Photo: National Indigenous Times

This Musical Dispatch from the Front is a guest post by my old—in both senses of that word—friend Frank Baarda,* a long-term resident of Yuendumu.

Hiya Folks,

I consider myself lucky to have experienced an age when nuclear submarines didn’t cost $5 billion and to keep an almost vacant offshore asylum detention facility open, $350 million per annum. 

A ticket to a Taylor Swift concert is $400 and an airplane ticket from Alice Springs to Sydney will set you back a grand. 

A pair of Adidas shoes is almost $200 and a pair of Ray-Ban sunnies at least $100.

(Hold off you pedantics, these are indicated approximate rounded figures for context purposes only.)

Opening of the additional youth detention facilities in Alice Springs is imminent. 

Costs have blown out to more than $30 million but hey!?

Twenty two more beds will be provided. 

There are 23 youths currently at the soon to be closed infamous Don Dale facility slated to be moved to Alice Springs. 

This augurs well, a greater than 100% occupancy rate from the outset for mere million dollar beds!

I can’t remember the cost of attending some memorable live performances including Louis Armstrong, Andres Segovia and Screaming Jay Hawkins, but these were all within a struggling student’s budget.

The first time I heard the song ‘Reckless’ was at a James Reyne performance at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Lorne.  It might have been 1985.

In an earlier Dispatch I wrote the following:

In February 2011 Prime Minister Julia Gillard presented what I think was the third Closing the Gap report to Parliament.  I’ve just wasted a few hours reading what is clearly a work of Utopian delusional fiction.  Echoing John Howard’s previously mentioned 2007 statement: ‘Aboriginal Australians, to have any future at all, will have to join the mainstream’, Julia Gillard stated that ‘Indigenous Australians have to change their behaviour if the Closing the Gap initiative is to succeed’.  Julia seems to have given only scant or no consideration to the possibility of the authorities changing their behaviour instead. 

The obvious musical link was that Reckless song: “She don’t like that kind of behaviour.”

Thirteen Closing the Gap reports later nothing much has changed. 

The well-intentioned Closing the Gap initiative remains a fundamentally assimilationist endeavour and the possibility of the authorities changing their behaviour is as distant and Utopian as ever.

So, imagine my delight when I came across this contemporary version of Reckless:

The words have been cleverly rewritten to encompass recklessness towards the environment and the perpetration of war crimes.

It is now over four years ago that a young man was shot in Yuendumu.

After much legal manoeuvring the person who pulled the trigger is having to face the Coronial Inquest this coming week.

Worth repeating:

Who’s gonna take away his licence to kill?

(Ref: sections 148A and 148B of the NT’s Police Administration Act)

Last week as I went to the weekly school breakfast, two friendly policemen were just coming out the gate.

We exchanged Good Mornings and as they sauntered away I noticed they were wearing guns.

I’ve had another listen to that song:

Throw down your guns,

Don’t be so reckless.

You can read Frank’s earlier posts—and it has been a while since I’ve posted one—here, here and here.