Mothers know best

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  • Published 20130424
  • ISBN: 9781922079978
  • Extent: 288 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

KOWANYAMA’S FIRST CANTEEN opened in 1973. It was little more than a window, with a noisy throng of men outside, all flashing cans and elbows. Officers from the Queensland Aboriginal Affairs Department rationed the daily limit, which began at two cans each, increasing over time to four, before settling on six. If there was any misbehaviour in the community, the ration was decreased for all. All six cans were opened and passed in one go, to be consumed before leaving. Each person sat with their cargo, guarding them until they were gone.

Through the 1980s, the Bjelke-Petersen Queensland Government actively promoted community canteens, as a means for Aboriginal community councils to generate profits and pay for local services. At the lead was the ubiquitous Russ Hinze, the ‘Minister for Everything’, with his diverse portfolio of local government, roads, racing and police. When the new canteen in Kowanyama opened in 1986, it included a lounge bar. There was a major incident on New Year’s Eve 1992, involving riotous behaviour, a break-in and looting of beer from the canteen in the settlement on the west coast of Cape York.

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