T he one word that John Howard couldn’t say to our original landowners (aka the aboriginals) about the Stolen Generation — “sorry” — is what needs to be said by the Adelaide City Council.
No one doubts that homelessness is an eyesore. No one doubts that there are some members of our community (aboriginal or not) that have serious allergies to alcohol and who react in anti-social ways when they are drunk.
But the Adelaide City Council’s repeated attempts to make the problem go away aren’t working.
They kicked the homeless (mostly) aboriginals out of Victoria Square — fair enough, it is a very public place and does not help make the inner city attractive and welcoming to visitors.
But to shuffle them from one park in Adelaide to another in an attempt to sweep them under the carpet doesn’t work.
We are on the virtual eve of a national ‘Sorry’ day, when the Federal Government will say on our behalf, “sorry, we didn’t realise that taking your children away from you would be as devastating and wrong as it was; we did it for all the right reasons but it was the wrong thing to do.”
So the City Council’s workers sneak in while the homeless are at a shelter, steal their bedding and personal possessions.
There are many fine groups within the city trying to help them, trying to provide them with the skills and resources to be able to create a better life for themselves.
Sure, they can be noisy, violent, aggressive to passers by; sure, they scare the pants off my youngest stepdaughter (and me too, sometimes!). But to treat the homeless (whether aboriginal or not) as
second third-rate non-humans is atrocious.
I don’t know what the answer is, and I feel for the residents around the parks in which the homeless congregate, residents who pay good money to live inside ‘the square mile’ and next to one of our many beautiful park-islands. No one is saying that the residents are being ungracious or unjustified in their anger.
But the answer doesn’t lie in kicking the homeless around from one place to another, or from moving them to another council’s area to ‘get them out of our hair’.
Homelessness SA chairwoman Jo Wickes said nothing was achieved by either moving people on or taking their belongings.
“Even if they wanted to go to shelters, the shelters are full and the Aboriginal hostels are full. So there aren’t a whole lot of options for them. And it is public space,” she said.
“Tonight they’ll be right back there all over again.
“It’s just harassment.”
And the answer surely doesn’t lie in sneaking in and stealing their possessions, including their bedding, making it even harder for them.