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As members and Directors of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation and Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe Ingkerrekele Arntarnte-areme (Children’s Ground, Central Australian Governance Committee), representing families, Traditional Owners and senior cultural leaders in Mparntwe, we stand together to condemn the media representation of Alice Springs. We ask you to have respect for our Country before you talk about it. 

It is our children, our young people, our men and our women and our communities that the politicians and media are talking about. 

This is our voice. We want this to be heard. 

We have serious issues that face our town, our children and our families; but we do not accept the representation of our men as paedophiles, our young people as criminals and our families as neglectful and abusive. 

The way we are being represented is shameful and harmful. 

We do not shy away from the real issues. We live these every day. 

This is not a fly in fly out political game. You are not focusing on the real issues and you have turned us into a media circus. 

Graeme Smith, the CEO of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Traditional Owners for Mparntwe (Alice Springs) says,“Enough is enough. It is time that people who are coming onto Arrernte country show respect and regard for our people. Our laws are clear. Observe the cultural protocols. We would not have the right to go to another Aboriginal person’s country and speak about that country. 

The issues are serious but there is far more to this picture than what you are hearing. We have been offering solutions for decades. We need to rearrange the deck chairs because we are not getting to the underlying issues. We need to see a complete change in the way funding is driven. 

We stand together as Arrernte people for our families and our children and we want to start seeing Arrernte led organisations and our families being properly supported. For those who do visit, First Nations and non-First Nations, we ask you to not abuse our hospitality and to show respect.” 

Children’s Ground and Lhere Artepe are standing together to speak about the needs, rights and future for all children in Alice Springs.

Alice Springs is our home. For some of us it has been our traditional lands for ever. It is now a place where many people live and visit and we want to see all children living with safety and freedom. Instead, our children live with racism, risk and harm. Our young people are lost. We have seen generation after generation struggling. Our problems are created by governments over years and years and years. Policies that keep us down. 

For fifty years we have been speaking out. We live in tin sheds. We live in overcrowding. We live in communities which have nothing. Other people make decisions about us and do not listen to our voice. We are treated like third class citizens on our own country. Nobody would be expected to live like we do anywhere in Australia. The racism is so ingrained that government after government set the bar so low that we are forced to continue to live in appalling conditions without basic dignity. 

We want to be clear. Sexual abuse happens in every community in Australia. It is in white communities, rich communities and poor communities. Stop denigrating and putting our people down. It is not part of our culture and it is not something we accept. 

We do know that violence and sexual abuse is in our communities. It is in our families. It is serious. We cannot look away. We work every day to create a different reality. This violence and abuse is fed by terrible housing, dangerous overcrowding, low employment, cultural racism, alcohol and other drugs. Our people live with trauma, oppression and surveillance. 

The response from government has been to increase policing without any investment in our people or our communities. There are no opportunities. Our kids are not succeeding in Western schools. Our families are dying and live with diseases that are crippling our families. Our families are being locked up and our kids taken away at record rate. We do not want to lose our children. We do not want another stolen generation. We do not want our kids walking the street. 

Cassandra Neil from Hidden Valley says: “I am a young mother, I grew up in this town camp. There was nothing for me, and there is nothing for our young people today. This is the largest town camp. We began Children’s Ground here four years ago with no government funding. We started it because we want to change the future for the next generation. I deliver early years learning, outside and on country because we have no facilities. We are creating employment here in our community. We are leading the change. We have been trying to get a family centre, somewhere we can work inside, somewhere that our children and young people can come to and our adults. Where we can run activities, sport, recreation, after hours, evening programs, cultural and community events. But our voices keep getting shut down. And then people wonder why our kids are walking the streets. This is our home. We want it to be a place we can be proud of, safe, full of life, somewhere our kids can grow up and feel proud of who they are. We will keep going.” 

What would you do if you were young, had nothing to do, were hungry, had no safe place to sleep and were 14-years-old? Stop making our children look like criminals. They need love. They need support. They need their culture. They need respect.

Children’s Ground is governed locally by Traditional Owners, Elders and community leaders. We started Children’s Ground because the system is failing us. We have a solution. We have answers. We have leaders, young people and children with a vision of a completely different future. We have had to rely on the good will of Australian people outside of government (philanthropy) to make our vision come to life. We have national researchers who are helping us build our evidence base. This is not a situation that will fix overnight. It has been 240 years in the making. Our families are hurting, but we are determined. We are delivering early childhood, health, employment, education. We want the very best for our kids. We are not going to let the system fail again. We are building one that works. 

We need governments to be bold. We need them to back our solutions. To get out of the politics that you play with our lives. We cannot lose another generation of our children. No more ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Invest in the future of our children, invest in our communities. Let’s make the impossible possible. 

Lhere Artepe has just begun a local night patrol. An amazing group of local people committed to the safety of Alice Springs, all of Alice Springs. Our people have been tireless. Our Elders have been tireless. At Children’s Ground we can’t keep up with the hope – we have people who want to work, young people who want opportunity, kids who love learning – we are seeing the change and we have the evidence. The government says they want community leadership, evidence-based solutions, a new way of working. We have put this on the table. We are waiting now for you to come and seriously walk with us, back us in, listen to our voices. 

These solutions are in our communities with our people, through our culture. We have incredible strength and ability. Stop putting us down. Stop talking about us as if we are criminals and neglect our children. We have been calling out for generations. We are not a political campaign we are children and families. Treat us with respect, trust our intelligence, listen to our voice, commit to real support. There are answers. They are not hard. They are very simple. But they need political will, not political divide. 

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Statement by Arrernte leaders and families of Children’s Ground and Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation
— Posted on 21 Apr 2023