Tag Archives: Indigenous Affairs

Indigenous Affairs

Michael Long, the Victorian footballer continues restarts..umm….well at least he walked the last few kilometres into Canberra on his mission to save his Indigenous brothers from themselves..from the government. I note he was smart enough to walk out of Victoria but as I said before there are better things he could do for his people.

Mark Latham makes a brilliantly meaningless statement saying

“Long had done a great service, I think, to put Indigenous issues back on the agenda.”

Typicall Dead Parrot statement. Maybe Mark missed the fact that a mob of drunks at Palm Island preempted Michaels task during the course of his walk/drive to Canberra. They have definitely put Indigenous affairs back on the agenda.

Michael puts other matters on the agenda when he quotes the poem Me, We. No that’s not the title – it’s the whole bloody poem. I’m glad I don’t have an Arts degree or sometime in my life I may well have had to discuss Me,We.

Out west near Goondiwindi some local farmers got ticked off with local youths stealing from them and over re-acted by slipping a rope around one of the thieves neck and dragging him around for a while. The boy, understandably shaken, will hopefully redirect his life to avoid such treatment. The trouble is, the lad has dark skin which has everybody screaming RACISM.

If I caught someone trying to steal my property then race wouldn’t be an issue. It would occur to me though, to train the miscreant to associate pain with theft.

At Palm Island, police are still the bad guys, according to the MSM. The drunken mob that tried to kill them by setting fire to the police station, Court House etc are using the ‘Poor Fellow Me’ defence which strange as it may be, never works for us white fellows.

In 2000, in Darwin, I had a conversation with an ex National Serviceman who since Army days had worked as a builder. For some of his life he was contracted to erect houses for Aborigines in missions in the Territory. I showed interest hoping for an answer to the many problems, but it was not to be.

Once someone had died in the house no one would live in it. The NT Government then tried to relocate the house to another mission. They still woudn’t live in it. They then tried to break the houses up using walls from one with floors etc from another. They still woudn’t live in it knowing that a tribesman had died in a building associated with ‘that wall’

I’m not sure if this still is the case and no way do I knock them for their beliefs, other than to say education will fix it, but it does indicate how far we have to go.

Maybe that should be ‘how far Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson has to go as she discusses ways of addressing the Indigenous housing crisis.

People in the communities have said they want to repair and maintain their own houses and that is admirable.

I just hope it works.

Michael’s long walk

Michael Long, AFL star and aborigine is planning a walk from Melbouren to Canberra to talk to John Howard.

Could I suggest an alternative. Fly to Darwin, catch a bus to the Border Store on the border of NT and Arnhem Land and then walk to Oenpilli.

Tell the people there to stop trashing their houses and start sending their kids to school.

Everyday.

Fridays Australian carried an article Third World housing shames nation. The author, Ashleigh Wilson may be shamed but I’m not.

I’m angry.

Every society has people who live in squallor. It generally comes about due to a lack of education, heredity issues and some substance abuse. You can’t always blame the government, (even if it is a conservative one) as no matter how much help you give some people they will maintain their position at the bottom.

There are pockets of similar disfunctional living in white societies and I don’t feel ashamed about them either.

Just happens.

What is needed is an attitude change with these people and that stems from education. We also need an attitude change in the media and amongst sports and academic elite where people like Ashleigh and Michael Long are long on ‘Poor fellow me’ and short on solutions.

Ashleigh – try doing a piece titled Solutions to an old problem

Michael – Your’e a hero to a lot of aborigine youth. Why not try and help them get on track through sport. Sponsor a team maybe. Every time you talk to them tell them about the gift of education and the long death that substance abuse offers.

According to a Northern Territory government research paper to be presented to a housing ministers meeting in Adelaide on December 3, it would cost about $2 billion nationally to meet Aboriginal housing demand, including $850 million in the Northern Territry. The paper said the areas of greatest need were in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.

The long suffering tax payer may be getting sick and tired of replacing houses but sure, give ‘em some more. While we are handing over more money maybe we could talk to organizations like the Northern Land Council and ask them what are they are doing with royalties. We know they buy 100 series Toyotas, helicopters and mansions for the leaders but what about the poor ‘poison cousins’?

We know that for years each family on Groote Island received a suitcase containing $35,000 cash twice a year from the Royalty bonanza.

Just a thought…maybe some of that could have been used for house maintenance. You know, when the hot water service breaks down, repair it. When some cousin mixes metho and a ciggie and burns down the back porch, replace it.

No. Too hard. Let’s just make the Darwin Toyota dealer a millionaire.

Sit-down cash ends for blacks

ABORIGINAL welfare is to be rebuilt from the ground up with the introduction of behavioral “contracts” with black communities in return for healthcare, education, dole money and services, in an attempt to turn around 40 years of failure.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone said the payment of “sit-down money” would end.

The Government proposals include

….the “no school, no pool” system to reward school attendance by stopping children from visiting the community swimming pool if they do not attend classes.

The rewards system includes a DVD player for the community to run movie nights for children who attend school, and a pool of bikes to be ridden by children in the afternoons after they have attended school

Predictably Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson angrily condemns the plan thus headlining one of the major problems Australia has with fixing the indigenous problems.

“This is not mutual obligation — nothing like it,” he said. “It’s fascism gone mad. It’s crazy stuff. Two hundred years of enlightenment and this is the best they’ve been able to deliver.

Any plan that even hints of paternalism is labeled fascism. You?re no help Pat. Always critical but never, ever suggesting an alternative plan for debate.

I don’t know all the answers but I do know a plan, an idea, always beats just more of the same.

Community members can scream fascism all they want but that only amounts to doing nothing and obviously something has to be done.

Pat goes on to say

… the plan had all the hallmarks of a government short on ideas. Having rejected the big picture — constitutional change, a treaty, land rights and reconciliation — and having questioned the validity of the stolen generations and minimalised native title, the Howard Government now planned to use welfare payments as a weapon for change.

Dead right, Pat. Constitutional change, treaties, land rights and reconciliation, stolen generations and native title are not answers to real life problems. Cool over coffee in Military Road, Cremorne but meaningless in remote communities.

Sober up and get your kids off to school is a good first step to racial pride and a long way ahead of whatever constitutional change your looking for.

We have tried grog bans but life isn’t that simple. As I commented in a previous blog, while the locals have the cash they will buy grog. If the town is dry, they will consume it on the outskirts.

ATSIC regional commissioner Michael White, who was invited on to the Government’s new indigenous advisory council, questioned why Aboriginal people should be the “only ones forced to do this.”

“It sounds like blackmail to say that if you’re not a good enough mum or dad, you won’t receive any payments and won’t be able to feed your kids.”

You may have a point Michael, but making it doesn’t help your people. Plenty of white families have similar problems but that isn’t your worry. You either accept the plan man, or come up with a better one. You’re there to help the blacks, not to cry – ‘but they do it, why can’t we?’

Smart-card push to ensure payments not wasted headlines another suggested solution. Dole money to be accessed through smart cards that have implanted father chips saying no, you cannot buy grog – try buying food, school clothes for your kids or pay your electricity bill.

While accepting Aboriginal communities did have problems with children’s school attendance rates and alcohol abuse, Mr Yeatman and fellow councilors at Yarrabah, south of Cairns, felt the proposed welfare reforms would do little to get people working.

Councilor Josephine Murgha said the reforms were yet another example of the Howard Government pushing policies on Aboriginal communities without consulting them.

Wrong, The moves were first laid on the table by Aboriginal leaders

Since Mr Quartermaine raised their potential benefit for child protection, Tasmanian ATSIC commissioner Rodney Dillon, Australia’s first indigenous woman MP Carol Martin, child health expert and former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley, and Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson have backed smart cards as an option worth exploring.

She goes on to say

“We would rather sit down with Yarrabah people and develop strategies and ways to deal with kids who are not attending school,”

Councilor Murgha, the problem has existed for a long time now. ATSIC have had the chair and the chance for years and haven’t improved on the situation.

Bad plan too date, let’s try another one.

Education matters

A lot has been said about eduaction being an answer to indigenous problems and I for one have raised it often. In my recent trip to Arnhem Land I listened to supporters of Black Prince Galarrwuy Yunupingu talk of his plan of identifying young talent and sending them off to southern boarding schools. All well and good, I though, but what of the rest.

Not only is there a dearth of schools in indigenous country but without parental support the education that is available isn’t working. Truancy rates are too high and as a result too few kids reach high school age anywhere near the standard of their white counterparts. An atmosphere that doesn’t revere education hardly encourages kids to study at night.

So, whereas I support recent talk of sending kids to southern boarding schools I also ask what are we doing about those that are not meeting the standards to enter high school.

Education in situ needs to be fixed as well.

Noel Pearson raises the subject in a piece entitled Noel Pearson: No danger of another stolen generation. Stolen generations, Jesus, why do we always have to preempt left wing caterwauling.

At least we are discussing indigenous education.

Grog Bans

A difficult problem with no simple answers

Grog bans in Aborigine communities are proving difficult to manage.

Consider next year when I take my borthers-in-law on a trip to the Cape – are we allowed to take a couple of cartons and a bottle of rum through Bamaga. No! If we do we are subject to fines of up to $75,000 which definitely exceeds the $48.00 I paid for a six pack of rum and cola at Woolgoroo recently.

Stories in the 4WD community tell of a drop-off of tourists at Bamaga due to this problem.

Small wonder.

I would think a blanket ban is not the way to go. If two or three guys in a 4WD have a couple of cartons and a Bundy rum bottle in their vehicle then authorities must be able to adjudge this as ‘for personal consumption’.

Conversely, if a vehicle is found to have 50 cartons, a couple case of Bundy rum and a pallet of Monkeys blood then the same authorities should be able to throw the grog runners in goal and confiscate the vehicle, grog and any cash.

Simple enough to me but the blanket ban will stop people going to the Cape in droves which will impact heavily on the commerce at Bamaga.

The problem is grog running, not a tourist having supplies to allow for a couple of beers at the end of the day.

Grog bans are not working for other reasons. When we recently drove down the Arnhem Highway we passed a small Aborigine community, the last heading south, and as we drove on we passed dozens of locals walking back to town. Gathering yams? one suggested; hunting? said another.

Nothing so noble. A few kilometers south of the town we came across a sit-down area strewn with literally hundreds of empty stubbies.

A rubbish tip of unworkable laws. True, the community was grog-free but the people weren’t.

Another point generally unknown down south is that Kava is not counted as grog. An Aborigine leader in Nuhulunbuy told me a local Fijian who had been resident in town for years had started importing Kava as an answer. He now wished he hadn’t.

Locals taking to home brew as an answer bypass the tried and true recipe of bottling then leaving to mature for a month or two. They drink it that day and suffer stomach poisoning as a result.

Government workers – teachers and public servants are denied a drink after work or at the end of a hard week. I would think we could lock up the grog runners and allow other non indigenous people to drink if they do so within the state law.

Two Laws

Some years back (Well OK..a lot of years back) I was a Company Commander in a battalion and had as my CSM a tried and trusted Warrant Officer who shall remain nameless. He was good if not a little hampered by a short fuse.

Some time after this appointment my CSM found his wife in flagrante delecto and stabbed her to death. He picked up his kids, took them to his parents and duly reported to the police.

He received life.

In todays Australian Amanda Banks has an article (no link) about an Indigenous woman who found her husband in flagrante delecto and stabbed him to death.

She received a suspended sentence.

The difference?

Tribal Law is involved.

Can some enlightened reader explain the rationale behind this. Nothing warm and fuzzy please – just legal facts.

Grog Running

I received this email from reader Dan. Grog runnning is a huge problem and needs putting under the microscope, not pushing under the carpet. The grog problem is bad enough without unprincipled whites making money out of tragedy.

Today, a group of white people were busted for running grog into an Aboriginal community. (I have the community name and the names of the people involved). The Liquor Commission tipped off the police, who followed the truck and caught two of the people red-handed. One of them took off and was chased down by the police. There were two large trunks on the truck, full of booze. Among those involved are the local headmaster’s wife, the nurse in charge of the local clinic and the Essential Services Officer. (he’s the one who attempted a runner) I just heard that the white town clerk intends to sweep the whole affair under the rug, on the pretext that it’s the first time the people involved have brought booze into the community. Untrue–there’s a long paper -trail proving that these people have been doing this for a very long time. Local Aborigines get their cars confiscated and are sometimes jailed for the same offence. Do you have any idea of who I can contact to make sure that this is brought out into the open?

Dan doesn’t name the locality but I suggest he has a chat with the local police and if that doesn’t work, just keep on stepping up the chain of command until it does.

Sic ‘em Dan.

Other readers with a sense of justice may like to leave advise in comments.

Post ATSIC

Over at Troppo Armadillo Ken Parish has an excellent article on Kicking Sacred Cows and the associated misconceptions, general ignorance and politically correct stifling of the Aborigine debate.

His trigger was an article by John Hirst

They are both worth the read, particularly the thread at Troppo Armadillo. Some wonder at the implication that the last three decades of policy has been found to be at fault and others are surprised that some wonder.

I would like to think that Aborigine society should be treated the same as the rest of Australia as far as is possible. That is, education and medical services should be provided by the State Government with Federal funding, and local issues, such as provide to me by the Brisbane City Council should be provided locally.

The first problem encountered here is the fact that my local council charges rates and from that income stream provide me with sewerage, water, waste disposal and more. Rate payers who live in towns across Australia generally have an income and own land that can be taxed in the form of rates. I’m not sure this is always the case in the Aborigine communities.

Wayne Wood says the answer is;

As discussed in my blog ‘The Mystery of Capital’, I believe the solution to many of the problems in Aboriginal communities lies with the recognition and registration of land title.

Which is all well and good but there must be a market for land to have value. How many people would want to buy a block at Yuendumu? Obviously some land has value but while all land doesn’t, then the standard Australian system of collecting rates will not work.

One answer is detailed in the post below. The Government and the Army have a programme that installs services and teaches locals how to maintain them but it’s not broad enough (only eight communities developed so far) and is not quick enough – the problem is now.

Hirst says;

In traditional Aboriginal society, goods were shared, but in a highly structured and ritualistic way. A kangaroo would be divided by unvarying rule, a certain portion going to a certain relative. The sharing was among kin. There was no generalised ethic of sharing.

Good nomadic hunting/gathering policy but fails all 21st century standards. There has to be an arbitrator to reapportion benefits that traditionally go to the stronger family/tribal/tribal elder groups to all the community. Services are for all and all are responsible. Otherwise the new septic sewerage will cease to operate at the first break down and no one will repair it. The medical centre will become run down and stay that way.

Finance the services and finance the maintenance and if the local community doesn’t have the expertise to manage maintain the system then bring the expertise in.

Continuing the thread, reader Norman writes;

Some of the attitudes to which you refer, Ken, aren’t all that different from those found in sections of the “white” community too. The relevant difference is that members of these sections of the general community don’t manage their community’s infrastructure and/or finances.

Yes they do Norman. They hold elections and elect someone to manage the service for them.

We have a proven template for providing communities with all services. The division between Local, State and Federal responsibilities in this area has been worked out over hundreds of years and, by and large, it works.

Let’s stick to this time proven plan and where local problems occur, adjust to cover them as all good planners do.

Army pitches in

While Labour and particularly the Left argue for land rights and apologies and historians argue about how many aborigines were killed, the Government and the Army are busy with hands on projects. Not talking – doing.

This from Defence.

Soldiers from 21 Construction Squadron today loaded heavy equipment and supplies on to HMAS Tobruk for the long journey to the Bamaga region of far north Queensland to start work on the ATSIS Army Community Assistance Program (AACAP).

“AACAP provides assistance to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve community environmental health conditions,” Officer Commanding 21 Construction Squadron Major Stephen Gliddon said.

“This year’s project is planned for the Bamaga region of far north Queensland. Army engineers will focus on environmental health infrastructure including water, sewerage, power and housing and access to primary health care facilities such as roads and airfields.”

“In addition to the crucial infrastructure developed as part of the program, previous AACAP contingents have provided military medics and dentists to assist communities with primary-care medical and dental treatment,” Major Gliddon said.

A significant element of AACAP is the delivery of training to community members. The communities benefit not only through improved infrastructure but also through skill transfer training in areas such as vehicle maintenance, building, computer use, health and first aid and general repairs and maintenance.

“AACAP also provides significant benefits for the Army through practice of operational planning and project management. It enables the Army to undertake realistic training for deployments, construction and redeployment as well as the provision of health and training activities,” Major Gliddon said.

sign.jpg

Army signing contracts with local tribal elders

AACAP is a co-operative initiative between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service (ATSIS), the Department of Health and Ageing (DHA) and Defence.

AACAP resulted from a meeting between the Ministers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Defence and Health and Family Services and the Prime Minister Joh Howard on 5 November 1996. The parties agreed that the Army would assist with infrastructure improvements in a number of communities, identified by ATSIC for priority assistance.

Between 1997 and 2003, Army has participated in 8 AACAP projects, located in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The most recent Queensland-based projects were at Jumbun in 1999 and on Palm Island in 2003.

medcentre.jpg

Army built Medical Centre at Jumbun.

Bloody conservative government – fancy them actually doing something for disadvantage Aussies.

ATSIC dead in the water

Good. It should be harpooned while it is wallowing around.

Lets revert to one nation, one Government, one law.

Yesterday I thought we were going to be presented with ATSIC by another name. Latham still thinks it the go but I think the punters are sick and tired of separate governments. Howard is reading it that way as well and even his detractors must admit Hawke’s ATSIC has failed.

Reinstitute Indigenous Affairs as a separate department and give it the flexibility to respond to known problems. Laws, policy and standards are in place to help disadvantage Australians – lets use them wherever it matters.

Update: The Editor of the Australian underscores the problem we have in Australia by printing this letter from Andrew Sweeney

MARK Latham’s plan to abolish ATSIC is racist. He would find it inconceivable that parliament could be abolished, yet he plans to decide the fate of indigenous governance himself.

Indigenous Australians won’t be free until they have governance that privileged white men can’t sack.

Mr Latham should look to his own prospects for governance. Privileged white voters like myself don’t want another heavy-handed PM.

Reality check, Andrew

It’s a reasonable case to say ATSIC itself is racist. It is, after all, an Australian Government body that disenfranchises most Australians

There is no such thing as governance that privileged white men can’t sack. All governance is sackable by the votors and the last thing we want is an un-sackable body playing loosely with public monies.

Your not priviledged because your white but because you are an Australian. We all have a vote (except if your white and then you can’t vote for ATSIC)

Andrew says heavy-handed, I say decisive. If it ain’t working – fix it or demolish it.

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