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Apr 29, 2011

NT Intervention: the divide between opinion and evidence

The over-publicised tweet by Larissa Behrendt needs to be seen as part of a wider issue.

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Opposition leader Tony Abbott appeared on The 7.30 Report, interviewed by Chris Uhlmann against the backdrop of the NT:

CHRIS UHLMANN: I spoke with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott earlier today and asked if the intervention had achieved its primary aim, protecting children.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: I think the intervention has made a difference. It hasn’t been perfect. Nothing is perfect, but it has made a difference and I think the challenge now is to build on that to try to see if we can extend the intervention to Alice Springs and the other major centres of the Territory, so that we ensure that everywhere in the Territory the kids go to school, the adults go to work and the ordinary law of the land is observed.

There is relatively little evidence of the benefits and/or harm of aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) so we do not know how its components affected the targeted 73 communities and whether it met any of the vague aims set. There are some scattered but useful studies and serious doubts about the value of others. These questions of  evidence create considerable tensions between supporters of the intervention and those who doubt its value.

The over-publicised tweet by Larissa Behrendt needs to be seen as part of this debate and her expression of disgust and disagreement with Bess Price’s statements about the benefits of the intervention, not about her person.

It also highlights the discrepancy between the coverage an issue like the tweet story is given compared to the exposure that both Abbott and the media have given to opponents of the intervention — people like Barbara Shaw and the Intervention Rollback Action Group.

I was watching Q&A and I worried that the Price statements would be taken more seriously than the measured judgment of the Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes, who contradicted some of her assumptions. Evidence is very limited and often seriously flawed but should be debated. But as I show below, the government has failed to take seriously the evidence on offer and is making policy on its prejudices and some expressed opinions.

The income management part of the program is now extended to the whole NT, with the rest of Australia on the government’s agenda. I acknowledge my political views are anti much of the intervention (and I drink lattes) but I offer the evidence collected below, based on my strong professional ethos in research and evaluation. Despite many claims of success stated by the government, there is no statistical evidence that income management has in itself improved the health, child safety or family well-being in any of the designated areas.

I acknowledge that such data are hard to come by, as there was no baseline data that could be used to show change. Causality is always difficult to prove but where there are big and expensive program changes, there is a need to set up measures that can test the statistical differences of pre-, during and post-program behaviour. In this case there is no official baseline data or later measures, and there will be none in the big current evaluation of the NT wide program. In fact, although the extended new non- racial, but 94% indigenous, income management program, started last August, the evaluation is only now designed and not yet allocated by tender.

The government depends therefore on statements and opinions that support what it wants to do. This tendency showed up in the so-called redesign process, which took no advice from various consultations, submissions and reports. These offered repeated recommendations to replace population compulsory income management with a voluntary scheme except where people were proven to have problems. This advice came first in the Yu report that Jenny Macklin commissioned, and later in many submissions including from the Central Land Council and many Aboriginal groups. The Aboriginal Medical Service of the NT was quite clear in its submission:

AMSANT continues to oppose any form of compulsory income management for the reasons that follow…..

22. There is no compelling evidence that compulsory blanket income management is an effective tool for helping to improve the living conditions for children and families in Indigenous communities, or to support disengaged youth and vulnerable individuals in the broader community. In fact, the jury is still out on questions of its efficacy. The claims that quarantining welfare income under the NTER has significantly improved health and reduced alcohol consumption cannot be sustained on the evidence presented.

The careful Health Impact Assessment of the Northern Territory Emergency Response  from Australian Indigenous Doctors Association  (AIDA) recognised some immediate positives but also negatives that could have long-term effects stated in its income management section:

Rather than enabling Aboriginal families to better manage their money the process of compulsory quarantining was seen as reinforcing beliefs that Aboriginal people were not able to manage their lives. This loss of autonomy about where to shop and what to buy was seen as degrading and shameful. Importantly it did not focus on whether people received enough money to be able to budget appropriately or provide skills in budget management.

They conclude:

The positive and negative health impacts of compulsory income support are likely to cancel each other out.”

The carefully constructed store survey by the Menzies Health researchers found no statistical evidence of changes in purchasing that could be attributed specifically to income management. Better stores, nutrition programs and budget assistance were major factors in changing purchasing in many areas.

In the Senate report, this lack of evidence is described and summed up:

3.45 Many submitters and witnesses were critical of the evidence base used to support the extension of income management across the Northern Territory and Australia. Some of these criticisms were summarised by Professor Jon Altman, who stated: Unfortunately and sadly, no empirical evidence with any integrity has emerged to unequivocally support income management measures. That collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has been highly qualified and equivocal. That collected by the Australian government or its agents has been in-house, unreviewed and, frankly, a little amateurish. At best, it has been deeply conflicted by moral hazard. Agents of the state are asked by state employees or their paid consultants whether state measures are effective.

3.46 Several witnesses, including Anglicare Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the St Vincent de Paul Society noted the small sample size used in studies such as the AIHW evaluation report and were of the opinion that the evidence base was not strong enough to support the expansion of income management.

Worryingly, the evidence might change over time. For example, there is forthcoming research from the Menzies School of Health Research, currently under peer review, that outcomes from income management might, at best, be ineffective and, and at worst, perverse.

Despite these views, the recommendation from the ALP majority was that the Bills should be passed without changes.

Since the Senate report was tabled, other evidence has emerged that the intervention hasn’t worked, including in child protection, its primary area of interest. The NT, in late 2009. commissioned a report on child protection Growing them strong, together to cover the past three years. This reported that child safety had deteriorated and, interestingly, failed to mention the NTER, either in its review of what had happened or income management as part of its future planning.

There are two other income management trials that are claimed to be showing good results. These are basically voluntary schemes with compulsion being used to punish/control non-compliers. Therefore, they are not comparable with the NT model but even then, the data does not show clear gains.  There is much more evidence  I could list, and it will come out as an issue of the Journal of Indigenous Policy.

The only clear support for maintaining the compulsory income management came from the NPY women’s group. Interestingly, they are the only group that the government quoted as a reason for continuing the program. It is this nexus of influence that shows the power of individual voices that agree with what the government proposes.  The Price comments, made on Q&A, can be seen as adding to the misinformation that has been used to justify this program.

There are many groups who are angry and puzzled that the mass of counter evidence is ignored. Opinions running counter to government views are also ignored even if they come from respected long-term residents. There are wide differences between the Bess Price and the NPY views and other elders from their own communities.  A few weeks ago at a forum in Melbourne, included the Reverend Djiniyini Gondarra, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Harry Jakamarra Nelson and George Gaymarani Pascoe, all of whom opposed much of what Bess supported.

Government ministers therefore seem equally able to discount opinions of locals and evidence from experts which do not support the views they hold. While evidence-based policy seems to have lost out in political debates, there is still the question of public opinion. The attack of Behrendt by News publications, which undermined the legitimacy of her professional judgment (and even Crikey’s) was obviously aimed at confusing uncommitted views of the voters. By playing the race in conflict cards and implying this was rural urban splits, The Australian made sure that the conservative views of its tame commentators would be unchallenged.

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57 thoughts on “NT Intervention: the divide between opinion and evidence

  1. Jim Reiher

    It is such a tragedy that some of the dwindling minority of voices supporting the intervention, are getting so much press.

    How can compulsory medical checks of all children in designated regions, be child care? To give vag_nal and an_l examinations to all children in 73 regions under the guise of “protecting them from child abuse” is a contradiction in terms.

    Are readers aware that of the first 7433 compulsory checks, only 4 cases of possible abuse were detected? (source: Courier Mail, 24 May 2008). That is outrageous! There would be more cases of possible abuse found if you took any middle class white suburb anywhere else in this country! But no, our previous government decided to pretend to care about children, by physically abusing thousands of them.

    I know my language is strong. But can you imagine what we would call it if a white suburb in Melbourne was deemed to have a lot of child abuse, so EVERY CHILD IN THE SUBURB would be forcibly checked in such a way as to traumatise the children? Without parental consent??!! Taken and checked even if there was no suspicion about any abuse of that child in particular? We would never allow such an outrage. it would never be done to white families.

    And yet we allowed it to happen to our indigenous kids in the Northern Territory. What a disgrace and what abuse! I am so appauled. I can never NEVER vote for a govt that implemented such actions, nor can I vote for one that went along with it, and continues to justify it. Both our major parties are racist, gutless and utterly disgraceful.

    The intervention needs to end, and some serious repair work with the indigenous communities must be … once again… attempted. It is unbelievable what we have NOT learned in over 200 years.

  2. Catching up

    Can someone enlighten me to what could not have been done for the Aboriginals if we did not have the intervention.

    Without the Intervention, we could still have had -:

    Increase police presence.

    Child Protection workers.

    Improved housing.

    Education motivation.

    Income management. (This does not have to be across the board, punishing those who do the right thing, as those who are wasteful. The present method is very expensive and does provide many jobs for the bureaucrats.) Income management can be done on a voluntary basis or where children are at risk, through Child Welfare agencies and the courts.

    Job training and increased employment opportunities.

    Health checks.

    Alcohol and drug counselling.

    What did the Intervention allow to happen that could not have been done without taking peoples rights away.

    How many more are going to school. Has abuse of children ceased. Are more employed. What happened to the alcoholics, as I refused to believe restricting alcohol would have solved their problems. My guess is that they have moved elsewhere.

    What has happened is the there has been more money spent. It did not need an Intervention for this to occur.

    It is my opinion that the Intervention was hasty created to assist the Howard government’s re-election. It would have been allowed to die, if Mr. Howard was successful in being re-elected.

    The Labor government should have re-assessed the situation when first elected and a more responsible programme put in place.

    Please do not insult me by insisting that money has been spent over the decades, it has not. The Aboriginals have had less per head spent on education, health and housing Etc. than that the rest of the community.

  3. Jon Altman

    One of the most worrying aspects of these debates on whether the Intervention in the NT (we seem to have yet again moved on from the term Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory which is actually a COAG National Partnership Agreement very quickly) or the Cape York welfare reform pilots or the voluntary income management trials are making a difference is that we have more and more reports and less and less analysis. A close reading of any of a plethora of reports [unfortunately as Eva Cox notes rarely with a quantitative baseline] by government departments on a six monthly basis in the NT coordinated by FaHCSIA, or the Commonwealth Coordinator General for Remote Services Delivery or the NT Coordinator General or by consultants like KPMG on the Families Responsibilities Commission or by the FRC on a quarterly basis or by the Productivity Commission or by the Prime Minister to Parliament annually or by the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (I could go on and on, we even have a dedicated Clearing House that cannot keep up with them all) show that at best outcomes are ambiguous and worst that peoples’ circumstances have either not changed or gone backwards.

    There is a lot of evidence out there but a reluctance that is often politically or ideologically based to address it seriously. And it shows considerable difference with some agencies looking to genuinely assess change, others more intent to defensively cover up failings. Opinion and spin seems to count for a great deal, but what is most concerning is that neither major party has done the serious hard policyt work to consider place based alternatives. So we get simplistic mantras like ‘get a job’, ‘get an education’, ‘get your kids to school’, ‘stop drinking’, ‘apply the law’ by some of the most powerful in Australian society as if the playing field is dead level!

    Closing the Gap rhetoric is about making the Australian public feel that something is being done, not about actually delivering sustainable benefit to Indigenous communities. The cosy Canberra consensus might quibble at the margins, but normalisation and the elimination of difference is the ultimate goal, one that is clearly not shared by all Indigenous Australians.

    Murray Edelman’s famous book about political language comes to mind: Words that Succeed and Policies that Fail! Succeed for whom and fail whom leaves little need for analysis although how we as a society let it happen is a worrying issue. Thanks for a stimulating article.

  4. David Hand

    “The over-publicised tweet by Larissa Behrendt”? Gimme a break – all I’ve read in Crikey over the past two weeks are rose tinted, beatifying, sycophantic PR releases on her behalf. Anyone would think there was an issue that needed defending (hmmmmmm………).

    So we have yet more hand-wringing from the left elites who opposed the intervention on reasons of principle from the start. We’ve had a change of government but no significant change of policy. Why this is? Two governments, from right and left of centre are persuing the same policy but if you read Crikey, the “invasion”, which it opposed from the start is an abject failure due to a lack of proof, or empiracle evidence.

    Come on, make a suggestion about what should be done. Spend more money? Relax controls over the distribution of welfare because they would not be tolerated in suburban Melbourne? These are the things that will fix it?

    It is telling that all this urban left elite huffing and puffing is having little influence over policy. You can all sit round your lattes and opine loudly about how evil the intervention is because we wouldn’t put up with it in Melbourne. Maybe it has failed. I haven’t been there so I am hostage to what I see and hear. But Bess Price has been there and has a story to tell, otherwise known as misinformation to all you who made your minds up about it in 2007.

    I await a coherent policy idea from the leftie urban elite that is taken seriously enough by this left wing government to make a difference. I’m not holding my breath.

  5. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – Well, unlike you, I listen to aboriginal people. I’ve been to rallies/gatherings/information nights, where aboriginal people from the NT have been in attendance. It’s their LIVING EXPERIENCES that I’ve listened to, together with articles written by them or via others.

    Why do you assume, that the only people who stand up for human rights are lefties? Says a lot about you and your ‘lot’? I went to rallies in Wollongong & Sydney which were addressed by elders from Muckaty Station and workers in the NT. I’ve read the National Indigenous Times articles, and have before me the submissions of many groups in the NT who were not listened to by Jenny Macklin. I’ve also been on the web site of the people who walked off in disgust over both the raw sewerage they’d been forced to live with for over a week, and what was being demanded of them re signing away their land.

    It is a FACT that even the families of people convicted of committing horrific murders have not had the threat of having their land/homes taken, nor does the Justice System in NSW enable the autorities to quarantine their incomes, so what do you find difficult to understand about aboriginal people objecting to this abuse of their rights – aren’t they supposed to be citizens of the same country? Why is it OK to treat them differently? And why are you so sarcastic and dismissive of the anger by those who agree with aboriginal people being treated differently to the rest of us. This happens while Julia Gillard gives her ‘school marm lecture’ to indigenous people that they must ‘work harder’ etc. How offensive is that?

    Why does the Right think it OK, that an aboriginal worker works for the dole(50% of which is quarantined) while the non-aboriginal person working beside him gets the award wage and conditions? Why is an aboriginal worker threatened with the sack if he won’t work with his broken arm in plaster? Would you? Can you imagine or show me one incident in your state or area where this has been a reality for a non aboriginal person?

    What books, articles, programs or web sites do you visit to educate yourself re this or other related issues? Do you have a copy of the Native Title Legislation, or the Howard Ammendments? I do! Have you read any of the Reports I referred to?Read any Henry Reynolds books? Or perhaps, ‘Demons at Dusk’? Have you bothered to read anything other than the likes of Andrew Bolt and others of his ilk?

    No, didn’t think so, and it shows! You are part of the problem! You who can only show your ignorant and closed mind, without any positive input or discussion.
    The whole reason for the Intervention was land grab – and mining leases – over 400 of them in the pipeline – less than 200 prior to the Intervention. Why did Howard wait until 13 different inquiries had stated what was already known – that aboriginal people were living in squalor, that their health needs were not met, and that the educational facilities and teachers were a disgrace?

    How many people have been convicted of committing crimes of sexual assault against children?

  6. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND Yes, Bess Price does have first hand knowledge, but not necessarily representative of all views, Noel Pearson does too, but how many people are in agreeance with them is another thing. Barbara Shaw (received a huge number of votes in the last Federal Election) Patrick Dodson, Mick Dodson and others also have a view. If it’s OK for the shock jocks, Jenny Macklin etc to have a view, it should be OK for Larissa to speak out also. Have you read her book/s?

    Richard Davies has first hand knowledge of what’s happening to his people, he’s the elected spokesperson for the people who walked off their land – I’ve listened to him speak in the Illawarra on two occasions. I also attended a rally where the unanimous vote was to support the elders and others who are against the nuclear waste dump, also in the Illawarra – held at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre? It will probably require action by the relevant Unions to stop this outrage. If I could afford it and was of sound body, I’d go up there and help out!

    If someone can show me one area of the NT where indigenous people got their fair share out of mining etc, I’ll take another look! Nabalco, Gove springs to mind, as does the Uranium Mine at Kakadu (Jabiluka)which is in a dangerous situation as we speak – the tailings dam is ready to overflow due to the latest heavy rains – which will put radioactive pollution into the area lived on by indigenous people, pollute their rivers and sources of food etc. We warned them at the time! I still wear the red T-shirt where the elders spoke out against this mine? From the 70’s/80’s?Ho-hum!

    Some of the most wealthy mining outcomes have been in the NT – the results are proof of who benefited, and it’s not aboriginal people – never has been, and unless there’s real change, won’t be in future! Forrester is a billionaire, as is Hancock’s daughter! bhp billiton is so damned arrogant, it refuses to either attend meetings ANYWHERE or when their mouthpieces do turn up, they refuse to answer questions? They’re increasing their obscene wealth at aboriginal peoples’ expense! Howard, Rudd and now Gillard are performing as predicted – helping them get richer at the expense of some of the most poverty stricken people on the planet! A disgrace!

    I wonder how many times Jenny Macklin has been to remote areas of the NT, or does she just listen to those who tell her what she wants to hear? Why did many Indigenous groups put their opposing views re the Intervention in a book, of which I have a copy? There’s a lot of similarity with the Govt’s views and behaviours and that of Twiggy Forrester who took over an aboriginal meeting to put his lawyer in place as the MC and engineered his band of supporters to vote and/or take over the meeting! It’s on YouTube – go take a look! Put the NT Intervention into your search engine; or read some articles by Chris Graham who was the Editor of the NIT, now the new magazine/newsletter, TRACKER or GreenLeft – just put in NT Intervention – lots of people’s views- on the ground!

  7. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – If you’re sceptical as to how the wealthy companies use and abuse aboriginal land (and any other they want) take a look at the program on SBS last night – ‘GASLAND’ about what is happening in the US in order to set up mines for natural gas. Take particular notice of the roll played by Haliburton, before during and after Cheney was Vice President. The absolute arrogance; the changing of environmental acts and guarantees for such basics as the right to clean water is most enlightening. It doesn’t come as a surprise let alone a shock, that the whole INtervention business was a deliberate set up – from start to finish. If it was really about the plight of aboriginal people, they wouldn’t have had to do the one basic protection these people have – the Racial Discrimination Act? You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or a cynic, you just have to join the dots. I voted in the 1967 Referendum. I’ve had many years of watching, reading and listening. Sadly, 2007 was just more of the same, except there’s more of the NT that they want – hence the oppressive behaviours etc.

    The proof about the reason for dismantling ATSIC is plain to see? Look at the people on the new ‘body’? All in agreeance with the Govt! What does Noel Pearson do except come out and give his people a verbal bashing, just in time to set up govt policy; aided and abetted by Andrew Bolt and the msm?

    Listen to Bess on ABC’s Radio National’s Background Briefing – repeated tomorrow evening after the 7pm news, or listen on line and read transcript. I have much sympathy and understanding for what she said, except for a major contradiction that I don’t understand. She referred to aboriginal culture that condones violence, and then commented that people today don’t abide by how their elders live/ed? Isn’t this what she’s already said is the problem? I don’t understand this, maybe I heard wrong. I’ve heard other aboriginal people state most emphatically, that their culture does not condone or ‘order’ any form of violence against women and children, and certainly not sexual abuse of children. So there’s some contradictions there! In fairness, Bess did not affirm that sexual abuse of kids is condoned, but abuse of teenaged young women is, if they object to being promised to older men, or just any man that they don’t want. Girls from any culture are not commodities to be promised, sold and abused!

    I believe that subsequent governments have no qualms at sacrificing aboriginal people in order to have access to billions of riches. What they do to justify this, is make up lies or make out things are worse than they are. They then feel quite justified in adopting oppressive and racist practices in order to carry them out. I believe that this is what is happening now. Every time this is a news item, the co-operative media trot out the same images on our screens to feed the lie, that all indigenous people are drunken layabouts who can’t organise their breakfast let alone intelligent policies etc. A willing and racist audience just nod sagely and the caravan rolls on! Horrific!

  8. Elan

    I was able to discuss my objection to Income Management with Nick Xenophon a few months ago. I had strongly and vocally objected to his support for the further rollout of IM-at a public forum where he was a speaker on general matters.

    I then met with him to ‘discuss my concerns’. He is a pleasant and easy man to talk to. However I I came away from that meeting feeling empty and disappointed.

    Not disappointed that I was unable to make Nick ‘see the light’, but hugely disappointed on what I still believe was a narrow and not fully informative grasp of all facts. It seemed to me that he had taken his decision based on listening to what he wanted to hear from those with only one focus;-the merits of Income Management such as those merits could be.

    Thank-you JON HUNT, particularly for your first post. You explain far more lucidly than I could that this move is yet more of the patronising and totally ineffective ‘solutions’ that we ‘reserve the right’ to impose on Indigenous Australians.

    That was what surprised me. Nick Z is a smart cookie, yet he readily accepted this rationale, and supported its furtherance. That still appalls and disappoints me.

    The American Indian made his firewater. We handed it to Australian Aboriginals and certainly- at first,-stood back and laughed as they demonstrated their inability to cope with alcohol. Now many just sneer at them.

    But we are responsible for it. Many store owners in the NT and Outback make hefty profit from grog. And btw;-they don’t do too badly in supplying ‘essential’ and very expensive food to those who go in and swipe their card-that is as long as the machine is working.

    The 21st century. And this is all we can find as a solution? It is yet more of what has gone before, and what has so demonstrably failed.

    White Australia will never seek any solution that will provide dignity and equality. White Australia will only ever seek solutions that keep Indigenous Australians ‘in their place’.

    (DAVID HAND-did it ever occur to you that in your zeal to categorise those of ‘the Left’, you have more than adequately demonstrate the methodology and condescension of ‘the Right’?)

  9. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – You still haven’t told us how you’ve gained the information for your views? What have you read! If Nick Xenophon is supporting the racist NT Intervention, then he’s sucking up to the mining companies and others who have a vested interest in seeing aboriginal people lose their land etc.

    Why is Muckaty Station being advocated for a nuclear waste dump? They don’t want it – it’s going to kill off pristine waters and surrounds where these people get their food? Why not position it near your house? Why not position it near a pristine area in your State, near a catchment area perhaps? Why should indigenous people have it forced on them? Because the Federal Govt has the power to walk all over them – again! That’s why? This shouldn’t be a left or right activity – it should be about justice! Like ELAN I guess you’re “Too busy working on that Lefty thing eh?”

    I did NOT dismiss Beth Price’s view. I said that it was one view only. I’ve listened to many other indigenous peoples’ view – those who are living the Intervention. Unlike you or I? I also pointed to an anomoly during her speech that was recorded by Radio National – I also said that I had sympathy for much of what she said! Go back and read what I said (May 2, 6.35 pm)then go and listen or read the transcript! Did you even bother to do that?

    I also said, that when the raw sewerage was lying all over the ground, not only did Jennie Macklin not go up there, she didn’t even send anyone. This was a serious health issue.
    Before you put people in pidgeon holes, denigrating viable and legitimate criticisms, go and do some reading yourself, instead of just shooting your mouth off! I’m 66 and been following these issues for a long time, and I’ve read much and listened to aboriginal people – on the ground!

    I’ve also read the biography of the late ‘Mum Shirl’ (among others)who gave an account of how her life was, and how she wasn’t even educated due to her epilepsy. Her treatment when pregnant etc, not being able to sit in hospital outpatient rooms, or give birth in the labour ward – just because she was black. I’ve read much of the Reports that have been mentioned here; I taped many of the stories told by members of the Stolen Generations during the week leading up to and beyond The Apology! Did you? They were on the ABC, as were stories on Message Stick? Do you ever watch these programs or read anything????

  10. nomnom

    I think the Intervention and IM are simply cases in point of where the politics have outweighed the evidence. In an ideal world, rational decisions would be taken systematically and be evidence-based but I think that could be the reality somewhere in the future where we will have learned how to approach complicated and highly-emotionally charged issues with equal respect and proficiency in objective, intelligent decision-making and deep humanity. Currently, our reality is quite different. For some reason, we are so committed to working against each other.

    Practical solutions? Assume that we don’t know the answer, they do.

    Other suggestions I have read from various Indigenous leaders over the years include:
    – Help to restore cultural law, order and authority by discussing with Traditional Elders how best to do this
    – Institutionalise Indigenous culture in to mainstream society by:
    – Funding the development, implementation and evaluation of Indigenous courses in to the curriculum of schools, offer versions of Indigenous and Settler history taught by Indigenous teachers
    – Create a public holiday for a landmark Indigenous event in history, for example, the day Indigenous people were first allowed to vote
    – With permission, preserve what languages and cultural practices still exist in to all forms of media (written, video)
    – Introduce obligatory Traditional Indigenous language into schools taught by Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers
    – Encourage and develop programs that highlight Indigenous concepts of intelligence
    – Encourage and develop programs that highlight Indigenous concepts of land conservation i.e. fire control
    – Allow Traditional elders to teach hunting and art skills to children in schools as part of Indigenous cultural education
    – Facilitate and fund development of grassroots-level “culture camps”
    – Design Indigenous housing to meet and accommodate the needs of Indigenous culture, for example fit 10-12 people at a time, wide, open and outdoor sheltered spaces
    – Encourage programs that help Indigenous children to explore their passions and talents and excel at whatever they choose – not be pigeonholed in to looking up only to sports heroes.
    – Create a prestigious Indigenous Arts museum in the NT that aspires to have the reputation of something like the Guggenheim
    – Cut alcohol to communities either immediately or gradually and medically prepare communities for the impacts of withdrawal
    – Fund, and continually develop and evaluate current programs that aim to assist with parenting skills

  11. David Hand

    Okay, SBH,
    “You” as in “you may justify……” is a generalisation. On this thread I have been referred to research –
    Wild/ Anderson report,
    Message Stick,
    Living Black,
    Some of Henry Reynold’s books such as ‘This Whispering in Our Hearts’, ‘Why weren’t we told’ etc.
    The Report on Bringing Them Home, Black Deaths in Custody;
    ‘Demons at Dusk’ by Peter Smith he researched for 20 yrs before he wrote this book, about the massacre at Myall Creek.
    First Australians – (SBS)can download
    The National Indigenous Times,
    Lots of biographies at my local library.
    The Treaty with Maoris in NZ.
    Pat Wild’s Crikey piece

    I have been asked where I get the information for my views and advised it is insufficient to hold a valid opinion.
    I have been told to “smarten up”
    My mind has been “laughingly referred to”
    I’ve been called a half wit.

    I find the whole conversation quite stimulating and enlightening. At the same time I think that criticising the government for its policy failure when the problem is a really hard one isn’t very forward looking and looks to me ideologically driven. This is particularly noteworthy in the way Bess Price’s comments on Q&A have been shouted down by the left elites along with the circling of the wagons around Larissa Beherendt’s foolish tweet. In fact it was Eva Cox’s sanitising critique of the “over publicising of Larissa Beherendt’s tweet” that got me on the thread in the first place. I think that Crikey’s failure to publish anything about the political divergence of views in the Aboriginal community does it no credit. Especially when the editorial bias is “Beherendt good and persecuted – Price / Pearson stupid dupes of the evil Right Wing Daily.”

    I’m not defending the intervention. I’m having a go at the ideologically driven criticism from the left elite contributors to Crikey and challenging them for some practical, forward looking ideas. And I’m saying that I don’t need to study the writings of left wing activists to have that opinion.

    The best idea this thread has come up with is to have another go at ATSIC – a view I think has merit but seems painfully inadequate as a filtration of all the noise about the intervention that has come from this thread. (Oh, and dismantle capitalism and stop mining of course)

    And by the way “doctors wives” is a demographic generalisation referring to women in wealthy homes with a bit of time on their hands who have socially progressive views. It’s not a put down or a suggestion they are not smart. It’s the sort of demographic short hand a journalist or pundit might use to interpret a trend in an opinion poll or such like. “Left elites” is a similar demographic shorthand.

  12. SBH

    David, please, don’t put words in my mouth. Those comments were from other posters. Take it up with them. And by all means read those texts, they are illuminating

    Eva Cox’s criticism is not idealogically based. In fact her piece points out that evidence of the intervention’s benefits or harm are scant. She does make the point that Government has a much higher obligation to act from a base of knowledge rather than ideology or political expediency.

    Similarly Larissa Behrendt criticism is informed by translations of consultations held with Aboriginal people subject to the intervention. Consultations the Federal Government ignored. That’s not ideological.

    My opposition is indeed ideological if you consider that a belief that people have a basic human right to self determination and to be consulted about decisions that affect them is ideological. But this is a battle of ideas and I am happy to challenge a conservative ideology with a progressive one. Bear in mind that an ideological argument is not of itself without an experiential or factual basis.

    These debates are rarely helped by the use of journalistic boilerplate designed to offend like ‘doctors wives’ or jonesisms like ‘leftist elites’. This kind of name calling is used to divide and obfuscate and is a favourite of people who deliberately, tendentiously and recklessly distort, ignore and make up facts like shock jocks. Nor do you enhance your call for a rational debate by using pergorative generalisations.

  13. Liz45

    @NOMNOM – Introduce obligatory Traditional Indigenous language into schools taught by Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers. I understand that this takes place in SOME schools now – I read an article in the SMH, maybe a couple of years ago. The aboriginal language taught to all the kids is the one closest to their school – by aboriginal people. I wish that it would’ve been part of the curriculum when my kids were going to school. I would’ve asked to participate too.
    I agree with all the suggestions that you have raised. The only way to stop racism is via education. I’ve been amazed in the past for example, by the numbers of amazing inaccuracies introduced by some people on YouTube or other places, or in conversation with some people. The best one is the accusation, that aboriginal people get more money than the rest of us! People who insist on this have never looked up any item on the ABS website? Fancy that?

    @DAVID HAND – You seem to have a problem with people from the “left” or anywhere else for that matter, whose “ideology” is driving them to be against the Intervention. My “ideology” is simple. I’ve always had an aversion about injustice. Ever since I was a child, I’ve argued against this. eg. I stood up for my best friend after her mother died, when the Nun ridiculed her ability in the maths or ??class and raised her ability to help her “poor father, now your mother’s dead” in front of the class. I stood up and told her to leave her alone, that she was sad – she loved her mum and now she was dead? I got a thumping for my impudence! I was about 11.

    Now, I find it appalling that yet again, aboriginal people are being treated in such a manner as described above. It’s unjust and racist and should have no place in a country that boasts of its adherence to freedom and democracy and human rights. In short it’s crap! Of course there are ‘off shoots’ in different aspects of aboriginal peoples’ lives that the Federal Govt is demeaning, and all of them are proving to be negative and causing hardship. From all areas of peoples’ lives these racist and oppressive ‘rules’ are not working, and they’re causing even more misery.
    We’re a racist country, no matter how often the so-called ‘leaders’ refute it. It’s ingrained and oppressive and destroys peoples’ lives – the most obvious is the difference in life expectancy between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. No wonder! How many years could you live with such a racist undercurrent every day of your life? Those who stand against racism are often referred to as ‘do gooders’ or have a ‘guilt complex’ or some such drivel? Like racism, people like us are also herded into compartments and treated accordingly!

    If you’re interested in observing this ingrained racism and the practice of demeaning people in order to pay them less, or steal their land and resources etc, watch the next time the Intervention etc is on the news. You’ll observe that the electronic media trot out the same footage – a park in Darwin, or the military with aboriginal kids in June ’07, or a community where the houses are run down and ‘untidy’, dogs running around, and skinny black kids! They do it over and over and I’ve taken particular notice since the invasion of police and military in June ’07. You rarely see positive footage!

    Now ACA and TT also adopt this same formula re sole parents (who are usually women) Centrelink recipients; women in the workforce and/or women in general. While this ingrained bs is going on, the community are ‘drip fed’ bs that causes division and resentment!
    Watch how the media deals with the alleged introduction of teenage mothers(the ones who aren’t married, of course!) losing their supporting parent benefit after their baby is 6months or one year old and don’t go back to school or out to work or something? Of course, there’ll be no discussion about the millionaires who receive some form of child support income? Or who receive a pension? Or who owe billions in unpaid taxes? No, let’s pick on those who have the least amount of resources to defend themselves, and let them be the ‘theme’ for our excuses to ‘save money’?

    In short, when you demean people, it makes it easier to commit injustices against them. That’s what the Intervention is doing, while the govt inflict a nuclear waste dump on them and take away the land that is rich in something that the mining companies can flog off and become even more wealthy? Clever isn’t it?

  14. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – I suspect that you still haven’t done any reading. I read an article in a weekend paper about a policy that is having positive results. A $40 box of fruit & veg is given to underprivileged families with amazing results. The children in a short time showed a higher degree of different vitamins, folate etc in their blood. Also, kids whose ear infections/problems resulted in special sound systems in the school improved so much, that these sound systems were removed. There’s evidence of less use of antibiotics too! Now, this is good news and the program is ongoing – as we speak!

    The NT has a real problem with the provision of fresh fruit and veg, and the cost is double or more than what I pay in the Illawarra. I don’t think this govt or the ones previous have centred on the provision of good food in the Top End! The absolute farcial act of removing the CDEP where communities were providing fresh veg is just one demonstration of a lack of common sense input into the Intervention.

    If kids are in pain or have painful ears, they’re not going to achieve at school, and so they won’t want to go. You don’t need a PhD to know that. You just need a common sense approach to kids, their health, their needs and ASK the different communities. As Eva said in this article, and as many people have known for a long time, what the govts did and are doing is not working! All it’s done is provide new Toyota 4 wheel drives and homes for the beaurecrats, but not many changes for aboriginal people!

    Also, the high incidence of Rheumatic Fever among the aboriginal people is a disgrace. It was eliminated in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne not long after the end of WW2. How was it done? By concentrating on sanitation, which included sewerage and decent water; provision of better housing and eleminating slum dwellings, which resulted in overcrowding and people living too close to each other. The end result has been, that it’s almost unheard of to hear of a person in the rest of the community that suffers from this disease. It occurs due to the consistent ear, nose and throat infections; the resultant antibiotics cause a weakening due to them constantly fighting these infections – Rheumatic Fever is the result. Some young adults require an injection on a regular basis for the rest of their lives, otherwise, serious heart disease will be the outcome, and contribute to early deaths. If there was an outbreak of this disease in the general community, there’d be outrage – and rightly so. It can be prevented!

    Also, I’ve watched documentaries about the health needs in the NT and was horrified to learn, that a heart specialist may only visit every 6 months – if they’re lucky. This specialist had the only mobile heart monitor. Women have to be flown to a major hospital for sometimes several months if her pregnancy has problems – this can be helped by having trained midwives in isolated areas – it’s been done in Canada and other places for indigenous peoples. A sick child who needs surgery may be at a major hospital for weeks on their own – no family member, no english etc all because the Flying Doctor service doesn’t have room for parents if they have too many ill patients. Poor little sick kids with no mum or dad to give them cuddles while in pain! Very sad indeed! We should be ashamed! We provide accommodation in many major hospitals for kids around the country, as we know how important it is for their recovery!

    We would not put up with such conditions in our cities and regions. There’s not enough health prevention programs in the NT. There are ‘schools'(read slum buildings) in too many areas with no air conditioning, no proper resources, and often, too few or no teachers. There’s been footage etc on the 7.30 Report – last year while Kerry O’Brien was the presenter. Shameful!
    There was a report n The World Today last year, where a 7 yr investigation of housing in the NT was discussed. These so-called houses didn’t have basic things like a place in the so-called kitchen to prepare food? No locks on doors? Light fittings in the middle of the room, but no switches on the wall, or as in some cases, no wiring from one to the other? Amazing!

    Who were the builders, and how much did they receive for these so-called homes, and why aren’t these building supervised and a final OK given? How many people got rich via this charade? There’s more! Do some reading – like I have!

  15. Liz45

    PS – Sorry David, I forgot to add (re the $40 box of fruit and veg) that the family pays $5 per box. This article was in the weekend Sydney Morning Herald, page 3.( I didn’t proof read – sorry!) If such programs operated in the top end, I’m sure there’d be great benefit. I’ve seen some of the available food – eg. tomatoes twice or more the price here, and they had bad ones in the middle of them. Other foods similar. The cost is prohibitive and/or not accessible in too many cases.

    The Report re housing in the top end is probably still on TWT website!
    Report reveals serious Indigenous housing issues The World Today – Monday, 18 February , 2008 12:28:00
    Didn’t think it was that long ago. Time goes too fast lately!
    So, just in case it’s not there, I’ve copied it here!

    ELEANOR HALL: As the Prime Minister prepares for a road trip to Indigenous communities, possibly with the Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, a report on Aboriginal housing reveals the extent of the challenge facing his new bipartisan commission.

    The report, which was published today in Australia New Zealand Journal of Public Health, exposes serious inadequacies in Indigenous housing in the Northern Territory and four states, as Lindy Kerin reports.

    LINDY KERIN: The research conducted over seven years paints a bleak picture of housing in Aboriginal communities across the country.

    Dr Paul Torzillo from the Nganampa Health Council in Central Australia says more than 4000 houses in 132 Indigenous communities were surveyed. He says most were grossly inadequate in infrastructure, nutrition, safety and hygiene.

    PAUL TORZILLO: In only a third of these houses could you actually wash a child reliably each day. In only around 10 to 11 per cent of these houses did you have basic electrical safety, in less than 10 per cent of these houses could you actually store, prepare and cook a meal.

    So, what these findings, what this study shows is that when you go and test the ability of these houses to provide the basic hardware that people need to live a healthy lifestyle, look after themselves, and their families, then the houses perform extraordinarily badly.

    LINDY KERIN: The Prime Minister promised practical measures to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians when he issued a national apology to the Stolen Generations last week.

    Among the targets mentioned was an improvement in Indigenous housing.

    Michael Moore, is the CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia. He says the survey released today is timely when Indigenous disadvantage is high on the political agenda.

    MICHAEL MOORE: We can now understand that of course, as we all know, that prevention is so much better than treatment and what we’ve got is a piece of research that shows very, very clearly that Aboriginal housing is a, and problems of Aboriginal housing, are a major cause for health problems, something that needs to be tackled fair and square.

    LINDY KERIN: Michael Moore is urging both sides of politics to take the research as further evidence that improvements to Aboriginal housing are critical.

    MICHAEL MOORE: The very time they’re making this decision, this research is published in the Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health, showing very, very clearly that housing issues and housing funding has a direct impact on the health of Aboriginal people and particularly on Aboriginal children.

    LINDY KERIN: Indigenous housing has long been a problem in the Northern Territory.

    Michael Berto is the CEO of the Roper Gulf Shire Council, which looks after nine Aboriginal communities.

    MICHAEL BERTO: In terms of the overcrowding situation for example, what we would probably average in the Roper Gulf area, my estimate would be around 10 to 12 people per house. There’s still an obvious need, and as I say, the population just keeps growing, so that need, that backlog for housing just isn’t being addressed at this point.

    LINDY KERIN: Michael Berto has welcomed the new bipartisan focus on Aboriginal housing. He hopes it will bring some positive changes.

    MICHAEL BERTO: I’m yet to see it, but if a bipartisan approach happens between those two then I think that’s the best way to go. You know, too long have we lived by changing policies, and priorities just keep getting missed, from one government to another. So, I think if they share those concerns, they understand exactly that the need is, then I think we’re going to be far better off.

    ELEANOR HALL: That’s Michael Berto from the Roper Gulf Shire Council in the Northern Territory speaking to Lindy Kerin.

  16. Liz45


    If you put this into your search engine you’ll find over 300 articles.

    Then there’s;
    Stop the Intervention – Ampilatwatja Walk-off14 Sep 2009 … Ampilatwatja Walk-off. For Richard Downs’ Speech of October 2009: please click here. For Richard Downs’ Speech of 3 January 2010: please …
    stoptheintervention.org › Facts & Info › Speeches – Cached – Similar

    If you put Richard Downs/Walkoff you’ll find lots more info!

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