Utopia starvation claim 'mischief-making'

By Neda Vanovac

Claims that elderly people are starving in the Utopia region of Central Australia have been dismissed as mischief-making and political grandstanding by the president of the Barkly Shire Council.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, an Aboriginal activist and the Northern Territory's 2015 Australian of the Year, said on Friday that elderly people in the 15 remote outstations that make up the region, 260km northeast of Alice Springs, have not been receiving regular daily meals as expected through the Barkly Shire Council's aged care program.

She alleged that "the whole community including children and the elderly go without food, often on a daily basis" and that one elderly man with end-stage Parkinson's disease had received a package containing two packets of "horrible-looking" mince meat and white bread which was "like eating paper" with no nutritional value, while two neighbouring elderly women received nothing.

Ms Kunoth-Monks characterised the packages as "the bare minimum to sustain life".

"What I saw appalled me, even my dogs are fed a hell of a lot better than old black people are being fed," she told AAP.

The council delivers 30 care packages to the aged around Arlparra community under a variety of grants and programs funded by the commonwealth, including hot meals for breakfast and lunch and weekly hampers, Barkly Shire Council President Barb Shaw said.

She said Ms Kunoth-Monks' claims that the elderly were paying Centrelink for the food service were incorrect, and that some families have a member receiving a carer's allowance from Centrelink to care for an elderly relative, which is unrelated to the council's food support program.

As a former council president, Ms Kunoth-Monks is well aware of how the system works, Ms Shaw said.

"Rosalie runs straight to the media, she's a grandstander, she tends to agitate more than activate," she told AAP.

"It's absolutely mischief-making and I would ask the question, is this a lead-up to whatever political aspirations she's planning with the elections coming up?"

Ms Kunoth-Monks unsuccessfully ran for the Senate as a founding member of the First Nations Party in 2013.

Ms Shaw said Ms Kunoth-Monks' characterisation of conditions in remote communities was very damaging and skewed perceptions of life in those communities by wider Australia.