Running for the hills
When Howard announced that the feds were sending in police and the army into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities to 'restore' law and order, as part of their response to child abuse crisis there, many people anticipated a high level of fear and panic in the communities because of the lack of consultation with Aboriginal communities and their not being involved in what was being planned.
Reports have trickled in of women taking their children to hide in the bush because of their fears that the police will come to remove their children:
An elder of the Mutitjulu community in central Australia says many Aboriginal mothers are taking their children into the sandhills because of fears the government will take them away.Many anticipated the disquiet, but perhaps not the fear. After all, these are Aboriginal people who would either remember being hidden by their parents from 'the welfare', or being removed themselves, or know of this happening to their own parents, such as in this story recounted to the Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families (the evidence recounts practices in WA, but are indicative of those in NT as well):
The welfare just grabbed you where they found you. They'd take them in threes and fours, whatever. The Native Welfare blokes used to come to every station and see where our half caste kids were. They used to drive right down to Port Hedland. Our people would hide us, paint us with charcoal. I was taken to Moola Bulla. The Welfare bloke ... sent his son ... to pick up me and Colin Swift. We were about 5-6 years old, and my mother was allowed to come with us in the manager's car and then he took her away.Ironicaly, Howard actually insisted that people in the communities would start to feel safer once the police were on the ground in their communities and keeping the 'hard men' or 'big men' in check, thus freeing people up to approach services for help and support. I think it is tragic, but ultimately instructive, that even 10 years after the Inquiry, Howard just doesn't get it.
– Quoted by Kimberley Land Council in their submission to the Stolen Generations Inquiry, published in Bringing Them Home Report.
If you knew Howard's hard men were on their way (but weren't sure why), wouldn't you pack up your kids and run?
[Image is from HREOC's online version of the Bringing Them Home Report on the Stolen Generation]