Jun 24, 2011

Cox: new intervention proposals … same old, same old

A new consultation process on more intervention proposals does not please the many critics of the current version’s costly failures.

A new consultation process on more intervention proposals does not please the many critics of the current version’s costly failures.  The government’s discussion paper, Stronger futures in the NT, sets severe limits on the topics to be discussed and the issues to be raised. There is no option for discussing income management, the efficacy and roles of government business managers, the abolition of Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), the school curriculum’s relevance to local cultures; e.g. bilingualism, the problems with the new shire structures that undermine local controls or the plans to reduce the outstation populations. The basic assumptions behind the paper are clearly the same as are promoted in other areas of "welfare reform". The problem is defined as being with the people in the Aboriginal communities who fail to live up to their responsibilities. There are strong echoes of the recent moves in the budget to tighten up on those without jobs, ignoring the lack of jobs in many of the communities. Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs can, at best, claim in her foreword "Through our efforts and investments over the past four years, we have made some progress. When I speak with people in remote communities and in towns like Alice Springs, particularly women, they tell me that they and their families feel safer, their children are better fed and clothed and less money is being spent on alcohol and gambling". Where is the evidence she claims  to have, if the views of individuals are the best she can offer? Later she stated "I believe that we must work in partnership with Aboriginal people, leaders and communities as we develop directions and policies for our future work in the Northern Territory". And yet the paper shows no signs of dealing with some of the cultural and social issues apart from the obvious ones.   She goes on to say "We will not succeed in tackling the priority issues that continue to contribute to indigenous peoples’ disadvantage -- making sure children get a good education, reducing alcohol abuse, and getting people into jobs -- if there is distrust between government and community, if people do not feel respected to take responsibility for their own lives." However, the missing issues show exactly that lack of respect by government for the basics that Aboriginal people put first. These were clearly expressed in the plan put forward in the past weeks by a wide group of indigenous people who have serious concerns about the intervention.  Called Building from the Ground Up, its first  recommendations are framed very differently.[1] The first four bear no resemblance to those in the government document:
1. Restore community governance: urgently rebuild Aboriginal community government councils. Restore decision-making power and administration of municipal services to these councils. Transfer all assets seized by the shires to the Aboriginal councils and pay compensation for all other assets sold off by the shires. Remove government business managers installed by the intervention. 2. Increase government investment in ALL communities: abandon the "hub towns" model. Rapid improvements in education, housing, health and community services are required wherever Aboriginal people choose to live -- in urban areas, remote communities and on homelands. 3. Jobs with justice: create a new Aboriginal employment program to replace Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) that have been gutted through recent reforms and are exploiting Aboriginal workers. Jobs created must pay at least award wages, with rights to join unions and collectively bargain. The program must be administered by community-based organisations, with development needs and priorities set through broad community consultation. All willing workers should be employed. 4. No to township leases: end compulsory five-year leases over Aboriginal township land taken through the intervention. Stop pressuring communities to sign extensions on these leases. Lift the requirement that 40-year leases are signed with the government before housing can be built. Rescind all township leases signed since the intervention began in 2007.
Contrast this with the following final section of the government paper.
Future directions As part of our ongoing commitment to communities in the Northern Territory, government employees will continue to live and work with local people in remote communities, to make sure programs and services are effectively delivered, and to help develop local solutions. The government is keen to explore how to improve this engagement so that the best outcomes are achieved for indigenous communities. The government would welcome proposals about how it could assist communities to build their capacity and leadership.
The government has made most of the decisions, so it is hard to see what serious consultation will occur. The listed questions in the paper are mostly details on delivery, not the substance of programs. Other proposals, such as those above, are ignored, and minister Macklin wonders why there is limited trust and respect. The release of the discussion paper  resulted in many other critics complaining that the priority areas, such as tackling alcohol abuse and improving school attendance, had been highlighted in a host of previous studies and few of the recommendations had been implemented. More same old! [1] This document puts forward a list of demands that have come consistently from Aboriginal communities since the announcement of the NT Intervention in 2007. It has been widely endorsed by Aboriginal community leaders, along with the Intervention Rollback Action Group (Alice Springs), Stop the Intervention Collective (Sydney) and "concerned Australians'' (Melbourne).

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6 thoughts on “Cox: new intervention proposals … same old, same old

  1. Wombat

    What a load of bollocks. I live in Darwin, I’m pro-indigenous engagement and reconciliation, but that document is bulldust.

    Regarding those first four points you quote:
    1. Restore community governance. What governance? There’s no-body in these communities capable of governance. The communities are a shambling disgrace of overpaid government employees and unemployed indigenous people. There’s nothing to restore!
    2. Increase government investment in ALL communities and abandon the hub model. Bulldust. The hub communities themselves are tiny! It’s costing hundreds of millions of dollars just to build houses and services there. It would cost double that to build a house for every indigenous family on their own country. It doesn’t matter if its fair, it simply won’t happen.
    3. Jobs with justice. Makes me sick. The CDEP was a disgraceful setup for indigenous people to get money for pretending to turn up to work every now and then. There’s no jobs out there! It’s the middle of bloody nowhere. There’s not even any tourists. And saying it should be administered by community-based organisations – you mean the same mobs of corrupt families giving cars and money to each other?
    4. No to township leases. Who cares? Most indigenous people I’ve met don’t care about leasing. The country belongs to them, and a piece of paper with the whitefellas doesn’t change anything. The indigenous people don’t understand it, and I don’t see why they should care about it. It’s just a legal shenanigan dreamt up by some white public servant that has bugger all effect anyway.

    Again, another call for consultation. Consultation with who? The concerned whities of Melbourne?

  2. billie

    Wombat aren’t some of the shires notorious for employing shire presidents who skim all funding for the benefit of themselves and their families and bugger the indigenous population who the money is meant for. Earnest whites are run out of town quick.

    Isn’t much of the problem micromanagement from Canberra and administration by overpaid whites who would be unemployable riff-raff in any capital city.

    I heard that 30% of money earmarked for aboriginal housing was spent rectifying building defects that were signed off by the tradesman like toilets installed on solid concrete slab i.e. not connected to septic tank. Electrical powerboards installed upside down

  3. Peter Ormonde

    I too have major qualms about the intervention but this set of demands just looks like the Empire Strikes Back to me.

    It says nothing – nothing – about grog, about abused kids, about schools, about domestic violence and abuse. It’s all about getting back onto the old gravy train. And that gravy train was a disaster.

    If the intervention is to be judged it should be judged against outcomes, on the decline of child abuse, improvements in health, reductions in domestic and community violence, not by the slight felt by those who presided over the failed sit down money system that thrived on nepotism and turned a blind eye to abuse and inequality.

    Not a word about any of that. Who speaks for the bashed women and the abused kids? Not this mob.

    What about the other demands made like the restoration of pornography and easing of grog restrictions…. this is a disingenuous report Eva.

    Consultation is fine, but a restoration of the “good old days” should not – cannot – be allowed to happen.

    The process isn’t sacred, it’s the kids.

  4. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    I have a particular (very long ago experiential) reason for trying to understand the ‘Aboriginal remote and not so remote living’ problem.
    Government seems to be ‘failing’ whatever it tries.
    Eva Cox is trying to add an intellectual and social dimension/wisdom she believes will help the process somehow.
    WOMBAT says (I don’t know this human’s knowledge background) it’s all a myth and seems to claim it with some rough authority.
    Society is failing here, society in all the complexity of power and knowledge and sophistication it likes to boast of is failing totally and shoving Government out there holding the can so it can jeer at it, the culprit, while receding into (that potent and so convenient psychological health saving tool) denial.

    I, with all the other people of sophisticated human societies on earth, (and I was just another of many carrying science and medical qualifications under my arm) lived through a period where all those hundreds of millions of sophisticated people believed human society could be smashed to bits by a certain virus like once before a long time ago.
    Like everyone else I endured years of media screaming noise ‘When will it happen’, ‘how likely’, ‘is this, is that, government spending enough billions on the drug to save WHAT/a proportion of the population with the drug’.
    There was an international ‘spend on the drug’ competition in multi (hundreds of) billions.

    I knew all this danger was a myth, couldn’t believe the scientific silence and the media noise but nobody listened.
    World sophisticated society was failing like a classic drongo – who would ever believe such a thing.
    SOCIETIES can fail like idiots.
    I accidentally found one of the wisest and most powerful Aussies who listened and heard, confronted our most powerful scientific organisations (with considerable force and strongarm tactics were needed) which capitulated and went with my solution to the glory of their name and the world was saved.

    A little squeak like mine, shattering the denial of the reality in the important players is what might also work here. It has to be found if it exists.

    Knowing that we are not educating Aboriginal children adequately to give them equal chances in the big world (not remote community) is as or more abusive as any physical or sexual abuse.

  5. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    @BILLIE — Posted Friday, 24 June 2011 at 3:29 pm
    That is serious stuff you expose here.
    So stealing from their futures and infrastructure goes on without jail time.
    Society is failing worse than most know.
    Society means US.
    Politicians that know how to really work should leave Canberra and those that whistle useless noise (like any mad Monks lurking around) should be afforded naked jello wrestling parties at home in Canberra to keep them out of the way.

  6. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    ME — “Knowing that we are not educating Aboriginal children adequately to give them equal chances in the big world (not remote community) is as or more abusive as any physical or sexual abuse.”

    Most Aboriginal kids will somehow to some extent or another get over the physical and sexual abuse they have endured.
    Are there any kids at all that are lucky enough not to cop any abuse at all, and where do they live?
    None of them will ever get over the lack of education that would give them an equal chance in the big world, if they could ever know what that might be.
    Or are we honestly telling them ‘citizen of your remote community’ that’s it kid, no citizen of the world for you.
    I think we should have in Australia a ‘freak hunting season’. First we need a Government grant to define the freaks that abuse Aboriginal kids from Canberra – sorry not a freak hunting season but a ‘freak’ hunting season.

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