Jun 21, 2010

NT intervention three years on: government’s progress report is disturbing

Today we are halfway through the Howard government’s original normalisation phase for the NT intervention and the latest six-monthly report is both serious and disturbing, writes Professor Jon Altman.

Today marks the third anniversary of the Howard government’s “national emergency” intervention in 73 prescribed Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. In the “name of the child” the basic liberties of Aboriginal people were suspended and a draconian and paternalistic state project of improvement was launched to “stabilise, normalise and then exit” these communities: stabilisation was to take one year and normalisation four.

On Saturday June 19, the latest six-monthly Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Report July – December 2009 was posted on the FaHCSIA website in two detailed parts totalling more than 100 pages. Despite a six-month delay as the report was compiled, it provides the latest information collected by a variety of government agencies on the intervention.

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6 thoughts on “NT intervention three years on: government’s progress report is disturbing

  1. Jim Reiher

    “Also up are s-xual assault reportage and convictions (page 56) and reports of child abuse (page 58).”

    Bloody hell… wasn’t that what it was suppose to be all about is the first place? Getting that figure down?

  2. Jenny McFarland

    There is no room in Intervention policies for Aboriginal aspirations, or Aboriginal community ownership of projects and programs, even though participatory development has proved to be the most positive and fruitful strategy across a wide range of national and international cross-cultural development contexts. The damage that has been done to Aboriginal peoples in this region is considerable, and some ground may never be recovered even if there was to be a rapid turn-around in policy and political philosophy. Self-determination never stood a chance, and WTF does “normalisation” mean anyway?? Just like us whitefellas? The history of cross-cultural contact in the Central Oz region is very brief – less than 100 years for some groups. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the punitive and ill-considered Intervention to turn Aboriginal people into compliant whitefellas.

  3. Jon Hunt

    I can quite understand the cynical tone of this article. Another worrying report, yet the government will ignore it. Why?

  4. westral

    They have been throwing money at the problem in one way or another for years. They have tried assimilation, integration, separate development, empowerment, self-determination and finally intervention. All of it goes to make me think that all the experts, sociologists and bureaucrats have never had much idea what they are doing. It has all been “We’ve got a new model” stuff.

  5. SBH

    Sorry Jim Reiher, no it wasn’t supposed to fix that problem. If that had been the purpose the recommendations of the Wild/Anderson report would have been acted on not ignored. The purpose was to fundamentally alter Aboriginal society by destroying the concept of joint responsibility and relationship to the land and relace it with a quarter acre block mentality. See Mal Brough’s comments in todays media. The Libs believed that this would be a powerful tool to address disadvantage.

    And only last week, at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia conference, Andrew Penfold the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation said that initial reports on the success of income management were encouraging.

    And Westral you’re right At the same conference the Australian Employment Covenant’s CEO, when asked what was the major barrier to getting Aboriginal people employed, said that too few of them were job ready and needed more training. So much for the new approach.

  6. presactly

    I’m really quite disappointed by the way the ’emergency response’ has been continued under the current Government.

    SBH is right, if the previous Government was serious it would have applied the recommendations of Wild/Anderson but instead it chose not to. To see these errors continued is most frustrating.

    SIHIP would be a joke, if the outcomes weren’t so tragic, for anyone who has any knowledge of building in remote areas. Why not ask individual communities what type of housing would suit their environment, climate and family structures instead of building 3 bedroom brick boxes across the T erritory? Professor Altman’s comment that government staff housing was provided with no apparent problems is backed up by other media articles about, for example, the new government business managers (who often didin’t last) being provided with accommodation while the rest of the community waited.

    What I find most disturbing is that the Senate this week passed the legislation to extend ‘income management’ to all so-called vulnerable groups across the Territory despite extensive (non-Government) research that this approach does not achieve its stated aims. I understand that this was done so that the exemption to the Racial Discrimination Act could be resolved. But given this approach has been shown not work, why is it being extended to other groups in the Territory, and why is the Government planning to extend it to welfare recipients across Australia? Whatever happened to evidence based policy??

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