Boys from the Bush

20 Oct

This was the subject of an inspirational episode of Message Stick tonight. There will be a transcript there after Monday. Meanwhile, check the Boys from the Bush website.

The Boys From the Bush Program is an enterprise-based behaviour modification program for 12-20 year old indigenous youth in Cape York and the Torres Strait devised by Milton James.

It operates in partnership with the Community Justice Groups under the auspices of the Cape York Land Council and Cape York Partnerships.

This socio-economic program uses business enterprises as the means of breaking the unemployment / welfare dependent / ignorance / apathy / boredom / drug and alcohol abuse and crime cycle.

The enterprise is also used as a means of assisting young participants with the transition from boyhood to manhood, as well as from play to work.

There is an interesting article about Milton James here.

Boys learn the relationship between profitable work and income. They learn to assemble and operate a distillation plant for extracting oil, about the medicinal, cosmetic and industrial uses of eucalyptus and melaleuca oils, and about the eucalyptus and tea-tree oil industry.

After the bush camps, the young participants sell their products to locals and tourists from their market stalls in Cairns and Kuranda. All the profits are shared according to individual productivity. Boys are taught about marketing, labelling, price formation, operational efficiency and selling methods.

Young men learn that true Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men do not take drugs and commit crimes – they are strong, resilient and earn money the proper way.

The results are remarkable. In Mossman, while the program was operating, police report that none of the young people re-offended and Children’s Court appearances fell from seven each month to fewer than one.

Continued hindrances of juvenile justice and conventional child-protection bureaucrats to this program are hard to understand. The darker realisation is that under the guise of benevolence and proper practice, there is an industry funded by taxpayers that effectively perpetuates more Los Angeles-style gangs and hoodlums.

Sadly, Milton James may only have a few years to live. He was recently diagnosed with cancer.

I am one of those who regrets that our national government, as distinct from state governments, has not conscientiously gone down the path of reconciliation we embarked on after the absolutely memorable gathering of indigenous Australians in Sydney in 1988. I was a participant in that; nothing quite like it had ever happened before. At the same time, too much time has been wasted in politics and negativity about this. It was impossible to view tonight’s documentary without feeling this is an approach that all should endorse. Noel Pearson is one prominent backer.


  • My Indigenous Perspectives Page. Much of this was first created in 1997-1998 as HSC resources. Modified and added to 12-15 August 2005. Checked February 2006.
  • Not the Third World, just Australia’s first war zone — a May 2006 entry here, with lots of links.
  • I might add that my nephew Warren has documented his descent from “King” Bungaree, “the first Australian to circumnavigate Australia in 1802 with Matthew Flinders”, on his Great Green Way Eco Tours site; it is a fascinating story, beautifully presented here with many documents and pictures.

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    One response to “Boys from the Bush

    1. Ninglun

      October 20, 2006 at 8:01 pm

      See Senator Andrew Bartlett, The so-called ’so-called’ stolen generation. Good man.

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