By
John Tracey

– editor of kalkadoon.org:
a website about Aboriginality, Sustainability Art and Education
– who is working with several Queensland Aboriginal communities
including Palm Island to develop innovative and culturally
relevant housing, economic development and training programs.


Late
last year the Qld Premiers department conducted a review of it’s Aboriginal
Alcohol prohibition program, the “Meeting Challenges, Making Changes” (MCMC)
program. That report has been buried, along
with the Recent Premier’s department report by Brisbane
solicitor, Scott McDougall on the situation on Palm Island.

The Queensland
government has just announced it’s intention to impose these dysfunctional and
unwelcome restrictions on the community of Palm Island. The Palm Island
council already has it’s own alcohol restrictions and reject the state’s regime
as an oppressive colonial imposition.

The
MCMC evaluation stated: “The
Plan is a disordered aggregation of strategies, activities, products and lower
order tasks. It is clear that current approaches are not
resulting in significantly improved outcomes”.

The Palm Island
council and community leaders say proper housing and jobs are the only solution
to alcoholism and family violence.

The
premier’s buried MCMC review seems to agree, it says: “Unmet
housing need and the poor quality of a high proportion of existing housing
stock adversely affects the achievement of positive outcomes for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander community members with impacts in areas such as health,
family violence and education”

The
state government has had $4 million in its bank account earmarked for Palm
Island Housing for over 12 months. It
has recently offered the Island four
new houses. The council estimates an
immediate need for 50.

The
federal government has an indigenous housing program called “Fixing houses for
Better Health” which offers up to 1.5 million dollars to Aboriginal communities
to spend up to $5,000 per house on maintenance.
A private contractor in conjunction with the council, as is the norm in
other states, tendered for this money for Palm Island. However the State government scuttled this
initiative because it considered maintenance to be a state responsibility and
none of that money has gone to Palm Island.
(nor have houses been upgraded)

Until
the Queensland
government can take the advice of it’s own reports instead of making them
disappear, and apply serious, workable solutions to very serious problems,
those problems will only escalate. At present
the grog laws, the focus of the state’s indigenous policies, have again put the
police as the primary agents of indigenous policy. This and the new restrictions they are
imposing is winding the clock back and returning Aboriginal communities to the reserve
and mission existence of last century.

Peter Fray

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