Aborigines need army: Mundine
by Ian Gerard
30th May 2006

THE army should provide medical services to Aborigines living in communities plagued by chronic health problems, ALP national president Warren Mundine has said.

During a visit to the far north Queensland Aboriginal community of Yarrabah to discuss housing, Mr Mundine urged the military to strengthen links with indigenous people.

"Why can't you look at a military-style flying doctor? Military medical staff need to be trained in setting up operating theatres. Why can't they fly in to an Aboriginal community, set up an operating theatre and fly out again?" he said yesterday.

"Military doctors get fly-in, fly-out training like in a war zone and the Aboriginal communities get the benefit of those health programs."

The military could also provide remote communities with infrastructure such as roads and emergency housing, he said.

Yarrabah Mayor Vince Mundraby said his community needed 150 more houses but had a 10-year waiting list for homes. Its 3000 residents were squashed in 334 three-bedroom houses.

"Overcrowding is the major problem," he said. "If we are going to address the social and health needs of our people, we need to make sure we get more houses on the ground."

He called on the federal Government to address land title issues that prevent Aboriginal people buying homes in communities. "It could be achieved here within two years," he said.

"The home ownership concept has been here for a long time in Yarrabah. We have people who have the capacity to pay right now."

Mr Mundine, who has pushed granting Aborigines private ownership of communal land, visited Yarrabah resident Mala Neal.

Mr Neal lives with his wife and eight children in a run-down three-bedroom house, which was condemned in the 1980s. It has no cladding on the wall frames separating the rooms, holes in floorboards, exposed electrical wires and a sink for a kitchen.

"This is all we have. I've been on a waiting list for 15 years and it's either this, a tin shed or a humpy." Mr Neal said. "I feel sorry for people with three families living in a home like this."

Mr Mundine said: "This is a ridiculous situation and waiting for government to come down to save us is a waste of time.

"The only way forward is to have a mix of welfare and private housing."

A community in the Tiwi Islands this month struck an agreement for the Northern Territory's first long-term leases as a step towards home ownership.