we need some stuff

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So we needed some stuff – only so many foodstuffs you can drag up from Adelaide when you have two moronic dogs, two spirited children and enough clothing and whatnot to get us through until the truck arrives 10 days after we do! So anyway! We needed to go to the shop. The community shop is in the middle of town, in what looks like a big blue and green shed. Its surrounded by dogs sometimes more than 20 sitting outside waiting for their owners. Sometimes one might take its chances and try and get inside; only to be met with bellows of “PAYA” a word that basically means “dogs, clear off!!”. English is a second language here in the APY lands, Western Desert Language, which comprises, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara languages. Whilst many people here speak English relatively well – amongst themselves they speak their native language. So walking into the shop, a different skin colour, surrounded by a language that I don’t understand, surrounded by customs and ways that are different to what I’d experience in the city where I appear to be part of the majority; its confronting. I walk in, careful to not make eye contact with the men, because male/female interaction amongst the Anangu is very different here and I don’t want to do anything wrong! The shop is packed with Anangu. Here I am the minority. Even though I am an Aboriginal woman; my skin colour, my language – I am different. I have baby Emmeline on my back, and I’m thrilled and somewhat relieved when the old women sitting inside smile at her and say hello. Some people point, perhaps they haven’t ever seen a baby worn on someones back before – battered pushers rolling over dirt and rocks seems to be the norm here. Lots of people are looking at us and I want so desperately to fit in and be accepted, but I know that will take time. The shop is very basic; three aisles and a couple of fridge/freezer sections, and a section with clothing, random pieces of cookware, miscellaneous homewares, a washing machine and even a television! The stuff is significantly more expensive than in the city – its trucked down from Alice Springs once a week. Its $5.40 for a 1.25l bottle of soda water, $6 for a half-dozen apples. We get what we need and head to the checkout. Lots of people are using their “basics card” which is a card that centrelink pay their benefit money into and they can use to only buy certain things, food and toiletries. Each time I visit the shop and see the cards I am astounded and saddened by the paternalism. The government has deemed these people unworthy of deciding how they can spend their money. I haven’t seen white people in the city subjected to such indignity – but I’m happy to be corrected on that. **edited to add that we do have the basics card across the board, but I took this from a recent report by the Human Rights Commission “There are currently 17,215 people compulsorily and voluntarily income managed in the Northern Territory, of which 15,575 are Aboriginal. 90.5 per cent of income managed customers in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal. The issues presented here should be viewed in light of the fact that they disproportionately affect Aboriginal people, despite the purported non-discriminatory intent of the income management regime” I wonder if it has anything to do with the NT Intervention – part of which included removing financial control from the Anangu and other Aboriginal people living under the Intervention. Either way – I find it sickening.** As I walk through the aisles, Im reminded of my own privilege. When I get the internet set up, I can do a bush order and buy much more fresh food for my money than I could from the local shop. The Anangu here struggle to even get a phone line. Or I could drive to Yulara or Alice Springs to do a big shop; many Anangu cant afford the fuel, or don’t have cars that would make it on the dirt roads. Often they are limited to this tiny supermarket, with frozen kangaroo tails (malu wipu) in the freezer section. (that bit is pretty awesome though – I definitely wouldn’t see that in Coles back in Blackwood!) its loud, it smells different because of different concepts of hygiene here, I don’t understand much of what is said, I feel like a curiosity, like I’m being stared at. Min walks straight in, says hello to a few people and doesn’t seem fazed at al! I smile, I look around. This is my home now.

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