After I failed to save his aged father from the march of time and a
meeting with Mister Death, I met a secret Australian hero. His name is
Don is a passionate man. He used to work for God. His job as a
minister of religion offered good prospects for long-term employment
but the Boss was a perfectionist and Don left.
He retired and set up an organization called MALPA. Malpa aims to
create change in indigenous communities by harnessing the energies of
the young and the authority of the Elders. One of its projects is the
Child Doctors initiative, an idea that Don pinched from remote
communities in Peru, as well as other spots on the globe not well
favoured by health services.
The initiative is brilliant. I describe it in my forthcoming novel,
“Carrots and Jaffas” (watch this space): small children are selected
and licensed by elders to receive and transmit health and hygiene
messages to their peers and families.
The personnel are blackfeller kids; no whitefellers get rich, none are
overpaid in Don’s program.
Don visited Utopia – birthplace of the Aboriginal art movement that
has beautified our lives and put Australia on the world map of modern
The art is beautiful, the conditions that Don saw are otherwise.
Don writes (in part):
I have just returned from Utopia. The name Utopia is an Orwellian joke, surely.
What I saw is a national disgrace.
In tiny communities the sewerage is not being collected by the
council. It is thought to be as punishment for
people like Rosalie Kunoth-Monks and her mob trying to stand on their
own feet. She says this is “slow genocide”. With naked children
playing where the septic tanks spew out across the land around their
hovels it would take a brave person to say she is wrong. Except it is
pretty speedy genocide if my knowledge of the effects of hookworm is
anywhere near correct. Some children played in urine soaked t-shirts.
Meanwhile our PM appears in a
star studded media event declaring her love of Aboriginal people and
the Close the Gap progress.
Some said that the Labor party is spooked by the
mass black vote for the CLP and will shamelessly try to parade their
“sincere concern” – according to the bloke we stayed with in Utopia –
Gary Cartwright, an ex Labor politician in the NT. He says he could
not bear to vote for Labor again.
Those at the impressive health clinic are delighted we (ie Malpa) are
going to be involved.
They have been impressed with the effectiveness of the traditional
medicines that local people use.
So much so that they have started using themselves.
A meeting with the local school principal also elicited support. She
has 17 micro schools to manage.
Rosalie and her children are truly incredible. I am touched that they
are choosing our Young Doctor project to respond to the horror that
her mob faces daily. I feel confident that they will capably make this
their own and drive it through.
Rosalie is hopefully getting approval from her Elders Council on
Monday. To work well the project requires local capacity. I am
delighted to say it is there.
At the little place we stayed in there
was a tap at the back with a thick pipe
running off it. This was the water supply for about 50 people who
lived in the grass on a fifty meter radius off the back veranda. There
was no electricity, but they would sit around fires singing gospel
songs. I wonder what they were
thanking God for?
At one point Rosalie introduced me to a Senior man with the words “His
father fought for this country.”
I quickly calculated his age and assumed she meant WWII. I said to him
“World War II, like my father?” Rosalie quietly pointed at the earth
and said “No, THIS country”.
[Interesting side bar.
My “daughter” Nora Nelson Jarrah Napaltjarri discovered that the
Supreme Court, where her mural graces the foyer floor, has been
selling a range of products using her design but without consultation
or royalties! The highest court in the NT abusing the Federal laws
art! She is very cross I am helping her pursue the matter…]
Don Palmer’s Malpa project runs on donations, largely from
Deutschebank, a foreign concern that is very concerned with our own
If you google “Malpa – Australia”, you’ll learn more about their
projects to improve child health in remote indigenous communities. It
would be a hard old stony heart that is not moved by what Malpa does.
As you read you’ll learn more about Don Palmer, a whitefella who is
doing our job outback.
The work is great and the time is short: it is not for you to complete
the work but nor are you free to stand aside from it (Babylonian
I don’t believe Don would be offended if any reader of this decided to
make a donation.
Howard, have you sent this to the daily press? Inspiring.