Remote community predicts spooked sleep for special envoy Abbott

The special envoy was not welcome at Borroloola, community members say.

The Federal Government’s special envoy on Indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, was “ousted” from a school meeting in the remote community of Borroloola last week on his first trip to the Northern Territory in his new job, community members said.

Mr Abbott was forced out after facing heated criticism from parents, educators and elders, they said.

The community was angry that as Indigenous Affairs minister the former Prime Minister had cut millions from community-based services and had a “vision for assimilation” through education and punitive policies which linked attendance rates to welfare payments.

Mr Abbott was also challenged over his comments that Aboriginal children should speak and think in English.

Parent and school council member Gadrian Hoosan said he told Mr Abbott he was “not welcome in the community”.

“He looked like he couldn’t wait to get out of there when we all started bailing up on him,” Mr Hoosan said.

“He picked the wrong community to try and bully. We have a strong school here and strong families. He’ll be having nightmares tonight. We told him we don’t want him as our envoy.”

Elder Jack Green, an advocate of bilingual education, said the community knows what is best for its children.

“Tony Abbott says he wants Aboriginal culture and language out of our schools but we know these things are what keep our kids and our communities strong and healthy,” Mr Green said.

“Abbott doesn’t represent our community or Aboriginal people – he’s not our envoy.

As elders and educators we know what is best for our children. It’s time he stepped back, stood down and let us speak for ourselves.”

Mr Abbott did not respond to NIT inquiries.

Meanwhile NT Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ken Vowels, a Wakaya/Waramunga man, said he was “offended and disgusted” that Mr Abbott did not meet him on his trip to the NT and called the visit an excuse to “get around kissing some black kids”, ABC news reported.

By Wendy Caccetta

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