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On Tuesday, jubilant crowds packed the streets of Mali”s capital Bamako, waving flags amid blaring horns and gunfire, hailing what they saw as the start of a new chapter in their country’s history.
Under duress from the country’s military, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé had resigned before being detained by soldiers.
By Thursday, a new military junta – calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People – was installed, promising new elections and a new confidence between the people and government.
While Mali has long been held up as the epitome of a vibrant African democracy, the country has often made headlines for the terrorism that has plagued it.
But the unfolding coup, which has been the culmination of weeks of unrest in the West African nation after a disputed election, has this week sent ripples across the world.
So, what does the coup mean for Malians and why should we be paying attention?
An unstable region
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, President of the European Council Charles Michel said that events in Mali could have a “destabilising effect on the entire region.”
“We are extremely concerned by developments. We believe that the stability of the region and Mali, and the fight against terrorism should be an absolute priority, and we would call for the immediate freeing of prisoners and for a return to the state of law,” he said.
“We also believe that we should continue with our efforts at close cooperation with the various institutions – the African institutions – involved so that we can come to a solution which is directly linked to the aspirations of the Malian people.”
Michel is not alone in voicing anxieties over the developing situation. The coup will likely have consequences for the stability of the whole Sahel region in West Africa. It also presents security concerns for the EU, the US and the Arab world, not least because it could cause a power vacuum that Islamist extremists with an already strong foothold in the country will seek to exploit.
France’s “Forever War”
France, more than most European actors involved in anti-terrorism operations in the Sahel, has a vested interest in what happens in the country, a former colony.
Mali, having gained independence in 1960, was long held in high esteem for its democratic principles. Since 2012, however, the country has been rocked by a succession of violent confrontations with Islamic extremists after the military staged a coup.
Jihadis linked to Islamic State and al-Qaeda were able to capture many towns in the north of the country, imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic law on those living under their jurisdiction. This included the destruction of historic sites and forced marriages for women.
French military intervention in 2013 managed to dislodge the jihadis from major towns and cities but has, for the last seven years, failed to stop a resurgence.
And it has, of course, come at a cost for France; with 5,000 boots on the ground and 47 troops killed in operations, Mali has been dubbed France’s “Forever War.”
As well as ploughing French, German, Italian and American military resources into stabilising the country, the UN is currently spending €1 billion a year to maintain 15,000 troops.
At present, more than half of Mali’s landmass is still occupied by armed groups of jihadis, with the influence of these groups now extending over the border into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.
For those still living in areas still controlled by the government, the war has exacerbated conflicts within Malian society and uncovered rife corruption at the heart of the government, something which has angered many.
Eight years on, the coup now in progress shares many of the same hallmarks, including public unrest and ill-feeling towards the government. The junta now installed in Bamako is even believed to have originated from the same barracks of the 2012 coup leaders.
Deteriorating situation for Malians
While many in Europe and further afield see Mali with a degree of detachment, the war on terrorism raging within the country’s borders is having an altogether different effect on those on the ground.
“The military coup in Mali comes on top of years of conflict and violence in the wider Sahel region that has trapped millions of people in crisis, ” says Klaus Spreyermann, head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Mali.
The crisis, which has now culminated in the forceful removal of the current government, has worsened of late due to a number of factors, not least the coronavirus pandemic.
“Violence has tragically escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving death, injury and displacement, all while more than 18 per cent of health care facilities nationwide, 90 per cent of them in the north, have been destroyed by war,” adds Spreyermann.
While President Keïta rode a wave of popular support in a landslide election victory in 2013, many now view him and his government with mistrust.
Having been forced into a run-off in the 2018 presidential election, Malians accused him of failing to quash corruption as he promised, even going so far as to accuse him of manipulating a parliamentary election in March.
“People in northern and central Mali have lived for years in a vicious cycle of conflict and climate shocks that have driven them from their homes and destroyed their livelihoods,” says Spreyermann.
“Their needs must not be forgotten. It remains the responsibility of authorities to assist them, no matter the changes of leadership in Bamako.”
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Mali’s president resigned Tuesday after being held at gunpoint by members of the military, risking further destabilizing the West African country and drawing condemnation from Europe, the U.S. and the African Union.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, who has struggled to address concerns about corruption and the deadly violence associated with Islamic extremists and ethnic separatists, has faced protests against his government for months — those who overthrew the president accuse him of stealing a parliamentary election in March by challenging the result and using the ensuing instability to install lawmakers from his own party.
But while the soldiers who ousted the president have promised to hold fresh elections, the coup has left one of the Sahel’s most strategic nations with a leadership void and the prospect that the turmoil could spread way beyond its borders.
“The military coup lays bare the insufficient progress Mali has made on addressing the problems which have underscored decades of instability and blighted so many lives,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All Malians should work to strengthen the crucial institutions on which stability and progress depend, and put justice for the worsening violence, including by the military, front and center.”
Here’s what the situation in Mali means for the country, the continent and Europe.
What does the coup mean for peace and security?
Keïta’s reign — which began after another coup in 2012 — coincided with the establishment of a French peacekeeping mission in Mali. While deeply unpopular at home, Keïta has been a vital partner for Paris in its counter-insurgency efforts in the region, and French President Emmanuel Macron was among the first to condemn the mutiny.
What happens to France’s role now is far from clear.
“Will France find a good partner in a new government? Do they work with a possible military junta? Do they continue with their operation independently of the Malian government?” asked Caleb Weiss, a research analyst at the Long War Journal, a project that analyzes the Global War on Terror.
For the U.S., another central actor in Mali’s counter-insurgency efforts, there are also major doubts about what happens now. By law, the U.S. does not give military aid to governments formed after coups, raising questions about whether the world’s largest economy will stop its aid to Mali, or attempt to bypass its own laws because of security concerns.
Perhaps the greatest question mark for Africa is the impact of the coup on the G5 Sahel Joint Force, an armed counter-insurgency force made up of soldiers from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which the EU has vowed to support.
The other G5 Sahel members are considering sanctions on Mali and have all closed their borders with the country in response to the coup. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also suspended financial flows between its 15 members and Mali.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson for the African Union, said on Wednesday that he “rejects any attempt at the unconstitutional change of government in Mali” and called on the “mutineers to cease all recourse to violence.”
“I think this is a potentially devastating move for the country that stands to jeopardize its response, as well as the response of its allies, to the insurgency,” said Weiss, underlining the potential for jihadists in the country to use the instability to jeopardize the security of military bases outside the capital Bamako.
Does it dent Africa’s push to solve its own problems?
The coup came as countries in Africa have expressed a growing resolve to manage their own affairs under the slogan “African solutions for African problems.” In February, leaders from the violence-scarred Sahel region agreed to try to boost their own joint counterterrorism capabilities — an initiative that highlights the growing discomfort with the presence of French troops in the region.
But with no leader in Mali, those efforts will surely take a hit. Most analysts believe that the new military-led government, which has called itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), will seek to retain its ties to foreign forces operating in the country. In June, the Katiba Macina, a militant Islamist group that operates in Mali, reportedly attacked an army convoy, killing 24 soldiers in the deadliest attack against Malian forces this year and a sign that Mali needs as much help as it can get.
While France is unlikely to cease its military operations, according to Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at the risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, “military cooperation between both parties will likely be curtailed momentarily.”
“The coup will be a major propaganda victory for jihadist groups operating in Mali, vindicating their view that they hold the military momentum over a paralyzed Malian state,” he added, noting that he expects the security situation to deteriorate in the coming weeks.
Could the coup worsen an already dire refugee crisis?
For Europe, stability in Mali is important as it looks to spread its influence in Africa and help countries develop, in part so that the large flow of migrants from certain parts of the continent are curtailed.
Mali is currently home to more than 45,000 refugees and 250,000 internally displaced people. The coup is hardly likely to alleviate that situation.
What happens in the coming weeks will be key if the country is to regain the confidence of its partners in both Africa and abroad. The cleric Mahmoud Dicko, who has openly criticized Keïta’s government, has been at the forefront of the country’s protest movement but has not announced that he will run for president.
A failure to find a strong leader with popular appeal could have devastating consequences not only for stability in the country but for the wider region and Europe’s relationship with a key partner in the Sahel.
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In 2016, Ruqsana Begum became the world’s first female Muslim boxing champion. Here, she talks about the importance of support systems, and the tips she uses to stay focused on her goals
Mental health matters to me because… we can have a more fulfilled and happier life if we know how to seek the right support. Identifying it helps us deal with stressful circumstances more effectively, alongside having your support system in place. I find it so important to recognise that we will all encounter some level of mental health issues throughout our life, and so we all need techniques to address it.
I cultivate a healthy mindset by… first respecting my mind and body, and then by being kind to myself and others through words and actions. The charity work I do is also really important to my mindset, as what I consume and surround myself with is crucial, as it influences my choices on a daily basis. I’m growing constantly and consistently to achieve my higher potential, not living in fear of the outcome. Find out who you are, set goals, work towards them, and take action.
I first knew kickboxing was something I wanted to pursue… when I saw Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on television as a child, and I was fascinated by the sheer skill and discipline of these amazing human beings.
Kickboxing makes me feel… alive. When I’m training, I’m being challenged mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When I need support I… try to remember to be my best self each and every day, to live life in the present, and prepare for the future by being present.
When I need some self-care, I… take time out from my day to have long baths, enjoy classical music, talk and engage with others, and appreciate their point of view – even if it’s different to mine.
People I find inspiring online are… Joe Rogan, the American mixed martial arts commentator – I find his podcast really insightful. I also really enjoy listening to Dr Joe Dispenza, especially his ‘The Power of Your Thoughts’ talks.
Three things I would say to someone struggling are… take a deep breath, turn this situation into an opportunity – there is always a silver lining – and don’t judge the situation, embrace it.
The moment I felt most proud of myself was… when I finally accepted who I am. We all have gifts to share with the world, whether that’s being a good communicator or showing tenacity. It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you pick yourself up that counts.
‘Born Fighter’ by Ruqsana Begum, is out now (£12.99, Simon & Schuster).
BRISBANE midfielder Callum Ah Chee is adamant Richmond don’t have a psychological hold on the Lions despite the Tigers’ ongoing dominance of the Queenslanders.
The Tigers added to an 11- year winning streak against the Lions, with their latest success over Brisbane on Tuesday night at Metricon Stadium.
Richmond has lost just once to Brisbane in their past 20 encounters, including 14 wins in a row against a team considered one of their premiership rivals.
The Lions booted themselves out of Tuesday’s game, kicking 4.17 and Ah Chee said that was the concern, not the Tigers’ continued success over them.
“Most of the blokes haven’t been playing since 2009 (when Brisbane last beat Richmond),” Ah Chee said.
“I don’t think that was much of a problem. I think we actually played some pretty good footy, we just needed to finish our work.
“Obviously they (the Tigers) are a fantastic team, but if you look at the (statistics), if we finished our work we’re actually pretty close to having a close game with them.”
The Lions are seeking to make amends with an improved goalkicking display when they return to the Gabba on Saturday night to meet the Western Bulldogs.
“We’re going to try to finish off our work,” Ah Chee said.
“That’s something that we want to work on.”
But Ah Chee said the Lions weren’t about to become obsessed with kicking goals.
”It’s just going to be playing our good brand of footy and beating the Western Bulldogs … we’ll be fine,” he said.
The Lions are set to be boosted by the return of fit-again defenders Daniel Rich and Ryan Lester, and the availability of Daniel McStay, who has been suspended for Brisbane’s past two matches, and the recall of veteran Grant Birchall, who was rested for the clash against Richmond.
“It’ll be good to have some wise heads out there, and it’ll be good to see how we go this weekend backing up from a four-day break,” Ah Chee said.
“It’ll be a good test for us and it’ll be good to be back at the Gabba as well playing in front of some home fans.”
But the Lions will be without Cameron Rayner, who is facing up to a month on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring strain against the Tigers.
Lions high performance manager Damien Austin said: “There’s a little bit of damage there so we are probably looking at three to four weeks. He has pulled up pretty well but we will go by his symptoms and see how he goes.’’
Ah Chee said he would be comfortable playing in the forward line again if required after being shifted up there on Tuesday night after Rayner’s misfortune.
Labor Senator Deb O’Neill has also called on ASIC to investigate whether changes to long-standing arrangements with current and former aligned advisers could have broken the law.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the regulator to conduct face-to-face interviews to probe new allegations of misconduct so any legal action against AMP would likely centre on revelations from the banking royal commission, including charging fees for no service.
AMP declined to comment on the pending legal action but said it would help ASIC with any investigations.
The warning of legal action came as ASIC’s deputy chair Karen Chester said she was disappointed with how long it was taking the financial sector to pay back wronged customers.
“We do think there are opportunities for the banks and other financial services firms to do a much better on [remediation], not just in terms of the timeliness but also setting things right,” Ms Chester said
Workplace culture needed to be improved so that systemic misconduct could be identified, reported and compensated in a more streamlined fashion, Ms Chester said.
“The longer it takes these institutions to identify these problems early on and the delay then in realising there is a systemic problem … means that remediation becomes a slow, long legacy to be paid,” Ms Chester said.
ASIC is overseeing 89 remediation programs involving 100 licensees. Of those, $828 million had been returned to customers and the regulator expected a further $2.9 billion to be paid to more than 2 million customers over the next 18 months.
Governments need to plan for the long term economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the International Education industry, writes Abul Rizvi.
OVERSEAS STUDENTS have in recent years represented over 40% of net overseas migration — second only to a natural increase in terms of contribution to population growth. They are crucial to the funding of Australian universities and other educational institutions, to the many businesses that operate around university precincts and to the Australians that these businesses and universities employ.
International Education is the largest source of export income for Sydney and Melbourne and one of the biggest generators of jobs in these two cities.
In the last 20 years, students have been crucial to reducing the rate at which Australia was projected to age. With a median age of 37, students have made us one of the youngest developed nations on the planet. Together with our comparatively higher but falling fertility rate, overseas students are key to the rate at which Australia’s population ages in the future.
So what is the latest on overseas students given COVID-19 and the weakening economy?
For the quarter ending June 2020, 130 overseas students arrived in Australia while 22,820 overseas students left for a net outcome of negative 22,690. That negative trend is likely to continue for the remainder of 2020, particularly as students complete their courses towards the end of the current academic year. That may drive a negative net overseas migration outcome in 2020-21 rather than the revised forecast of 31,000.
To address decline in the International Education industry, the Government has announced a plan to allow overseas students entry to Australia from January 2021 subject to quarantine and other requirements. That would also rely on whatever changes are made to the current cap of 4,000 overseas arrivals per week and the extent to which students are accommodated within that cap.
At end June 2020, there were 555,310 people on student visas in Australia — down over 7,000 on the number at end March 2020. That does not include people already in Australia who have applied onshore for a student visa but that visa application has not yet been decided. They would be amongst the record 333,516 people in Australia at end June 2020 on bridging visas (see Chart 1).
Why the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is not seeking to clear the growing backlog of bridging visas may become clearer once it releases details of the 2019-20 Migration Program outcome. Is it just a question of resources being diverted to other priorities (eg $30 million on detaining the Biloela family or $90 million on the now-abandoned visa privatisation initiative or who knows what amount on detaining refugees brought to Australia from Manus and Nauru as well as those still there), or are there other policy constraints?
At end June 2020, there were 100,239 people in Australia on a temporary graduate visa, an increase of over 3,000 on the situation at end March 2020. The Government has been making changes to this visa to encourage greater take up but narrowing opportunities for these people to access permanent residence — that is not a sustainable policy.
Both students and temporary graduates do not have access to Commonwealth-provided social support (such as JobSeeker or JobKeeper) and must maintain private health insurance — while they pay tax, they do not have access to Medicare. If they must self-isolate due to COVID-19, they have little financial support for this (no pandemic leave).
In the current high unemployment environment, a substantial number of students and temporary graduates are relying on charity or support from state governments or from universities.
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that offshore student visa applications declined significantly from 289,691 in 2018-19 to 192,723 in 2019-20 — the lowest level since 2012-13 which was the first year after the Knight Review recommendations were implemented. Offshore student visa applications in the June quarter of 2020 fell to 9,968 compared to 79,786 in the June quarter of 2019 (an 87% decline).
At the same time, onshore student visa applications continued to increase in 2019-20 (see Chart 2).
Most students in Australia at the time COVID-19 started have not gone home as suggested by the Prime Minister. They appear to want to complete their courses and undertake other courses to maximise their chances of securing permanent residence. This includes subsequently taking advantage of post-study work visas that are available even if the labour market is weak.
The challenge for these students will be severe difficulties in securing relevant skilled work experience on a temporary visa required to meet most permanent skilled migration visa criteria. It reflects the serious policy mistake of tightening student visa policy a number of years after tightening pathways to permanent residence — thus putting the cart before the horse.
The other crucial question is to what degree the decline in offshore student visa applications was due to COVID-19 and to what degree offshore applications were already in decline due to student visa changes, tightening of pathways to permanent residence (other than for some regional visas) and a weaker economy prior to the pandemic. This will be relevant to the post-COVID-19 situation for Australia’s International Education industry.
Chart 3 shows that offshore student applications were already in decline prior to the pandemic, but that its impact has understandably been severe. This will not recover quickly after COVID-19 if student visa policy remains tight, pathways to permanent residence remain tight and the labour market is weak — all of which are highly likely.
In terms of major source countries, Chart 4 highlights that student visa applications from China, India and Nepal were already in decline prior to COVID-19.
While the decline from China in the June quarter of 2020 was a very significant fall of 60% compared to June 2019, it was much less than the fall for the other three major source countries. In the June quarter of 2020, offshore student applications from China represented over 60% of total offshore applications. Prior to COVID-19, offshore student applications from China were only 21% of total offshore student applications.
This suggests students from China may be less reliant on income from local employment and may also be less interested in permanent migration.
By contrast, offshore student applications from India and Nepal had been falling sharply well before COVID-19 — the likely impact of tighter student visa policy, tighter pathways to permanent migration and a weaker labour market.
In the June quarter, offshore student visa applications from India fell to 10.7% of total offshore student applications from 18.6% in the previous quarter. Offshore student applications from Nepal fell to 1.8% in the June quarter of 2020 compared to 7.6% in the March quarter of 2020 and 11.3% in the March quarter of 2019.
Student applications from Brazil fell to just 64 or 0.6% in the June quarter of 2020 compared to 2,112 or 3.6% in the March quarter of 2020.
In terms of industry sectors, offshore student visa applications have always been dominated by the higher education sector. That was even more the case in the June quarter of 2020 where over 65% of offshore applications were for higher education.
The V.E.T. sector, in particular the private V.E.T. sector, tends to access a larger portion of its students from higher education student already in Australia. That relativity was maintained in the June quarter of 2020 with 22,302 onshore student visa applications being for the V.E.T. sector compared to 22,546 onshore student visa applications for the V.E.T. sector in the June quarter of 2019.
The higher education sector had 9,405 onshore applications in the June quarter of 2020, only slightly less than the 10,902 onshore applications in the June quarter of 2019.
There has also been a shift in the balance of onshore student applications to different states.
The standout performer has been South Australia, most likely due to a recommitment by the Commonwealth to assisting population growth in South Australia through targeted visa changes. On a per capita basis, South Australia punches above its weight in terms of onshore student applications (see Chart 5).
In the March quarter of 2020, South Australia received 8.2% of onshore student applications, well above the just above 5% for most quarters only two years ago.
Increased reliance on onshore students is, of course, unsustainable.
If the June 2020 quarter performance in terms of offshore student applications is replicated in the September and December quarters, the current pain the International Education industry is experiencing will be magnified.
But it would be foolish to assume offshore student visa applications will return to the heyday of 2018-19, even after the pandemic.
Australia’s International Education industry needs to start planning to be substantially smaller in the long term. That also applies to ancillary industries that rely on overseas students, particular in and around university precincts.
The resulting lower levels of net overseas migration also mean Australia’s population will age faster and the point at which natural increase becomes natural decrease (deaths exceeding births) will come forward.
Both Commonwealth and State Government need to start planning for the long-term economic and budget impact of that.
Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration, currently undertaking a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.
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Last updates 21 July 2020, 1.32pm
Acting on street name changes and on new public works commemorating Aboriginal heritage and history – why does change matter? And if it doesn’t happen now, then when?
Concerns with contemporary social problems should not be used as an excuse for not reckoning with the wrongs of the past, says Joel Liddle Perrurle (pictured, photo supplied).
“All that will end up doing is kicking the can down the road” – as has been done, on and off, for decades.
Mr Liddle is one of three authors of a recent article calling for a public commemoration of “unsung Arrernte heroes” in response to the statue of explorer John McDouall Stuart, erected by the Town Council, after protracted controversy and delays, in Stuart Park.
The article proposed two such heroes – Irrapmwe (King Charley) and Jim Kite. Speaking to the Alice Springs News, Mr Liddle also mentions that more recent “champion for Aboriginal rights”, Charlie Perkins.
“He is lauded throughout the country. It’s astonishing that someone like him is not honoured in his home town. In any other town, his statue or street sign would already be up – what a good person to act as a role model, whether you’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous.”
Mr Liddle, an Eastern/Central Arrernte man, until recently was a senior research officer with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. He has a BSc in Exercise Science and Human Movement (Australian Catholic University in Melbourne) and a graduate diploma in Indigenous Knowledges (Charles Darwin University in Alice Springs). Now he is devoting himself full time to doctoral studies at the University of Melbourne.
Growing up in the eastern states, as a child Mr Liddle came most years to Alice Springs to visit his grandmother, Emily Perkins. As a young adult he was back and forth regularly from 2006 until returning in 2011 to live and work and raise his young family. He was determined to learn his Arrernte forebears’ language and has since had the “empowering” experience of becoming a fluent speaker as well as learning to read and write Arrernte.
His doctoral research is looking at the contribution a positive identity makes to the social and emotional well-being of Indigenous people – an identity built on knowledge and literacy in their languages, their religion, their cultural history.
In today’s world, this identity has to be bicultural and bilingual (or multi-lingual) so that individuals are fully equipped to benefit from economic activity while retaining their cultural knowledge.
“As young Aboriginal people it’s really critical that you have grounding within your Aboriginal identity. If not, you run into all sorts of identity issues that lead you down paths you don’t want to be going.”
Irrapmwe (King Charley) in the foreground. Francis Gillen sitting on the rock. Spencer and Gillen collection.
This is where an acknowledgement of Aboriginal history and contact history in the wider community comes in, by making a contribution towards building that positive identity.
That can’t come solely from grappling wth contemporary social problems.
“If you look at other parts of the country, where Indigenous people don’t have access to their languages and cultural history, you still find the social issues, the substance abuse, the family violence issues. The eradication of people’s identity only compounds their issues further.
“We’ve got such an opportunity here. Despite enormous pressures, languages and cultures have survived. We could celebrate that and become a unique part of the country, taking the lead in dual place-naming and commemoration of our unique history and desert knowledges.”
He points to the example of Wales, where the Indigenous language was in serious trouble, before there was a strong revivalist movement with dual place-naming and signage throughout the country. The language is flourishing again, difficult orthography and all.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do that stuff here, become a showpiece for Australia.”
Mr Liddle working with Veronica Perrurle Dobson and Kathleen Kemarre Wallace on the Indigemoji project. Photo supplied.
He argues strongly for the acceptance of the orthography developed nearly five decades ago by John Henderson and Veronica Perrurle Dobson, in consultation with Elders and linguists. They did this work so that people could become literate in Arrernte: the written language, with sounds quite different from those of English, needed to reflect correct Arrernte pronunciation.
“Don’t use bastardised approaches,” urges Mr Liddle. “Mbantua, Tamara Mara, they are poorly spelt and poorly pronounced as well.”
On commemorating our history, Willshire, he argues, should never have been honoured “in any way”. And once people become familiar with his story – much of it recounted “by his own pen”– most of them agree.
“We’ve seen that with the Town Council.”
He’s referring to the recent unanimous vote by councillors to support a name change for Willshire Street, welcoming particularly the role of Cr Jacinta Price, who seconded council’s motion and provided her colleagues with detailed information about Willshire’s appalling record of violence and sexual predation.
That shows the cut-through of this issue “regardless of people’s political persuasions, whether they’re conservative or liberal”, says Mr Liddle.
While the name change decision finally rests with the NT’s Place Names Committee, they have asked the Town Council to conduct the community consultation on the matter. Mayor Damien Ryan described that as “an abdication of their [the committee’s] responsibility”.
Council’s process will include providing a list of alternative names from which the committee will choose. The reverse is usually the case, with the committee asking for council’s view on names drawn from a reserve list, and council’s view does not always get up.
Mr Liddle urges the council to take this opportunity to engage a historian to work with them on the process, to help bring the stories to the community.
Because the process isn’t about erasure, it’s about knowing and acknowledging our history and about bringing some contemporary critical thinking to bear upon it.
Mr Liddle, second from left, with Baydon Williams, Joe Williams from ‘The Enemy Within’, Andrew Davis and Michael Liddle at the men’s health and well-being workshop, Codes for Life. Photo supplied.
For example, McDouall Stuart is not a controversial figure like Willshire was, says Mr Liddle.
“There’s really no evidence in the archives showing Stuart to be a particularly bad character, but there’s a whole lot more to the story that could be acknowledged.
“He wouldn’t have made it without Aboriginal guides the whole way along.”
Yet he is depicted as the solitary hero (not even his fellow expeditioners are acknowledged) and –what was most insensitive to the community – he is shown holding a gun. Further, the statue was raised in “one of the town’s parks most popular with Aboriginal people”.
It’s a permanent reminder to them of the many episodes of violence in colonial contact history.
As well, Stuart already has a highway, a park, and monuments acknowledging him – there are other people worthy of acknowledgement, and Aboriginal people especially want characters from their own community to be among them. It’s time.
King Charley and Jim Kite both played significant roles in the early contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
“They were negotiators, intermediaries for their communities. Acknowledging them would give us the opportunity to tell that important history, great stories.
“Most people like to learn about the history of Central Australia, it is such an interesting place and our contact history is much more recent than elsewhere. People still have close connections to this history.”
In one of Willshire’s books, for example, Mr Liddle has encountered one of his own ancestors, his great great grandmother, “Untyeyampe, aka Maggie Kana, aka ‘corkwood honey” : “Willshire met her, there’s our people meeting this guy.”
There may also be the opportunity to think again about how we acknowledge important figures, not necessarily following the mould of the statue depicting the solitary male hero, isolating them from their context. For Aboriginal people, in particular, family and kin are always central.
“There are so many brilliant photos in the archive of the old men and women with their families living around the Telegraph Station,” says Mr Liddle.
“A really good artist could do something great with them, that would show and celebrate the region’s history, not just the singular male story. In this day and age people want to see more than that.”