The Guardian • Issue #2091

Timber Creek Propaganda

Map of Timber Creek and the military base in the Northern Territory.

Timber Creek is little more than a pit stop in the Northern Territory. It is in the spotlight because it is next to Bradshaw, a huge military training base which is one the largest live firing bases in the world.

The township is on the Victoria River which has recently seriously flooded.

Timber Creek township is at the centre of the military buildup in the Northern Territory and the ABC has used its TV program Backroads and its News App to argue that the military and the Aboriginal people can engage in cross-cultural exchange to everyone’s benefit.

Backroads starts with Kristy O’Brien travelling in an American Osprey plane with US Marines. She looks the part of the embedded (compromised) journalist with the military.

O’Brien is the wife of the former NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner who welcomed the US marines as a boon to the Territory and necessary for “defence.”

The program shows the local Indigenous people warmly welcoming US and Australian military. They hold welcoming ceremonies, explain various dreaming sites and show soldiers how to weave.

Bradshaw’s commander seriously explains how he listens when indigenous elders reveal where the sacred sites are.  The Australian Army then fires at the rest of the area, using tank rounds, missiles and more live fire.

Apparently the deal is that the traditional owners can visit their sacred sites on a restricted number of days each year and they can welcome the Australian and US soldiers and talk to them about traditional customs.

But wait, there’s more good news: Bradshaw has needs and Indigenous people have set up businesses to supply the military with grading roads, hauling supplies and other services.

Some money was flowing to the Indigenous community for community facilities and for tertiary education programs. But there was no suggestion that this money was their due and part of the rent/compensation for taking their land.

It seems a pity that the only way an Indigenous town can earn money is through assisting the military with their largely negative and damaging activities.

No hard questions were asked. Did the indigenous community know that they could become a target in a US-led war with China?

Did they know that US servicemen have an appalling record of abuse of host nations’ people?

Did they know that their traditional land cannot be used again because the ammunition is toxic and will poison the creeks and rivers, and kill wildlife? Have they been told that unexploded ordinance remains a threat for decades?

The US military personnel interviewed were a gormless young man who admitted he didn’t know there were indigenous people in Australia, and a friendly US Navy nurse who was interested in different healing methods around the world.

None of the US Marines interviewed were the “if it stands, knock it over, if it moves, kill it” variety. We got a sanitised version. US Marines in the NT usually go on a charm offensive and do odd jobs like painting school seats or bus shelters, all with maximum media exposure.

Shortly after the Backroads program, Timber Creek was hit by massive floods from Cyclone Kirily and was cut off from supplies. People described being left to starve by the NT government and pastoralists were complaining about the lack of help to restore their fences.

Where were the brave military boys and girls? Why didn’t they help?

Maybe all is not well in the paradise called Timber Creek.

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