PM 'cursed' over plan for natives
[From the Associated
Press, 21 April 2004]
COLAC, Australia -- An aboriginal
woman clad in possum skins pointed a small bone at Australian Prime
Minister John Howard Tuesday in what appeared to be an attempt to
curse him in retaliation for his plan to disband the country's top
panel on indigenous affairs.
The woman, known only as Moopor,
was part of a group of Aborigines protesting Howard's decision to
eliminate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission,
an elected body meant to allow indigenous people to run their own
affairs. Although she later declined to speak to the media, citing
unspecified aboriginal cultural reasons, Geoff Clark, the chairman
of the soon-to-be-scrapped commission, said the woman cast a curse
on the prime minister as a warning.
"Mr. Howard can ... ignore
the message at his own peril and be put under a curse up until the
next federal election," Clark told reporters. Howard later
dismissed the comments, saying: "I don't think Mr. Clark speaks
for indigenous Australia."
The ATSIC, which spends $1.4 billion
on Australia's 400,000 indigenous people each year, has been rife
with allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Howard said the
body would be abolished because it has failed Aborigines. They remain
the poorest, least healthy and least educated group in Australia's
population of 20 million, and have the highest rate of incarceration.