Dickie and Anthony go to Canberra
CEO Dickie Bedford and key Marra Worra Worra lieutenant Anthony McLarty have returned from Canberra where they spearheaded Marra Worra Worra’s fight to stop the forced closure of remote communities.
And they were welcomed with open arms by the leaders of two of Australia’s big three political parties – the Labor Party, and the Greens. Unfortunately, members of the Abbott Government were nowhere to be seen.
“It’s telling and disappointing that no-one from the government wanted to talk to us, but we were very encouraged by the words and actions of the many, many supporters we have on the cause in federal Parliament,” said Dickie.
The Barnett Government has threatened to close up to 150 communities across the state and Marra Worra Worra believes the Fitzroy Valley could be smack bang in its sights. The threat has already caused great anxiety and concern among Aboriginal people who live in remote outposts across the Kimberley, and among Marra Worra Worra members.
Labor leader Bill Shorten sat, spoke and listened to Dickie and Anthony’s concerns for more than 30 minutes and said the ALP was keen to support the cause in whatever form it could. He suggested further meetings between the ALP and Marra Worra Worra in a bid to build a strategy that could force a retreat from the initial decision.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale was even more supportive of the Marra Worra Worra movement. An outback doctor in the Northern Territory before he entered federal parliament as a Greens senator, he said he was “flabbergasted” by the announcement to close indigenous homelands and was acutely aware of the issues and complexities that confronted Aboriginal people who lived in remote communities.
Closing communities was “just crazy” and “didn’t make any sense”, he said.
Dickie and Anthony also had excellent meetings with Labor Senator Nova Peris, Opposition Aboriginal Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann and prominent NT politician Warren Snowden.
Both Dickie and Anthony were travelling with Nick Mackay and Emily Mulligan from Avaaz, now the world’s biggest online political campaigners. They identify issues that resonate with the wider community and organise rallies and meetings.
Both Nick and Emily worked hard with Dickie and Anthony to get access to the important decision-makers. They said their organisation was keen to build on this relationship and there would be more joint ventures.
There was also lots of interest from the media, with Dickie and Anthony being interviewed by The Australian, the ABC and The Guardian on why they were in Canberra and how the possible closures would affect their visit.
The successful visit comes just weeks after Fitzroy Valley community leaders Helen Malo and Mervyn Street were the centrepiece of a massive Melbourne rally protesting against the proposed forced closures.