Former National Native Title Tribunal deputy chair and minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Fred Chaney, offers a cautious endorsement of the government’s Northern Territory intervention in The Australian today.

“It’s interesting that the Prime Minister has overtly stated that he takes responsibility, as has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs,” Chaney says. “I think that’s a big breakthrough. Only Howard can command the resources of government because he is the Prime Minister.”

It’s also interesting to revisit the comments Chaney made earlier this year when he retired from the National Native Title Tribunal earlier this year on the delivery of services to assist indigenous Australians.

Chaney told the 7:30 Report:

One of the things I think we should have learned by now is that you can’t solve these things by centralised bureaucratic direction. You can only educate children in a school at the place where they live. You can only give people jobs or get people into employment person by person. And I think my own view now is that the lesson we’ve learned is that you need locally based action, local resourcing, local control to really make changes.

I think governments persist in thinking you can direct from Canberra, you can direct from Perth or Sydney or Melbourne, that you can have programs that run out into communities that aren’t owned by those communities, that aren’t locally controlled and managed, and I think surely that is a thing we should know doesn’t work.

Chaney contrasted centralised programs with local initiatives:

I am very much in favour of a model which I suppose builds local control in communities as the best of those Native Title agreements do, as has been done in the Argyle Diamond Mine Agreement, as is being done in Kununurra. Not central bureaucracies trying to run things in Aboriginal communities. That doesn’t work.

They’re locked into systems which require central accounting, which require centralised rules and regulations. They’re not locally tailored. The great thing about working with a mining company in an Aboriginal community is that the mining company has the flexibility to manage towards outcomes locally with that community.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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