you want to show the pride that you have for who they are as a people and the integrity that they deserve, then I would suggest that we start to say – hey, we need to do our business differently.


And we have the means to do it, we have the privilege to do it and we should be able to be looking at ourselves and saying we should have the flexibility to do that as well.


QUESTION:      [Indistinct]… have you on the ground being able to put your finger on any particular cause behind that?


JONATHAN:     I could put it onto a number of different causes. I definitely put it down to things like that no sense of positive aspiration for the future. So a sense of tomorrow is not worth living.


My nephews and nieces that have taken their own lives have told me in the past before, before they've committed suicide that they don't see tomorrow being a bright day.


That they don't know what tomorrow brings and that it's more, to them, it's less fearful of passing away than it is to live for tomorrow. That's a very sad reality for them.


The other side is that whereas there’s such a breakdown in our value systems, our traditional value systems around kinship and around family.


And so when people say to us - who's your real brother? Who’s your real family?


That means nothing to an Aboriginal person because the question is - well your real person or your real family member is based on a birth certificate or a piece of paper.


Ours is based on kinship; ours is based on how- who we were raised with. Ours is based on our ceremonial connections; ours is also based on our things like [indistinct] and our kinship system.


And what's happened with that breakdown and that system of course is we find Aboriginal people being lonely, young people feeling lonely, feeling alone like they can't share their problems.


Schools not doing anything for them because they're not taught that they should be able to be proud in their culture as well as their educational experience. You know, we’re not teaching languages in schools like we should be, we're not teaching Aboriginal histories and cultures and traditions in school like we should be and things are changing thankfully with ACARA and the national curriculum and it's teachers.


And young people I think demand a true telling of the history, a truth telling and a truth listening experience.


But at the end of the day, the number one rule when it comes to young people in mental health or even anyone in general in mental health and suicide ideation or suicidal risk, is don't leave that person alone.


And yet we're finding that these young people are being left alone to commit these acts to themselves and we ask the question - where is their family? Where is the people who care for them and love them and why are they there on their own?


I think that's the big question.


QUESTION:      With the government’s investment, especially $1.45 billion into suicide prevention, can you see that actually getting to the frontline, getting to the grassroots of where the problem really is?


JONATHAN:     I'd hope- I certainly hope so. I think when it comes to local employment, I think that's a direct delivery of that promise to the local people because there's nothing more, as we all know, the best sense of welfare is a job.


The best opportunity for people to feel proud of themselves is a job and we believe that it's not about your qualification, it's not about your degree, it's about your role in the community and that there are many men and women who are worried for their young people, who want to be paid in an employment sense or be paid to be able to support young people, to be able to take them on bush camps, to be able to run sports clinics with them, to be able to work and support them in the school programs, to be able to carry on cultural business as well, which costs a lot of money these days - a lot of money for diesel, a lot of money for food just to get out to an out station to run a ceremony for example.


And we haven't valued those things in the past. Indigenous knowledge systems and not being valued and we want that to be something that changes and we want to put that money into local people to employ them and also to support their knowledge systems so they can develop the program further and that ultimately goes back to the people.


Not into the bureaucracy, not in the red tape.


We're not so concerned about who’s who in the zoo; we're more concerned about who's responsible for that particular place that we're going to visit, that particular country, that particular family, that particular mob.


And yeah, they might not be signed up to the Land Council, they might not be signed up as a TA for that particular area, they might not be on the books, but they’re there all over our community and they belong in that particular place and they're just waiting for us to come and say – hey you mob, we want to run something with you followers and this is your country.


This is where you belong and this is where you have your stories still intact, this is where you- the young people want to come and learn from you. This is where you engage with them fellas.


And we know that this matters to you, so we want to invest in you, we want to give the money, the resources and also the support to be able to deliver a program and to run a program.


And the expertise that we bring as an organisation is we have access to people who have very good qualifications in a whole range of different areas - sporting backgrounds, music backgrounds, scientific backgrounds, technological backgrounds and so on and so forth, and community just want to see that they can do that stuff to.


To move forward into the future, it's not about an Aboriginal young fella and young woman just knowing about their culture, it's also about them saying these are the skills that I have in my non-indigenous world that I want to be able to develop and to use for the betterment of my own people and betterment of my own family.


So yes, absolutely, we believe that it will be direct impact on the community in that regard.


QUESTION:      Minister, can I just grab you very quickly on that, on the investment into suicide.


But can we talk specifically about- we heard a lot then about the fellas in the communities, about the programs et cetera and that.


Can also talk about the women, the Aboriginal women and also can we talk about the older generation because a lot of the campaigns are targeted today at younger generation, of getting them a job, getting them going. So what’s in the program for the older generation in the community?


KEN WYATT:   Well, in a couple of programs and I'm going to cross over into aged care as well, we know that suicide rates in older men are higher than your suicide rates in mainstream society.


So we're looking at that, but the roundtable we had this morning on tackling the issues of suicide, we talked about the whole continuum of ageing; that whilst the focus is on youth, the issues raised were around women, elders, people coming out of prison.


And what was tremendous was the way in which all of the participants embraced the need to focus on a whole of community. And that doesn't mean a specified community, but the community of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.


QUESTION:      And what sort of programs, you know, initiating, they’re flowing through to the women in the communities because off the record, women run the community.


And so what programs are there for the women that are actually in the communities, bar the ranger programs, bar the on country programs et cetera?


KEN WYATT:   Well this morning we were talking about the role of women; women lead our communities, they are the strengths.


I was at the Menzies Institute this morning with the John Moriarty Foundation announcement funding going into Borroloola and other communities. Now the women are the primary drivers working with the John Foundation.


So we recognise and I recognise that our women are our strength. And while we have them involved in all programs from headspace through to work that's happening in the community level, as we heard this morning, women are involved strongly.


When I look around that room the number of Aboriginal women sitting there contributing to the solutions, but also the way in which we will work with communities is significant. So it's never a challenge in the way in which we do business as Aboriginal people because we recognise the role that elders have, our women have, our men, but also our young people.


I've got young people on both Kimberley and the Darwin suicide roundtable's who are providing good solid advice and today I saw two very impressive young people from the territory who will have leadership roles in the future.


I see them going a long way and it's really refreshing.


QUESTION:      Minister, can I just ask just on this issue of remote housing that the Chief Minister’s made a health issue today in saying children’s lives are at risk if this is not sorted out.


I mean, why can’t the Commonwealth deliver the money it promised for the Northern Territory to deliver that housing [indistinct]?


KEN WYATT:   See it's not a matter for me to comment on because I know that my colleague Nigel Scullion is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is having ongoing discussions with the Chief Minister.


So I'll allow those two to work through those matters. I'll focus on suicide issues, Aboriginal health and ageing populations and senior Australians because that's where I also want to make a difference.


And whilst they're entwined with social determinants, I'll let those two continue that dialogue.


QUESTION:      Well it is an Aboriginal health issue though, isn’t it? Because if you’ve got 20 people living in a house and then you’ve got issues like rheumatic heart disease that flows on from that, surely you have a vested interest in seeing more of these houses built [indistinct]?


KEN WYATT:   And look, I do. But it’s not within my area of responsibility and I’ll allow both those individuals to work through those issues.


But I will always focus on that social determinant of good housing for good health. In the territory, rheumatic heart disease is around crowded housing, it is around hygiene in the sense of when  a house is overcrowded, then the interactions for the spread of Strep A is much easier.


What I don’t want to see is children living a life in which every 28 days they have to have an injection in their backside of penicillin. And for the next 10 years of their lives have that treatment every 28 days.


But equally, having rheumatic heart disease means open heart surgery or surgery to replace damaged valves. What I want to focus on is the 6000 Indigenous Australians who have rheumatic heart disease; 150 die every year.


 And then there's new cases emerging and Maningrida here in the Territory has probably got the worst rates. Kimberley, people are dying at the age of 41.


In our country this is not acceptable.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:             Last question.  


QUESTION:      What you say is 100 per cent right, I don’t think anyone would disagree with you. But public health experts would also say the fastest way to address this is to build more houses in remote communities.


And the fastest way to get that done is for the Commonwealth to give the Northern Territory the $550 million it promised.


KEN WYATT:   Well it’s a combination of all those. It’s housing, it's education, it is work, it is that sense of strong spirit within.


So they're multifaceted and that's why I'm funding Red Dust, our Government is funding Red Dust to do exactly the things that you're raising - to work with communities, to make a difference, to give a sense of purpose.


We saw an analogy this morning that was explained to us of a fire. You build a fire, it gives out light, it gives out life. And if you don't tend to the fire, then it diminishes and dies.


And the analogy was that we've got to keep the fires burning within individuals so that they live their life to their fullest capacity. And if that takes stoking of that fire through various things such as the social determinant, then we will work on those and colleagues of mine who have responsibility will continue to negotiate with individuals that are important at the state and territory level in reaching agreements.


And sometimes some of the Commonwealth State Territory agreements are hard fought, but the outcome always ultimately, will provide solutions and we've got to allow those to work through it.


So thank you.