Aboriginal leaders are threatening to ban tourists from climbing Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), Australia’s most famous natural landmark, to protest a government plan that aims to curb child abuse in their community. The challenge was issued from Mutitjulu, a settlement near the massive red monolith in central Australia that’s visited by half a million people each year. Mutitjulu is to be among the first townships targeted by controversial new measures that apply to indigenous areas of the Northern Territory. They include a six-month ban on pornography and alcohol, as well as compulsory medical exams for indigenous children. Moreover, all publicly funded computers will be searched for pornographic images.
Those steps were taken after a report found evidence of rampant child abuse in the territory’s native communities—a situation Prime Minister John Howard called a “national emergency.” Extra police and troops were dispatched to several communities to restore order. But that has caused indigenous families to flee into the bush in terror that their children will be taken away, Mutitjulu leaders said last Tuesday.
For some, the crackdown has rekindled memories of Australia’s Stolen Generations— indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their homes as part of an assimilation policy that lasted for decades before ending in the 1960s. Now, in their effort to implement the new measures, authorities are “scaring the living daylights out of the kids and women,” said Mutitjulu resident Mario Giuseppe. Many are also concerned about the federal government’s plan to take over administration of indigenous communities in the Northern Territory for the next five years to make sure the new laws are strictly enforced. “We believe that this government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan Horse to resume total control of our lands,” spokesperson Pat Turner told reporters. But Howard has defended his government’s plan. “Exceptional measures are required to deal with an exceptionally tragic situation,” he said. M
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.