Friday 10 April 2009

Mona Mona: A stable base

When CairnsBlog columnist Syd Walker wrote about Mona Mona just before the March State election, he presented an historical and contemporary history of this remote and often ignored, Aboriginal community.

I tried to give an honest account of what was happening in my previous account of Mona Mona.

I now know it was a much more partial account than I’d imagined at the time. I correctly wrote there was strong pressure on the ALP to change policy over Mona Mona from indigenous people and The Greens. But I neglected to mention pressure from the political right. The omission was not deliberate. I simply wasn't in touch with the Liberal National Party.

I now better understand the broader picture. Working with local members of the Liberal National Party, Barron River LNP candidate Wendy Richardson engaged in serious dialogue with Aboriginal people over Mona Mona before the election announcement. Moves were already underway within the LNP to take a fresh approach on Mona Mona, much more supportive of indigenous autonomy, eventually culminating in the direct involvement of then opposition leader Lawrence Springborg.

In the first week of the election campaign, therefore, the Labor Party found itself squeezed from both sides on the issue. With polls indicating a very close race in Barron River, the pressure was on local ALP MP Steve Wettenhall to get previous cabinet policy reversed.

To Steve's credit, he did it. When there's a will there's a way.
Now, for the first time, there's something resembling multi-party consensus on Mona Mona.
In the Kuranda area – if not the rest of Australia – there’s a general sense that we want more than a minimalist approach to reconciliation. The wounds of a very recent dispossession run deep and recent injustices should be redressed. Fortunately, the last ten years of policy drift and broken promises over Mona Mona can now be viewed as an historical aberration - not the ultimate betrayal.

Returning Mona Mona in its entirety to the Aboriginal people is a basic gesture of good faith on the part of this community.

At the recent State election, all major political forces within the local electorate – in the end – came to the party.

That’s a good basis for the future.

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