Sep 09, 2011

Aboriginals Of Australia: Portolesi Admits Aboriginal Children Going Hungry

The Minister for South Aboriginal Affairs, Ms. Grace Portolesi has admitted that many children in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands are going through a food crisis due to chronic under-spending in the region.

Below is an article published by The Australian.

The Minister has been under intense political pressure over the past week amid revelations about the food crisis in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the state's north, and chronic under-spending on essential services such as water, electricity and roads.

Regional Labor MP and Speaker Lyn Breuer also today [8 September 2011] said there were children in the APY Lands "who are hungry because of poor income management".

But Ms. Portolsi and Ms. Breuer tried to play down the crisis on ABC radio this morning, saying the APY Lands were not like East Africa.

Last week the Red Cross sent emergency food aid to deal with chronic hunger across the APY Lands.

Ms. Portolesi's response had been to help plant a market garden as part of a policy rubbished by respected Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson.

"They (Aboriginal children) may be hungry but the community looks after them," Ms. Breuer said.

Ms. Portolesi said that, she had cancelled a trip to Italy to deal with the crisis, as was reported in The Australian today.

"They (Aboriginal children) should not go hungry," Ms. Portolesi said today.

"This is unacceptable and the fact is that we work with organisations like Red Cross.

"On the issue of starving children, the program that the Red Cross had put its hand up and said 'We want to roll out' is a program that they roll out here in suburban Adelaide. So why is it acceptable to liken what's going on in the APY Lands to East Africa?

"What we know that is an issue on the APY Lands is that of course hunger, nutrition, all of these things are an issue.

"Why is it okay to sensationalise stuff that occurs on the Lands? Of course when you have poverty, when you have entrenched disadvantage of course you are going to be dealing with kids who are going to be, you know, in less than desirable conditions.

"Where are the starving children? Show me the starving children."

The Red Cross food aid was sent to the community of Fregon, which Ms Portolesi admitted she had never visited.

Ms Portolesi has cancelled a planned trip with the media to the APY Lands. She spent just an hour on the ground in the most advantaged community in the APY Lands last month for a media picture opportunity before insisting she be flown back to Adelaide so she could collect her daughter from school.