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Australia

Dec 15, 2011

Aboriginal crime and punishment: incarceration rates rise under neoliberalism

The number of indigenous prisoners has increased for the 11th year in a row, despite the prisoner population falling for the first time in a decade. Inga Ting reports a history of failed government policy.

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The number of indigenous adults held in the nation’s jails has increased for the 11th year in a row, despite the nation’s prisoner population falling for the first time in a decade.

According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the indigenous prisoner population increased by 1% in the year to June 2011 while the total prisoner population dropped by 2%. The gap between indigenous and non-indigenous imprisonment rates grew by 0.1%, with indigenous Australians now 14.3 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous Australians. Today, about one in four prisoners are indigenous even though indigenous Australians make up just 2.5% of the general population.

While the reduction in the national prisoner population makes a welcome change, the fact remains that it has expanded by 30% over the past decade despite falling crime rates across the nation. At first glance, this doesn’t make sense: crime rates have decreased dramatically in the past decade (see the complete data) while incarceration rates — especially indigenous incarceration rates — have continued to climb.

The problem lies in the common assumption that punishment is a direct outcome to criminal behaviour, says Chris Cunneen, Professor of Justice and Social Inclusion at James Cook University and a criminologist with more than 20 years’ experience in indigenous criminal justice. “Sentencing and imprisonment is not related to crime. It’s a function of government policy,” he told Crikey. “The fact that we’re locking up more people is … really about changes to law and practice.”

Australia is a part of a worldwide trend towards more punitive law and order regimes, Cunneen says. In recent decades Australia has witnessed numerous changes to the criminal justice system, which have helped to push more people into prison than at any other time in history. Among them, the introduction of tougher sentencing laws and practices, limits to bail eligibility and constraints on judicial discretion, while non-custodial sentencing options have been curtailed, rehabilitative programs cut and post-release services reduced.

A 2009 NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research study draws the same conclusions. It found that the rate of indigenous incarceration in NSW (which holds more than one third of the national prisoner population) rose 48% between 2001 and 2008 while the rate of indigenous court appearances and the rate of indigenous convictions both fell in the same period. It concluded that none of the rise was the result of any change in patterns of indigenous offending. Rather, the entire increase could be explained by the increased use of imprisonment (rather than non-custodial options), longer prison sentences, increased rates of bail refusal and longer periods on remand. In other words, more people being jailed and people spending longer in jail.

But there is a bigger picture here that is more just the sum of each of these developments.

“All of these changes in sentencing law or judicial discretion or bail eligibility — things that have had some impact in increasing prison numbers — need to be contextualised within the broader shift of what’s referred to as ‘governing through crime’,” Cunneen said.

Societies governed through crime are driven by a “risk agenda” that concentrates on the risk of crime occurring, not just actual crime. In this society of increased surveillance and heightened fear, “the problem of crime” becomes a central focus. Public “debate” resembles a kind of echo chamber as politicians on all sides converge on the same goal: how best to “get tough” on crime. Punishment, which is increasingly targeted at those at the margins, becomes the most politically expedient response: it allows politicians to look like they’re doing something without the need to consider the longer-term repercussions.

This shift toward the use of crime and punishment as tools of social policy is closely tied to the ascendancy of neoliberalism, according to Cunneen: “The neoliberal approach is one that focuses on retribution and deterrence. It focuses on individual responsibility and accountability, and it downplays any reference to social welfare and social democracy. That focus on individual responsibility and accountability translates very easily to the greater use of imprisonment for longer periods of time.”

The most strongly neoliberal societies — like Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the United States — have sustained some of the highest rises in imprisonment rates since the late 1980s, he says. Meanwhile social democracies with co-ordinated economies — like the Scandinavian countries, for example — have maintained low imprisonment rates through a more welfare-aligned, rehabilitative approach.

“It’s that contradiction about strongly market-driven economies being more likely to have greater levels of unemployment and concentrated disadvantage, and less levels of social welfare support … [It] means they generate a population that’s likely to have high levels of contact with criminal justice agencies,” Cunneen said. “So what do you do … with so-called ‘problem’ populations if you’re ideologically not prepared to take a social democratic, social welfare response?”

The apparent answer and its consequences do not paint a pretty picture. Among them, a grossly inflated inmate population, expanding custodial budgets, deteriorating prison conditions, increasing deaths in custody and spiralling rates of recidivism (55% of prisoners have been previously incarcerated, while 58% of indigenous and 35% of non-indigenous offenders are re-imprisoned within 10 years).

The problems are unlikely to vanish any time soon, since the ballooning prison population has led to more and larger prisons, which in turn has meant fewer custodial and health staff per inmate; greater reliance on technology and electronic modes of surveillance; less human contact; and reduced access to programs aimed at improving inmates’ skills, education and ability to reintegrate — not to mention the repercussions of incarceration for intergenerational dysfunction and cycles of offending.

Ironically, this trend towards mass imprisonment began about 20 years ago, about the same time government pledged to achieve the exact opposite: to drastically reduce levels of incarceration in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. “The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody reported at a time when the ground had already moved towards more punitive approaches to law and order, and I think that’s a major reason why it’s never had any impact on imprisonment rates,” Cunneen said.

What is clear is that the rise of control through crime has had a profoundly racial dimension in Australia, and the indigenous population has borne the brunt of this, he adds. Although incarceration rates for all Australians have risen over the past decade, the indigenous rate has outstripped the non-indigenous rate by a factor of 11, soaring more than 47% between 2001 and 2011, while the non-indigenous rate grew 4% in the same period.Notably, the two jurisdictions with the highest imprisonment rates — the Northern Territory and Western Australia — also have the largest proportion of indigenous residents. In the NT, where one in three people (32%) are indigenous, the imprisonment rate has risen 46% in the past decade, from 523 prisoners per 100,000 adults (one in 191) in 2001 to 762 prisoners per 100,000 (one in 131) in 2011. In WA, where indigenous people make up 3.8% of residents, indigenous residents are 23 times more likely to be locked up than non-indigenous residents, with one in 26 indigenous adults now behind bars.

Racialised punishment is not unique to Australia but its ferocity surpasses some of the most notorious international examples. In South Africa in 1993, just before the collapse of apartheid, the rate of incarceration for black men was 851 per 100,000 (or one in 118). In Australia today, the imprisonment rate for indigenous men is five times as high, at 4228 per 100,000 (one in 24).

In the US — the world’s leading jailer, where more than one in 100 American adults are imprisoned —  African Americans make up less than 13% of the population, but 38% of the prisoner population (an over-representation factor of three). In Australia, indigenous people make up just 2.5% of the population, but 26% of the prison population (an over-representation factor of 10.4). In the NT, the indigenous population makes up 82% of the prison population; in WA, 38%.

In societies governed through crime, race is a marker of “risk”, a label identifying certain groups as dangerous and therefore deserving of different forms of control and punishment.

“Mass incarceration has been used to frame African-American incarceration in the US … So if they have mass incarceration, what do we have? We have hyper-mass incarceration of indigenous people,” said Charandev Singh, a paralegal and campaigner against racialised punishment and deaths in custody, who has worked with indigenous and non-indigenous families in coronial inquests for about 18 years. “We have the most incarcerated indigenous people in the world.

“This is about the intensity of racialised punishment in Australia and the denial of the racialised nature of that punishment … Every regime of law and order, from mandatory sentencing to the expansion of prisons to expansion of police powers and then the expansion of [NT] intervention laws, is really a form of racialised politics — predatory racialised politics — that has a long and continuing history in this country.”

 

Incomprehensibly, under current Closing the Gap policy arrangements, the “strategic area of action” most relevant to indigenous incarceration and justice — called the Safe Communities “building block” — is the only one out of seven that is not supported by specific targets or a National Partnership Agreement, and therefore has no funding.

“Federal government policy is about closing the gap in terms of health and mortality, but issues around the criminal legal system and its devastating impact on indigenous people’s lives, health, education and employment don’t form part of that policy equation. They must,” Singh said. “There’s nothing more devastating than being a victim of family violence and then going to prison and being a victim of state violence, and then being spat out again.”

Despite repeated promises to reduce indigenous over-representation in prisons — the latest federal commitment made last month — the solution actually offered by government is just more of the problem itself, Singh says.

“Predatory race politics positions more incarceration as a response to the harm of mass incarceration, and greater levels of intervention and control as a response to the harms of dispossession and dislocation … so naturally, things are going to get worse,” he said.

Tomorrow: “governing through crime” and how policies actually target indigenous people

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44 comments

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44 thoughts on “Aboriginal crime and punishment: incarceration rates rise under neoliberalism

  1. Wombat

    Whilst I whole-heartedly agree with the arguments and conclusions presented here, there is one paragraph which is contains a factual error.

    The National Partnership Agreements are not the “building blocks” at all. The Safe Communities building block is funded – in the instance of Fitzroy Crossing it comes under the NPA for Remote Service Delivery. See here: http://cgris.gov.au/site/rsd.asp

    I would suggest that referencing one person’s view from an 18-month old Rep’s Committee Transcript is misleading, particularly when that person works for an organisation which was seeking funding on this issue.

  2. Word

    It should be noted that the reason that the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody did not have an effect on imprisonment rates was not simply because of its timing, it is largely due to the fact that its recommendations remain unimplemented.

  3. McFly Marty

    “In South Africa in 1993, just before the collapse of apartheid, the rate of incarceration for black men was 851 per 100,000 (or one in 118). In Australia today, the imprisonment rate for indigenous men is five times as high, at 4228 per 100,000 (one in 24).”

    Wow.

  4. Captain Planet

    Whilst mandatory sentencing, the NT intervention and expansion of police powers all qualify as racialisation of punishment, it does not follow that the over representation of indigenous people in prisons is entirely and solely caused by “racialisation of punishment”.

    Many police, court and corrections personnel here in the North of Australia are heartily sick of arresting, trying, convicting and jailing indigenous people with monotonous regularity.

    The fact is that you have to be tried and found guilty of a crime prior to being incarcerated. It is true that there is a racist bias within the laws and the manner in which they are applied in this country, and there is no doubt that this is a contributing factor to high indigenous incarceration rates. Politically incorrect as though it may be, however, I would suggest that the over representation of indigenous people in Australian jails is much more strongly attributable to the rate of criminality amongst the indigenous populace, than to racist police, judges and laws.

    This is another issue, an intractable and controversial issue with devastating consequences for indigenous people and communities. Any well informed thinking person can easily see the link between indigenous disadvantage, historical dispossession, and criminality. I don’t have the answer for it, and successive state and federal governments have demonstrated their inability to effectively address this issue, too.

    In observing the astonishingly disproportionate rates of indigenous incarceration in Australia, whilst maintaining a compassionate approach with an emphasis on harm minimisation and societal welfare, let us not ignore the elephant in the room: This problem will be best addressed by reducing the incidence of criminal activity amongst indigenous communities.

  5. davidk

    We’ve known about this stuff for years and yet we still raise mandatory prison sentences for so called people smugglers and in so doing lock up indonesian juveniles. How can our politicians justify a pay rise when they so openly fail the Australian people like this?

  6. Liz45

    @WORD – Exactly what I was thinking when I saw this article and read it. It’s so depressing isn’t it? Not one of the recommendations has been implemented – not one! The States with the highest aboriginal incarceration numbers are those where historically, racism has been the worst – such as Qld, NT and WA? But please correct me if I’m wrong on this.

    @CAPTAIN PLANET – What you assert has nothing to do with political correctness – it’s just pure racism. If you maintain that the incidence of criminality is higher in aboriginal populations, you should provide stats to endorse that – you have not! The fact is, that what happens to aboriginal people in this country also happens to blacks in the US, or Canada or NZ – it’s brought about by the idea, the reality in fact, that ‘you get the justice you can afford to pay for’ in many cases. Aboriginal people get a custodial sentence for crimes that non-indigenous people get a warning, or community service etc. Racism knows no bounds. It was the police, judges, courts etc after white settlement who put aboriginal people in shackles, shot them or hung them – with impunity! Go and read some history! Go and talk to some aboriginal people. Find out how the women had to live decades ago, and how many are still discriminated/abused etc on a daily basis. How would you cope if your kids came home every day, angry and fuming due to racism at school or on the way home etc? It happens to too many kids – how do we then expect them to grow up straight, tall and proud – and functioning OK?

    @DAVIDK – The way we’ve treated those juveniles locked away, sometimes for up to a year and more is shameful. I feel ashamed – and damned angry. The attitude of the Indonesian police and judiciary was quite wonderful – I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised and moved by their attitudes and treatment of that young boy – who probably was of a larger frame than many starving Indonesian kids, who only wanted a small wage for ‘working on a boat’? As a kitchen hand or???

    Non-indigenous people (usually males) sexually assault women and kids. How many lose their homes? When has the army driven down the suburbs in the North Shore? When has the police cars tormented non-aboriginal kids in the street?

    How many whites have been jailed for sexually abusing young aboriginal girls? How many in the NT have been even charged with sexual abuse of children – black or white? I suggest a handful would be being generous. There’s sexual abuse and neglect in non-aboriginal homes, but we haven’t sent the army in or brought in quarantining of income/s? How many non-aboriginal men who sexually abuse women and kids lose their homes? their land?

  7. TormentedbytheDs

    I wonder if some of the “tough on crime” pressure groups are supported/created by the
    private prison corporations. I also wonder about how much the are donating to the major parties.

  8. Buddy

    To add to the discussion. I work in an area that has direct contact with convicted persons and those on charges. Purely from observations through my workplace, which i readily accept is observational and limited to my field of employment and workplace. The majority of indigenous persons we would see have offences in the lower range and generally related to social issues. Such as substance, illicit or otherwise, family violence, drive whilst disqualified, assaults etc. When seen in context with the persons history it is all too apparent what may have led to difficulties they now find themselves in. Indigenous men also have much higher rates of poor literacy and education which really limits employment opportunities. All of these social factors coupled with a wide range of disadvantage creates from what i can observe a cycle of offending exacerbated when they are placed on community based orders which are more often than not breached for the above reasons. There is also a subset within this population and again, from observation in the 18-25 age group who have no regard for community based orders as they think they are bullet proof and the court wont jail them……….. i don’t necessarily feel its an indigenous mindset…. experience tells me its more about some young men… irrespective of race. The older indigenous men however do get trapped in the cycle, they lose hope and then they are lost to the system, and another generation of indigenous persons become part of this new stolen generation. I don’t have answers, but i think we have to rethink crime and punishment more broadly. Put in place more community supports rather than take them away, and direct monies into breaking the cycles that are all too evident. Prison is not rehabilitative by and large and the wider community must be provided with leadership on this issues; instead we have the removal of judicial discretion and options as in Victoria with the new sentencing changes and in effect rolling back Therapeutic Jurisprudence.

  9. Liz45

    @TORMENTEDBYTHEDS – I read an article once about the prison system in the US and the private company/companies that run them. This article gave the stats re the manner in which the prison system ‘grew’ after only a few years. One of the major companies also runs prisons in Britain and is operating some in Australia. Further, the present and past companies that run our detention centres (for asylum seekers) are also the same or part of the US companies. So in short – it’s in their best interests for more people to be thrown in the slammer. Their prime aim is to make profits which they do – to obscene levels. The stats are probably readily available(I just don’t have the time at this minute!)

    The majority of people in any State in the US on death row are black. Does that mean that they’re the only people who commit murders etc? Of course not! But other people before me have stated that it’s just another way to get rid of black people – now that the KKK have almost been outlawed! It’s not surprising then, that the States with the most entrenched views re the death penalty are the same States where racism and the mass murder of black people were rife for decades/centuries.

    Now, we don’t have the death penalty here any more, thank goodness, but we still destroy the lives of black people by keeping them impoverished, uneducated, not housed, dying of some diseases, that if one occurred in my community we’d take to the streets en masse – such as Rheumatic Fever brought about by infections of the ears, throat etc, which can then leave the person(usually children) with weak hearts for the rest of their lives!

    These diseases were rife in Sydney/Melbourne in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but when sanitation(sewerage/running water etc)housing and general living standards improved Rheumatic Fever disappeared among the many communities. It is to our eternal shame that it’s still occurring in indigenous areas. It should be classified as a crime against humanity – as should the general state of aboriginal health!

    I find it repugnant, that politicians salaries could be increased by up to 60%, but when discussion is around aboriginal health, we’re all told of the number of years it will take to even make some headway – due to the high cost!

    If you’re an aboriginal person with a suspected heart condition in the Kimberly for instance, you may have to wait for the 6 monthly visit by the Cardiologist, or go to a major hospital, far away from your family. It just shocks and disgusts me! It’s not the medical personnel’s fault – it’s a matter of money and how little is allocated! Shameful! No wonder aboriginal people get angry!

  10. Arthur Bell

    Prisons, An Inconvenient Truth?
    Even some of the most vicious and low-life crims in jail are being encouraged to feel
    the “Real Victims” There is now a Massive “Prison Welfare Industry” catering to this.
    It used to be, Do the Crime Do the Time With No Sympathy. And this was Understood and Accepted by the inmates. Many of them caused a lot of Pain and Suffering to a lot of good people. My experience and observation over years was that 90% of the prison population deserved to be there. I did the Prison Programme when employed as a Counsellor with
    QAIAS and assisted with parole applications. I also spent a few Early Years in Prisons.
    As a lot of us did when *Cherbourg was deregulated in the sixties.
    Not because we were Crims or had Criminal Intentions. We simply had some issues adjusting to a different way of life when we moved to Brisbane. And, We All Moved On.
    The inmates of today are certainly a Different Kettle of Fish.
    Many Hardened Criminals with 20 or more convictions for car theft, burglary or break and enter and destruction of property, And with no respect for anything or anyone.
    Including the Elderly and other Aboriginals. Quite a few for vicious assaults.
    On women and even children. Most spruik Aboriginal Rights
    but are Ignorant on the Rights of Other People in the Community
    whom need to be protected from them. This being why they are in jail.
    Many are “Repeat Offenders”. Definitely not “Innocent Victims” and “Traffic fine Defaulters” As the “Aboriginal Victim Industry” ( AVI ) including the “Out of Touch” and “Misguided Moral Postures” ANTaR and Others, would have us believe. ( 6/6/2009 alb.)

    extract from http://www.whitc.info

  11. David Hand

    Neoliberalism! Boo!

    Chasing the vote of Laura Norda is a time honoured right wing tactic. Aided in this century by Today Tonight, ACA and 60 minutes, as well as do gooder politically correct social services, the deck is stacked even more against aboriginal men.

    Neoliberalism? You don’t even know what the word means.

  12. Captain Planet

    Ye Gods, Liz45, take a chill pill and calm down.

    You’ve managed to completely miss the point.

    You want stats? I suggest that this article is chock full of stats.

    Unless you are asserting that the over representation of indigenous people in jail populations is entirely and solely due to racist discrimination amongst the police and judiciary, I think that any reasonable person could not fail to conclude that a large proportion of the indigenous prison population are, in fact, in prison due to having committed a crime.

    Before you go on a rampage about how I ought to,

    Go and read some history! Go and talk to some aboriginal people. Find out how the women had to live decades ago, and how many are still discriminated/abused etc on a daily basis.

    I suggest you re read my original post. Specifically the following sections:-

    It is true that there is a racist bias within the laws and the manner in which they are applied in this country, and there is no doubt that this is a contributing factor to high indigenous incarceration rates.

    While you’re at it, you might want to consider how your point,

    How would you cope if your kids came home every day, angry and fuming due to racism at school or on the way home etc? It happens to too many kids – how do we then expect them to grow up straight, tall and proud – and functioning OK?

    Is essentially indistinguishable from the identical point I made in the post to which you took such exception,

    Any well informed thinking person can easily see the link between indigenous disadvantage, historical dispossession, and criminality.

    My point (which you seem determined to ignore or deny) is that there is a culture of criminality amongst many aboriginal communities in Australia. You don’t think so? Ask the young fellow in my town who recently threw a brick through the police station window so that he could be locked up in time for Christmas so that he could spend Christmas with his family. I’m not kidding. Yes, this is just an anecdote. You want some evidence? I suggest you consult some of the indigenous advocacy groups in Northern Australia. Ask them if there is a problem with normalisation of criminality amongst indigenous communities. Ask them if there is a perception amongst young indigenous males in many communities, that going to jail has become almost a “rite of passage”. Ask if they consider that these dysfunctions are one of the biggest problems facing indigenous communities.
    Nobody can deny the history of mistreatment and discrimination to which indigenous Australians have been subjected. Nobody with eyes and a brain could visit Northern Australia and not see the ongoing discrimination and racism which permeates this society. It is painfully clear that the basic premise of this article is correct. Only the most deluded idealist, however, could fail to arrive at the conclusion that by far the biggest contributor to indigenous incarceration rates, is crimes committed by indigenous people.
    Yet again – in case it is not yet screamingly clear – I am fully aware of the socio economic and historical contributing factors which make this the case. I am conscious that white Australian society has a history of attempted genocide and oppression which is the primary cause of this situation. I acknowledge that Australian governments and mainstream society have a moral obligation to assist in whatever way possible, to try to address and redress the wrongs of the past. In the process though, let’s actually address all sources of the problem. Denying the incidence of criminality amongst indigenous populations is not going to help – it’s akin to sticking your head in the sand.

  13. Bob Durnan

    Good to see Liz45 still maintaining the hysteria, and managing to mangle the facts in her time-honoured style. Long may she rant!

  14. GeeWizz

    I love it… I absolutely love it…. leftie logic I mean.

    If someone somewhere has a problem, it’s someone elses fault… always is.

    So the indiginous prison population increases, who is to blame? Pin it on the judiciary… pin it on the government… pin it on the alignment of the stars… but whatever you do, never lay blame on the person responsible.

    How do people not end up in prison? Don’t committ crimes!

    This is very basic logic which the left have terms coming to grasps with.

  15. Captain Planet

    It’s not that simple, Geewizz… but clearly you are.

  16. ewaterford

    @Captain Planet – Racism, although not overt racism, is really and truly to blame here. Incarceration rates are extremely dependent on long-term trends.

    For example, having a parent spend time in jail, or older siblings will boost the chance you will commit crimes.

    Likewise living in a poorer area, where police are regularly responding and patrolling will boost the chance you will be caught for the offences you commit.

    Having a hearing impairment, intellectual disability or mental health issue will boost your chance of being sent to court as opposed to being diverted or given a warning.

    All of these things are, historically, more prevelant in communities where Aboriginal people are over-represented. That, in turn, is the result of 200 years of discrimination against a group based on their ethnicity, which obviously we are making in-roads into fixing, but we’re a long way from finishing.

    It’s no surprise that Aboriginal people are over-represented in crime stats, as they are over-represented in the stats for poverty, mental health issues, intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments etc.

    But you are wrong in suggesting that this isn’t the result of racism – yes, maybe your local copper is very even-handed, but he’s battling against 200 years of gradual, overpowering oppression.

  17. GeeWizz

    [“It’s not that simple, Geewizz… but clearly you are.”]

    Of course it’s that simple. Don’t committ crimes… don’t go to jail. This is how it works.

    [“@Captain Planet – Racism, although not overt racism, is really and truly to blame here. Incarceration rates are extremely dependent on long-term trends. “]

    Utter rubbish.

    They are based on whether you are committing crimes or not. If you are committing crimes then the chances of you ending up in jail increases exponentially. The solution therefore is not to committ crimes.

    Why is the Indigineous prison proportion out of whack? Because Indigineous people are involved in a disproportionate amount of crimes. Thats not the white fella’s fault no matter how much the left try to spin it. It’s a cultural issue and one the black fella’s have to deal with. Banning grog, the intervention, with holding welfare from parents not sending their kids to school and compulsorary work for the dole are ways forward with dealing with these problems.

    One thing we can’t do is simply say release Aborigines from prisons just because they are black. This would be a racist policy of the left who simply think that being black gives you the right to committ crimes and get away with it, while if you were born white you have to be punished. Reverse racism at it’s best.

    [“Likewise living in a poorer area, where police are regularly responding and patrolling will boost the chance you will be caught for the offences you commit. “]

    So what you are saying is there are too many police stopping crimes and so therefore crims in these areas aren’t getting a good deal and the rules need to change to allow their crimes to go unabate?

  18. Inga

    @WOMBAT

    It is good that you have brought this up since a detailed discussion of the Closing the Gap policy arrangements was beyond the scope of the article, but is nonetheless very important, I think.

    The article doesn’t say the National Partnership Agreements are the same as the Building Blocks. It says the NPAs support the BBs. This is critical because (as stated in the latest Productivity Report) “a significant portion” of funding is provided through the various NPAs, and further, funding for these NPAs “may be conditional on states and territories meeting agreed performance benchmarks.”

    Yes, the federal government argument is that the Safe Communities Building Block is being addressed and funded through investment in related areas, as well as via other policy vehicles (a summary of these three policy vehicles can be found on pp.19-39 of the report, Doing Time – Time for Doing: Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system [http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsia/sentencing/report/fullreport.pdf], released in June this year.)

    However, what Singh and many others argue is that this approach is not adequate. To achieve meaningful outcomes, the federal government needs to directly address indigenous justice and safe communities, rather than assuming change will occur as by-product of investment in other areas. The Doing Time report concluded the same:

    “The Committee does not accept that the Safe Communities Building Block is being well served by these three policy vehicles as suggested by COAG … The Committee does not accept the view that investment in education, health, housing and employment initiatives are sufficient to close the gap in Indigenous justice outcomes. Certainly, initiatives in these areas will have a positive impact on Indigenous imprisonment rates in the long term. However, the idea that initiatives in these areas are all that are needed to be successful fails to recognise intergenerational patterns in which a significant number of Indigenous people are entangled already within the criminal justice system.”

    Hence, the Committee’s first two recommendations: one, to develop a National Partnership Agreement dedicated to the Safe Communities Building Block; and two, endorse justice targets for inclusion in the Closing the Gap strategy.

    The federal government accepted both these recommendations “in principle” in its response to the report, tabled a couple of weeks ago (see pp.4-5 http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/rwpattach.nsf/VAP/%283A6790B96C927794AF1031D9395C5C20%29~Response+to+Doing+Time+-+WEB+PDF.PDF/$file/Response+to+Doing+Time+-+WEB+PDF.PDF).

    Up to now, however, nothing has changed and Wes Morris’ point, made 18 months ago (and also quoted in the Doing Time report), still stands.

    Perhaps, though, I should have referenced both the House of Reps transcript and the more recent Doing Time report.

    – Inga Ting

  19. Liz45

    I have NEVER advocated that people who commit violent crimes (regardless of colour or ethnicity) should be allowed to roam the streets! NEVER! Nor am I advocating REVERSE racism! I’m saying that it’s just plain stupid to keep on with a system that creates more animosity, segregation etc and costs too much in human misery and dollars!

    Anybody watched, read about Jane Elliott? The author of ‘Brown Eyed, Blue Eyed’? It was on SBS twice and the calls for it to be repeated were huge – so it was. She’s been to Australia, Canada and NZ, and has been doing this since the assassination of Martin Luther KIng. ?Did anyone watch Prof. Mick Dodson’s speech the day before the Walk for Reconciliation? Read any of Henry Reynolds books etc? They speak in a similar manner to many of the things I’ve mentioned.

    A woman is killed in this country every 7-10 days by her partner/husband. While DV is higher in aborignal communities, it’s still one of the worst crimes of violence against women and kids around the country. No hysteria. No screaming out to do something now, en masse via the military! Every 4th house in my street probably contains an abused woman and kids – but police do not do patrols in the street!

    If the living conditions in my suburb were similar to many in the NT, there’d be mass protests, and I’d join them.

    Anyone who wants to point to me as being inaccurate or hysterical show their own ignorance and bias. I don’t know who you mix with or what you do or don’t read, but you have a real problem with the FACTS!

    Monetary costs! Many people have stated the bleeding obvious. You get more for the dollar by spending a small number of them on a child prior to 15, than spending heaps per day keeping them in jail. That’s not rocket science, that’s fact. Incarceration is not a deterrent – it grooms people for even more time in jail! It has an inbuilt surety to create criminals!

    The thing with indigenous people is, that the actions in Darwin or Alice Springs has been proven for 200 yrs not to work! It’s just plain stupid to keep on doing it – and expecting different results!

    @GEEWIZZ – Whose made the Laws and who carries them out? When the police arrest a kid for stealing pencils or crayons, we have a problem. If that kid is black, we have a much bigger problem. If you’d speak to people who are ‘hands on’ with those affected you’d realise some reality. It’s no secret that kids of judges etc get let off when they commit crimes? We’ve all heard of several!

    I don’t write the articles on the prison system or the racial problems in the US. If you put some words into Google, you could do your own research, but you probably won’t!

    IF throwing people in jail for non-payment of parking fines for example was working as a deterrent for example, we wouldn’t have to keep doing it. It’s a dumb act to jail people for being poor! Take a look at some of the Laws recently made in the NT? They’re almost streamlined to ensure that black people will be charged and imprisoned.

    Read Black Deaths in Custody Report! Don’t take my word for it! But you probably won’t.

  20. ewaterford

    GeeWiz – A simplistic argument, with a simplistic response. You are completely wrong.

    Decades of Psychological research has found that spending time in jail, without rehabilitation, increases the likeliehood that you will commit a crime after being released. There are two ways that minority groups end up in jail more regularly than others:

    1. They are more likely to be placed on remand, prior to their court hearing. Currently in NSW, about 5,000 young people are placed on remand for periods up to 3 months prior to their court date. 50% of these are Aboriginal. At this point, they are innocent of any crime. When taken to court, 80% of these young people are released, either because they were innocent or because their offence was so minor they wouldn’t have been given a jail sentence in the first place.

    2. They are less likely to be offered diversionary options. When controlling for the particular offence, an Aboriginal person is far more likely to be refered to court than a non-Aboriginal person, who may be given a warning, a caution or a conference option. BOCSAR have a great series on this issue – if I can find the link, I’ll post it up here. This isn’t a matter of ‘do the crime, do the time’ – as the response to a crime being committed is often down to the disgression of the police officer. Time and time again, research has found that non-Aboriginal people are far, far more likely (something in the range of 30-50% from memory) to be given a diversionary option than a non-Aboriginal person, despite them both committing the same crime.

    So, this taken together, you have a whole group of people being incarcerated when others are being given a suspended sentence, or a diversionary option for the same offence. It doesn’t help that Aboriginal people are more likely to be poorer, and so less likely to be able to afford good legal representation at their court date. This, as per my previous post, is the result of 200 years of constant overt and covert racism towards the Aboriginal community, leading to entrenched, generational poverty and disadvantage.

    I know it might grate you to think that the ‘system’ is racist, and for the most part the people working within it are pretty decent. But it’s built on a unfair base, thus we get unfair outcomes.

    My point re: more cops in poorer areas was touching on the idea (not new, not particularly controversial) that where community cohesion is strong – often wealthier areas – when a young person commits a minor crime, say shoplifting, the community deals with the young person without the intervetion by police. I’d say that’s pretty appropriate – after all, lots of young people make mistakes and having their dad drag them down to the local newsagent to apologise probably teaches many a good lesson. I’m curious to hear if you think that’s wrong, given you said:

    “if you are committing crimes then the chances of you ending up in jail increases exponentially. The solution therefore is not to committ crimes.”

    But in poorer areas, where crime is happening with more regularity and there are more police around, the police are more likely to be the first ones to respond to the minor crime, thus the young person is more likely to be captured in the statistics as having ‘committed a crime’.

  21. Liz45

    @GEEWIZZ – Re the ‘do the crime do the time’ bs you assert:-

    IF the situation is as simple as you claim , perhaps you could explain why those who are in positions of power and rip off their clients or policy holders, shareholders etc, only get very light sentences when huge sums of money (other people’s usually)are involved and many people suffer as a result – these include in some cases, people with servere physical disabilities etc and some of those affected negatively even commit suicide? There are many examples of this?

    Why do young people in NSW get locked up without bail, while a multi millionaire is allowed bail for murder? White and rich! Good combination to be able to ‘pay’ for justice? Sometimes, kids in NSW are thrown into adult jails for not abiding by parole or bail conditions – they just have to flee home for their safety, but as they’re not at the correct address, that’s sufficient!

    Sometimes young people are found ‘Not Guilty’ or are not given a custodial sentence for alleged crime, but may have spent two years in Long Bay, NSW, sometimes with hardened criminals and/or in over crowded juvenile detention centres.

    Explain these things and where they fit into your perceived ideas of crime and punishment!

    The stat that over 80% of people in Gouburn Jail take medication for a mental illness. 85% of people(males anyway) didn’t finish high school; many are illiterate; many have a mental illness and too many come from homes where there’s abuse?

    If you add the stats for acts of violence both in the home and outside it, many young offenders have experienced it in some form or other. The Law in NSW deems (for several years now) that just by hearing or seeing violence is a severe form of child abuse!

    But I doubt whether you’ve taken more than a cursory glance at these types of reality!

    I’ve heard many interviews with people in the legal field in the US. One was here last year I think, and interviewed on The Conversation Hour, with Richard Fidler, ABC- he takes on cases of people on death row who are innocent. The majority of them are black. He articulates many of the ingrained racist injustices handed out to the black and poor! He’s ‘hands on’ unlike you or I!

    I’ve heard interviews about how the ‘throw em in jail’ drug policies don’t work in the US, and also cost heaps of money. I’ve also heard about very young people being tried as adults for serious offences. About young black people vs rich white kids? Big difference in the land of the ‘biggest democracy’?

    Look at the detention of young boys from Indonesia, suspected of being people smugglers? Total rubbish! They’re young kids who were offered peanuts for working too hard, and in this country would not be thrown in jail, and certainly not without legal representation! Another form of discrimination against minorities who usually are not white!

  22. KirstySoOverIt

    I would love to know how many of you people have actually spoken with an Aboriginal who is from a low socio economic area. I would then like to know how many of you have spoken with an Aboriginal who has committed a crime, whatever it may be. I would also like to know how many of you have spoken with an Aboriginal who had done time for the offences that they committed.

    I bet that it wouldn’t be many of you, if any. I find it pretty cheeky that you all get on here and start ranting about things you have a very little understanding of.

    I am a white, Brisbane based, female police officer. I do not believe I am racist. I work in an area which has low socio economic areas as well as high socio economic areas. I arrest white people and Aboriginal people.

    I believe that if the facts show that you have committed a crime, you should be put before a Magistrate and let them decide if you are guilty or not. This, believe it or not, is what we do.

    From experience and not from what I have seen on TV or read in biased newspaper articles, I believe that I have a right to have an opinion on this matter.

    The fact of the matter is, Crime occurs more in low socio economic areas. Gasp, I know! These are areas where parents do not know and usually don’t care where their children are. They are areas where a lot of people do not work and do not want to work. They are areas where there is little respect for the police or for other people.

    The crime is committed by both white’s and Aboriginals. It is unfortunately a fact that a vast majority of the Aboriginal population live in low socio economic areas. Therefor a vast population of low socio economic areas are Aboriginal.

    I find it ridiculous when I read comments above about racist laws. Have you actually read the legislation? I am having great difficulty in recalling a single law which states that I must arrest an Aboriginal over a white person.

    In Queensland, if an Aboriginal is arrested for any matter, the police officer must alert an Aboriginal Support Service. If they are a juvenile they must have a support person with them when questioned. When they are charged and put before a court they are given free legal aid. The legal aid can range from solicitors to barristers. If I was to be charged for any offence I would personally have a hard time affording one of the cheapest solicitors let alone a barrister.

    I myself have often pondered how society can change, because that is the problem here, society. It is unfortunately a vicious cycle. If the youths in these areas are not given proper direction and do not have good examples in their lives how on earth are they to grow up into responsible law abiding citizens.

    I agree that the problem can not be solved with prison. More local based initiatives need to be implemented. These include work for the dole and having your dole/pension seized if your children are not attending school. Work for the dole is an excellent initiative. When a person is made to work for money they have an appreciation for their own belongings and lifestyle.

    On a final note, I know a lot of you are too stubborn to appreciate another opinion on this matter as it is a problem that will not be solved in my lifetime. There are too many people with their heads in the sand. If more people got off their butts and had an active role in trying to help these groups then the problem might be solved. Making penalties softer will not help the problem but will make crime go up. The issue is not the penalties, it’s the reason these people (low socio economic groups, not Aboriginals) are in this situation in the first place that’s the issue.

  23. Liz45

    @KIRSTY – All persons who are arrested have the right to a legal person, and ALL juveniles must have an adult person with them during questioning. That is not just applicable to indigenous people, so don’t try and assert that they get preferential treatment – they certainly do NOT!

    I don’t know how old you are, but I voted in the 1967 Referendum, so I’ve been watching events for some time now. It is an undisputed fact, that in your State, under Bjelke Petersen, the Laws were made to deliberately discriminate against aboriginal people – in fact, all groups and individuals who were striving for social justice. It was illegal for my siblings and I to meet in a public place – more than 4 people? I’m one of (now) 7 kids!

    The most recent blatant act of racist discrimination was over the Chris Hurley disgrace. In NSW, we had the death of TJ Hickey – a young boy allegedly chased by police until he impaled himself on a fence and died? The fact is, you are not the whole police force – but one person. A very high police person in the Qld Police Force resigned due to discrimination – not that long ago – he was an indigenous person? There was the man in WA who was allowed to die of dehydration in a police van. He really should NOT have been arrested at all – for being drunk. A white person would probably have been told to go home and sober up?

    Have you ever thought that you’re too close to the police side of these issues to have an independent outlook?

    EVERY PERSON charged with a criminal offence is entitled to legal representation, not just aboriginal people. Sure, you won’t get a top Silk, but you will be legally represented.

    Most people can acknowledge that poverty, racism and other soul destroying life experiences cause much harm and ingrained psychological problems – but you don’t? We have offers of counselling after a student dies at school, or in the community. We have warnings on News stories about violence etc, but we/you choose to ignore these things when speaking of aboriginal peoples’ involvement with law officers/courts etc.

    The fact is, that after 200+ years, the damage done is manifesting itself in many ways. If you’re a white police officer, you belong to a privileged group in our society – you can’t assess the lives of others from your privileged position.

    If you read the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you’ll find that the incomes of aboriginal people in every area of the country is less than non-indigenous people!Don’t take my word for it, look it up yourself. City, regional and certainly remote areas! Take a look – you might learn something!

    Have you read the Royal Commission’s report of Black Deaths in Custody? The Bringing Them Home Report? Do you know the history of today’s aboriginal youth’s parents/grandparents? How they were treated? That any white person could complain about an aboriginal kid being in a school, and the Principal had the right to remove them? This only happened decades ago – not centuries?

    Our country tells indigenous people every day how unimportant they are by the lack of housing, health and education facilities in their areas. This would not be tolerated in my community – we’d be on the streets. The fact is, that in most instances, we all aren’t treated equal – and that is what is at the heart of today’s problems. 20 or so to a house that does NOT have running water for instance; light switches that don’t connect to lights; no facilities to lock doors; no facilities to prepare food etc inadequate washing facilities – and so it goes on!

    Read the report on the ABC World Today? re the indepth survey of aboriginal housing. The study was over 7 years, and the results are a damned disgrace!

    Racism is alive and well in Australia. In the past and sadly in the present, police officers have led the way in negative behaviours re aboriginal people by their blatant singling out of aboriginal people – and it often starts when they’re still kids! Palm Island was started as a concentration camp for ‘uppity’ indigenous people. Take a look at Cathy Freeman’s story on ‘Who do you think you are’? Hardly a lifetime away! Things happened to her parents; her mother is probably in her late 50’s or early 60’s? Again, not a lifetime ago! Her great grandfather was a WW1 digger? Until a short while ago, it was OK for aboriginal men to give their life for the country, but not good enough to go into a pub – even to stay while visiting family? Their wives didn’t receive the soldiers pay like white women did! And, so it goes on and on!

    I think it would be a good idea if you read, ‘Why Weren’t We Told’ and/or ‘This Whispering in Our Hearts’ by Henry Reynolds, an Australian historian who knows/researched more about aboriginal history than I do!
    Blaming aboriginal people for their present circumstances doesn’t help either. Of course, people who commit violent crimes should be dealt with by the Laws of the land, but they shouldn’t be treated in a racist manner, and then locked up when they respond!

  24. ewaterford

    Good post, Kirsty – you are pretty spot-on in a lot of what your saying. Certainly we don’t have racist laws in Australia (and yes, I have read them – at least the NSW versions). The few laws that positively discriminate towards Aboriginal people are a small step towards undoing some of the generational and cultural racism that has resulted from 200 years of discrimination, both overt and not.

    My point, which I’m interested in getting your take on, is that this hasn’t been enough. Overwhelmingly, Aboriginal people are arrested more often than non-Aboriginal people, even when adjusting for socio-economic status. Now, this isn’t necessarily because of racist policing (although there would be some, minor, instances of this), but cultural and generational discrimination that means the average Aboriginal person is:

    more likely to live in a rural, remote or regional area,
    more likely to have a parent in jail,
    more likely to have difficulty at school,
    more likely to have an un-identified intellectual or mental health issue,
    more likely to have an un-diagnosed brain injury,
    more likely to have an un-treated hearing problem,
    more likely to be suspended or expelled from school,
    more likely to have experienced homelessness,
    less likely to have parents who are employed,
    less likely to have access to employment options,
    less likely to have access to adequate medical and oral health options.

    These issues, when taken together cumulatively, lead to worse outcomes for Aboriginal people, who are:

    more likely to be arrested for the same crime as non-Aboriginal person,
    less likely to be offered a diversionary option, such as a warning, caution or youth justice conference for the same crime than a non-Aboriginal person,
    more likely to be remanded in custody rather than being granted bail for the same crime than a non-Aboriginal person
    more likely to be given a custodial sentence for the same crime than a non-Aboriginal person
    more likely to reoffend after release than a non-Aboriginal person

    Now, if we accept that Aboriginal people are not inherently more ‘criminal’ (gee, I hope we all accept that as a minimum), what reasons can be given for these outcomes other than a systemic discrimination, based on race? Again, I’m not suggesting that you, or any other police officer or judge is overtly racist, but we have a cultural and generational systems that diminish, exclude and marginalise Aboriginal people.

    You are right – solutions to this will take years, generations even. And many options that help are available to us – circle sentencing pilots are doing well at reducing Aboriginal reoffending rates. Justice re-investment programs in the US and elsewhere are putting money back into local communities to prevent crime, rather than the expensive and ineffective option of incarceration.

    What the evidence tells us, however, is that punitive options don’t work, no matter how much we ‘feel’ them might. Cancelling welfare payments for non-school attendance doesn’t help – indeed trails of this in the NT are showing flat attendance rates, despite increasing punitive welfare measures. Work for the dole – sure, it works great. Provided it’s not coercive to the point that people lose their benefits en-masse.

    I highly recommend a recent parliamentary report ‘Doing Time – Time for Doing’ which looks at Aboriginal young people and the criminal justice system – it’s well thought out and offers practical changes that will make a difference.

  25. David Hand

    EWATERFORD,
    I accept that aboriginal people are not inherently more criminal. At the same time there is clearly a culture of low education and criminality that contributes to the high levels of aboriginal disadvantage and incarceration.

    How much do you think that there is a responsibility within the aboriginal community itself to change its culture? If you like, for them to choose to educate their children and not carry out criminal acts?

    I am certainly not suggesting that discrimination and racism does not exist in the way the rest of Australia relates to the aboriginal people.

  26. Liz45

    @EWATERFORD – While the Constitution still has blatant racist aspects, we can NOT say that there is entrenched racism in the country.

    An article on Crikey’s site on Tuesday contained this paragraph early in it:

    There is currently no reference to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution. Furthermore, the constitution retains elements that can uncontroversially be described as racist. Section 25, for example, states that people can be disqualified from voting in state elections due to their race. Section 51 gives the federal government the power to make special laws for the people “of any race” — a problematic term given race is increasingly recognised as a social construct rather than a biological reality.

    I suggest everyone read it!

    @DAVID HAND – For too long it suited the establishment for aboriginal people NOT to be educated. In fact, if you watched Cathy Freeman’s story on SBS ‘Who do you think you are’ you’d have seen just how entrenched was the dis empowerment/treading down and ‘punishing’ those who were ‘uppity’ and sent to Palm Island. Her great grandfather? kept to himself, and he and his wife raised their children in the bush, who were beautifully dressed (his wife sewed with an old hand operated machine – of some sort???). He did not break any Law, but ‘encouraged’ his mates not to sign blatant racist ‘orders’. He was transported as punishment and to keep him away from his mates!

    Many aboriginals who are my age now(60’s) were deliberately denied an education. They were either sent as domestics or farmhands (some of whom have never been paid, and probably never will be paid – successive state govts refuse – even though their govts had/have the money). Whites only had to complain about the presence of an aboriginal child at school, and the Principal had the power to exclude them from the school.

    Too many are victims/survivors of the Stolen Generations; these people were frequently not educated nor were they raised in a family environment – much of what we learn about parenting we learn from being in a loving, close and loyal environment. Imagine if you didn’t have that to influence your talents/knowledge/ideals of being a parent.

    For these reasons and too many others, aboriginal people require a special sensitivity and certainly heaps more financial investment than is current. I recall Abbott’s response when he was informed that several billion $$$ was required to just try and ‘catch up’ re standards of health outcomes for indigenous people, and straight off he said, ‘that’s too much’ or words to that effect. We are now spending approx.$85 per day on Defence? $38 BILLION over a few short years? We all now know the priorities of this and past govts.

    If you look at many of the local and state govt laws, both in the NT and WA in recent times, you can see that the people who’d be negatively affected would be indigenous people, people with alcohol and drug problems, people with mental illnesses and those who are homeless – guess who’d make up the majority of those people????

  27. ewaterford

    David Hand – It’s an interesting question, I suppose I would say that we should have the same expectations of Aboriginal communities as we would for any other. By that I’d suggest that people dealing with substantial and multiple vulnerabilities need a lot of support and positive options, and we shouldn’t expect more responsibility from them than ourselves.

    I’ll use myself as an example. I’m university educated and employed. I had a good childhood, going to a private school. My family was supportive and well-off, and I know that if I made a mistake or got into trouble, they would be there to support me. I’ve never experienced racism directed at me. Centrelink supported me while I was studying at uni, otherwise probably would have struggled to stay there.

    I’m also well aware that if you were to take any of those well-adjusted parts of my life away, I would be in a worse off position than I am now. If my parents were poorer, I wouldn’t have gone to a school that encouraged me as much. If one of my parents had been in jail while I was growing up, there’s a greater chance that I would have committed a crime, etc.

    Now, from where I am, I can see that I can’t bear total responsibility for the pretty good place my life has ended up – part of the credit has to go to my school, my family, my friends, the government etc.

    The same can be said for a young Aboriginal man in a juvenile justice centre. If he’s in NSW, there’s an 88% chance he has at least 1 mental health issue. There’s a 50% chance he has an intellectual disability or is in the borderline area. There’s a 10% chance one of his parents is in jail at the moment, and a 40% chance one of them has been in jail at some point in their life.

    All these stats point to a young person who needs help, support and positive options – and probably many many chances to make mistakes. I wouldn’t expect him to take full responsibility for where he has ended up, much in the same way that I can’t take full responsibility for where I have ended up.

    David, I think this analogy can be expanded to the community at large. It’s disingenuous for us to call on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities to ‘bear responsibility’ in a way that we feel we do for ourselves, when the reality is that most of the time there are external factors impacting on our successes and failures. Now for Aboriginal communities, there’s been 200 years of ‘external factors’ impacting on their ability to succeed – factors that we’re barely dealing with now.

    However, you make a good point that cultural change has to come from within a community – too many punitive or paternalistic (or both!) measures have failed to suggest that’s going to work again. I would say, as critical thinking members of the community, we should support positive options for change that help these communities do this – and accept that they might need many, many chances to make mistakes.

    In concrete terms, there are great programs happening, like Circle sentencing options in Aboriginal communities. In the USA, a number of states are implementing programs of Justice Re-Investment, which shifts resources from point-end, punishment-based responses to crime; to preventative programs in the community.

  28. David Hand

    Hey Liz,
    I absolutely agree about discriminatory laws.
    I recall the story of the NT passing a three strikes and mandatory prison law which resulted in an adolescent aboriginal youth doing time for shoplifting a mars bar. I also agree about rasicm in the correctional services. that guy who died in the back of a paddy wagon in WA would not have died but for his race.

    But surely things are changing for the better? Your account of people being deliberately denied an education has changed. It is of great distress to everyone that aboriginal children don’t go to school enough.

  29. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – The fact is David, that too many aboriginal people face racist taunts etc every day. Too many parents have to try and give their kids an incentive to go back to school the next day. I’ve been to meetings/rallies etc both in my area and last year near the Sydney Town Hall, to support aboriginal people against the NT Intervention and also justice when they’re working. Too often in the NT, aboriginal people are working side by side with non-aboriginal people, and yet they only receive Centrelink payment while the other person receives the relevant award wage – oh yes, the aboriginal person has half the income quarantined! These are not isolated cases, they’re quite common. They’re in the NT so the govt can shield this reality from the rest of the country. If you’re not an interested person in this area, you don’t find out. In fact, while all this is going on, msm runs racist documentaries, news items? showing drunk indigenous people in a park etc? I’ve taken note – and even the ABC uses the same footage of the same people, (and dogs) in the same area? I kid you not!

    A couple of years ago, I was being abused on YouTube by awful racists just spewing out stuff that just was not true. One of the ‘complaints’ was the sweeping comment about how aboriginal people destroy houses etc. I live in a complex of 6 separate dwellings(NSW govt housing) a young couple, anglo-saxon people moved out of a lovely townhouse, with 3 bedrooms in an area where the market rent is over $200 pw. Those responsible for making this dwelling OK for the next tenants had a small truck, herding heaps of rubbish from the balcony into it. The bloke told me that it was up to their knees – all throughout – upstairs and down. The woman and kids who moved in are aboriginal. She’s a great neighbour with gorgeous looking adult kids, who are also great neighbours – she looks after this place just like most people do – like most indigenous people do too! This is just one example of how stereotyping indigenous people is unjust and in most cases, total rubbish.

    I’ve recently made friends with another young aborignal woman, with 5 gorgeous kids who do well at school etc. I’m proud to say that I’ve been invited to her home which is just lovely – she teaches at the local University, teaching Aboriginal studies.

    I also go to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre which is in the adjoining city – 20 or so minutes away. I was there when Kevin Rudd gave the apology to the stolen generations on behalf of the govt and people – I think I spent most of that week in tears at the stories on the ABC or in person.

    Kids won’t want to go to school if they can’t hear, as someone earlier pointed out. Many of these kids were diagnosed early in the NT Intervention – but how many have seen a specialist at a major hospital? Probably not many!

    We heard about the high incidence of child sexual abuse, which I believe has to be stopped, and the perpetrators taken before the Court, BUT, to my knowledge, barely a handful have even been arrested. How many white males have been charged for using young aboriginal girls, as young as 12, as their personal prostitutes? Haven’t heard a word about that either?

    I have heard from aboriginal people, that when they go to any of the large stores, they know that the voice on the PA alerting staff to “isle number so and so” is in reference to them – they are assumed to be up to no good! They entered the store to purchase something – just like I do!

    Two well known well dressed mature aged aboriginal women were denied a lift in a taxi by the driver – in Sydney, not that many years ago. Thankfully, the other people who were in the line went in to bat for them – which renewed my faith in people. There was the older woman outside the Uni in Brisbane, who’d suffered a stroke but was ignored for some time by those walking by – I think the person who helped her and sent for an ambulance was a lovely person from Asia – Japan or China I think?

    These examples are just a small snapshot of what aboriginal people face every day! Of course there are people who commit crimes and are out of control, but that happens to non-indigenous areas too, but the Govt doesn’t send in the military and the police?

    There are child sex abusers everywhere – we don’t send in the military and put restrictions on the whole communities? I can not imagine what it’s like to live in black or coffee coloured skin. I have no idea what it must be like to know, that in the Constitution of your homeland you’re only referred to in the Flora and Fauna section, and that politicians and msm will campaign to keep it that way! I’m stuffed if I know!

  30. David Hand

    Hey Liz,
    I accept all the points you make about racism in Australian society.
    I can’t really see any way out of it until most aboriginal kids go to school and get an education. This will enable them to get out of the povert trap and dependence on the taxpayer through social welfare payments.

    One comment you made is surprising when you said, “Too often in the NT, aboriginal people are working side by side with non-aboriginal people, and yet they only receive Centrelink payment while the other person receives the relevant award wage – oh yes, the aboriginal person has half the income quarantined! These are not isolated cases, they’re quite common.”

    As far as I know, quarantine of income only applies to social welfare payments. So if an aboriginal person is working alongside a non aboriginal person, they both get paid the same wage with no quarantine of any income. Are you saying that aborigines are indentured workers?

  31. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – Read it again! I”m pointing to stark racism, that’s what? I said, that two people working side by side are treated differently. The non-aboriginal receives the award wage (either in the building industry or roads or whatever) and the aboriginal person ONLY receives Centrelink – like the work for the dole, but of course Howard got rid of that. Then, the aboriginal person ONLY receives 50% in cash etc, the rest is quarantined.

    Also, some areas are so far away from the designated stores (set down by the Fed Govt? Coles, or W’worths etc) that they have to either drive for hours, or if no car, they pool their money and catch a taxi – which can cost up to $600. Tell me any NON-aboriginal person who has the same restrictions, plus blatant discrimination based on RACE only! Recently, there were about 30 people (men all, I think) charged with having horrific and revolting child pornography on their computers – how many of their families have lost their homes, or had their incomes quarantined? We adopt the Rule of Law when it affects these people. Innocent until proven guilty etc! Every male in the NT is either depressed, angry, outraged, sad, or all of the above, because our govt/s have branded them all as unfit to father/brother/uncle/grandfather kids! And then we complain if they act out the anger!

    In the NT, even returned servicemen/women, with no dependants are having their incomes quarantined. Moreover, a few years ago,(in regional areas from memory?) a voluntary scheme was set up to help teach people to manage money – it was a great success. Recipients opted for weekly Centrelink payments, as they found it easier to budget – good oh! It stopped after one year or so, and life went back to hectic for those who were waiting to join the ‘classes’?

    You might also like to investigate the number of mining applications etc that were prior to and post the NT Intervention. They went from approx. 180 to well over 400 in a short space of time. Why do you think that the Govts(Howard, Rudd and Gillard) are forcing people from their homelands? Do you think it could be because they want their land? Or more correctly, what’s under or on top of the land? Part of the Native Title Act states, that those who are against a mining proposal etc has to prove kinship with the land. Of course, if they’re forced off (and remain so for the designated 5 years) they have no hope of proving continuing relationship/dependence on the land! How neat is that?

    There has to be a reason why aboriginal people are treated differently than the rest of us. That reason is because govts can, and because in order to steal their resources they need good reasons to get them out of the way! If Govts were/are fair dinkum, they’d abide by the recommendations in all the relevant reports, Royal Commissions etc as mentioned above. They’re not fair dinkum! That’s the issue. They’re engaging in the same activities that put aboriginal people where they were decades/centuries ago. They can do it because the media doesn’t care, and so it’s a case of, out of sight, out of mind. If they can put bs and lies into the community as well – helps the goal along very well, thank you!

    IF we’re fair dinkum about aboriginal kids getting an education, we get rid of the tin sheds, including tin roofs, and start being fair dinkum about where, how and who these kids are taught in and by! If you’d watched Kerry O’Brien and others, you’d have seen the stark contrast between what’s provided for aboriginal kids vs the others! We wouldn’t introduce ridiculous ‘laws’ about not allowing the kids to speak their own language for the first number of school hours. When linguists inform govts, that it’s best to teach kids to read and comprehend in their own language first, then introduce english, why won’t govts take note? Or is it another method used to remove aboriginal culture from the reality of young kids? Language is an essential component to ones culture – and in Australia, among indigenous people, it’s dying out – which is extremely sad and in too many cases, unnecessary!

    Too many kids who ended up in Institutions were beaten on a daily basis(among other horrific things) and there were two basic actions that prompted them – crying for your mother, or speaking your native tongue! And we behave like we are so morally superior?

    IF, as the Fed.Govt’s stated concern is for the kids who are(allegedly)abused and neglected, or out of concern for the drunken behaviour of some people, why isn’t the Military on the streets in Bondi or in the city of Sydney – Melbourne, Wollongong etc? The people in the major hospitals are sick of the drunken loudmouthed louts(male & female) who waste their time every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights? When are these people going to have their incomes ‘managed’ so they can’t buy grog to destroy their brains and cost the rest of us heaps? Funny how I don’t see too many aboriginal people in the news grabs each weekend behaving like ill mannered louts.

    IF it wasn’t for Message Stick, Living Black or the ABC Radio’s Speaking Out, or my own interest and investigations, I too might believe the absolute rubbish that govts and msm dish out! I read the NIT, Greenleft and other independent publications, plus keep my finger on the pulse in the Illawarra and Sth Coast, plus I go to rallies etc where indigenous people share their reality – like the people from the NT re the proposed nuclear waste dump – they don’t want it – and I support them!

    It’s been proven around the world, that the only thing that works positively when dealing with indigenous peoples, is to communicate, listen and adopt policies together – not talk down from the top and treat people as though their black skin also means no intelligence! On too many occasions, Jenny Macklin hasn’t even spoken to aboriginal people prior to making up her rules. When raw sewerage was being pumped out near a school, or in an area housing the very young and the very old, she didn’t even send anyone to investigate, let alone take action. If that happened in my street, people at risk would be removed; concentrated disinfectant would be sprayed everywhere, and workers would work around the clock to solve the problem. In the top end, do nothing, who can see, who cares? Those people upped and left! They’ve gone back to their lands and setting up a new area – with much help from unions and others around the country!

  32. David Hand

    I get it, Liz,
    It’s my fault.
    Have a happy Christmas.

  33. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – Is that the best you can do? If so, then yes I agree, you are partly to blame! You blithely agree that there is entrenched racism, but then insist on aboriginal people being the ones to blame for it! Has this article motivated you to research the issue more? Or are you happy to just say ho hum, and so be it!

    A few decades ago, my local State member was part of a government committee who travelled around NSW investigating the standard of living etc in aboriginal communities. Their report came out and named a small town where I’d lived for about 5 yrs(until I was 7) as being the most racist in the state. I was horrified to learn this, and it motivated me to do some research, starting with their full report. I realised many things in that town when I was a kid, that I didn’t question etc. One was, that I couldn’t recall any aboriginal kids at the public school I attended. Now, I may have forgotten, but later when I read that white parents could protest the presence of just one aboriginal child, and that child’s parents would be told not to bring the child to school again, it occurred to me that I may have found out the reason. I felt ashamed, and was determined to NOT let that go lightly. I was not going to become one of those who don’t speak out; who don’t get off their bums and just find out the truth of aboriginal history in this country.

    I’m still learning. I’m still determined, and I speak out at every opportunity, because that’s the only way change happens. I can’t understand why every person I meet doesn’t feel the same way. How can they allow our country to be held down by such hateful, unjust and illogical attitudes – to discriminate against people over something of which they have no control – the colour of their skin! It sure as hell beats me! How can people stand up for sometimes rather petty things, when others are living in hell every day – in a rich country like ours? Amazing! Every day, year that this goes on, just helps produce another generation of people who’ve been thrown on the scrap heap, to end up angry and dis-empowered for ever!

    Politicians wring their hands on a regular basis; reports are written and discussed; photo ops are used and abused, and away from the cameras, they make laws that only ensure, that the old ways will continue. We engage in the same old paternalistic ways, and then bellyache when there’s no change, or not quickly enough! The ultimate frustration results in blaming them for our patronising ways. As the song goes, ‘I’m stuffed if I know’?

  34. David Hand

    Liz,
    Your passionate posts reek of the paternalism you criticise.

    I am only one of many people who are sick of the billions of dollars poured into aboriginal social welfare for no discernable improvement.

    I just make this point. It is universally agreed by everyone, that the single best avenue for aboriginal people out of the viscious cycle of poverty they are in is to go to school and get educated. This is an event that can only occur in the homes where aboriginal kids live at about 8 am on school days. It is fairly and squarely the responsibility of the people who live there. While that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter what you or I say or do. This conversation we are having will be repeated many billions of dollars and decades in the future.

    Keep writing your hand wringing judgemental posts about racist white Australia if you like. I am still waiting for one practical idea for policy makers to use to get aboriginal parents to send their kids to school, rather than left elite criticism of current policy with no alternative ideas.

  35. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – How many new dwellings have been built in the NT since the June ’07 ‘invasion’? How many people have been arrested let alone convicted for the sexual abuse of children. In contrast, how many new 4 wheel drive Toyotas are now in the top end? How many dwellings have been made available for beaurecrats dishing out the paternalistic ‘programs’ of first the Howard, then Rudd and Gillard Govts?

    If successive Govts used their/our monies where it’s really needed, rather than their patronising and beaurecratic stuff ups and waste, the health dollars may have had better outcomes.

    What percentage of the budget is spent on non-aboriginal health? Why are successive Govts handing out billions $$$ per year in subsidies/tax cuts to the fossil fuel industry, and not going after the wealthy companies, some of whom don’t pay their legal share of tax – such as ‘Twiggy’ etc. Why don’t you whine about the billions of OUR money on these already fit and healthy australians? I find the whingeing and whining about dollars spent on aboriginal people, who are recognised as being on the bottom of the pile re every aspect of their lives, quite repugnant?

    The single best avenue for aboriginal people is to stop patronising them and at least, engaging them in discussions about their future, health and other necessities in order to live productive and full lives. We could also stop using their land as a potential dumping site for lethal compounds, and abide by the assertion, that aboriginal people have a deep and cultural connection with their land. IF you look at history you’ll find, that this is usually only admitted as tokenism – the reality is somewhat different?

    Doesn’t it ever occur to you, that some of the riches minerals etc have been and are being mined on aboriginal land, and yet a pittance has been used for their benefit? I find that to be a basic injustice of which I’ll continue to ‘hand wring’ about? And your exercise of ‘shooting the messenger’ doesn’t bother me one bit. I voted ‘YES’ in the 1967 Referendum, and have been supporting aboriginal rights for justice ever since. I’ve copped more than your accusations I can assure me – haven’t stopped me yet!

    It’s only when non-aboriginal people take a stand and demand things change for the first Australians, that any REAL change has taken place. Sadly, as has been the habit for over 200 yrs, govts ignore aboriginal people. If not, the strike for land and decent pay wouldn’t have taken years to resolve, and we wouldn’t have had the NEED for a change in the Constitution of 1967.

    It’s because the Top End is so far away that Govts can behave in such a racist manner – out of sight out of mind, of mainstream Australia, and msm has a vested interest in allowing indiscriminate mining etc to take place on their land, without a care as to culture etc.

    It’s not that long ago that Mal Brough allegedly used monies in a special account for aboriginal peoples’ needs to build a swimming pool. How much of their money is being spent by this and successive govts? Many aboriginal people still have NOT received their wages of decades ago. State Govts have used it(stolen it) and none have paid it back. How many non-aboriginal people would cop that?

    Our national govt is spending $85 MILLION PER DAY on defence? Why aren’t you whining about that waste of your tax dollars? Think it’s OK to spend money on policies to kill civillians in other countries, but not on the indigenous peoples on the country. It is recognised, and was hundreds of years ago, that aboriginal people did NOT rescind their rights to their land. The British Parlt acknowledged same.

  36. David Hand

    Liz,
    Your statement “It’s only when non-aboriginal people take a stand and demand things change for the first Australians, that any REAL change has taken place.” is a classic example of left elite patronising rhetoric that will keep them a client race. At some point, their emancipation will come about when they start taking responsibility for the dismal state of their lives rather thn blaming white people.

    I am not against spending billions of dollars on social welfare for aboriginal communities; I just want it to have a positive effect. I want it to work. One sign of it working is if aboriginal parents find a way to send their kids to school. I note in your continual diatribe against evil white australia, you remain unable to suggest one practical idea that might bring this about.

    Your left elite language, e.g.”invasion”, just shows you are merely shouting at the rest of us. You have nothing positive to contribute.

  37. Liz45

    I use the word “invasion” because aboriginal people have described it thus and still do! Why is it, that only the “left” want to find out the REAL truth of history and do something about it, like tell it how it was/is?

    What “positive” actions have you taken? What history books have you read? Sanitized ones? there’s plenty of them!

    The UN’s report said the Intervention is racist. Amnesty International said the same. Many reputable Australians and groups agree and have signed public letters to this effect. It’s people like you who are blindly ignoring the reality, and abusing those of us who refuse to!

    I don’t give a toss what you think. I’ll take the side of those who object to the racist actions of this and previous govts. They still insist of patronising behaviour/s.

    ONE GOOD ACTION would be to COMMUNICATE with aboriginal people on the ground, instead of walking in telling them what’s going to happen, and then turning their backs and walking away – AGAIN! How many times do you have to hear this?

  38. Liz45

    @DAVID HAND – If you’d done some reading on the subject you’d find, that the word “invasion” was used in the British Parlt BEFORE the said invasion ship even left British shores – in 1788. Moreover, it was used in the Australian media also – both via articles and letters etc. The information is all there, Henry Reynolds found it both in Australia and England. If ‘ a country, any country entered Australia with weapons etc and stated publicly on numerous occasions that their goal was to ‘take over’ and ‘show the natives whose boss’ etc, wouldn’t you call that an invasion? Well, that’s exactly what happened.

    In 2007, the Military was sent to the NT and took over many of the areas etc run quite successfully by indigenous people. If the concern was only about alcohol and child sexual abuse, why isn’t the Military visible on the streets of Sydney and the suburbs? Ask the OIC at St Vincent’s Hospital about the alcohol problem in the city. Ask the taxi drivers who refuse to even take their cabs out on New Year’s Eve, due to the wanton destruction of the drunken revellers?

    The fact that many aboriginal people are being forced off their homelands via Govt policy, leads one to wonder about the real aim of the exercise. Could it have something to do with the huge increase in the numbers of applications for mining leases? No, surely not? These increased from approximately 180 prior to the ’07 invasion, to well over 400? Funny that?

    Aboriginal people refer to the arrival of the colonists as an “invasion”. In fact, part of their anger(a big part at that) over many decades is the ‘doctoring’ of the facts – the wars that went on for over 100 years. The numbers of deaths, maiming etc, and the ingrained racist hatred that permeated throughout the country, with the subsequent hideous violence. Sounds like the aftermath of an invasion to me. Further more, the Parlt in England stated quite openly, that Aboriginal people never relinquished their rights to their land – they agree that it was taken!

    So, you can accuse me of being a ‘leftie’ with my views, but that only makes YOU look ignorant and an ingrained bigot who won’t accept the reality.

  39. David Hand

    Liz,
    What a great idea – Communicate with Aboriginal people on the ground, like Bess Price for example. I bet she never used the word “invasion”

    Bang on about the poor execution of government policy and evil racist Australia if you like. I’m still waiting for one practical, forward looking idea from you or your left elite friends to get aboriginal parents to send their kids to school. I didn’t see any suggestions about that from the UN either.

  40. Liz45

    As though there are no non-aboriginal people who don’t bother sending their kids to school? We don’t send the bloody military in!

    You conveniently omit to address the facts about the “invasion” because denyers like you will NOT accept the truth. I’m waiting for you to REALLY do some reading, and find out the truth, and then admit it. In the meantime, you can be as abusive as you wish, it doesn’t bother me in the least!

    My whole point is, that non-indigenous parents, even indigenous parents in Sydney, Melbourne etc don’t have to put up with the Military if their kids don’t attend school – or if there’s sexual abuse of kids in their State or region. Why is NT being treated differently? And, if it is out of real concern, why is the Govt ignoring the advice of the Little Children Are Sacred Report? Have you even downloaded it, let alone read it? Any of it? No, didn’t think so!

    The facts are, that until this country comes to terms with its past and admits to it and really, genuinely seek reconcilliation, the indigenous people whose ancestors, even parents and siblings who bore the brunt of the horrors will be distrustful. It’s only to be expected.

    I have no problem with accepting the awful, truthful past and sadly too, the present and saying so. I also ask about solutions and how and what they think and feel. I don’t stand over them and dictate, which is what Jenny Macklin and others have been doing – for over 200 years! Stop doing that, and then let’s see!

  41. David Hand

    Liz,
    I have read widely. I have searched for years now for a photo of a gun toting infantryman patrolling the streets of a remote aboringinal community or manning a check point to stop people coming and going but dang, I can’t find one. Perhaps you could help me out with a link to one? After all, if the 2008 “invasion” really happened, surely there must be pictures of the POW camps smuggled out by an intrepid left elite activist to shock us on Four Corners?

    Non-aboriginal people not sending their kids to school is a red herring. Either it’s a problem in Aboriginal communities or it’s not. I think it’s a problem and among the shovel loads of blame that make up most of your posts, I don’t see you denying it either.

    At least we are agreed that poor school attendance in Aboriginal communities is a big problem. Until it improves to close to the national average, they are doomed to the cycle of depenedency they are in. Billions of taxpayer dollars will continue to be wasted.

    Well, you’ve had a few days to think about it and maybe chat to one or two of your left elite mates. Any practical suggestions about how to improve Aboriginal school attendance?

  42. Liz45

    My use of the term “invasion” also included the arrival of Europeans and the subsequent negative outcomes of that, of which there’s a lot of information available in book stores or your local library – that’s where I’ve borrowed Henry Reynolds book, ‘Why Weren’t We Told’? I borrow it from time to time to refresh myself with the facts therein – sadly, I don’t have a ‘photographic memory’. I will buy it if it’s still available though, as it’s an excellent reference book. HR did a lot of research both here and overseas, as he knew that his views would be ‘challenged’? At best! Sadly, there are those who choose to live by the term, ‘there’s none so blind as those who refuse to see’?

    Sure you do some reading, but reading msm or books put out by those with at best a superiority complex re the original inhabitants is another. You’ve either read those who’ve taken the time and made the effort to do exhaustive research and dismissed their conclusions due to your own ingrained racism, or you just read those who either refused to even mention indigenous people let alone tell the truth. Either way, you’re ignorant of the reality, and therefore take the view of the Murdoch press, the Andrew Bolts etc and blame the oppressed, depressed, marginalised and heart sick for their position.

    There are lots of people who sadly don’t send their kids to school. I don’t hear of the non-indigenous losing their homes, incomes etc?

    You can’t attend school if there isn’t one! You shouldn’t be expected to go to school in a tin shed in the middle of the NT? It’s also FACT, that in every area of the country, aboriginal people’s incomes are less than non-aboriginal. Take a look at the ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    While we still have clauses in the Constitution that are racist, then who can blame aboriginal people for feeling marginalised and discriminated against. Australia is (possibly)the only country in the world that has racist clauses like we do. The first PM made no bones about why he supported them – the right to discriminate against ‘coloureds and other inferior’ people etc?

    Take a look at “Section 25, which allows states to disqualify people from voting because of their race, while the Parliament’s races power in section 51(26) authorises legislation with respect to”people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws” Both sections remain in force today. (2009).
    The races power was inserted to allow the Commonwealth to pass racially discriminatory laws. Sir Edmund Barton, our first prime minister, made the position clear when he told the 1897-1898 constitutional convention, that the power was needed so that the Commonwealth could “regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races who are in the Commonwealth”

    Australia now has what may be the only constitution in the world that allows its national Parliament to make laws based on a person’s race. As the only democracy without a bill or charter of rights, there is also no check on what the power is used for. The best protection we have is the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act.

    However, it has proved a fragile shield and has been overridden twice in the last decade. On both occasions, in 1998 for native title, and in 2007 for the NT Intervention, a federal law provided that it it was racially discriminatory, it was to operate despite the Racial Discrimination Act.

    Australia’s support for the UN Declarations (On the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) is a landmark in the international recognition of indigenous rights. However, we should not get ahead of ourselves in imagining the effect this will have on our country.

    The declaration makes no change to Australian Law, which continues to permit racial discrimination. The Rudd Govt should take steps beyond symbolism to eradicate the potential for racism in our laws, and to sever our final legal tires to the era of the White Australia policy.”
    George Willians is the Anthony Mason professor of Law at the University of NSW.

    SMH – April 7, 2009!

    As to my so-called ‘left wing mates? I have a friend, an aboriginal woman, who’s a lecturer at this city’s University. She’s impressed with my lack of racism, and when I told her about these experiences she marvels at how I’m conversed with the FACTS. She’s currently in hospital, but we’ll have a chance to discuss these issues further.

    Has it ever occurred to you, that the aboriginal people who’ve settled in cities and regions seem to have a higher school attendance – perhaps that’s due to schools being readily available in most cities and regions. However, the NT is a different reality. Those aboriginal people who we see in the media on a regular basis, all went to boarding schools, sometimes religious schools. Successive Govts first used the ploy of negating aboriginal people from schools, then they forced assimilation, and we’re still struggling against the 15 or more people in a house (small 2-3 bedroom?) illnesses and diseases caused by lack of sanitation and food preparation areas, and just downright determination NOT to take the educational facilities where the people are.

    Some aboriginal people have to travel up to 600 klms just to do their shopping or go to Centrelink etc. They put in for a taxi, which can cost hundreds. Due to the Howard/Rudd/Gillard govts disallowing people from shopping at the community ‘store’ they have to spend more by not being able to buy in bulk.

    If you looked at the SBS program a few weeks ago, called, ‘Desperately Seeking Doctors’ (it was filmed during the ’10 Federal Election campaign) you’d have an up to date picture of the reality that too many people have to live. Monies are not going where they’re needed – in fact, need is not a big factor at all. Too much money is spent of beaurecrats and beauracracy, and not enough on teachers, health, decent schools with air conditioning etc, and other necessities that you and I take for granted!

    Before we blast aboriginal people about their lack of school attendance etc, we should ensure that they are living on a par with the rest of the country. This does not come about while racist attitudes, legislation and Laws still remain. This does not show genuineness – at all. It only breeds resentment and depressions. A sense of hopelessness. We might also wonder about the high suicide rate among YOUNG aboriginal people. Sadly, it appears that these deaths come about almost on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis. We probably don’t look too closely as we’d have to admit to our role in the cause – and after more than 200 years, too many people are not prepared to do that! It’s easier to victimise people and then hold them responsible for the repercussions of OUR ingrained racist policies.

    If we insist on the assertion that we’re not a racist country, then we should insist, that all govts carry out their policies with the view of providing the same necessities to aboriginal people. THEN we’d be in a better position to make judgements and even hold them to account. Sadly, that day is a long time coming. When there’s real equality without prejudice, then you can start asserting like you do. That’s what you should be complaining and campaigning about, not participate in Jenny Macklin’s and Julia Gillard’s practice of ‘blaming impoverished people for being poor’ and in the NT, deprived of the necessities of life, like health and education, that you and I take for granted!

  43. David Hand

    So Liz,
    What you’re saying is that school attendance in remote Aboriginal communities is very low because the government has failed to provide the schools? i.e., there are no schools for aboriginal children to attend?

  44. Liz45

    @DH – I said a lot of things. One of them was, that there may not be schools everywhere the people are living. Should these people be forced to leave their homelands due to the lack of govt will to ensure adequate schools with trained teachers who are bilingual? IF govts are fair dinkum they’d make sure that kids aren’t being schooled in 40+ degrees without adequate facilities. They might also take note of those experienced English teachers who advocate, that children learn to read first in their native tongue and then in English. In some schools in cities/regions, aboriginal languages are taught to all kids. If we acknowledge the benefits of that, how can we ignore the opinion of experts. Having this in schools is producing positive results – creates an understanding between adults as well as kids – which can only be good!

    Also, how many kids go to school in your vicinity from similar housing situations as those in remote NT? Over crowding, lack of basic necessities; horrific ear infections that often result in permanent hearing loss. These things would be on the front pages of msm if they happened in my area, and I suggest yours too. All I’m saying, is that the Fed Govt uses the big stick approach when decades/centuries of inaction is responsible. I don’t hear of people even in the poorer suburbs around me being blamed for their own poverty etc.

    It’s lucky for successive govts that the majority of people watch crap on commercial TV, never do any personal research and/or believe the nonsense of the shock jocks or TT or ACA? They never spoil a good story with the facts!

    As I’ve said before; either here or on another site, when indigenous people have the same basic facilities that the rest of us take for granted, then we can start pointing the finger and using the carrot/stick methods; until then, this Fed Govt should stop blaming the victims of decades of neglect. They operate with the smugness that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ demographics. It’s also evident, that many aboriginal parents believe that education is the answer for their children – they just want to be able to reside on their homelands etc, with the same necessities as the rest of Australians enjoy! I support that!

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