In 2006, I participated in a significant and important discussion on ABC's Lateline which addressed the crucial issue of Indigenous disadvantage and government neglect of Indigenous communities.
I'm proud to have stood up for human rights and Indigenous women and children.
Seventeen years ago when I spoke on ABC Lateline with along other key witnesses about neglect of remote Indigenous communities by governments and violence and abuse suffered by women and children, I did so because I believe in human rights, social justice and equality. I was also a witness in a Coronial Inquest and Senate Inquiry into petrol sniffing and its impacts in the Northern Territory and in two successful criminal prosecutions related to what was occurring in the Northern Territory.
I learned it is dangerous in Australia to speak out against abuse. Victims and people who speak out are often abused, gaslighted and treated like political footballs. But if we don't speak out, nothing will change.
Misinformation and defamatory material circulates on the internet about me as a result of my stand on human rights. Much of it is sourced and weaponised from false statements made about me under parliamentary privilege by former Northern Territory politicians. I wrote to each of them in 2006 outlining the facts and asking them to correct the record. None of them bothered to reply. Parliamentary privilege exempted them from defamation laws. They had no accountability.
Seventeen years later, I still get abused, gaslighted and cancelled from time to time. The blame me for the Northern Territory Intervention. But it's a bit rich, especially for so-called progressives, to blame me as an Aboriginal man for the actions of a white Prime Minister at the time. As one colleague said, “if I didn’t know you Gregory, it would be easy to believe you might have driven tanks through Indigenous communities”. I issued a statement about my appearance on Lateline in 2006 and I stand by that. I'm proud of myself for standing up for human rights. I don't respond to haters. Attention is what they want. It is worth noting, however, that:
The NT Coroner found my evidence and work outstanding. He conducted a thorough, independent investigation into what was happening in Central Australia. His was a statutory and judicial process, not political or ideological.
Female community elder Mantatjara Wilson, the former community doctor at Mutitjulu and other witnesses all shared consistent evidence with me.
An ABC Independent Complaints Panel Review of the Lateline Program in 2007 debunked the conspiracy theories and found me to be a "reliable and credit worthy witness".
Lateline presenter Tony Jones laid out the facts and how politicians had weaponised the issue in his Darwin Press Club speech of 2006.
The harrowing nature of violent crime and child sexual assault across Central Australia was also exposed in 2005 by the NT Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers.
The Little Children are Sacred Report in 2007 found there was "a significant problem" in Northern Territory communities in relation to sexual abuse of children.
There’s a Buddhist saying that if someone tries to give you something and you don’t accept it, then the thing they're trying to give stays with them. That’s what I do with the hate and gaslighting.
I don’t accept it. It stays with the haters. I am sad for those who buy into the conspiracy theories. Abusing and cancelling human rights defenders, harms human rights for everyone.
From a policy perspective, my submission to the Coroner's Inquiry is worth a read on the complex and interrelated problems and solutions needed to address what was occurring in Central Australia. Two of the key issues I identified were: (i) the need to address social and economic disadvantage in Indigenous communities; and (ii) for governments to stop passing the buck on service delivery under the auspices of 'self determination'. Indigenous Australians in remote and regional Australia deserve the same safety, services and government accountability as all Australians.