INDIGENOUS advocates used the ninth anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generation to highlight the loss of Mount Isa’s Link Up Services.
At the same time, the Queensland Government published a press release advertising how much it has helped Indigenous people regain contact with loved ones through collaboration with Link Up services.
The ceremony was held at the Mount Isa Island Bowls Club where members of the stolen generation spoke against the local branch closure, including Kalkadoon Community chair Virginia Mayo, and Member of the Order recipient Patricia Lees.
Link Up Queensland recently announced the closure of the office in Miles Street due to financial reasons but said a counsellor and caseworker would visit the region every two months.
There were eight clients currently based in Mount Isa, one in Camooweal, two in Mornington Island, one in Doomadgee and one in Normanton.
The service’s response given at the ceremony said; “based on the outcomes achieved since the Mount Isa office opened in 2013, a cost benefit analysis identified that it is not viable to maintain a stand alone office.” There had been four reunions from the Mount Isa office since March 2013.
Ms Mayo said that as a previous Link Up board member she was aware of the funding the company received. She still was against the closure.
Ms Mayo urged the community to advocate against the closure of the service. “If we don’t do this as a strong community we aren’t going to get any outcomes.” The service has become more coastal and south east focused, she said.
“I do believe as a community group we have got to be asking how Queensland Link Up is now structuring, what services they are rolling out.”
Vietnam war veteran Peter Smith, 83, was against the closure. He was affected by the Indigenous forced removal government policies because his mother had been taken from a NSW cattle station when she was 12.
When he was 45 years old, as a ranger in central Queensland he was able to stay the night at a retirement home, where through “divine intervention” he discovered his aunt.
“I had been wondering, ‘where’s my aunties, where’s my uncles? We just stood there and held one another with tears streaming down her face,” Mr Smith said.
“I’m sorry to see Link Up closed down and it wasn’t part of finding my rellies, but it could still help in me finding other members of my mother’s family.
“It would be much better for elderly people to have a local representative (of Link Up) in Mount Isa.”
Injilinji Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Children, Youth Services and Aged Care chief executive Patricia Lees said attendees at the function decided to hold monthly events to remain updated on services that may be at risk.
Attendees would be “foot soldiers” in the community highlighting the concerns. Mrs Lees likened these “foot soldiers” to Jesus’s disciples.
“We hope to have that kind of momentum. We’re going to copy him. The foot soldiers, I call them.”
Mrs Lees said it was unclear whether these monthly community events would be held in office hours or not.