Australian Aborigines reject calls for military to restore order
Fri May 19, 11:03 PM ET
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Aborigines have rejected calls for military peacekeepers to protect indigenous women and children from violence, as a new report Saturday revealed high levels of sexual abuse of young indigenous males.
The Australian Medical Association on Friday urged the government to deploy military forces to some Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to protect women and children from murder, rape and assault.
It drew particular attention to one of the country’s largest Aboriginal communities, Wadeye some 420 kilometres (260 miles) southwest of Darwin, where it believes some 1,300 children are at risk of abuse and neglect.
But the community council at Wadeye said bringing in the army would not fix problems brought about by chronic discrimination, substance abuse and poverty.
"That’s rather ludicrous to suggest a peacekeeping role," Dale Seaniger from Wadeye’s Thamarrurr Council told ABC radio.
"Just bringing in the army as a peacekeeping force is not going to resolve the issue, there needs to be quite a few sort of initiatives put in place."
But Seaniger said soldiers would be welcomed if they came to improve infrastructure such as roads and housing in Wadeye, where there is no high school and homes are dramatically overcrowded.
The government has dismissed the idea of sending the army to Wadeye despite calls from the Northern Territory branch of the Australian Medical Association that it do so.
"It seems to me that one of the only ways this community is going to get a chance to catch its breath... is for the forces to be there primarily as peacekeepers," Northern Territory branch president Paul Bauert said.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough this week called for a summit to discuss conditions in Aboriginal communities following reports of widespread sexual abuse and violence against women and children.
But a report published by The Weekend Australian on Saturday found that the problem of sexual abuse also extends to young men, with Aboriginal boys 10 times more likely to be raped than other Australian males.
The 18-month study by the Queensland University of Technology, in which 301 indigenous men in the Northern Territory and Queensland were interviewed, found that one in 10 had been raped before the age of 16 -- 10 times the rate in the rest of Australia.
Researchers said that the abuse had largely remained a secret because victims were too ashamed or scared to seek help.
"It becomes a mirrored thing : if you abuse people and get away it, then you continue with it and then others learn from you," head researcher Mick Adams told the paper.
"We are appalled by the abuse against women and girls but there is also men and boys being raped and sexually abused. It needs to be looked at."
Aboriginal Australians are the most disadvantaged group in the country and have life expectancy rates well below that of other Australians.