It’s tense here at the moment. You could cut the air with a knife. You can always tell when there’s trouble brewing in community; you can feel the electricity in the air. The kids are wound up, fighting amongst themselves, teasing each other and generally more highly strung than usual – tempers fly, and so do fists. Even the camp dogs can feel it. They fight in the town square, kicking dust up in their wake. Growling, hissing and shrieking. Rumor has it that it’s the same root cause of the fighting that happened a few months back with the riot that ended with a man having his skull cracked in. To complicate things, a group of Anangu men are scheduled to be released from prison in Pt Augusta; and this is causing a great deal of angst and anxiety for a variety of reasons. Inma, the church; (Many Anangu are devout Christians. “Inma” which translates to “song/dance/ceremony, is on every night. From dusk untill late into the night, you can hear the music and preaching from the church). Inma holds special services for Anangu that have just returned to community after a long stint in jail. It’s fire and brimstone stuff; scorched earth. The point is, to say “we know you made a mistake and broke pirinpa law, we are watching you, and we will support you”. In many respects this is a healing, cleansing experience for the Anangu returning. But anyway, even in the quiet end of town, in ‘Teacher Street’, Anangu men are walking up and down, picking up rocks. The shit is about to hit the fan; or at least that’s how it feels. Today is especially tense because a member of community tried to hang herself this morning. She’s stable now. Suicide is a big problem in the APY lands; especially in children. There are particular places that are hot-spots for hangings. Fortunately this girl was saved. It was attributed to domestic violence, but only she could say for certain. Matt is stiff and sore tonight, he was assaulted today; breaking up a fight. Violence is part of the status quo up here, and that’s probably due in part to the fact that tribal law and retribution is linked with violence. Substance abuse and low socio-economic status are other contributing factors, and there are probably many others – it’s a complex issue with no easy answers. It’s pretty frightening at the moment; and I’m keen to get out of community for the time being. Whilst I know that if we stay away from the riots and brawls, we won’t be specifically targeted, it scares me nonetheless. My biggest fear is Min. I know the tjiitjii won’t be targets of the violence, and that at pre-school he is relatively safe, I fear in the back of my mind that something might happen. Times like this I’m keen to keep him at home. Tommorrow is Friday, so no preschool. I think we might head to Yulara tomorrow night, just in case the fighting really kicks on. I’ve seen lots of Anangu around that I don’t recognise, and that’s likely because they’ve come from other communities to get involved in the fighting. We are all on tenterhooks. Let’s hope it passes soon.
Sticks and Stones