Khullah Yanaintha (Fire coming)

Camping on Country - Tennant Creek Men's Camp, Ernie Dingo

You mob might have heard funding for our deadly pilot program Camping on Country, designed by myself and my crew including a big mob of remote elders, Lore bosses and Aboriginal health professionals has been axed. The program was evaluated and has proven to be successful so why has the Department of Health walked away just as us men are creating momentum?

There is an industry built around ‘fixing’ us Aboriginal people. It’s called Closing the Gap and employs thousands of non-Indigenous health and policy bureaucrats. It’s one of the biggest non-Indigenous public service employment rackets in the country. So why aren’t us blackfella’s Closing the Gap? Is it because our apparent bad health and perceived dysfunction is the industry. To them we’re like coal or iron ore. Our sickness is a valuable resource to them. Our poor health outcomes are mined by Government and I’m getting tired of this fight.

We all know of the Governments ongoing systemic failure to include remote mob in our own health programs has meant an intergenerational non-uptake of health services. From the perspective of a remote non-English-speaking Aboriginal man, it is not a simple case of a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude towards health or an antigovernment belligerence. The issue is personal one for us and runs deeper. That’s why we set up Camping on Country. It gives us a voice and also allows us to wrestle our health business back off govt mob. Our health is our business. You can take away our language and culture, but you can’t take away our right to a good healthy life.

In essence it’s about cultural inclusion. The Government have known about these issues for decades but colonial attitudes of ‘we know what’s best for you’ are ironed into their policy. Blackfellas call it out every single day; deaths in custody, poor housing, health statistics, incarceration rates…the list is endless.

I know from being born in the bush and from growing up in the bush if our culture, language and Lore is not included in our health service delivery then it holds little sway for Countrymen. In fact, anything you try and do in a remote Aboriginal setting, does not work if local mob are not involved and included. It’s called co-design and no amount of well-intentioned bureaucratic ‘consultation’ will work. It has never worked. It never will.

Meanwhile me and my motley black crew are packing our troopie’s and going bush to sit with Countrymen and work out a way to keep going without Government funding. Our spirit of resistance is fuelled by the indignation of our ancestors; thousands of generations of proud warriors, husbands, fathers and elders walk in front of us creating a slipstream of pride, success and ultimate victory. We got this.

And thank you for your support you mob. We appreciate all your deadly comments and encouragement. A lot of you have suggested a crowdfunding page but we too proud for that. Govt mob need to sit with us. They’ve gone away for now… but they’ll come back. Khullah Yanaintha! 

This story was written by Ernie Dingo – Ambassador Camping on Country


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