• Crisis in Aboriginal communities

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 • Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by keza at 2006-06-23 05:08 AM

A couple of days ago Tony Abbott wrote an article in the Age calling for a new "paternalistic approach" toward dysfunctional Aboriginal communities.  I've pasted the full article in below as it will soon be archived by the Age and therefore inaccessible. 

Noel Pearson was subsequently interviewed on the ABC television - the 7:30 Report.  Pearson was critical of Abbott's outlook, pointing out that his brand of paternalism is bound to fail because it fails to focus on the fundamental connections between self-determination, responsibility and genuine empowerment. He argued that what would emerge from Abbott's brand of paternalism would be more government bureaucracy and greater passivity on the part of the recipients.

Pearson: That is our entire interaction with governments at both levels, State and federal, that Aboriginal salvation is somehow seen as something government must ultimately take charge of. Well, I think most Australians would understand that ultimately the security and safety of Aboriginal children in the future has got to be ultimately the responsibility of parents. Now, we're a long way from that in many families. We've got parents who have really abandoned their children because they're stuck in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violent situations and so on but we have to restore that situation. At the ends of the day our aim has to be to restore the circumstance where Aboriginal parents, Aboriginal people take responsibility and my fear about the current directions is that there's this continued assumption that somehow government has got to completely take charge and the Aboriginal people are some kind of passenger in the process.

I'll post the full transcript of Pearson's response underneath  the Abbott article.

Self-determination has failed indigenous Australians, writes Tony Abbott.

MODERN Australians are understandably embarrassed about our forebears' failings towards Aboriginal people. British settlement of Australia meant that Aboriginal culture was bound to change. It meant tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people and their descendants. In the long run, however, modernity — with its benefits as well as its excesses — has been as inescapable for Aborigines as for the rest of us.

Australians' sense of guilt about the past and naive idealisation of communal life may now be the biggest single obstacle to the betterment of Aboriginal people. Having rejected the paternalism of the past, we now insist on forms of self-management for Aboriginal people that would be totally unworkable even in places where people are much more used to them. Because it was wrong for our forebears to treat Aboriginal people like wayward children, it isn't necessarily right for us to expect Aboriginal people to thrive through endless management committee meetings.

As historian John Hirst put it in 2004: "The last oppressor of the Aborigines is the belief that they are a co-operative people naturally suited to self-government in small communities." Hirst says it is wrong to expect small, remote communities to organise their own water supply, sanitation, home maintenance, road construction and retail services and laments that self-determination has required Aboriginal people to master skills that are a "cross between a hippie and an accountant".

A former teacher on the Tiwi Islands, Veronica Cleary, has described how "the schools in Nguiu were constantly asking the community council to make children go to school, the community council was constantly organising community meetings to tell the parents to send their children to school and the parents were constantly demanding that someone else should collect their children each morning, provide breakfast and lunch and provide school uniforms. The frequent community meetings often ended in chaos as the leaders who had been so keen for them to be arranged could not be found to speak."

A form of paternalism — based on competence rather than race — is really unavoidable if these places are to be well run.

The Pitjantjatjara Lands of northern South Australia are home to 2500 people spread across eight significant settlements in an area half the size of France. Almost none of the Aboriginal people has a job other than in various work-for-the-dole schemes. The median age of death is 49. Petrol sniffing and binge drinking are rampant. There is one police station. Attendance at school and at work projects is desultory but attendance records for each settlement are not published, presumably because this might reinforce stereotypes about Aboriginal people.

The lands are part of the Council of Australian Governments' "whole of government" initiative, which is designed to overcome the confusion and paralysis associated with different federal and state government departments (as well as local councils and land councils) all trying to solve similar problems in different ways. So far, this initiative has led to a nutritionist joining the local Nganampa Health Service and community stores doing more to stock healthy food.

Normally, dysfunctional local government would mean sacking the particular council concerned and imposing an administrator to sort out the mess. Something like this was attempted in the lands with the (short-lived) appointment in early 2004 of former senator Bob Collins. Vesting authority in an administrator makes sense but only when combined with the power to make decisions and make them stick. Someone has to be in charge. These days, such authority as exists rests with local "big men" often in conflict with each other and white managers usually dependent on unstable alliances in the local council.

Indigenous townships can rarely produce the kind of leadership necessary for modern service delivery needs. Noel Pearson once called for outsiders such as Marcia Langton to take charge of Aboriginal education in Cape York, Tiga Bayles to take charge of communication, and Peter Yu economic development.

This sounds like his way of saying that only so much can be expected of local people. Pearson's clarion call for Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their own lives should be matched by government officials taking more responsibility for standard governmental functions in Aboriginal townships.

Tony Abbott is the federal Minister for Health. This is an edited extract of a speech he will give today to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare conference in Canberra.

Pearson's remarks:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation


LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1669713.htm

Broadcast: 22/06/2006

Action needed to stop ongoing Aboriginal crisis: Pearson

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, mentioned by the Health Minister, won't be part of Monday's summit, but he's already seen his share of them, as he has of Aboriginal communities that represent success stories and others that don't. I spoke with Noel Pearson in Brisbane earlier today. Noel Pearson, are you supportive of Monday's summit? What would you want to see come from it?

NOEL PEARSON, DIRECTOR, CAPE YORK INSTITUTE FOR POLICY AND LEADERSHIP: I think the danger, Kerry, is this will be Groundhog Day once again, where we come together every four or five years to discuss the ongoing Aboriginal crisis and we actually don't do anything in the wake of it. I certainly think that there is a crisis in many of our communities, that government must take action on the problems and assist communities with the opportunities but I've got to say, just in the last 10 years, I've participated in at least two of these crisis sessions and I don't see that we've made a lot of progress in the wake of them.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Did Health Minister Tony Abbott, his comments, take you by surprise when he talked of returning to a paternalistic approach to intervene in dysfunctional Aboriginal communities?

NOEL PEARSON: I think the notion of paternalism is correct if you're talking about a parent or father having jealous regard for the safety and protection and future of their own child. That is paternalism, that is correct - when parents and community members such as myself have real anxiety and take steps for the protection of our future generations. But when it comes to government and when it comes to people of another race presuming to carry out a paternal role in relation to the welfare of people of another race, then I think, you know, we're returning to an old institution that became extremely problematic for Aboriginal people.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But if you take the word paternal out of the equation, what's wrong with the government taking the same approach to a seriously dysfunctional Aboriginal community where people's lives are a misery, as government might to a dysfunctional city council, like Melbourne city council, which was done at one point, that is, putting in an outside administrator to try to restore some kind of basic stable infrastructure?

NOEL PEARSON: Firstly we have to recognise there is a range of communities. Many communities are on the mend. Many communities have good leadership, good administration and good directions set and they're on the path to recovery and uplift for their people. There are some communities that are in a miserable condition where the safety and protection of women, children, old people, sober people is urgent and yes, I for one am a supporter of the need for government to step in and ensure basic safety and protection through law and order measures but you can't just have unilateral government action through law and order. You actually have got to work in partnership with the sober people, with the good people, to build ownership of those social order measures.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How do you rationalise to yourself, how do you come to understand, a community that has become so dysfunctional, where a few who are the leaders of the community can dominate, to their own ends, including things like sexual abuse of children, including, it seems, deliberately leading young kids into petrol sniffing so they can prey on them. How do you feel as an Aboriginal leader and activist over decades when you see that kind of image being projected?

NOEL PEARSON: It's absolutely terrible. It's a consequence of us letting obvious social problems continue without any courage for intervention. Grog has been getting out of hand in our community for decades. Marijuana has been getting out of hand for the last 15 years in Cape York. These problems have not stabilised. They keep snowballing and because of our refusal to intervene and take measures such as restrict alcohol, such as having a zero tolerance approach to drug dealing and drug abuse within our community, our inability over the last 20 or so years to really understand that, gee, these problems aren't just a kind of chronic problem that stabilises, these problems mushroom and, you know, a kid that's been subject to an abuse two generations ago turns into an adult who is a terrible abuser of future generations and we're now living with the legacy of our failure to confront these problems when they first arose.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You allowed yourself to be harnessed to the Federal Government. You acted, as a time, as an adviser to the Prime Minister. Was that a genuine partnership? Do you see often what you would regard as genuine partnerships between Aboriginal communities and governments and how widespread is that? Whereas you say the Aboriginal community is the major partner.

NOEL PEARSON: I say that there ought to be partnership. We've always said there's got to be partnership between Aboriginal people, government and the private sector and government is most powerful in the resolution of social problems if they understand their limits. Government is most powerful when they understand that the best role they can play is as a junior partner supporting and enabling and assisting but the minute they think that they can step over the top of Indigenous people and say, "We prescribe a certain pathway for you and you just stay passive and we will lead because you're useless," I think, you know, there's got to be...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Are you saying that is what predominates today?

NOEL PEARSON: That is our entire interaction with governments at both levels, State and federal, that Aboriginal salvation is somehow seen as something government must ultimately take charge of. Well, I think most Australians would understand that ultimately the security and safety of Aboriginal children in the future has got to be ultimately the responsibility of parents. Now, we're a long way from that in many families. We've got parents who have really abandoned their children because they're stuck in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violent situations and so on but we have to restore that situation. At the ends of the day our aim has to be to restore the circumstance where Aboriginal parents, Aboriginal people take responsibility and my fear about the current directions is that there's this continued assumption that somehow government has got to completely take charge and the Aboriginal people are some kind of passenger in the process.

KERRY O'BRIEN: People talk about Aboriginal self-determination failing but different people can mean different things by self-determination and I think there's been confusion about what it really means. Mick Dodson says it hasn't failed because it hasn't been tried. What's your position?

NOEL PEARSON: If you mean by self-determination that it is about taking responsibility, I'm in complete agreement. If self-determination is about taking responsibility, then that's what I'm about, because at the end of the day, you know, our salvation lies with us. We need to be supported by good-willed Australians, we need to be supported by government but our salvation and the salvation of our children lies essentially with us. Unless we have an Indigenous leadership that steps up to the plate and grabs the responsibility back off government. Because my experience over the last decade in thinking about these problems and working with these problems is that the bureaucracies - the bureaucracies which have sucked the life out of us, sucked the responsibility out of us will not yield back that responsibility freely. We have got to take back responsibility and insist with the government that the future of our communities lies with us at the end of the day.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You would be widely regarded as one of the most articulate and successful Aboriginal leaders this country has produced. How much power do you feel you and the other leaders of your community have? Real power?

NOEL PEARSON: I think the problem of Indigenous leaders is that we - in terms of time, we spend 95% of our time thinking about these problems. 95% of our knowledge is dedicated to the resolution of these problems but we have 5% of the power and conversely, politicians - this problem is only 5% of their attention, 3% of their knowledge and yet they possess 95% of the power and that's the paradox within which we labour. That's the paradox within which we labour but the problem is we live in a place where, as I say, we possess a fraction of the power to be able to do something about it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Noel Pearson, thanks for talking with us.

NOEL PEARSON: Thank you, Kerry.

Some papers by Noel Pearson

 • More from Noel Pearson

Posted by keza at 2006-06-26 12:28 AM
Pearson takes what I'd call a "progressive rightwing" position - not sure if that is an oxymoron.  I don't think it is if we define "progressive" as  wanting to move forward and rejecting the  idea that the past  can/should trump the future.   

Pearson  has an article in today's Age:  Don't Listen to those who despise us  in which he takes what seems to be a pretty good line on the issue of Aboriginal culture.  He atttacks Keith Windschuttle for being cold , lacking empathy and being essentially antagonistic toward Aboriginal Australians, arguing that Windschuttle's  main impact has been to lend support to conservative opposition to reconciliation.  However at the same time he says:

First, we should be able to agree with conservative and liberal people that Aboriginal Australians' need modernity, geographic mobility, full command of English, education and economic integration.

Second, cultural relativism should be rejected in favour of embracing modernity when it comes to the fundamental economic and social organisation of societies. It is natural for peoples to advance from hunting and gathering to agriculture to industrialism. What peoples retain is a matter of cultural and spiritual choice.

Third, in the debate about Australian history, rigour and revision of history is essential.

Fourth, much of the political rights criticism of the progressive consensus about policies for Aboriginal Australians is correct, particularly in relation to welfare and substance abuse.


(Windschuttle's) irrational argument was that a modern Western education system cannot maintain a preliterate, nomadic culture. Of course it cannot. But we have a right to government support for a modern, literate, prosperous version of our culture. This right to cultural continuity is exactly the same right the non-indigenous conservatives demand when they fight to prevent postmodern gobbledegook from pushing knowledge about old Western culture out of the curriculum.

The difference between Australia and most other shared Western states is that the Australian minority peoples until recently had a pre-modern culture and no connection with the world economy. To secure Aboriginal economic development, it might be necessary for us to make far-reaching concessions to the dominant culture.

Aboriginal Australian culture and economy have changed and must change. But it seems that conservatives increasingly believe that the difficulties of this transformation justify a complete denial of Aboriginal Australians rights as a minority.

There has been nothing more dispiriting for me than the prominence of Windschuttle's and Johns' ideas in conservative political and cultural circles. Windschuttle's thesis about the absence of a notion of land ownership in Aboriginal Australia, and Johns' notion that our culture is unable to change and must therefore be left to die, are threatening the prospects of successful co-operation between Aboriginal Australians and the conservatives.

Today's ministerial summit illustrates the dilemma we are facing: the extreme crises in Aboriginal Australia and the low capabilities of Aboriginal Australians make non-indigenous Australians and our political leaders lose sight of the natural ultimate goal, which is that Aboriginal Australians become a prosperous constitutionally recognised First-World national minority.

(NB There was a debate in the old  forum thread multiculturalism unravels  that is somewhat relevant  to the issues  raised by Pearson.)

I have also posted another article by Pearson that was published in today's Australian newspaper and was entitled  entitled Big Government Hurts Aboriginal Population.

Here Pearson argues that intensive government micro-management of Aboriginal communities won't work.

This is where his positon contrasts with  the pseudo- left view that governmental bureaucracy is better and intrinsically kinder than captalist driven development. 

He points out that:

In the past five years, Cape York peninsula people have entered into partnerships with corporate and philanthropic organisations through the aegis of indigenous enterprise partnerships. The main features of this model are that the reform agenda is led by indigenous leaders, the private-sector partners provide financial and in-kind support for the reform agenda, and senior corporate leaders champion his or her company's commitment to a long-term partnership. The most important contribution of our private-sector partners is competent personnel.

These partnerships have given us freedom to take action without being dependent on government authorisation and for government funding approval. Where government could not be persuaded to face up to chronic failure and to try new approaches, our private-sector partnerships have enabled us to try something new.

The lesson: government is at its best when it realises its limitations. To be sure, governments are a welcome partner, but they are ideally junior partners who should limit themselves to playing a supporting role.

The task of reconstructing indigenous Australia socially and economically is so difficult that the logical thing for the government system would be to build a long-term partnership with each and every individual and organisation that is honest, well-intentioned and reasonably competent. Governments and bureaucracies should not be distracted from the long-term goal of indigenous self-reliance by making the flaws and problems of indigenous people the main determinant of policy direction.

We are not arguing for relaxed standards of accountability for indigenous people and organisations. We urge governments to adopt indigenous capability building as the goal of all programs and actions, even when the indigenous party is struggling.

We from the Cape York peninsula would advise political leaders and senior officials to see intervention, reform and rebuilding of capabilities in indigenous communities in three distinct phases.

The first phase is the immediate need for government to intervene in those communities where the safety and protection of children and community members is an urgent priority.

Simultaneously with emergency interventions, work must begin in partnership with responsible community members to rebuild functional social and cultural norms, which are much more important than simple compliance with law enforcement.

The second phase is the intermediate need to ensure that routine services and programs in health, education, housing and infrastructure are delivered as competently and efficiently as possible.

It is this routine service delivery and routine community development which governments that talk about whole-of-government coordination are concerned with.

However, it is our view in Cape York peninsula that routine service delivery will not solve the profoundly difficult questions involved.

Reform is necessary across all policy areas, and there is not the competence within government to locate and develop these reforms.

Co-ordination, while desirable, is not reform.

Therefore, reform innovation must be part of the intermediate phase. This is where partnerships between people and organisations from the private sector, working with indigenous people, can research, develop and trial social innovations.

The third, long-term phase is where successful reform innovations developed in the second phase become the mainstream programs administered by governments and indigenous organisations.

In this phase, the government's role should retreat so that it takes responsibility only for those things that are appropriate for them.

The present over-reach by government in response to the crisis in indigenous affairs will eventually be exposed as a failure. In the meantime, much good work and progress made by indigenous communities and organisations will be destroyed.

People might question our main contention here: that the political and bureaucratic top leadership does not have any strategy for the indigenous crisis. And consider this: things are admittedly still very difficult for people in Cape York peninsula. But during recent years there have been a large number of initiatives that have improved people's lives, or promise to do so in the near future: nationally renowned family income management, alcohol management, education trials, and Milton James's Work Placement Scheme.

Governments have given us vital legislative and financial support. But not one of these ideas came from the bureaucracies or the politicians. Indigenous people and the private and philanthropic sectors did it all.

 • Re: More from Noel Pearson

Posted by arthur at 2006-06-26 09:12 AM

I'd call Pearson's standpoint a "left" position. It's clearly both "progressive" and "taking the side of the oppressed against the oppressor.

That combination is how I define "left". His paternalistic opponents are not on the side of the oppressed and his narodnik opponents are not progressive, so they are both certainly to his right.

Incidentally there's a depth to his perspective about policy for a national minority that indicates some familiarity with marxism (and consequently no need for him to use sectarian language instead of simply presenting the results of applying that to his political analysis as comprehensibly as possible).

 • Pearson wants to win

Posted by keza at 2006-06-26 10:19 AM

Yes I think you are right about Perason being objectively on the left.

The great thing about him is that he wants to win. 

That makes him hugely different from the pseudo-left. It's a really good example of someone actualy analysing a situation in order to change it - rather than just talking about how bad everything is.

 • Re: Pearson wants to win

Posted by arthur at 2006-06-26 12:56 PM

I think Pearson is subjectively, ie consciously, on the left, not just "objectively".

From memory, I think that like Christopher Hitchens he denies being on the left because he rejects the pseudo-left while not having fully grasped that they simply are not left at all. Also of course, like Hitchens and like us, he finds himself more closely aligned with people who correctly identify themselves as right-wing in opposition to the more reactionary policies of people pretending to be left.

That (extremely widespread) confusion about what is "left" is why I still believe the biggest contribution we could make is in widely propagating the concept of a "pseudo-left" and fully flesh out the concept with detailed exposition. This has the same strategic importance as the identification of "revisionism" (spit) as part of the enemy, rather than weaker bretheren of the left in the sixties (and is in fact essentially the same issue).

They also went on about how bad everything is instead of fighting to change it. The sixties left was also fighting to win.

There were also lots of people on the left involved in fighting to win who did not call themselves "left" in the sixties (though it was more common for them to identify as being on the left and rare to be aligned with people who correctly identified themselves as on the right on practical issues).

However that phenomenon isn't entirely new either. It is as they say, no accident that Maoists were accused by supporters of Soviet social fascism of being allied with US imperialism against them from quite early in the 1970s. In the Chinese Cultural Revolution genuine left forces were typically attacked as counter-revolutionary rightists by capitalist roaders, who often took an "ultra-left" guise and this phenomenon was also a feature of the movement in the west.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by byork at 2007-02-09 12:46 PM

No doubt about Noel Pearson - he is leading the fight against imposed helplessness and welfare dependency among Aboriginal communities and has strong support at the grass-roots level. Today's 'Australian' has this opinion piece by him about 'the Welfare Pedestal'.


He says,


... young people living in remote communities in Cape York Peninsula who are victims of a criminally disastrous education are not truly in a position to choose. The apparent decision to live a more traditionally oriented life in their remote community without benefiting from participating in the real economy is not the product of true choice. It is the product of no choice.

There is a longstanding policy assumption in this country that Aboriginal people are primarily motivated by culture; that our people are somehow different from other Australians in that we are immune to economic incentives and are instead creatures of culture.  


Link: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21198311-7583,00.html  



 • Noel Pearson's slogans

Posted by kerrb at 2007-02-10 09:05 AM
I really like the Noel Pearson approach (Cape York Institute) to indigenous issues. Here are some of the slogans that scroll across their home page:

  • "Keep our diverse languages and cultural traditions by excelling in education and digital technologies, the only means of arresting the decline of our ancient and oral traditions"
  • "Maintain our identity as a people but encourage individual excellence in education and achievement"
  • "Fight racism but don't let it be our disability"
  • "Rebuild social, cultural and legal intolerance of substance abuse"
  • "Our right to take back responsibility"
  • "We don't have an inalieable right to dependency, we have an inalieable right to a fair share in the real economy"
  • "Fight victimisation but we won't be the victims"
  • "Never forget history but engage in the future"
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-02-11 03:42 PM

To assist in the process of elevating Noel Pearson to the Sainthood I take the liberty of attaching


Should help.

There are some carping critics up here who say that he is too good to be true, sort of super Uncle Tom. I would suspend judgement myself. 


 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-06-26 06:05 AM
Excellent article by Noel Pearson about the current crisis in aboriginal communities

Politics aside, an end to the tears is our priority by Noel Pearson

Howard's motivation is not the most important thing.
But what do you do when a child is being subjected to abuse this very day? What do you do when a child is likely to be abused next week? What do you when the abuse is going to happen the week after next? What do we do when there are scores of children involved across the communities, the states and territories? If it were your child at risk of this suffering, would you think this a matter of emergency?

This is not a moral panic. The abuse is real. This is not a media or political beat-up. The report from Pat Anderson and Rex Wild confirms a reality of suffering. Something has to be done to relieve the suffering now, not in six months, not in two years. Now.

We can’t rehabilitate people from alcohol or drug dependence immediately. We can’t fix the poor education immediately. We can’t fix up the poor health immediately. But we must stop the suffering straight away. Everyone, from the Prime Minister to his bitterest opponents, centres their preferred strategy or response on the fate of the children. No one can escape this fact: the fate of the children is the bottom line. Whatever one thinks of Howard and Brough, their strategy is justified on the basis of the fate of the children. If not Brough and Howard’s plan to stop the suffering, then what alternative plan should be pursued? Here most of the critics fall into a deafening silence. They have vociferous views about what will not work, but they are silent about what will work. So the sum total of their response—“we don’t need missionary paternalism again”, “prohibition doesn’t work”, “indigenous people must consent to the changes”, “we need more government services”, “we have to provide rehabilitation”, “we have to deal with intergenerational trauma”, “we have to deal with things in a holistic way”—is inaction and procrastination while children’s lives continue to be ruined. It is not that the points made by the critics are wrong—they are often correct—but their criticism does not translate and often cannot be translated into action.
Read the whole thing. He makes a lot of very good points.

Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-06-27 04:48 PM

This came from people at Mutijulu today. No doubt LS will dismiss it a coming from the Pseudo Left and continue to support Tony Abbot, Howard et al.

   --------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Katalin Mindszenty <katmindz@yahoo.com>
Date: 27-Jun-2007 20:37
Subject: Mutijulu Press Release VIP please forward
                                            PRESS RELEASE FROM MUTIJULU

Dear friends

Please pass this on to as many people as possible.


Nizza Siano

Leaders of the Mutitjulu community today questioned
the need for a military occupation of their small

We welcome any real support for indigenous health and
welfare and even two police will assist, but the
Howard Government declared an emergency at our
community over two years ago - when they appointed an
administrator to our health clinic - and since then we
have been without a doctor, we have less health
workers, our council has been sacked all our youth and
health programmes have been cut.

We have no CEO and limited social and health services.
The government has known about our overcrowding
problem for at least 10 years and they have done
nothing about it.

How do they propose keeping alcohol out of our
community when we are 20 minutes away from 5 star
hotel? Will they ban blacks from Yulara? We have been
begging for an alcohol counsellor and a rehabilitation
worker so that we can help alcoholics and substance
abusers but those pleas have been ignored. What will
happen to alcoholics when this ban is introduced?
How will the government keep the grog runners out of
our community without a permit system?

We have tried to put forward projects to make our
economically sustainable - like a simple coffee cart
at the sunrise locations - but the government refuses
to even consider them.

There is money set aside from the Jimmy Little
foundation for a kidney dialysis machine at Mutitjulu,
but National Parks won't let us have it.
That would create jobs and improve indigenous health
but they just keep stonewalling us. If there is an
emergency, why won't Mal Brough fast track our
kidney dialysis machine?

Some commentators have made much of the cluster of
sexually transmitted diseases identified at our health
clinic. People need to understand that Mutitjulu
Health Clinic (now effectively closed) is a regional
clinic and patients come from as far away as WA and
SA; so to identify a cluster here
is meaningless without seeing the confidential patient

The fact that we hold this community together with no
money, no help, no doctor and no government support is
a miracle. Any community, black or white  would
struggle if they were denied the most basic resources.
Police and the  military are fine for logistics and
coordination but healthcare, youth services, education
and basic housing are more essential. Any programme
must involve the people on the ground or it won't
work. For example who will interpret for the military?

Our women and children are scared about being forcibly
examined; surely there is a need to build trust. Even
the doctors say they are reluctant to examine a young
child without a parent's permission. Of course any
child that is vulnerable or at risk should be
immediately protected but a wholesale intrusion into
our women and children's privacy is a violation of
our human and sacred rights.

Where is the money for all the essential services? We
need long term financial and political commitment to
provide the infrastructure and planning for our
community. There is an urgent need for 10's of
millions of dollars to do what needs to be done.  Will
Mr Brough give us a commitment beyond the police and

The commonwealth needs to work with us to put health
and social
services, housing and education in place rather than
treating Mutitjulu as a political football.

But we need to set the record straight:

     There is no evidence of any fraud or
mismanagement at
Mutitjulu – we have had an administration for 12
months that found nothing

    Mal Brough and his predecessor have been in
control of  our community for at least 12 months and we have gone
backwards in services

     We have successfully eradicated petrol
sniffing from our community in conjunction with government
authorities and oil companies


 We have thrown suspected paedophiles out of
our community using the permit system which our government
now seeks take away from us.

      We will work constructively with any
government, State, Territory or Federal that wants to help
aboriginal people.

Katalin Mindszenty
phone:  07 55329337
mob:  0419 815435

Lesia Hrubyj
Email:  lesiahrubyj@hotmail.com
Phone: 9389 3808
Mobile: 0405 473 585

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-27 11:11 PM
Dalek is so full of hate that he cannot even read clearly - or else he is lying. He attacks LS for allegedly supporting "Tony Abbott, Howard et al", when the second paragraph of this thread reads:

 Noel Pearson was subsequently interviewed on the ABC television - the 7:30 Report. Pearson was critical of Abbott's outlook, pointing out that his brand of paternalism is bound to fail because it fails to focus on the fundamental connections between self-determination, responsibility and genuine empowerment. He argued that what would emerge from Abbott's brand of paternalism would be more government bureaucracy and greater passivity on the part of the recipients.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-06-28 05:52 AM

It would be more accurate to say that there are elements of Howard's policy that Pearson supports (eg. zero tolerance to substance and child abuse) and elements of that policy that he sees as inadequate (no long term plan for aboriginal people to assume responsibility)

If you want to understand Pearson - who does have a deep understanding of the issues - then there really is no alternative but to read a fair bit of Pearson

These issues have been comprehensively and eloquently addressed by Pearson


eg. I just read a couple of recent Pearson articles from the CYI site titled:

When hope is lost we must imagine a future

Where there's life there's Hope

I did summarise one of his earlier articles here:
Charles Perkins Memorial Oration, On the human right to misery, mass incarceration and early death (October 2001)

Pearson identifies the main problems of the aboriginal people as substance abuse and dependency on passive welfare.

This says a lot and risks a lot. These are problems that need to be solved by aboriginal people so he is immediately rejecting victim mentality. It is far better to deal with your own problems than to complain about how enormous they are in such a way as to abandon hope of a positive change for the better

He doesn't reject or dismiss the importance other problems (racism, dispossession and trauma) but he does distinguish clearly betweeen the current main problems and the longer term historical legacy, putting these latter problems in a secondary position for now.
"When abusive behaviour is deeply entrenched in our communities it is not the material destitution , the social ills and historical legacy that fuel the abuse epidemics. It is the epidemics that perpetuate themselves."
This analysis gives hope and real guidance because it means aboriginal and white people can get on with tackling real and urgent issues rather than becoming passive (paralysed by the complexity) and possibly guilty about a huge morass of unresolved issues. Pearson rejects "symptom theory thinking", that the main reason for substance abuse is the despair, hopelessness, social dislocation of aboriginal communities and other "underlying causes". He identifies such thinking as a real problem, causing paralysis.

He states frankly that the situation is worse now than ever before, with respect to life expectancy, illiteracy, the abuse and neglect of children, the numbers of aboriginal people in prison and juvenile institutions, alcohol abuse, petrol sniffing, violence against old people for money and grog.
... many of the traditions we purport to follow are too often merely self-deceptions (that we care for each other, that we respect our Elders, that we value our culture and traditons) ... The intrinsic force in the grog and drug epidemic is now stronger than the force of our traditional social norms and values
It takes courage to say these things about your own community but Pearson speaks the hard truths

As well as identifying the main problems, Pearson analyses those problems, traces their history and outlines plausible solutions

Substance abuse / addictions are problems in their own right. The five factors that are needed for an outbreak of substance abuse are present in aboriginal communities: (i) the substance being available (ii) spare time (iii) money (iv) the example of others in the immediate environment and (v) a permissive social ideology

He rejects progressivist solutions of "harm minimisation" and calls for zero tolerance and enforced treatment as the necessary steps to break out of endemic substance abuse:
The absolute intolerance of illicit drugs, absolute enforcement of social order, and mandatory treatment is the core of the strategy
He identifies it as a political struggle rather than a health or moral problem. Because, "The social function of substance abuse epidemics is to make people unable to organise themselves, politically and socially"

Pearson's historical analysis of why things are now worse in aboriginal communities is very insightful. He speaks of the
"irony of our newly one citizenship in 1967 was that after we became citizens with equal rights and the theoretical right to equal pay, we lost the meagre foothold that we had in the real economy and we became almost comprehensively dependent on passive welfare for our livelihood"
Pearson describes both the Australian Labour Party and the Coalition as being "half right" and not capable of making the changes required to turn around the social disaster of the Australian aborginal people:
... the Australian Labour Party will be strong and correct in their policies in favour of the rights of Aboriginal people - particularly land rights and native title - and they will be weak and wrong in relation to the breakdown of responsibility in Aboriginal society occasioned by passive welfare dependency, substance abuse and our resulting criminal justice predicaments. The Coalition will better understand the problem of responsibility but will be antipathetic and wrong in relation to the rights of Aboriginal people: they advocate further diminution of the native title property rights of Aboriginal Australians

Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-06-28 03:54 PM

Regardles of Pearsons motivation, the motivation of Abbot, Howard, and Brough is to use this "crisis" (a crisis that has been going on for at least 20 years BTW) to win the upcoming election. Do you guys really think Howard has abandoned his pernicious racism? Abbot set the stage with that garbage that you so dutifully attacked, it was a classic good cop bad cop thing and LS has been totally sucked in. The whole thing has been a set up from the start. Even the sainted Pearson is now backing away from the army occupation and the forced "examination" of aboriginal children.

This will play well to the same people who were sucked in by the Tampa incident and the White Australia freaks and assimilationists that lurk even in "progressive" web sites.

The people at LS pride themselves on their perspicacity and powers of Marxist analysis.  how about demonstrating some of these skills instead of a Knee Jerk reaction to every right wing ploy?





 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-28 06:22 PM
I rise to ask the Honourable Member for Frothing-at-the-Eyestalk:

What alternative policies does he advocate?

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by byork at 2007-06-28 07:53 PM

youngmarxist, I see no point in asking dalek for alternative policies. You can bet he'll have 'very radical' sounding ones. On this issue, as with others, he reveals himself to use leftwing rhetoric to justify reactionary policies. There's even conspiracy theory at work on this issue, in his mind. Never mind that something positive might be achieved, and that very few Aboriginal leaders dispute the need for urgent action, all one needs know is that "The whole thing has been a set-up from the start".


If you want alternatives to the emergency plan, check out Lowitja O'Donoghue who is working on an alternative plan at the moment. You can bet it will not place "crisis" in inverted commas, as dalek does. The fact that the appalling situation has existed for so long, under supposedly 'progressive' policies of people like Fraser et al, means recognition of the real crisis is a necessary starting-point. The losers in all this, hopefully, will be those who have been content to lock Aboriginal Australians into their traditions, limit their opportunities to the isolated places in which they were born, and allow such disastrous situations to continue for so long and indeed to grow worse.


The task force has been largely warmly welcomed by the grass-roots communities thus far. This is from The Age report about the reaction of the Mutitjulu community:

“THE cavalcade of army, police and government officials who arrived in Mutitjulu yesterday to spearhead the Federal Government's intervention in remote Northern Territory communities received an extraordinary, emotional welcome from locals. Most of the tiny community of 150 living in the lee of Uluru turned out to give the contingent a traditional welcome. One by one, the officials and officers were met by a reception line snaking across the red dust, welcoming the visitors and shaking their hands”.

If you read the full report here http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/talks-clear-the-air-in-mutitjulu/2007/06/27/1182623991763.html you’ll see that while there’s understandable skepticism, there are also elders in that community who see the emergency plan as an opportunity for good.


The 'fear campaign' that is being launched by the usual suspects will probably not succeed, precisely because they are so out of touch with what the communities want (ie, a police presence to enforce security is a common demand); though I did hear on Radio National this morning that some children in a community had been frightened into actually thinking that the soldiers were coming to take them away.


At the same time, unless Howard and co genuinely listen to the advice of people like Noel Pearson and integrate their efforts with, and rely on the strengths of, the local people (especially the 'grandmothers', as Pearson always says) the task will be much more difficult. It remains to be seen, when the task force gives it report, whether or not this approach will be taken.


The other night on Lateline, Noel Pearson condemned those, like dalek, who "will failure". He said "They're willing failure on this effort just as they did with Iraq".


No amount of pseudo-left posturing can conceal the fact that dalek, as usual, is on the wrong side.


Go Noel!!!






 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by kerrb at 2007-06-29 07:20 PM
another great article by Noel Pearson in today's Australian

"Strangely - but if you adopted an old leftist analysis it should not be surprising - the greatest impediment to the policies that are needed to relieve suffering is the confusion of those parts of the middle class who think themselves progressive. And it is particularly that section of the progressive middle class who are involved in the so-called helping industries who most contribute to the misery of those whom they believe they are helping"

Two conclusions:
  1. suffering in capitalist democracies can be further reduced
  2. decisive action is needed and is possible
It is the "progressives" who would rather be seen dead than support any action by "the Howard government" who are the main problem here. Pearson calls it progressivism, at LS we call it "pseudo-leftism"
Bill Kerr

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-06-30 02:26 AM

This is very quick, because I haven't read everybody's comments  in detail ...


however, Dalek's contribution is a superb example of the LS definition of pseudo left as I have observed it on other forums I follow including ones from the  so called Left who I have PM communications with and should know better.

Took up this issue with them 12 months ago after the Lateline report. Now the same pseudo lefts are saying the same things they said then, even after this report. When challenged, none of them have even read the report, even the ones who have long practicised in the aboriginal legal services and so on. They immediately started attacking Pearson's credit as angling for Liberal party endorsement, My view, as expressed it to them, is that this  is the so called left finally descending to the sewers.


Haven't checked Larvartus Prodeo, what are they saying? Don't dare go there because am too peed off.


Interestingly Pearson compared the Left's reaction in willing on the failure of the Fed Govts responses to the report to its willing on of failure in Iraq. He gets it, as you guys have identified.

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by arthur at 2007-06-30 09:36 AM
Bill's quote from Noel Pearson about the "helping industries" looks really central. Fascinating that he places it in the context of an "old left analysis" - likewise Barry's quote on comparing the will to failure on this with the will to failure in Iraq.

As I mentioned earlier in this thread:

I'd call Pearson's standpoint a "left" position. It's clearly both "progressive" and "taking the side of the oppressed against the oppressor.

That combination is how I define "left". His paternalistic opponents are not on the side of the oppressed and his narodnik opponents are not progressive, so they are both certainly to his right.

Incidentally there's a depth to his perspective about policy for a national minority that indicates some familiarity with marxism (and consequently no need for him to use sectarian language instead of simply presenting the results of applying that to his political analysis as comprehensibly as possible).

Seems that he's emerging as a significant national political leader - both the hostile and the enthusiastic responses to him are not just limited to the specific aboriginal issues but to their wider implications about fighting to win.

In particular those remarks about the "helping industries" are clearly sharpening up some jargon free analysis of the class basis for the ideological phenomenon he calls "progressivism".

He must be running into intense hostility from the "Aboriginal industry" with entrenched interests that depend on dysfunctionality and also touching a nerve with much wide strata of essentially parasitic functionaries classically referred to in different versions of the Internationale by the words "No saviour from on high delivers, no trust have we in prince or peer" or "We want no condescending saviours to rule us from a judgment hall".

Pseudo-leftism is only the aspect of this stuff that strikes a "left" pose. The wider mainstream "bourgeois socialism" of compassionately disempowering people fits perfectly with preserving rather than overthrowing obsolete social relations.

I think its worth looking up some of the classical Leninist material against "Friends of the people" (Narodniks) especially re primitive communal vs bourgeois property relations and also on Bundism re assimilation and cultural autonomy. Suspect Noel Pearson may have done so (though his background seems more "Lutheran").

 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by dalek at 2007-07-01 08:06 PM

Arthur, I agree "He must be running into intense hostility from the "Aboriginal industry" with entrenched interests that depend on dysfunctionality and also touching a nerve with much wide strata of essentially parasitic functionaries classically referred to in different versions of the Internationale by the words "No saviour from on high delivers, no trust have we in prince or peer" or "We want no condescending saviours to rule us from a judgment hall".

Why then, are you lot promoting Noel Pearson and Howard as  a "saviours" ? Please explain. 


 • Re: Crisis in Aboriginal communities

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-07-02 01:36 AM
Dalek demonstrates his usual dishonesty by demanding:

 Why then, are you lot promoting Noel Pearson and Howard as "saviours" ?
 Perhaps dalek could point out what statements he thinks 'promote' Mr Pearson or Mr Howard as 'saviours', before expecting his usual skewed abuse to be answered?

Dalek has not yet said what alternative policies he would advocate.