The need to re-embrace TRUE RECONCILIATION has never been stronger than it is today.
The issue I and many other Australians are wrestling with right now is best thought about after reading The Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. The complete Northern Territory Government Report can be downloaded there. That should precede any considerations, whatever your views might be. I would also urge you to revisit without the damaging attitude that came via Quadrant and Keith Windschuttle Bringing them home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report.
I admire, and have admired for ten years, Noel Pearson. See Politics aside, an end to the tears is our priority in today’s Australian. I do believe he speaks as he sees, and should be taken seriously — with the caveat that he has never claimed to speak for all Indigenous Australians. In fact, such is the nature of Aboriginal culture that no-one can truly claim so to speak.
Nonetheless, this must not become the Tampa of 2007. That is something Kevin Rudd is well aware of. The politics here won’t be easy. One left-wing response so far has appeared on Benjamin Solah’s blog. While not totally out of sympathy with Benjamin’s position — he is quite right to say that there are eleven years of Howard government to be explained — I think he does need to rethink also. More when my downloads are renewed Sunday at midnight. On another matter, I might mention that Warren, my Aboriginal nephew, actually worked on Palm Island for some time. He has already told me a bit about the place.
Above: Tania Major, Young Australian of the Year 2007.
The following left response, while vivid and no doubt sincere, is too simplistic. Many things get swept away in such a broad sloganistic approach, which I’m really afraid may sometimes serve as much as anything else to make white folk feel good but does little to improve the situation. Redfern is part of my daily round; more has happened here than these images allow, and not all of it is bad.
Rather the same could be said of John Howard’s current intervention of course; there the aim surely is to make the government look better than it has been, even allowing for a genuine response on Howard’s part to the Northern Territory Report. It is after all impossible to read that report without feeling very deeply, so I don’t doubt him when he says he was moved; but that was also true of the now ten-years-old “Stolen Children” Report, which had people crying in Parliament, and look what ensued.
Look carefully at the actual NT Report. Note its emphasis on “empowerment”. Note what it actually recommends. Judge John Howard’s actual response against that and I think you will have to agree he is going against the spirit of the report. That I think is a great shame.
See also Mr Howard, Mr Brough and Australia’s Aborigines by Jim Belshaw.
Jim’s summary of what has happened really is excellent, and has attracted a fascinating comment from Tiwi Downlands, whose connection to the Aboriginal and Islander people is much closer than Jim’s or mine. I hope neither Jim nor Tiwi Downlands minds me copying it here, because I want it read!
At the outset, one needs to exercise cynicism when a government which has been a long time in power, and has long looked a aboriginal problems and decides to act dramatically when there is electoral threat.
John Howard’s government has been very centralizing and we cannot assume they will do better than NT Government. Someone said visiting the Canberra Health Department as in flight going to a Boeing Cockpit and finding no pilots!
I wonder why this particular report generated such a dramatic response. Nothing cane from the report that was not well known for a long time!
The inquiry showed the constraints of Government in the NT Government, the two principals were a city based lawyer and a political activist – neither would know tiddly squat about remote communities.
The NT always has problems with the aboriginal problem because political viability depends on a cluster of Darwin and Alice Seats – which would not reward good work done for the indigenous.
And to talk about the population of indigenous in NT needs to be split up because the education, health and social profile of the traditional community is vastly different from the non-traditional.
I worry that the knee jerk of the Howard plan are a Presbyterian Temperance Union focus: Booze, Sex and Work House values.
The problems are complex! Aborigine communities have the highest percentage of non-drinkers of any community in the nation! But cigarettes and booze can absorb 50% of purchasing power. A solution to this will not be devised in Canberra! The imposition of flawed solutions makes people want to drink.
In some places it was the practice to marry off a twelve year old to an older man and at times a senile or drunken man reaches out where he should not. The communities can solve these problems if there are sufficiently empowered. Police come in with truncheon and righteousness and make a massive problem out of a minor problem.
Work-for-Dole is extensively employed in NT communities but these schemes need to be properly funded as the capitalization per worker is costly. Dripping taps are a great source of unhealthy but it takes money and equipment to fix dripping taps.
Noel Pearson talks great sense and deserves to be heard. I hope a lot more are heard. The consultation Canberra aims at is not impressive.
Thanks, Tiwi Downlands, and Jim. Kneejerkers on both right and left please take note. 🙂 Nothing like experience to penetrate the ideological thickets. Be nice if Howard and Brough took note as well. I should add, however, that the NT Report is a better job than Tiwi Downlands suggests. Whoever its compilers may have been, the submissions they received and noted speak very powerfully of problems that really do need to be addressed, but in a grassroots fashion and with the emphasis on causes.
[Updated in the Internet Cafe.]
My considered response to this issue will probably appear as a new sub-page to the Indigenous Australians page.
SUNDAY: While Miranda Devine and I share an enthusiasm for Noel Pearson, her reading both of him and of the past fifty years or so of developments in Aboriginal policy is part of the problem, in my view. I’ll come back to that.