Wednesday 21st March, 2007

QUEENSLAND’S ‘WAR ZONE’: The community of Hope Vale on Cape York Peninsula has been described as a war zone by one famous resident, Noel Pearson.

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This week on Living Black, video journalist Emma Cook travels to Hope Vale to see the conditions for herself.

Here, 75 percent of the 1500 residents are unemployed. Housing is “appalling” according to Russell Gibson, Hope Vale councilor. There aren’t enough homes so on average, nine people live in each house. Many are made almost entirely of asbestos.

Hope Vale’s residents think the term ‘war zone’ is an exaggeration, yet the local council says the description could become a reality if the Queensland government doesn’t take action.

But will it? Last year, Premier Beattie abolished the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Department, saying it simply hadn’t delivered on improving the lives of indigenous people. Last month he met with mayors from 19 Aboriginal communities in North Queensland to begin drafting a new partnership agreement.

Col Dillon, the QLD government’s former advisor on indigenous affairs, tells Emma Cook that he won’t be holding his breath for rapid improvement.

“I’d give them (the state government) a rating of A-A-F (Abject and Abysmal Failure),” Mr. Dillon says.

Living Black investigates whether the Queensland government’s efforts will deliver the improvements so desperately needed by the state’s indigenous residents.

PROFILE LINDA BURNEY: NSW Labor MP Linda Burney is hard at work, campaigning ahead of the upcoming state election. The member for Canterbury is the first Aboriginal to be elected to the NSW parliament and she’s confident of winning her seat on March 24.

Living Black video journalist Kris Flanders catches up with Burney on the campaign trail, to profile her achievements to date, her life after the passing of husband Rick Farley and her concerns that indigenous Australia is losing its voice.