• Crisis in Aboriginal communities

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 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by arthur at 2007-08-31 10:17 PM
I especially like the way he clearly identifies enemies posing as friends:

NOEL PEARSON: 'Boys From the Bush' is the one great beacon, really, for how social welfare work can succeed.

The critical ingredients - work and hard work, enterprise and money making. These young people feel proud of what they produce. It's helped to eliminate juvenile crime. And yet, I've been taken aback by the hostility from the welfare bureaucracy.

The great majority have got an entrenched dislike for the program. There's a big industry involved in Aboriginal dysfunction. There's jobs involved. So whilst in other areas of the government we have a great deal of support, it's in the family services and welfare services area where we have the most bitter resistance. The last stand in favour of government intervention in our lives is going to be at the family services area, ironically enough.
The link to additional bits of transcript elaborates on this:

For me it was initially, strange at first, that the welfare bureaucracy just didn’t see this very good thing happening here, and embrace it and support and see that yes, this is something that we should be expanding. If it is working, we should be doing everything we can to support and expand it. There are people within the bureaucracy and I’ve got to say, in sheer numbers terms, they are the majority, it’s not just a kind of marginal resistance, it’s a structural resistance amongst, not all, but a great majority of the people within the family services system, that have got an entrenched dislike for the program, and will do everything at every turn to discredit and resist it.

I saw a letter from the Sergeant at Aurukun that said, well this program’s been working really well, it’s combatted petrol sniffing and it’s helped to eliminate juvenile crime. So, we had a lot of praise and support from the police in that situation, and yet we had very strong resistance and opposition from the family services bureaucracy. It’s really a fight for responsibility that we’re having with the welfare state. I mean people might think I’m overplaying that, but it is a fight with the structure ... The family welfare services structure has built an industry around the problem and it’s not willing for that industry to disappear. It’s not willing for the problem to disappear, because the industry will have to disappear if the problem disappears ...

And I think that we’ve got to succeed with this. You know, there’s a big industry in corrective services, there’s a big industry in Aboriginal dysfunction. But in trying to get rid of the problems, we’re going to have a battle against that industry and I don’t think that they will retreat from the role that’s developed. There’s heaps of people, there’s jobs, there’s programs, there’s arms of government departments that have grown up around these problems. And you can’t just eliminate the problem, because there’s jobs at stake and people who’ve put a lot of thinking into maintaining these programs and so on ...

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by tomb at 2007-09-02 06:28 PM
I think this is right on the money. The whole social welfare industry needs to be dismantled. It is like a sponge absorbing people and resources. No matter how much money is devoted to that industry it will always want more as eagerly searches for ways to expand the definition of needy and dysfunctional. It is unproductive and destructive to all involved. My experience is that those working in the industry are in worse shape than those accessing it. The industry is religiously opposed to outcomes!

 • "What I would do if I were Prime Minister" by Judy Atkinson

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-09-06 05:17 AM
Noel Pearson gave a speech called "The Quest for a Radical Centre" at the Melbourne Writers' Festival a few days ago.

 A recording of the speech is here, and an edited extract of the speech is here.

The speech is reported by Darlene at Larvatus Prodeo. Part of the post reads:

While Pearson railed against the lost chance of Mabo in relation to Aboriginal rights, and acknowledged the capacity of the conservative side of politics to, among other sins, deny the wrongs of the past, his greatest criticisms were for the Left.

If Pearson’s message can be summarised by the sound bite that there are no rights without responsibilities, it could be argued he thinks progressives have failed miserably when it comes to the latter.

“I don’t think the Left are clear about how we get above disadvantage”, he intoned at one point.

Contrary to the views of some of his opponents, Pearson didn’t come across as someone who’s doing the bidding for the Right, but as a realist who desperately wants to see changes in communities that are suffering due to problems like those created by booze and other drugs.

“When it comes to substance abuse”, Pearson said, “I’m on a unity ticket with John Howard.”

Most of the comments in reply are not worth reading. It's the same old sniffy hostility to Pearson, mostly.

But John Tracey wrote a thoughtful comment:

I disagree with much of what Pearson has said publically and I am appalled by the status of “the leader” that has been cultivated - not by him but by a range of white powers such as John Howard and Peter Beattie.

However I can empathise with his frustration with “the left”.

I do not believe the right, left or centre have properly listened to Pearson’s perspective. All have cherry picked individual sentences from his words and applied them to their own positions on the white political spectrum. Pearson is analysed from a white left, white centrist and white right perspective to try and categorise him within the artificial and one dimensional white political spectrum, “left” and “right” being terminology based on seating arangements in white parliaments.

Aboriginal Australia has its own political structure, demands and leadership. This body politic exists parrallel to and outside of white structures and ideologies. There is an indigenous wisdom and logic which appears ridiculous to the white right/left schism, and vice versa - white political notions look ridiculous to Aboriginal Australia, or at least Pearson it seems.

“The Left” identifies (or wedges) a divide between Pearson and, for example the Socialist Alliance’s Qld senate canditate Sam Watson. What the left, right and centre has not yet acknowledged is the dynamic tensions within Aboriginal Australia - creating a dialectical movement into action and the future. It is this internal political dynamism that has carried Aboriginal Australia through a 150 year guerilla war, 80 years of internment and the land rights movement of the second half of the 20th century.

As long as the black body politic is disected into sections and defined by white political dichotomies, by white political commentators, then Aboriginal power will be deflated and channeled into meaningless symbolism within white political debate.

John Tracey's blog is here, and he has written an interesting article called "CDEP: The Protection of Aboriginal Children and the Welfare Tit"  I don't agree with most of it, especially the idea that what Aboriginal Australia needs most is "labour intensive" industry, but it is written by someone who appears to be wondering about solutions, not playing "gotcha" politics over Pearson.

sublime cowgirl says:

Out of curiousity, it would be interested to know many people commenting here have actually worked or lived in an aboriginal community, or spent any time in one. Certainly my limited experiences, wearing a number of different hats, significantly changed some of my previous more youthful and cliched perspectives.

Funnily enough I wasn’t particularly struck by the division in Hopevale towards Pearson, perhaps because i’m more accustomed to the reality of fractured allegiences, mutiple paradigms and competing agendas that exists in much human service and community development work.

And this comment, by Brian, while mostly more of the same sniffiness, at least links to an article by Judy Atkinson, who appears to oppose the intervention in its current form. Instead of cheap insults, Atkinson writes "What I Would Do" at Australian Policy Online.

She lays out a 5-point sketch of what she would like to see happen:

In the short term

In the short term, I would focus on a child centred approach to building child centred, child safe communities.

A child centred approach: My first question would be to ask what child safe places are already within communities. How can I support them? Often the safe house in the community is inhabited by a grannie on welfare, who opens her door to any child in need. She is someone who, somehow, like the miracle worker with loaves and fishes, can feed many children from her welfare cheque. I would support those people who are already doing hard jobs with little or no resources.

Secondly, I would ask for Aboriginal peoples living in remote Aboriginal communities, rural towns and urban centres to put up their hands if they wanted to be involved in a long term approach to building their futures, from within a child centred–child safe infrastructure. I would then, in the short term, begin to work with select communities from each region across Australia, to help build their capacity. I would do this with an understanding that each community I worked with, supported and resourced, would be obliged to work, in turn, with others near them.

Oh, and one of the commenters at LP thinks that Pearson is an Uncle Tom. Seems you can't keep patronising white pseudo-left racists down, not even if you lay baits.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-09-06 11:18 PM
Thanks YM for wading through the sniffy LP thread to extract something worthwhile for us.

John Tracey seems to be arguing that aboriginal issues are some sort of special case where the terminologies left and right have different meanings.

Whereas I think Pearson is just a great leader who understand the dialectics of left and right as it applies to politics in general.

YM links to The urgent quest for a radical political centre by Pearson. I would strongly urge everyone to click there and read this article. Pearson's grasp of the dialectics of realism / idealism and rights / responsibilities is truly sublime. I feel reluctant to quote one part because the whole article is so good. Nevertheless, here is a teaser:

The predominant view in Australian indigenous policy, from a progressive and indigenous perspective, remains that rights are the real imperative and responsibilities are an ideological diversion. By the end of the last millennium, it was necessary to face up to the gaping responsibility deficit in indigenous policy.

When I decided that we could no longer go on without saying that our people held responsibilities as well as rights, it was not a repudiation of rights. It was just that all the talk, all the advocacy, all the analysis, all the leadership, and all the policy and politics was about rights. There was no talk about responsibility....

Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-09-07 12:03 AM
I don't think I agree with the deeper implications of what John Tracey says, but in the context of a thread filled with personal hostility to Pearson, and attempts to undermine him, I do agree with Tracey that vicious attacks by white people on black people are inappropriate.

While it is not illegitimate for white people to have opinions, the success or failure of any attempt to change the culture of Aboriginal communities will, ultimately, depend on what people in those communities do. They will have to decide for themselves what social rules and norms they will enforce, and their choices will have a direct effect on their own communities.  This will still be true even if every black community receives the material support it needs in matters like housing and policing.

This is not the same as agreeing that Aboriginal people have a 'unique wisdom', but it means that white people who want to be relevant need to be very careful that the way they express their opinions does not poison the debate. Clearly, very few people on the LP thread care about that. "Uncle Tom", indeed.

Further down the thread there is a comment by Mark, a leading figure at LP, announcing that he intends to write a critique of Pearson's ideas. He refuses, however, to discuss what he thinks should be done. Presumably critique is more important than policy proposals

The whole white reaction to Pearson vaguely reminds me of an Aboriginal community meeting that I went to quite a few months ago now, at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Musgrave Park. There were two other white activists there, who each spent 5-10 minutes lecturing the people there about what they need to do. They were tolerated, politely, but I cringed. I asked one very quick question, and spent the rest of my time listening.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-09-10 06:53 PM
> Further down the thread there is a comment by Mark, a leading figure at LP, announcing that he intends to write a critique of Pearson's ideas

Here's what Mark said there:
I don’t believe that Pearson has rigorously questioned the assumptions that go to Indigenous policy, as I’ve made clear. Rather, I think he’s combined a set of beliefs that come from his own personal experience with a bunch of off the shelf solutions - some drawn from “Third Way” communalism and some drawn from the rhetoric of the CIS mob he was introduced to in 98. Conversely, I’d argue, it’s intellectually sloppy and lazy to make that call and just assume that because Pearson claims to have done so, he has. Rethinking policy in this area is hard work, and it shouldn’t be assumed that it can be done via insta-analysis on a blog thread and even less so through point-scoring. I am, by the way, working on a critique of his ideas for which I have a publisher, and this is an area I know something about. But I’d prefer to research it properly, do some thinking, and then put pen to paper at the appropriate time and in a format where the sources and reasoning can be properly exposed rather than trade barbs on threads. So I’m going to bow out of this debate. In my view, it’s gone on too long, and like many others that do, is going around in circles.

Certainly, he sounds serious about actually doing it. I like his attitude to doing proper research and not rabbiting on in blog threads and would  be interested in reading his critique of Pearson if it does come out.
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-09-10 07:16 PM
I now think I missed out on quoting the most compelling part from the must read Pearson article that YM linked to. The urgent quest for a radical political centre

This bit:

I HAVE become convinced that the distance between good and bad policies is most often very fine — not poles apart. People from either side of the cultural and political divide usually believe the distance between their own correct policies and their opponents' wrong policies is substantial.

This polarisation leads to a failure of the left to appreciate the correctness of policies promoted by the right (and vice versa) because the fine difference between the correct and the incorrect policy is too subtle for usual public discourse, which sees only stark tensions that suggest bald contradictions rather than close, more intense tensions that suggest paradox and potential synthesis.

The "radical centre" in politics may be defined as the intense resolution of the tensions between opposing principles, a resolution that produces the synthesis of optimum policy. The radical centre is not to be found in simply splitting the difference between the stark and weak tensions from either side of popularly conceived discourse, but rather where the dialectical tension is most intense and the policy positions much closer than most people imagine

As well as the reference to dialectics, Pearson tends to make up his own terminology, such as "radical centre" in this case, "progressivism" (what we call pseudo-left) in other writings.

But I'm wondering if the general analytical approach from Pearson here could be more consciously applied to other areas of discourse:  Iraq war, global warming, education, OLPC etc. I'm thinking we have already done that to some extent.

What it presupposes is that the elements of good policy are already there on the stage and have been taken up in varying degrees in different mixes by established large political parties. And then by doing the hard work of dialectical analysis those bits and pieces can be put back together in such a way that perhaps can develop mass appeal.

Bill Kerr

 • radical centre as a unifying powerful concept

Posted by kerrb at 2007-09-16 02:25 AM
Following on from my previous post about Pearson's notion of the radical centre, which he does explain in dialectical terms and also apply in the main area of his expertise

The same notion could be argued for education policy for instance. Below is a thumbnail sketch which could be expanded. I'm asking people here to reread the Pearson article and consider whether his radical centre concept could be applied to a range of issues, not just aboriginal policy in Australia.

By a thumbnail sketch I mean that a fuller version would go into the curriculum physics debacle and the educational ideas of Seymour Papert and Alan Kay in more detail.

I can see that applies to education policy, to recycle something I said from the wellington grey physics curriculum reform debacle:
Science and maths education seems to be polarising between a back to basics movement and soft sociological reform, often ineffectual "discovery learning". I believe there is a third way, that traditional science education can be reformed and still remain real science. Student designed computer simulations using software such as Etoys / Squeak could play an important role here.
Summarising some of the issues:
  • watering down, diluting, trivializing science and maths curriculum
  • converting science / maths content into sociological content
  • using discovery or inquiry based learning as a substitute for hard facts
This time, I make a connection here between Pearson's dialectic of the radical centre and my analysis of the polarising between a back to basics movement (what the "Right" says) and soft sociological reform, often ineffectual "discovery learning" (what the "Left" says). Both sides are shouting past each other and no progress is being made.

The resolution of this problem comes about through Seymour Papert's concept of "hard fun" (better discovery learning) and Alan Kay's identification of "non universals" (better powerful ideas for the curriculum). First identify the important concepts and then find an engaging and realistic way to teach them to children.
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by tomb at 2007-09-18 02:05 AM
I tend to agree Bill, but perhaps identify the important concepts with your students and then you don't have to teach them. I think it was Patrick White who said "I don't remember anything I was taught only the things I learnt".

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-10-01 06:24 PM
dalek wrote on 2nd August 2007:
I don't know any easy answers to the "issues" faced by Aboriginal communities. I do know that things are now far better overall than in 1964 - perhaps it will take another 43 years for the Aboriginal people to sort things out for themselves. It's not really for whitefellas to force them into some white anglo saxon protestant mould - been trying that for over 200 years.
Dalek, the fact that you don't have the answers obliges you to study Pearson's real position rather than presenting a caricature of his position. Pearson analyses the issue of whether things are better overall in aboriginal communities than in 1964

Voting rights were granted in from 1962 onwards

In the 1967 referendum over 90% of Australians supported aboriginals being counted in the census and empowered the Commonwealth to make laws to support aboriginal issues

1975: Racial Discrimination Act
1976: Land Rights Northern Territory
1986: Human Rights Commission

So, on the surface it appears that things are better for aboriginal people

Pearson's central point is that this progressive legislation has masked an underlying paradox: that since 1967 black rights became white responsibilities. And that the culture and politics of victimhood became the predominant method of many aboriginal people - there was an erosion of black responsibility.

As a sample, he describes these unintended consequences of citizenship:

1) the equal wages decision of 1966 mandated equal payment for aboriginal stock workers. This led directly to their unemployment
2) the government solution to the above was to provided social security payments
3) citizenship also meant the right to drink alcohol

Pearson supports the progressive measures described above but also is aware of the unintended consequences from his personal experience:
Young men with idle time, free income and the right to drink led to the start of an alcohol abuse vortex which would increase in terms of the chaos it caused and its negative impacts, and would widen out to later include women and older people who had not previously been drinkers. I saw this pattern spread in the three communities with which I am intimate, from my childhood in the late 1960s to the present
- White guilt, victimhood and the quest for a radical centre, p. 14
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-10-27 10:15 PM
"... if I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase “social justice” fall easily from the lips of a Labor politician in my home state, I would be an extremely wealthy man"
- Noel Pearson
There is the aboriginal rights agenda and the aboriginal responsibility agenda.

Both are important but the current reality of widespread aboriginal welfare dependency, substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence make the responsibility agenda more important.

The indigenous child abuse documented in the Little Children are Sacred report created a political climate where the responsibility agenda backed by Noel Pearson received support from both Liberal and Labour Parties. Rudd has promised that the Northern Territory (NT) intervention will continue under federal Labour and would be reviewed in 12  months

However, the NT Labour machine is deeply divided about the intervention with Chief Minister, Clare Martin and her Family Services Minister, Marion Scrymgour only sometimes paying lip service to it while white anting.

Scrymgour, an indigenous MP, described the intervention as the "black kids' Tampa" and labelled Canberra's approach as "vicious new McCarthyism" (in a speech last Wednesday, in Sydney)

She continued:
"Aboriginal territorians are being herded back to the primitivism of assimilation and the days of native welfare". "It has been a deliberate savage attack on the sanctity of Aboriginal family life."
On the other hand aboriginal backbencher Alison Anderson, who represents the central Australian electorate of Macdonnell, has responded:
"It is a disgrace the people who know nothing about living among the poverty and abuse in remote communities have condemned the intervention"

"My people need real protection, not motherhood statements from urbanised saviours. I live my law and culture and represent my people regardless of what's fashionable. My people need the help and want the help from this intervention."

Clare Martin says she's behind the intervention except for the permit revocation plan, the alcohol laws and the whole panoply  of work for the dole and welfare reforms. What's left?

Noel Pearson has critiqued Rudd's general critique of Howard as it applies to the situation of aboriginal people:
Let me explain my reservation with reference to Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd’s critique of what he describes as the neoliberal fundamentalism of the Howard Government: “Modern Labor … argues that human beings are both ‘selfregarding’ and ‘otherregarding’. By contrast, modern Liberals … argue that human beings are almost exclusively selfregarding.” Rudd concedes that the selfregarding values of security, liberty and property are necessary for economic growth. He argues that the other‐regarding values of equity, solidarity and sustainability must be added in order to make the market economy function effectively, and in order to protect human values such as family life from being crushed by unchecked market forces.

My reservation about this analysis is that it is mainly concerned with those who are not deeply disadvantaged in a cultural and intergenerational way. Kevin Rudd’s father was a sharefarmer, and his untimely death brought hardship to his widow and children. But hard work and appreciation of education were passed on to Rudd from his parents. Rudd’s ideological manifesto is concerned with the effects of neo‐liberal policies on people who may have less bargaining power than the most sought‐after professionals, but who are nonetheless firmly integrated into the real economy – not only because they have jobs, but because they are culturally and socially committed to a life of responsibility and work. I welcome the debate Kevin Rudd sought to revitalise about the long‐term effects on most working people of neo‐liberal policies: what will the effects be on family life, on people’s sense of security and purpose, on social cohesion? How great is the risk that families of the lower strata of the real economy will descend into the underclass? 

These are real issues, but the important question from an African‐American or Aboriginal Australian perspective is: what is the correct analysis of self‐regard and other‐regard in the context for those already disengaged from the real economy? Disengagement is the problem in Cape York Peninsula ...

The moderate left, as represented by Kevin Rudd, would probably argue that neo‐liberal dominance increases the number of disengaged people and the difficulties of returning them to the working mainstream. This may well be true. However, disadvantage can develop and become self‐perpetuating, even without neo‐liberal government policy. In Australia, Aboriginal disadvantage has become entrenched during decades when social democrats, small‐l liberals and conservatives influenced policy; many policies for Indigenous Australians have been liberal and progressive. 

The insight which informs our work in Cape York Peninsula is that disengagement and disadvantage have self‐perpetuating and cultural qualities – problems not covered by Rudd’s analysis. These are the problems of the underclass, people who are psychologically and culturally disadvantaged. (Rudd does not spend time thinking about the underclass. In the scramble for the political middle, who does?) His is an analysis of the prospects of the upper 80 or 90 or 95 per cent of society, and how they will fare under social democrat or neo‐liberal regimes. If Rudd’s analysis were extended to the truly disengaged, his model would probably be interpreted like this: some people are successful and, as well as being self‐regarding, they should be other‐regarding. And then there are the disadvantaged. 


The problem is that it is assumed that the life chances of the disadvantaged depend on the other‐regard of the successful – either a precarious dependency in the absence of state institutions, or an institutionalised dependency which my people have come to know as passive welfare. In reality, what is needed is an increase of self-regard among the disadvantaged, rather than strengthening their belief that the foundation for their uplift is the welfare state and the other‐regard of the successful.
- source

These  things seem clear to me:

  • Pearson has a far deeper understanding of the situation facing aboriginal people than Rudd, Howard or any other politician
  • Pearson's support for the Federal Government intervention in the Northern Territory is clear  but also qualified, he has never supported every aspect of the intervention
  • Labour under Rudd project themselves as humanists who place more stress on "other regarding" than "self regarding" than do the Liberals. This makes them more predisposed to withdraw support from the hard decisions that need to be made wrt aboriginal people
  • Some significant Labour politicians (eg. Clare Martin) are white anting the intervention whilst paying a bit of lip service to it
  • The aboriginal welfare bureaucracy and some of the traditional Labour social base will pressure Rudd to wind back the intervention if and when he become Prime Minister. It remains to be seen how he will respond to this

reference: (source of quotes and information about NT Government stance):
The Weekend Australian, October 27-8, 2007
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-10-29 01:46 AM
Never thought I'd live to see the day when would live in fear of a Labor government solely because of its deleterious effects on aboriginal policy. Yet I have and I am.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-11-23 05:47 PM
During the election campaign Howard pledged to hold a referendum within 18 months to introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the Australian constitution. Initially Rudd went along with this but more recently has said it is not a priority and that if elected he may not do it during his first term

In response Pearson has publicly criticised Rudd on the eve of the election.

"It is that the quest for indigenous reconciliation must be an up-front part of the first term agenda. You cannot now retreat to practical reconciliation that Labor has repudiated for the past 10 years." Pearson said reconciliation must be both symbolic and practical. "We got Howard to the point where he backed a symbolic agenda and Rudd is saying, no, let's just rewind the tape," Pearson said.

"There was no equivocation in my view," Pearson said. "I will not stand silent while a contender in this election reneges so flagrantly on a commitment he made on day one of the campaign." Pearson said he had been "seriously misled".

"During the campaign I was alarmed at Labor's backtracking on the Northern Territory intervention. Labor campaigned against intervention both in the NT and in indigenous communities," Pearson said.

"But I kept my counsel and my concerns. For the duration of the campaign I was satisfied we had a bipartisan commitment. So I kept my powder dry. Then 48 hours before the vote I read that Rudd won't be putting the referendum if he wins. This is an absolute heartless abandonment of indigenous people. We have been misled. My reaction is one of absolute devastation and betrayal. This is not what they promised and we will hold them accountable."

In his interview with The Australian, Pearson revealed one of his deepest fears: that indigenous affairs under Labor would become an issue for political management without any genuine search for solutions.

It was, in effect, a double fear that Labor's spin doctors would favour the political management approach and its progressive wing would favour solutions that didn't work and were proven failures.

- Pearson's Dread of Rudd in Power

Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-11-25 04:50 PM

Bill you  said "During the election campaign Howard pledged to hold a referendum within 18 months to introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the Australian constitution". This is wrong. Howard said he would introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the preamble to the constitution. The preamble has no legal or constitutional standing and is basically just a place to put feelgood statements. Pearson would know this even if you don't but  he leapt at the chance to diplay his subservience to the racist Howard.






 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-11-25 05:48 PM
The preamble has no legal or constitutional standing and is basically just a place to put feelgood statement
What you derisively call "feelgood" is better described as symbolic. Pearson correctly emphasises the aboriginal responsibility agenda rather than the rights agenda but has never abandoned the rights agenda.
Pearson would know this even if you don't but  he leapt at the chance to diplay his subservience to the racist Howard
IMV Pearson is a great Australian political leader. I think you should desist from your abuse of Pearson and instead respond to my analytical posts about Pearsons position on this thread (1st October and 27th October).

I wrote this on the 1st October:
Dalek, the fact that you don't have the answers obliges you to study Pearson's real position rather than presenting a caricature of his position. Pearson analyses the issue of whether things are better overall in aboriginal communities than in 1964 ...
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-11-25 09:53 PM

Bill if it was true  that Howard would have held a "referendum within 18 months to introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the Australian constitution". That would be very good. If you knew that it was only to go into the preamble why did you lie about it and pretend that it was to go into the constitution proper? "introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the Australian constitution "

Support for an insertion into the preamble is symbolic nonsense and you and Pearson know this. I would strongly support the introduction of aboriginal reconciliation into the constitution proper - this is where it must be if it is to mean something tangible, only in the cosntitution proper does it have legal meaning. 

The slogan no "rights without responsiblities" when applied to the poorest strata of society seems to me to be redolent of the early 19th century poor laws. For a good account of them see here

My argument with both you and Pearson is that you are blaming the aboriginal people for their plight and at the same time you are big on symbolic gestures. 



 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-12-11 08:12 PM

This was written before the apalling rape in Aurukun came to light. So far I have seen no statement by Noel Pearson about these matters. It's his watch, his fiefdom, so he should accept some responsibility.

The Author does not seem to be opposed to "responsibilites based" programs (much favoured by dour Methodists and the intellectually acidic middle classes). The Author does point out that the material conditions are appalling and are not being met by the Pearson program. 


"The research I collected over six months living in Aurukun while working for Pearson's Cape York Partnerships showed that Aurukun is chronically under-resourced in infrastructure and services. This is a source of major community frustration and a key factor in its social breakdown. My work suggested that a range of issues affecting community members' day-to-day lives would require attention before anything like a welfare reform program could expect to succeed".

No doubt LS will respond with an ad hominem attack on the Author but other readers shouild consider carefully what he says.




Welfare is not the key

Philip Martin

"The Age"
December 7, 2007


THE remote far north Queensland Aboriginal community of Aurukun has rioted for the third time this year. On Monday, 200 people armed with spears, knives and sticks fought street battles before being subdued by tactical response police. The riot has been reported in the media as resulting from sly grog boated in from Weipa on Sunday. Aurukun is one of the four Cape York communities taking part in Noel Pearson's $48 million welfare reform program.

Pearson's collaboration with the Howard government to shift the language of public debate on Aborigines from "rights-based" to the supposed "responsibility-based" has concealed many of the day-to-day problems that lead communities like Aurukun to riot.

On July 18, Pearson's plan to alter the conditions of Aboriginal people through a carrot and stick approach to welfare was supported by then indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough with $48 million in program funding. In the same week, I said that the responses I had encountered to welfare reform proposals in Aurukun demonstrated that passive welfare was only one part of a much larger problem. The plan Pearson sent to Canberra had omitted all evidence that this was the case.

The research I collected over six months living in Aurukun while working for Pearson's Cape York Partnerships showed that Aurukun is chronically under-resourced in infrastructure and services. This is a source of major community frustration and a key factor in its social breakdown. My work suggested that a range of issues affecting community members' day-to-day lives would require attention before anything like a welfare reform program could expect to succeed.

One of these issues was chronic overcrowding in community housing, where often more than 20 family members lived in one broken-down house. I have listed numerous incidents of broken pipes flooding houses, and making them uninhabitable. There were children waiting in the mornings for 15 or more other people to use the single house shower before them, and being late to school, or absent. I recorded how families could wait for months before plumbers or builders would show up, if they showed up at all.

Many other issues of infrastructure essential to the functioning of every community in Australia are simply absent in Aurukun. There is no Centrelink officer charged with supporting people to get "real jobs". There is no AbStudy representative to respond to questions on education, and few people have home phones. There are no Department of Emergency Services officers. There is no permanent drug and alcohol counsellor tackling the grog and substance abuse epidemics. There are no permanent doctors. There is no dentist. The food trucked in is of low quality and up to four times as expensive as in Cairns. There are packs of wild dogs roaming the streets. The tiny library is open only rarely. Where Government services do exist — the school, the health clinic, the police — they are chronically under-staffed and resourced. If there was so much infrastructure missing in Sydney, there would be public insurrection.

Sadly, the Aurukun riots demonstrate the state's free licence in relation to remote Aboriginal communities. Following the January 11 riot, Aurukun went from having a police force incapable of responding to most call-outs through lack of manpower (the then sergeant in charge told me he needed 16 full-time officers, though he had only six) to overnight having teams of special forces driving endless patrols in troop carriers, in out-of-all-proportion black body armour, balaclavas and semi-automatics.

By January 13, the Aurukun airstrip went from hosting only the Royal Flying Doctor plane and the eight-seat charter, to seeing oversized police and government jets screaming in (and out). There were counsellors provided for state-service providers, unfamiliar police ethics inspectors asking questions of the community in the store, and reporters in helicopters.

A week after the January riots, there were meetings between the Aurukun Shire Council, Aurukun Clan Elders and then acting Queensland Police Minister Andrew Fraser and Queensland Communities Minister Warren Pitt. The meetings resulted in requests by Aurukun only for a permanent sports and recreation officer, some extra community funding, and better policing. It was a wretched wish list from a community used to not getting much. The community was told it would be granted. Community pacified, job done, the ministers flew out, the papers soon stopped carrying the story, the public moved on.

More than nine months later, there is still no sports and recreation officer in Aurukun, the police numbers remain nine below what the former sergeant in charge requested, and there has been a 50% drop in permanent staff at the health clinic (they're down to two permanent nurses; others fly in on temporary contracts for six weeks or so). There have been two other riots: on September 19, and December 3.

The move from "rights-based" to "responsibility-based' Aboriginal welfare policy is tying Aurukun's people into ever-tighter relations of financial control, surveillance and regulation through welfare reform, while overlooking federal and state responsibilities to provide essential infrastructure.

People in cities think that controlling Aborigines through welfare will work in their best interests, eventually. Riots such as Monday's in Aurukun appear to justify the need for fully neo-liberal interventions in Aboriginal communities' in the first place. Actually they show that welfare reform cannot work without the Government also responding to community pleas for adequate policing and housing, at the very least.

Philip Martin worked on the Welfare Reform Project in Aurukun for Noel Pearson's Cape York Partnerships between November 2006 and May 2007 as family engagement officer.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-12-12 01:25 AM

Philip Martin's article goes straight to the heart of the issue:


How can it be that 35 years of throwing (I guess ) by now billions of dollars at aboriginal welfare and remote communities by the Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and even Howard governments has resulted in the conditions Martin describes in Arukun? And this after a decade or more of state labor governments in Qld and the NT?


The terrible mistake made by Labor back in the 60s and 70s was to entrench these remote communities in the first place. I was active in those days and thoroughly supported the policy, which was advanced eloquently and persuasively by Nugget Coombes. And now today we are in a truly dreadful situation where these communities are so grotesquely disfunctional it almost beggars belief. Even worse, to resolve it is going to be extraordinarily difficult and very painful to this present generation of  remote aboriginals as the only rational solution is to phase the communities out over the next 50 years and leave them to be retirement villages for the elders where the young can visit and pay their respects.


As Dalek mentioned, Martin's article was written before the gang rape  had come to light. But I can't see that detracts from his descriptions of 21st century life in Arukan which you'd think would give Dalek pause for thought.  Instead Dalek uses the word "appalling" to describe the rape.  But it is not the gang rape that is appalling. These are commonplace now in the remote communities. What is appalling is the prevailing - I have to use the "pseudo" word, there is no other way to describe it  in this instance - pseudo Left culture still dominating the judiciary and protection agencies in the NT and Qld and to lesser extent in WA at the behest of those who think like Dalek.


This mentally impaired child contracted STDs at the age of 7 as the result of multiple sexual penetration. She was removed from the situation. Later,  a child care worker ensured her further pack rape and recurrence of the STDs by transferring her from her foster care back to Arukan on the grounds of "Stolen Generation".  It is that which is is appalling, Dalek.


Is it appalling that the offenders did not get custodial sentences? No, it is completely understandable. What is appalling is is that this gross sexual abuse is today de rigeur in the remote communities and understood  by the judicial and social service practitioners as the norm. In other words, the culture of gross  abuse is so pervasive now that all who have to work within the remote universe are  living a kind of existential  nightmare where  their normal  rational (and humane) thought processes have been warped, probably beyond repair.


Dalek appears to be suggesting that the widespread anal, oral and vaginal penetration of children by youths and men with access to alcohol,  substances and pornography is somehow due to lack of infrastructure spending in the remote communities. He seems to think Noel Pearson shares blame for this. Well, Dalek is not alone in his denial. However I don't think new PM Rudd will share it. New PM Rudd will not live comfortably knowing that the Arukun pack rape story is likely to be only the tip of a very nasty potentially Titantic-sinking iceberg and from now on will be his responsibility as captain of the Titanic. Expect Howard/Brough's intervention to be strengthned and extended, Dalek.  The pseudo left has had its day. 


From the Australian today: an op ed by Marcia Langton, chairwoman, Australian Indigenous Studies, Melbourne University - I posted in full and highlighted some salient excerpts:


Stop the abuse of children

THE latest heart-breaking tragedy - the freeing of three adult and six juvenile Wik males who pleaded guilty to gang-raping a 10-year-old Wik girl in the Aurukun community - has brought to the fore the urgency of dealing with the conditions in which these horrors occur (writes Marcia Langton).

The notorious Queensland criminal justice system, along with the system that purports to protect

Stop the abuse of children

Your Say Blog | December 12, 2007 | 9 Comments

THE latest heart-breaking tragedy - the freeing of three adult and six juvenile Wik males who pleaded guilty to gang-raping a 10-year-old Wik girl in the Aurukun community - has brought to the fore the urgency of dealing with the conditions in which these horrors occur (writes Marcia Langton).


The notorious Queensland criminal justice system, along with the system that purports to protect children, has demonstrated again (so soon after the Mulrunji Doomadgee case) that it is incapable of anything approximating justice, for offenders or victims. In imposing 12-month probation orders and refusing to record a conviction against any of the nine who pleaded guilty, Queensland District Court judge Sarah Bradley has expressed utter contempt for this little girl and for the basic norms of humanity.


So is it acceptable in Queensland to suspend the laws of the state when dealing with convicted felons of Aboriginal ethnicity? Apparently so, according to Bradley, who has disregarded the Criminal Code of Queensland, which makes sex with a minor a crime, and the laws of that state, which make it clear that a minor is not deemed to be capable of giving consent.


The eventual result of this ultimate race-hate practice is the rewarding of serial rapists and murderers.


Instead of jail sentences that would apply to any other member of an ethnic group, they are freed immediately after a laughable lecture from judge or magistrate, or sent to a prison for a few months. They are then released back into the communities where their crimes were committed and where recidivism takes on a special meaning: the younger sisters or cousins of their original victims are the next in line to be raped.


One may be forgiven for believing reports of abuse and rape of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory had not occurred, nor a commission of inquiry resulting in the report Little Children are Sacred. Perhaps Bradley does not read the newspapers. Perhaps she has not heard of crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers. Perhaps she just doesn’t give a damn about the gang rape of a 10-year-old Wik girl


A week ago, I appealed to the newly elected Rudd Government to continue the NT emergency intervention and to maintain the strategies that are likeliest to stop the plague of child rape, abuse and neglect in Aboriginal communities.


I was attacked and pilloried by Aborigines, spruiking the usual sentimental, blame-shifting nonsense.


Their views were also posted on the web page of Women for Wik, a group of high-profile women supporting Aboriginal rights.


I have spoken during the past few years to other young Wik women who have been the victims of incest and rape. I have reported these matters to the authorities.


If it were in my power, I would immediately close the alcohol canteen in Aurukun and send more police into the community, including a special police taskforce to interview women and children victims, health workers and suspected offenders, and increase powers to detain and arrest suspected offenders. I would send in a police taskforce to inspect airline charters, cargo and luggage, confiscate all drugs, illicit substances and sly grog and the equipment, vehicles and associated paraphernalia. I would increase the penalties for grog runners and drug dealers and ensure jail sentences that befit the harm caused by their crimes.


As is so typical in such cases, several of the rapists are from the ruling families of Aurukun, where anti-social behaviour, which varies from day to day only in its intensity and detrimental outcomes, is graced with labels in the media, such as riot.


Imagine if the regular occurrences of dysfunctional behaviour were merely riots, rather than murder, rape, incest, assault, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and non-stop gambling. Then there would be no justification for the recommendations made through the years for an end to welfare payments without conditions and government funding without positive outcomes.


It would be a fair bet that each of the adults who pleaded guilty to raping this child was receiving a government social security or Community Development Employment Program payment. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that dysfunctional Aboriginal behaviour is financially supported by federal and state government funding.


I have two questions for the Women for Wik (and the cowardly men who hide behind their skirts): What suggestions do you have that could prevent incidents such as this one that took place in the heart of Wik country? And will you cease using the name of the once proud Wik people, now reduced into a vicious, violent and miserable existence by failed sentimental policies such as those you advocate and that utterly dehumanise them?

Marcia Langton is the inaugural chairwoman of Australian indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne.





 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-12-12 01:46 AM
The Philip Martin article points out that essential infrastructure is lacking in Aurukun and somehow blames Pearson for that. I think Philip Martin would need to provide more evidence than his rather vague assertions that Pearson is responsible for the lack of infrastructure.

Does Pearson support chronic overcrowding, a shortage of doctors, dentists, drug and alcohol counsellors, plumbers, builders in aboriginal communities? For example, does he support these things in Cape York. No. Is the fact that he champions a responsibilities agenda over a rights agenda evidence of this alleged lack of support? Does an analysis that concludes that responsibilities have become  more important than rights mean that rights re no longer important. No.

Dalek then contemptibly on his own initiative attempts to link Philip Martin's article to the recent rape in the Aurukun and hold Pearson responsible in some way. He describes Aurukun as Pearson's "fiefdom" which is a distortion of the reality where different, conflicting policies are struggling against each other.

Pearson is tough on crime. Pearson is tough on alcohol. Pearson is critical of the soft welfare mentality that reportedly moved the girl back into danger. Child safety failed raped girl. Put it this way. If Pearson had been responsible for this girls safety directly then she would have remained safe.

Dalek interprets the idea of rights over responsibilities in this way. He has the right to make up whatever scurrilous connections he wants without displaying the slightest responsibility towards the truth.
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by owenss at 2007-12-12 05:26 AM

Bill I wonder how we have come to the point of blaming or not blaming Noel Pearson for the mess in Aurukun.

In the 1960's the aboriginal people of Weipa were tricked into moving to the missions of Aurukun so that Bauxite could be mined.

The totally artificial communities at Aurukun are the result of mining companies stealing land and yet at this Communist web site we are reduced to discussing aboriginal responsibilities honestly words fail me.

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