Katters want to stop the diabetes epidemic among indigenous communities
Mornington Island Mayor Bradley Wilson, CEO Frank Mills, Dick Smith, Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara from the ABC and State Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter at the opening today (photo credit Brad Thompson)
02 March 2016: Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter today joined Great Australian and Entrepreneur Dick Smith and ABC radio personality Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara to open a market garden for First Australians on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria located in Mr Katter’s electorate of Kennedy.
Mr Katter has long championed community market gardens as a simple way to improve the health standards of First Australians by providing cheap locally grown fresh produce to tackle the diabetes epidemic.
Yet he said today that it took a private donation from Mr Smith as well as the will of the local Mornington Island Council to achieve what successive Governments had failed to do.
“We deeply appreciate Dick helping out here because with Dick comes national attention,” Mr Katter said.
“Our nation has to be measured on how we treat our poorest people and this is one of the most important things that needs to be done.
“I recently asked all of the Shire Councillors in a First Australian community how diabetes was affecting them – sadly every single one of them had a close relative dying of diabetes.
“The problem was simply not there 25 years ago, but it is now, and something has to be done about it.”
The majority of grocery shops in First Australian communities in Queensland are State Government run operations. While the food is subsidised, it is often still prohibitively expensive and due to the long distances travelled, not fresh.
Mr Katter cited examples of his trips to Aboriginal communities 25 years ago where the mal-nutrition problems of today simply did not exist.
“Diabetes is just another name for malnutrition.
“I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for the best part of a decade and when I went north to say the Torres Straits, 90% of the food that I ate was fresh local food – fish, turtle, crayfish, yam, taro, sweet potato, bananas, mangoes and coconuts.
“But the restrictions by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on fishing has almost completely destroyed First Australians’ ability to fish and removed a source of income.
“On the other side we’ve gone and closed everything down on the basis they say that disease could get into Australia – so they have no source of income and they are not allowed to grow their own food.
“The net result has been that if First Australians want fresh fruit and vegetables they have to buy them from the mainland, but they do not have enough money.
“I’ve said time and time again that market gardens must be reopened and I pay tribute to Dick Smith and the Mornington Island Council for taking this first step,” Mr Katter said.