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Horror End to Tribal Rituals

Rory Callinan
Courier-Mail/Brisbane, March 20, 1996

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Mt. Isa police are seeking to lay charges over an unsanctioned initiation ceremony where Aboriginal youths were held down and crudely circumcised with a broken bottle.

Tribal elders in the town are furious about the incident, which resulted in both youths having to be treated in hospital. One needed skin grafts.

A Mt. Isa police spokesman said yesterday the youths were attacked while intoxicated, at a popular drinking spot by the river in Mt. Isa last month.

"We have fairly sketchy details but it appears that a group of them held the young blokes down and did a forced circumcision which has resulted in some pretty horrific injuries," the spokesman said.

"They (the perpetrators) used whatever they can lay their hands on. In one case it was a broken bottle. You are not only looking at the actual injury but possibly the chance of serious infection.

They are all out of hospital now but it’s obviously taken a while for it to heal. One actually required skin grafts. The young blokes that it happened to are very shy and reticent about it. And the whole community is quite mortified."

The spokesman said it was believed Aborigines from outside the town had been involved.

"We think the ones who did it are from out of town but we don’t have any names. With the nature of the offense and people drinking it’s very hard to get information," he said.

A spokesman for the Yalambee Aboriginal Council, which represents Aborigines in the area, said the ceremony was unsanctioned.

He said tribal elders were very upset and have called for those responsible to be punished.

"We think they should definitely be charged. I don’t think any man would want to have his old boy cut with a broken bottle," he said.

Griffith University anthropologist and associate professor in Aboriginal studies Athol Chase said male circumcision was a traditional Aboriginal initiation rite still practiced among some Aborigines.

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