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The Great Divide

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Words: David Simons Photography: Brian Usher – www.usherusher.com Magazine Issue: # 42 Autumn Ocean Road Magazine

An Impromptu Detour to an INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY in the North, forces David Simons to confront the Harsh Face of INEQUALITY.

We are staying in a beautiful waterfront resort with a huge lagoon pool. Deck chairs line the shore and sunburnt tourists bake in the relentless North Queensland sun. Pampered children scream and yell with joy as they frolic in the water under the watchful eye of adoring parents.

Taking a seat on one of the deckchairs,  I feel emotionally drained and bemused as I reflect on the very different scene I witnessed earlier in the day when the Ocean Road cameraman and I went to explore the goldfields around Mareeba in the Atherton Tablelands region.

During our trip we came across a group of Australian Indigenous men sitting by the side of a river. After talking to them for about an hour, we were invited to look around their community.

It was a confronting and eye-opening experience to see the appalling conditions in which some of these people, our fellow Australians, live. Some of the houses we saw were completely dilapidated. In most other parts of the country, it would be illegal to rent them out or live in them.

Mould coated every surface and piles of rubbish covered floors. In one house,  we found 10 kids. None of them reacted as we walked through their house, apart from looking at us with their huge brown eyes and occasionally smiling.

We spoke to many children and their parents and they painted a picture of absolute hopelessness – of empty lives with nothing to aspire to.

How people live like this in our rich land is beyond me. I want to understand the issues that contribute to this breakdown in family and community structure but it defies my best efforts to comprehend. My thoughts are disrupted by cold water splashing on to me as a bunch of kids jump into the resort pool. The contrast in fortunes of rich and poor could not be sharper.

 

Surely in a first world country like Australia with such significant resources and government infrastructure, we should be able to do better in helping our Indigenous Australian’s to have equal opportunity to reach their dreams and live wholesome lives.

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