Indigenous Australians told to "wash for fuel"

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Thursday, December 9, 2004

MULAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Under a draft plan of the Australian Federal Government's "mutual obligation" agreements, members of the Aboriginal community Mulan in Western Australia will be obliged to ensure that homes and yards are clean, students attend school, rubbish bins are emptied twice a week and that children undertake frequent facewashing.

As a "quid pro quo" the community will receive $172,000 AUD in federal funding for petrol bowsers and fuel stations, while the Western Australian Government will provide regular testing for skin infections, worm infestations and the eye condition trachoma, which is widespread in Mulan.

Community administrator Mark Sewell approached Wayne Gibbons, a former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission chief executive, to initate an agreement four months, once it became clear that the face-washing program at the Mulan Catholic school was having a positive effect. The program, which has been running for eighteen months, has reduced the levels of trachoma among students from 80% to 16%.

Presently, the residents of Mulan must drive 44km to the nearby community of Balgo for fuel.

Acting race discrimination commissioner, Tom Calma, has approved the deal, despite concerns from members of the Mulan community. Aboriginal lawyer and land rights activist Michael Mansell claimed that placing conditions on funding is unlawful and unenforceable. The government proposal has been widely labelled as 'humiliating' to the community.

References

Ashish Thomas. "Indigenous Australians told to "wash for fuel" — Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December, 2004 Sapa-AP. "'Wash for fuel' deal condemned" — Cape Argus, 9 December, 2004