Tag Archives: Indigenous Affairs

Labour Minister doesn’t flip

CONTROVERSIAL Territory cabinet minister Marion Scrymgour has backed away from her criticisms last week of the Howard Government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities following meetings with Chief Minister Clare Martin and federal Labor MP Warren Snowden.

No she hasn’t

“In hindsight, (it was) the emotional roller-coaster I was on, and I’m not going to blame anybody other than myself. I have looked at that speech and in hindsight I could have toned it (down), could have still got the same message across,” she told The Australian.

We’re talking semantics here. Her message hasn’t changed – She still believes in what she said.

So does Clair Martin.

On Thursday, Ms Martin admitted she had vetted a draft of Ms Scrymgour’s speech. “The essence of what Marion said in her speech in Sydney is exactly what we’ve been saying all along,” she said, adding, however, she would not have used Ms Scrymgour’s language herself.

So what’s it all about?

The Federal Election. The Howard/Brough plan is obviously working and the last thing Rudd wants is any discussion about successes of the Coalition. He doesn’t want the electorate reminded that at long last there is some hope. I note Howard critics are also trying to defray the issue by insisting that Howard didn’t do anything for 11 years.

Not so. It has taken that long to shake the years of ALP Left wing outstation, noble savage,culture before employability and sit-down money is good mindset. Over that period the debate changed from ignoring obvious, known by everyone, alcohol and drugs based social disarray to Indigenous leaders stating the obvious and asking for help.

Rudd doesn’t want the word Indigenous mentioned, particularly by the very same people who have done nothing for generations; Howard should mention it daily.

Noel Pearson

I watched Noel Pearson on Lateline the other night and was so impressed with his compassion for his own people and his straight talking that I’ve include the transcript on the left with a view to leaving it there for some time.

Do yourself a favour and read it.

National Emergency thoughts

The Howard/Brough plan to actually do something about the abysmal Indigenous problems has certainly taken Rudd’s union problems off the front page and the blog world is awash with opinions and attacks.

The Left are screaming and as usual are very strong on criticism but offer no answers of their own. PATERNAL…A WEDGE…TAMPA 2007…BANDAIDS…TOP-DOWN IMPOSED AUTHORITASIANISM are just a few of the screams.

A common cry is “why now Howard?” suggesting it’s all about the election year but maybe it’s all about the plan being subsequent to a report that emphasizes the problem.

Medical anthropologist Gregory Phillips, claims it’s all about uranium.

What Howard really wants is to destabilise Aboriginal communal rights to land and to get easy access to the NT’s uranium.

The debate at Larvatus Prodeo underlines why nothing has been done since Whitlam and Nugget Coombes thought up the outstation plan that hid the problem and denied solutions.

Over at Surfdom “military involvement” translates as “martial law” in left-think, conjuring up images of soldiers with rifles standing guard against grog runners and recalcitrant locals. I think you’ll find the Army will be used for repairing and/or building infrastructure and it’s been my experience that soldiers and locals establish a good relationship when they’ve been used previously.

Medical checks for STDs. There is concern about medical checks for all kids under 16 with TigTog questioning if they will also be checked for other maladies. Of course they will and to suggest otherwise is to insult the professionalism of the medicos involved.

A problem of sexual abuse was identified by the recent report. How the hell are we going to even start to fix the problem if we don’t quantify and subsequently treat it?

Permit Entry. Ken Parish at Club Troppo and others claim the cancellation of the permit system for entry to Aboriginal townships will open up the communities to white predators. I have never agreed with the permit system since it’s inception – I think it hides the problem. Let the police handle predators and grog runners and give unfettered access to tourists, the media, the police and bureaucrats.

My eyes were opened when I went into Arnhem Land and visited communities under the auspicies of Gallowray Yunupingu. I learned a lot about their problems from one of his wives and from my own general observation. I also learned a lot about the causes of these problems.

Let’s stop hiding the problems.

Grog. A comment at Club Troppo

Howard tonight on Lateline said something like “We know what the root cause of this is, it’s alcohol.”

That’s it right there: a boxed-up Easy Pack human solution and a complete inability to understand the Aboriginal spirit and what is really the root cause of their utter heartbreak, and all of that – sick and impoverished as his best humanity is – running a vast sunburnt expanse behind his political need.

We’ve spent too long trying to understand the root cause of their utter heartbreak. Two weeks ago I spoke to a thirty something-policeman who had just finished a tour at Doomadgee.

The best time he ever had there was when the grog couldn’t get though due to the wet season. The town turned functional – the policemen’s lot revolved around actually being able to police the community for the community’s benefit and not just stopping fights, sending kids and woman off to a hospital or being on the lookout for grog runners.

When the grog could get through it was a nightmare.

No point trying to understand root causes when the people are drunk all the time. Stop the grog for a while and and then reason can function.

‘If you stop the grog they’ll just go elsewhere’ is a common call and fair enough. I’ve seen it myself but I’d bet next weeks army pension that the people who are going to be involved are well aware of that and will include it in their plan.

There is plenty of evidence that dry communities” aren’t really dry and that determined drinkers can always find a way to circumvent regulations but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to dry them out.

As no plan survives contact with the enemy then nitpicking of the original plan without offering alternatives is pointless. The lesson is, when confronted with a problem do something and adjust as other problems arise.

To do nothing just doesn’t cut it.

Howard bans alcohol, porn in indigenous communities

ALCOHOL and pornography will be banned in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory as part of a dramatic response to widespread child abuse, which was today labelled a “national emergency”.

My first response – good!

Second response – my, aren’t the lefties going to scream – good!

They’ve had their go, now some hard work has to be done to recover from the damage.

The police are going to be very busy and they’ll need eyes in the back of their heads. The last time I drove down the Arnhem Highway towards the centre we drove through the last town at about 4:00 pm. A dry town and all quiet but after having passed through there were a stream of locals walking back into town. Been hunting, said someone in the back…no such luck. A mile or two out of town was a cleared area full of hundreds of empty stubbies. The town was dry so they just went to the limits and sat down there.

I agree with Howard – we have to be paternal to help and protect the next generation. They need to go to school and get a real education but there is little chance under the current chaos.

Just the same it’s going to be difficult.

UPDATE: Larvatus Prodeo are all over it…wedge politicsTampa 2007 and this waffle;

He’s had 11 years to starve them, drive up the negatives and drive down the positives and now he owns them. 

Just gets better and better.

Hurley Not Guilty!

THE jury hearing the trial of police officer Chris Hurley – charged over a death in custody on Palm island have found him not guilty.

No witnesses to the event and no apparent or obvious dereliction…..what else could they do?

A political event that raised false hopes among the uneducated at Palm Island and has achieved nothing other than to make it extremely difficult in the future for Queensland Police to man their stations in indigenous communities.

Who would want to serve there after all?

If you are well intentioned you can still find yourself in court after an accident occasioned by excess alcohol and for just how long can a policeman hold his patience in these circumstances.

Premier Peter Beattie said earlier today the verdict should be calmly accepted.

“This has been a difficult case … but I think it’s absolutely imperative that everybody, regardless of who they are, accept the decision of the court,” Mr Beattie said.

Good idea Pete….pity you didn’t accept the decision of your Justice Department in the first place and avoided all this angst.

Of course they should!

ABORIGINAL children should be forced to learn English so they can escape lives of poverty on remote and economically unviable communities.

Where have we gone wrong that an MP has to make this more than obvious statement?

Years ago I was lamenting the lack of english in Indigenous communities. My observations from my LTD04 Tour of Arnhem Land include;

….It doesn’t seem to include education. I was told that the heir apparent to Galarrwuy’s Principality has English as his third language. Impressive on the face of it but there is little value in being fluent in two aborigine dialects when neither are useful outside Arnhem Land.

And later, talking about some kids I’d met;

They discover biscuits and in the time honoured tradition of kids everywhere in the world, ask for some. I happily oblige but my lasting memory of the camp is that they didn’t have a word of English other than a fractured “biscuit?’

Of course they need to learn english but not everyone agrees that language is a priority – Professor O’Donoghue, co-patron of the Stolen Generation Alliance and head of the former indigenous administrative body ATSIC, lambasted Mr Howard’s attitude to the stolen generations.

The good professor claimed she was part of the Stolen Generations until it was proven she wasn’t and she is still confused. Forget about an apology for a crime that didn’t exist and concentrate on something practical to help our indigenous brothers and sisters out of the problems.

Being able to speak, read and write english would be a good start.

The Doomadgee Debacle

Undoubtedly there are questions to be answered in the Palm Island tragedy and after reading Christine Clements findings some of these questions relate to police procedures but I think the debate is getting out of hand as the beying for Senior Sergeant Hurley’s blood gets louder and louder.

For out-of-staters Hurley is the senior policeman on Palm Island, a dysfunctional aborigine community of the coast near Townsville. He arrested a drunken aborigine and in the process was punched in the jaw. Hurley retaliated, a scuffle followed, the combatants fell on the floor and Doomadgee, the drunk, was eventually dragged into a cell where he subsequently died from internal bleeding occasioned by damage to his liver.

The Pathologist acknowledged the physical damage but found that the death was “aciidental”

Palm Island erupts. The Island was trashed, Hurley’s home was burnt down as was the police station and court house.

From Tony Koch in the Australian

More than 25 Palm Islanders were subsequently arrested for their part in the riot where the police station and courthouse building and police living quarters were burnt. Nobody was hurt in the riot. The alleged “riot leader” Lex Wotton, faces charges which could see him jailed for up to 20 years for the property damage.

True, nobody was hurt in the riots but the policemen inside were in fear for their lives albeit they eventually escaped unharmed. Tony’s use of “riot leader” Lex Wooton further downplays the civil disorder and dysfunction prevelant at the event.

How did he die? From the Inquest headed by Christine Clemments;

The liver was virtually completely ruptured- “… cleaved in two” in Dr Lampe’s words. The two halves of the liver were only connected by some blood vessels. The portal vein had an oval hole along its posterior surface measuring 1.5 by 0.7 centimetres which was along the line of the contusion extending through the soft tissue. There was localised haemorrhage to the pancreas adjacent to the peri-duodenal haemorrhage.

Both autopsies concluded that the cause of death was intra-abdominal haemorrhage, due to the ruptured liver and portal vein.

The Coroner stated there was no evidence of kicking and Hurley’s retaliatary punches caused little damage however the damage to the liver still remains. It is suggested that during the scuffle, when both combatants fell, that Hurley, a smidgeon over 200 cm and built accordingly, fell onto Doomadgees chest with his knee concentrating all his weight on the chest cavity and by extension this caused the death. Hurly denies falling on top of Doomadgee saying he fell to the left and Doomadgee to the right.

Doomadgee’s blood alcohol level was later found to be 292 mg/100mL (0.292) and I wonder if regularly sharing a carton and a half in one sitting (given in evidence) would cause some damage to the liver making it more susceptible to damage. I don’t know.

Christine Clements found Hurley had a case to answer. The case was reviewed by the QLD DPP who found that there was insufficient evidence to charge Hurley and the activists and Palm Islanders exploded again. The Queensland government panic and call another Inquest, this time by an out-of-stater who responds “correctly” and recommends Hurley be charged.

What value the State of Queenslands DPP now? Deliver a finding that the those involved don’t like and the Government can easily be forced to call in another opinion. What happens if Hurley is found not guilty of manslaughter, as is likely. Will the government ignore that verdict and find another court to hear the case again?

Viscous circle

Christrine Clemments is strongly of the opinion that Doomadgee shouldn’t have be arrested for drunkeness, in fact she believes none of them should be arrested. I’ve always been of the opinion that they are often arrested for the damage they might do to others and themselves whilst so drunk. It’s a fine and noble sentiment from the bench but fades in the face of a belligerant drunk intent on trouble and addressing perceived wrongs of the past.

Tony Koch makes much of the two subsequent suicides, one, a witness to the event and the other, Doomadgee’s son. Both unquestionably tragic but of little relevance to Hurley’s guilt or otherwise.

The opinion pages are full of people putting down on the Queensland Police for their treatment of aborigines. They do so from the comfort of their civil surroundings with no thought to the trauma of policing in these dysfunctional communities where death is a constant companion of drunken behaviour.

The Inquest raise a lot of questions that need urgent answers and Hurley’s actions throughout the incident appear to be unproffessional but proffessionalism isn’t just about the man; it is also about the training for policemen posted to these communities and support that the government should give them.

I don’t see a clear cut case of manslaughter and whereas the chances are that Hurley did cause the damage that killed Doomadgee it is going to be difficult to prove it wasn’t accidental and part way caused by Doomadgee himself entering into the frey.

The story will be around for a long time yet and I just hope that Hurley gets a fair trial.

COAG Pragmatism

CUSTOMARY law will no longer be used as an excuse for sexual abuse and violence in indigenous communities under an agreement struck at yesterday’s talks.

Now there’s a statement for the books but as expected the usual subjects show how out of touch they are with the country.

Stanhope, the ACT leader waves the flag for all things left with this loopy statement;

“It is very important in the context of advancing reconciliation and issues in relation to indigenous disadvantage that we not seek to identify aspects of Aboriginal culture and customary law as incidences, or sources of some of the behaviours,” he said.

Culture and customary law has always had an impact on behaviour…black or white.

“It is important that we separate the causes of indigenous disadvantage from issues such as customary law, cultural background. The ACT has a particular position in relation to the role and place in sentencing courts to take account of issues such as cultural background.”

There are alot of causes for indigenous disadvantage, the main one being too many people have listened to this type of codswallop for too long. Others are most defenitely issues such as customary law and cultural background. You know, the type of customary law and cultural background that lead to the celebrated case in the Territory of a guy who raped a female on the basis that she had been promised to him and she was his to deal with as he pleased.

The ‘Learned sentencing judge’ put him away for one month! There exists an overriding consideration in the trial of tribal law and customs that conflict with Australian and Territory law.

Upon the respondent’s pleas of guilty, the learned sentencing judge imposed a sentence of five months imprisonment on Count 1 and 19 months imprisonment on Count 2 to be served cumulatively upon the sentence of five months imposed on Count 1, making a total period to be served of 24 months, but ordered that those sentences be suspended after the respondent had served one month upon the respondent entering upon his own recognisance of $250 to be of good behaviour for a period of two years. It was a further condition of the suspension of the sentences, that for the period of two years, the respondent not communicate, directly or indirectly, with the child, SS.

On appeal this was increased to 18 months. The case is old hat now but still serves as a good reason to agree with the thrust of the COAG meeting. The ordinary punters in Australia take an extremely dim view of cases such as this one.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) recognize themselves that there is a problem

Tragically, some sympathetic magistrates who are generally aware that there are ‘too many Aboriginal men in jail’ are inclined to give light custodial sentences to Aboriginal perpetrators of violence and abuse. It takes great courage and determination on the part of an Aboriginal woman, family and community to pursue a case of this kind in the courts: inadequate sentences are a devastating outcome.

Simply put, there are too many Aboriginal men in jail because too many of them committ jailable offences. They do it for a number of reasons, few, if any, related to cultural or customary law issues. Excessive consumpion of grog is not an age old custom steeped in millenia of tribal tradition although general gender relationship may be.

For too long we have listened to Stanhope and his fellow travellers. Nugget Coombes, Whitlam, Hawke and Keating set up the ‘Noble Savage’ outstations condemning them all to mark time in the 19th century while the rest of the population marched steadily ahead.

The concept is ‘broke’…lets work towards fixing it

Indigenous education

Professor Jon Altman, from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU Australian National University wants our brothers to stick to hunter gatherer career choices.

But the crucial issue that neither Johns nor Storry address is that of curricula. Too much emphasis is being placed in the current debate on providing opportunity for indigenous kids in very remote Australia for imagined futures as “lawyers, doctors and plumbers” (as suggested by Amanda Vanstone) and too little for futures as artists, land managers and hunters living on the land that they own.

The professor is obviously a good communicator. In one paragraph he has underlined one of the main problems with education of our brothers.

Unfortunately he has got it the wrong way round and although people reading the letter may well believe that because he is a ‘Professor’ then his word should be heeded, he is in fact suggesting we reinforce failure;

…… artists, land managers and hunters

Now there’s a career list that’s going nowhere. They need to be educated the same as the rest of the country’s kids so that when graduating they have a choice of careers; not some limited idea from an ‘out of touch professor’ that would have the boys learning ‘spear and woomera 101′ and girls swatting over ’100 yam recipies for the busy mia mia wife’

The professor thinks we should pay heed to the ‘outstation’ mentality where Whitlam and Nugget Coombes believed they should all be living in the desert;

Rather than just seek mainstream education solutions to complex non-mainstream indigenous circumstances, we should develop curricula relevant to local settings and new enterprises and then see what impact this might have on attendance.

They really need a broad education that will allow them to view ‘outstation’ life for what it is; demeaning, pointless and set to fail.

Racial Villification

THE Aboriginal teenager facing the first charges under Western Australia’s new race-hate laws claims she spoke back to a white woman only after being racially abused herself.

The 15-year-old girl could face up to six months’ detention for allegedly calling 19-year-old Mellissa Blackney a “white slut” during a confrontation in the mining town of Kalgoorlie.

This point-counter point quotes obscures the basic premise that racial villification laws are not the answer. Politicians hold this fond view that legislation alone can change a society but in real life their are a host of other factors.

The case has sparked outrage among some Aboriginal leaders, who say the charge is not in keeping with the intent of the new racial vilification laws.

I beg to differ; the laws as gazetted are all about one race putting down on another. It is not just about whites putting down on blacks. Remember – one country, one law.

Racial Villification laws, like Land Rights are not the answer but the debate will take a year or to arrive at that conclussion

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