Jun 21, 2012

NT intervention five years on: no dent in indigenous disadvantage

Outside the glare of the media spotlight, no one in government or bureaucracy would contest the view the intervention has failed to make a significant dent in Aboriginal disadvantage, write Professor Jon Altman and Dr Melinda Hinkson from the ANU.

On an unsealed road in central Australia one Saturday afternoon late last year, a police car flashes its lights and directs the driver of a non-descript sedan to pull over. The driver and his female passenger, a married couple in their mid-twenties, are directed to get out of the car. The police have been called to attend an incident in a nearby town where protracted fighting has been reported over several weeks and have stopped this car out of concern that its occupants might be en route to join the fray. They search the car for weapons, but uncover nothing of interest. The boot of the car is full of firewood, which the couple had spent the past hour collecting.


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14 thoughts on “NT intervention five years on: no dent in indigenous disadvantage

  1. Chris Graham

    Excellent as always Jon. Precisely the situation I’ve observed numerous times during trips to the NT. This is a train-wreck of a policy failure that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other segment of Australia society. Macklin gets away with it because not enough people care. But good to see some folks like Altman do.

  2. Jon Hunt

    It is fair to say that I do not understand how the government can honestly believe that their policies can help the situation. They seem to think that the more oppressed people are, the better their lot in life, regardless of articles such as these which are written by people who can explain themselves well. Do they do it for their own amusement, because I can’t see how they can genuinely believe that they are helping anyone? I can only think of the “R” word to explain their attitude, which is truly disturbing. How can they be racist when this is meant to outlawed? (by their own laws).

  3. Bill Hilliger

    @ Chris Graham: agree. One can only conclude there is now a whole industry of vested interests consisting mainly of non aboriginal employment woven around the NT intervention.

  4. Mark Regan

    Another reason why Jenny Macklin gets away with this policy failure is that the shadow minister is Kevin Andrews. I very much doubt whether he has asked Macklin a single question on this or indeed any issue regarding Aboriginal people. And why would he when both political parties are reading from the same song-sheet.

  5. kennethrobinson2

    The only thing the Intrvention hasaccomplished is when I buy my six pack, that I have to show identification, which means that the government hasnt got the guts to really get the bad guys, but instead resorts to “COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT”, and these people??, think that I am going to vote for them.
    By hurling truck loads of cash at the problem, the only thing they have achieved is creating a massive “ABORIGINAL INDUSTRY”

  6. Scott

    An article whose anti-capitalism focus reduces it’s impact. There is no doubt, a cost benefit analysis needs to be performed on the NT intervention, but please leave the ideology to the politicians. It has no place in research.
    As for the two paragraphs, it’s a cautionary tale for driving with a suspended licence and that’s about it. Same thing happened to Lara Bingle.

  7. Jenny McFarland

    45,000 Intervention bureaucrats visited remote Aboriginal communities for a spot of cultural and bureaucratic tourism in the three years 2007-2010. Getting to remote communities is an expensive business, what with airfares, hiring Toyotas, paying salaries, accommodation and travel allowances. etc. For the first couple of years of the Intervention, a hotel room in Alice Springs was difficult to find – they had been booked out by bureaucrats months in advance. The vast expense incurred was, of course, counted at government and funding body level as expenditure on Aboriginal people. Fascinating reference to the moral re-structuring of the Aboriginal cultural domain; I have often wondered at the persistence of agencies and people appropriating the moral high ground and attempting to sell life-long wage slavery and debt to Aboriginal people as being somehow morally superior.

  8. Tim H

    Great article. The Howard/Gillard government has a lot to answer for. I wonder if, like many other previous Prime Ministers, Julie Gillard will look back with regret after her retirement next year and wish she had done more.

  9. Bill Hilliger

    @Jenny McFarland you’re telling it as it is and has always been! I’d be pleasantly surprised if 10cents in the $ of government funding actually trickled down to those for whom it was intended.

  10. Mitchell Reese

    Couldn’t agree more. Didn’t we leave paternalism for Aboriginal Australia behind in the 1970’s? This points not only to blatant racism, but also to a bureaucratic sickness in our nation.

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