Some good things on the Australian government and Indigenous Australians

04 Aug

So here I am right now downloading a podcast of last night’s jtv, not exactly for my demographic… However, as I half-watched last night I found myself drawn to an excellent segment on the current intervention in the Northern Territory: see Brough Love. While it confirmed that Mal Brough is one of the most interesting people on the government side of politics, it made more clear than anything I have seen elsewhere the problems with his military cast of mind and with the policy he is implementing, about which he is, I believe, genuinely passionate, if perhaps mistaken. (See also in The Australian Land council fears welfare fallout. Further, the intervention so far has led to just a handful of referrals to child welfare agencies.)

One of the most interesting revelations for me on the jtv presentation was the input of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at Southern Cross University. Its director, Judy Atkinson, has been writing about violence in remote communities for two decades. See A National Crisis: what John Howard Isn’t Doing and REMOTE COMMUNITIES: What I would do. See also an interview with Rachel Kohn in 2006:

…Rachael Kohn: Today, Judy Atkinson is the Director of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at Southern Cross University. She’s speaking to me from Lismore in northern New South Wales. Well Judy, ten years ago you wrote that addressing the legal issues of indigenous women, particularly as victims of violence, was a needed balance to what had been a singular focus on native title. Do you think people expected too much of native title? Sort of like having land would be a panacea?

Judy Atkinson: That’s true. But I think it’s much more complex than that. There was such a deep need within our mob, our people, to have recognised the ownership rights they have to land across millennia, that they thought that this would fix everything. They didn’t realise they were moving into a whole can of worms within the legal system of Australia around Native Title.

The second thing is that people and country are so closely inter-related and from my position, this is what I would say to my own mob at the time, that unless we’re also working on healing people, how can we actually work to heal country? How can country work for us unless we’re there engaged with it? But if we’re unwell, we’re going to be unwell within our country.

What happened with Native Title, it actually has split and is continuing to split many families and communities apart because we have a false understanding of what Native Title could deliver.

Rachael Kohn: So Native Title continues to be obviously a significant issue for Aboriginal people, but there’s still the problem of family violence, violence within the communities. And that’s become certainly the focus of recent news broadcasts of the extended report on ABC’s Lateline and so forth. Are you encouraged by the focus on those issues?

Judy Atkinson: No, I’m not encouraged by them. We as Aboriginal people, many women and also many men have been working very solidly at a community level to address those issues. I am not seeing a real commitment from the government to work with us, to address those issues, they’re still running with their own agenda. At the same time what I am seeing is fractured, burnt-out community people who’ve been working for a long time with children, with women, with men, fearing that maybe there’s just no hope, that everything they’ve done means nothing…

Seriously worth following up in these days when incomplete and inadequate ideological approaches are driving the government’s agenda, however well-meaning parts of it may be — or not, in some aspects, but possibly the most significant ones in the longer term*.

august07_cover.jpgMore may be found in the latest excellent issue of The Monthly.

  • In “Pearson’s Gamble, Stanner’s Dream”, Robert Manne tracks the history of both government policies on Aboriginal communities and the thinking of key anthropologists – Elkin, Baldwin Spencer and, most significantly, WEH Stanner, who worked with Nugget Coombs – who have influenced these policies. From the early attempts at assimilation through the move to Indigenous self-determination, this far-reaching essay places the government’s recent actions, and in particular the pivotal role played by Noel Pearson, in a historical perspective.
  • In the Monthly Comment, philosopher Raimond Gaita questions the government’s recent intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Gaita argues that John Howard’s history of disdain for the supposedly empty gesture of reconciliation – most evident in his emphasis on “practical reconciliation” – shows a lack of respect for the people he now claims to be helping. The result, Gaita says, is serious moral and political confusion.

Those two articles are not yet online, but there is some good news about The Monthly: a selection of past articles is now online! This includes the two 2006 essays by Kevin Rudd.

* Later

Hmmm. When someone as eminent as former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM smells a rat in the Australian government’s new Aboriginal policy then I tend to think there is a rat — and it’s probably called mining companies, Uranium, and US bases. See Leaders slam ‘sickening’ plan.

The federal government’s intervention in the Northern Territory is sickening, rotten and worrying, says one of the most powerful Aboriginal leaders in the territory.

Speaking at the 2007 Garma Festival, deep in the heart of a stringybark forest in north-east Arnhem Land, former Northern Land Council president, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, called on people to fight the Howard Government’s takeover of Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

“I have got a political agenda to run,” he said. “This government is a worrying government, not worried about us but worried about himself (Prime Minister John Howard) and worried about his few rich people and business people that support the coalition that puts them back into government to run amok in the nation.”…

Monday: The Sydney Morning Herald reports the rather devastating news (I would have thought) that the authors of the report which triggered the government intervention feel utterly betrayed by what the government has done.

THE authors of the report that prompted the radical federal intervention in the Northern Territory say every one of their recommendations for tackling child sexual abuse in indigenous communities has been ignored by the Howard Government.

One of the authors, Pat Anderson, said yesterday that she and her co-author, Rex Wild, QC, “feel betrayed, disappointed, hurt and angry – pretty pissed off all at the same time” by the federal response.

“When we turned on the television and saw the troops roll into the Northern Territory we were sort of devastated that this could happen,” Ms Anderson, a health administrator, said.

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Posted by on August 4, 2007 in Aussie interest, Cultural and other, Current affairs, Films, DVDs, TV, Indigenous Australians, Kevin Rudd, News and Current Affairs, Politics, Reading, Reconciliation



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