The prominence of the story about AFL player Liam Jurrah in the national media was interesting. Yes, here is a man who many in central Australia hold up as a vision of hope and this dream has for the time being been destroyed.

More grass-roots input is required, but any program that cleans up sites like Hoppy's Camp, Alice Springs, is a start. Pic: Chris Crerar

But Jurrah, as many have noted, is a man with feet in both worlds. These worlds do not often cross paths in a way that is palatable to white people on the East Coast.

One very un-sexy story that doesn’t involve football stars or machetes but is going to have more impact on Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory is the extension of the Intervention.

Renamed Stronger Futures by the Gillard government, the Intervention is about to continue for another ten years. Amendments to the legislation recommended by a Senate Inquiry will be debated in Parliament today.

I have grappled with the Intervention policy since I attempted to write a (short) thesis about it two years ago. But when I listen to Aboriginal people, there are mixed views about the Intervention. Not everyone sees it as all bad.

Yes, I understand the new Intervention policy has extreme flaws. Implemented from the top-down and underpinned by colonial narratives, the policies most probably contravene international human rights standards.

One particular aspect of the new Intervention that has come under intense media scrutiny recently is the consultation process the government did as part of the policy development.

Last year, the government did attempt to consult with Aboriginal people about what they needed and wanted. I was fortunate to attend two of these consultations. One at Docker River, a community on the NT/WA border, and one in Alice Springs.

Why the government did not arrange these consultations through the Lands Councils and organisations that already have strong relationships with the communities completely baffles me. For people in Alice Springs this was definitely a sore point, and the atmosphere at this consultation can best be described as tense.

But Aboriginal people have been over-consulted with little tangible result. On communities, there is consultation fatigue. The problem is, and this is not a new or profound insight, policies affecting Aboriginal people need to be devised by Aboriginal people.

What we do know is that top-down policies fail. It’s not rocket science. But as often and as loudly as this is said, governments either don’t listen, understand the concept, or don’t know what this might look like.

And, while the new Intervention policies can be likened to a parent tightening the grip on the arm of a small child, there have been some benefits. Well, one benefit. Increased resourcing. This is a small win, and patchy at best, but it is still a win.

Last week I spoke with an employee of an Aboriginal Health organisation. She told me her organisation were broadly pleased the Intervention would continue because additional health programs were created thanks to Intervention funding.

I worked for an Aboriginal women’s council and the directors were strong supporters of the Intervention. The women said income management, a controversial measure, helped women protect their income from being taken by other family members.

Yes, granted, there is significant evidence this is not the view of many women who will be subject to income management. Personally, I can’t understand why the government won’t just make it voluntary.

There has also been an increased police presence on remote communities because of Intervention funding. Resourcing of youth programs in the NT benefitted significantly. Youth programs are an essential service for young people on community.

Even the Mt Theo Program youth program at Yuendumu played a key role in Liam Jurrah’s life as a young man on community. Without it, he may have never made it to the MCG.

In the end, there is no clear cut “solution” or a silver bullet approach for the challenges Aboriginal people face. If only increased resourcing could be informed by a grass-roots community developed approach.

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45 comments

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    • SteveKAG says:

      05:36am | 22/03/12

      I don’t pretend to be any expert on this subject but looking from afar it seems we have tried top down policy generation and we have tried to have aboriginals write their own policies, we have tried to have aboriginals look after their own government grants (look what happened there).

      It seems to me that what we (black and white Australia) tries seems to fail to varying degree’s.

      I don’t know what the answer is but the intervention program seems to be working so far, not sure why it had to have some wanky PR sounding name change but never the less should we be messing with something that is getting some wins?

      I am a firm believer that people must help themselves the majority of the time, we are not in the 1600’s anymore and there is no excuse for Aboriginal kids not being educated, having poor health and being stripped of choices (perhaps by family members).  Maybe we need to ban remote outback communities and have them resettle in to larger towns, closer to facilities and choices and break this pattern of self destruction.

    • acotrel says:

      06:41am | 22/03/12

      The biggest flaw in the ‘intervention’ is that it was a rabbit that John Howard pulled out of the hat in an attempt to win an election !
      If it’s not ‘reds under the beds’, asylum seeker bashing, law and order, it’s the poor old aborigines who cop it !

    • adam says:

      07:02am | 22/03/12

      Steve, I like you, am no expert. As you point out in your first paragraph lots of things have been tried and they’ve not worked. All these things, however, have the one similarity. They are all attempts at a “one size fits all” solution.
      Maybe we need to look at each community as a stand alone entity and therefore a unique problem. If a solution can be found “here” it may work elsewhere but lets not assume it will. This could/should(?) also be applied to areas of entrenched welfare which are not remote or indigenous centres

    • SteveKAG says:

      07:19am | 22/03/12

      Acotrel come on Gillard has kept the intervention policy so what are you on about….....take your hate somewhere else mate

    • marley says:

      08:21am | 22/03/12

      @acotrel - we’ve had a Labour government for over four years.  The intervention is as much, or more, their baby as Howard’s.  If you had the integrity to stand up for your beliefs, you would be as critical of the ALP as of the Coalition - but you won’t, will you?

    • Cookie Monster says:

      08:25am | 22/03/12

      acotrel - the intervention policy had bipartisan parliamentary support and is still in force under Gillard - go be ignorant somewhere else -

    • Gregg says:

      08:42am | 22/03/12

      Acotrel certainly has some form of his own indigenous sickness Steve and it does not matter what a topic is for it to float to the surface like a turd in a bucket.

      @Adam
      I reckon before we abandon the ” one size fits all approach “, there needs to be a clear definition of objectives and just as most other people can manage under the laws of the land, seeking unique solutions may just prolong supposed unique problems.

      I agree with what Steve alludes to in that the sustainability of the small isolated indigenous communities needs to be questioned and if you look at the similar situation for non indigenous communities, they will either prosper or become ghost towns with no government intervention other than for something like this is how you will use the rivers waters.

    • SteveKAG says:

      09:01am | 22/03/12

      Gregg - you only have to look at some Victorian country towns, many of them are dead or dying with many of their inhabitants instead going for larger regional centres that have the infrastructure.  There is no government subsidies to keep these towns going.

      We seem to get scared off by this suggestion for Aboriginals because it is somehow against their herritage.  It is a harsh reality but maybe it is the solution.

    • Aitch B says:

      09:05am | 22/03/12

      @acotrel

      What absolute tripe you write!!

      The intervention was a result of alcohol and child abuse in Aboriginal and Islander communities. It had and has absolutely nothing to do with political point scoring or election success.

      It was supported by the then Labor opposition at the time so if you’re going to be critical of Howard you have to also be critical of your Labour luvvies.

      Can’t you just once… ONCE… keep your over the top political partisanship off the table and make a sensible, reasoned comment that doesn’t include any reference to your hatred of anything non-Labor?

      I guess your response (if any) will tell us for sure….

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      10:14am | 22/03/12

      I had the answers once, before I actually took an active role in Aboriginal communities for more than six years of 25 years in the NT. Now I am more at sea than ever.
      Ask an Aboriginal person the type of house he wants and the answer is “one like yours.” Ask an Aboriginal mother what aspirations she has for her children and she’ll, answer “Just like yours.”
      We in Australia make many decisions for our communities without consultation - An example The little town of Mt Perry didn’t want reticulated town water at the turn of the century, yes the 21st century but they were “forced” to have it.
      Aboriginal people are precious and need profound understanding, and continued compassionate help in achieving what they actually want. They want the same as we want but do not really know or cannot achieve that. They actually want to be able to drink socially but deep seated cultural pressures prevent that achievement.
      I learnt that a culture that for 40 000 years could not and did not conserve food cannot suddenly conserve alcohol. (put it away for later use) They have asked and depended on white administrators to conserve for them, i.e. hours of drinking, alcohol content, number of cans etc.
      Top down administration is only pernicious if detrimental in the eyes of the observers. We do not let people harm themselves e.g. Seat belts, speed limits, hotel closure times, DUI limits, Housing construction rules, electrical installation rules - I could go on.
      We must be careful to avoid the criticisms, of urbanised Aborigines who are far more WASP than many Australians, on behalf of their isolated community brothers.
      In one community while the men drank the women sang hymns and then escorted their sisters home armed with various weapons to ensure that their husbands didn’t abuse them. Women did not drink because they looked after children.
      Another issue is Gambling - gambling both entertains and redistributes money. In an isolated community the pension does not go very far and no one can get finance to buy a boat, car or outboard. Gambling concentrates the income so that a large asset can be bought which more often than not is then used by every one. After the next gambling session another asset is bought. The people who,lose their money are fed and don’t miss out on living basics.
      While teaching in one community the community was happy that I’d round up the kids before school but lacked the cultural prerogative to “order” their kids to school. While I rounded the kids up I had 100% attendance and once even 110% attendance but when I stopped attendance dropped to the usual 2-20% (depending on when in the day.)
      No right thinking person should expect a culture with a an adaptive history to a very hostile environment completely incompatible with European culture to shed 40 000 years of ingrained custom and tradition to change in the short period of 200 years let alone in the recent past.
      And let’s remember that those tribes and peoples who have had contact from 1788 have all essentially vanished. Australian Aborigina - European contact history is not 200 years, for many it is half that and less.

    • Cynicised says:

      11:00am | 22/03/12

      Dieter, that is possibly the best comment I’ve read from you on The Punch. Congrats, it’s knowledgeable, compassionate and fair-minded. And yet, sadly sheds little light the solution to the problems of remote communities without the imposition of so-called “top-down” policies, which would to most people, and the global community appear to be the ultimate goal for Aborigines, that is, self-management of their problems.

      For many reasons I have a deep personal distaste for paternalistic policies, especially those which involve families and land ownership. No matter how you slice it, unless the communities are in charge of their own destinies, we are still playing colonial “daddy”. I suppose that is just my bias, and as you say, the people we should be listening to are those directly affected. If they feel it’s working in some ways, then let the “intervention” (what a ghastly name!)  continue, as we hopefully aim for more autonomy for the in the future.

      I really can’t shake my inherent dislike of the idea that these communities should be disbanded however, no matter what the perceived
      advantage to the inhabitants. The whole concept is anathema to me because it stinks of ethnic cleansing and the mistakes of the past of many nations, including ours.

      One thing though. Would you please use paragraph breaks? It makes reading long posts much mor comfortable. Thanks

    • Terry2 says:

      06:12pm | 22/03/12

      One very successful program that is flying under the radar and is not part of the intervention is the scholarship program to give bright aboriginal kids the opportunity to get out of the often toxic communities and attend boarding schools with a broad cross section of Australian kids (i.e. not a boarding school that is restricted to ATSI kids only as they just perpetuate the disadvantage). The communities are often the problem and we owe it to the next generation of aboriginal kids to get them out of these communities, educate them and , if they choose to return to act as mentors that’s fine but we must acknowledge that the communities, with very few exceptions will not be able to provide fulfilling jobs.

    • Blue Light says:

      06:58am | 22/03/12

      My heart goes out to aboriginal people in this country. Before settlement they enjoyed a highly sophisticated culture, one that knew nothing of poverty, homelessness, alcoholism. They shared everything so that no one went without, had beautiful art (which thankfully still survives), strong social connections and laws. They took care of the land and understood how the land took care of them in the form of bush medicine. Perhaps we should adapt our society more towards theirs instead of the other way around.

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      07:32am | 22/03/12

      Try not to be so obvious with your trolling

    • M says:

      07:42am | 22/03/12

      You can start by throwing out your computer.

    • Blue Light says:

      07:44am | 22/03/12

      @Kurisu, how is that trolling?

    • Warren says:

      07:45am | 22/03/12

      @Kurisu Sonsaku. You might want to learn a bit about Aboriginal culture (before 1888). Blue Light’s obervations are overly romantic for me but he/she has a point. I don’t spot a troll here.

    • SteveKAG says:

      07:56am | 22/03/12

      and when the Indonesians or Chiense invade us we can beat them off with man made spears

    • stephen says:

      08:03am | 22/03/12

      If your heart goes out to them so much, why don’t your feet go too and enter these camps and live like they do, or go out and help them ?

      If white man is so enamoured of cultures that are unlike the West that they despair and continually degrade themselves and other things familiar, then go and live there and take up your turban, your bows and arrows, or your pet lima.

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      08:40am | 22/03/12

      @ Warren - when someone comes out immediately with ‘noble savage’ BS it’s trolling

    • wakeuppls says:

      09:30am | 22/03/12

      They tried the fantasy land you’re describing in Russia a while ago. Turns out sharing everything only works if everyone has equal amounts to share, and it’s rare everyone has equal amounts of labour to share. Reality check.

    • Bev says:

      09:37am | 22/03/12

      You need to bone upon your history chum.  The “Noble Savage” is a construct. Truth is all stone age people live(d) hard brutish lives where every day is/was a struggle to survive.

    • Warren says:

      09:49am | 22/03/12

      @Kurisu Sonsaku you might want to read Blue Lights response to philip. Offering a different opinion doesn’t make you a troll.

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      10:16am | 22/03/12

      @ Warren - His response is idealising a fantasy of the ‘noble savage’ and trying to spin it as a comparison to modern living. It is at best sophomoric scribbling.

    • jason says:

      11:33am | 22/03/12

      M @ 8.42am: applause, made me chuckle

    • Tom says:

      11:42am | 22/03/12

      Kurisu Sonsaku, 100% on the button, “idealising a fantasy of the ‘noble savage’”. The “bambification” of the aborigines is a sick paternalistic fantasy of the bourgeoisie.

    • Blue Light says:

      11:47am | 22/03/12

      The point is, is that they were far from being “noble savages”. The whole point is that they were a society that functioned very effectively and efficiently. They managed to survive 40,000 + years without us, and probably could for 40,000 more. The destruction of that society started in 1788 because western society is incompatible to theirs.
      @Bev, life is and always will be harsh. But they worked as a family unit, the strongest social union in society, and didn’t just survive but thrived. 
      @Kurisu please speak for yourself and not for others. I suggest you also get to talking with some of our indigenous friends and learn about their way of life before assuming so much.

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      12:13pm | 22/03/12

      @ Blue Light - why do you naturally assume that i have had no exposure to aboriginals. The closest they could get to their ancient culture in Casurina, Broome or Port Smith involves alcohol fuelled rambling.

    • philip says:

      07:43am | 22/03/12

      Blue Light you’re factually wrong on almost all points, the only exception being alcoholism. Aboriginals before white man certainly had
      -  poverty, so much so that starvation was common
      - homelessness, so much so that the never even invented durable housing
      - plain art (well this one is debatable and a matter of perference- but I personally can’t see how you can say that a few dots on a piece of bark are in the same league as advanaced western art such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel)
      - weak social connections and laws. Aboriginals didn’t have modern communications to keep in contact with each other nor did they invent writing.  In western society each person we interacts with 10000’s of people a year (I’m now interacting with you- someone who I’ll assume I’ve never met before).  In Western society our laws are so developed that it requires a dedicated sector of people- such as policemans, layers, judges, civil servants and politicians to create and enforce them.
      - they didn’t take care of the land.  Aboriginals were hunter/gatherers.  Bacically they hunt the wildlife close to extinction in one area then move on (by necessity since there is no more food left) to another area.  Here’s a chalenge- try and find a traditional Aboriginal word equivalent in menaing to modern english interpretation of the word “Environment” or an aboriginal equivalent to the phrase “Eco-friendly”
      - poor medicine and almost non-existent community health system.  Aboriginals in modern Western society live on average decades longer than they did 200 years ago.

    • Blue Light says:

      08:56am | 22/03/12

      @Phillip, what a load of nonsense. You are seeing things through a very european lens. Firstly, poverty is about social hierarchy, not just material items or food. They were fairly egalitarian, and did not have the parity between the rich and the poor to the extent of western society.
      They did not have the same structures that western society has for housing because it was unnecessary - they were nomadic. They weren’t burdened with mortgages, credit cards etc to survive. They were free.
      Plain art? Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it plain. A lot of their artworks are actually complex maps of their surrounding areas, showing good hunting grounds, ceremonial gathering areas, water holes etc. Then there are the dreaming stories about their perceptions of the creation of time. There are also beautiful totems to mark the burial places of the dead. Those big totems are far more elaborate and interesting than our boring tombstones.
      Weak social connections? All I can say to that is that you have no idea about indigenous cultures. Have you ever even met an aboriginal person? And it’s just plain silly to think that just because western law is complex and cumbersome that it is in any way better than traditional laws. Just ask any lawyer, our laws are not as clear cut or free from bias as you seem to believe they are.
      The rest of your post is riddled with flaws also but I won’t go on, except to say that aboriginal health has significantly declined since western civilisation landed on it’s doorstep.
      I’m not saying everything was perfect, and yes, western society has it’s better points too. What I was trying to say was that instead of barging in claiming that we have all the answers, which we plainly don’t, our cultures should learn from one another and not presume that “west is best”.

    • Cookie Monster says:

      10:23am | 22/03/12

      Blue Light “They weren’t burdened with mortgages, credit cards etc to survive. They were free” - neither did the Europeans during the time period you are referring to.

    • Lucy says:

      10:56am | 22/03/12

      Blue light, I partly agree with you as we do look through a European lense but you have some very romantic concepts.

      Nomadic does not mean lack of housing, look at the African nomads, at the American Indians. They were nomadic but they took their shelter with them.

      If a whole community is starving then, despite not having a concept of money, they were living in povery especially if the next community had ample resources.

      I personally think the biggest cause of the “lack of development” of the Aboriginal people is they had to too good here. Why learn farming if nature provides ample with minimal effort. Why build shelter if the climate rarely gets so cold you need more than a skin to protect you. Why build permant shelter when, when it does rain, you have ample resources around you to quicly provide you with it.

    • Blue Light says:

      11:09am | 22/03/12

      I’m not sure where the idea of these communities starving came along other than Phillip suggesting it. If food was scare I assume they’d just move on to somewhere else where food was abundant.
      @Lucy, I didn’t suggest they had a lack of housing, I said they didn’t have the need for the structures we typically think of as housing. Aboriginals used to make humpies and small easy to construct shelters like that. No need to carry around anything.
      I would suggest that the highest level of a person’s development would be to be entirely self sufficient as they were. Meanwhile western civilisation struggles under piles of debt, and freaking out because we can’t survive without all our modern coveniences.

    • Gregg says:

      09:51am | 22/03/12

      In a nutshell, it does need to be recognised that we do live in a very much top down regulated society and that it is not so much a government that consults but bureaucrats at all sorts of levels in an attempt to have common top down policies formed.

      When this is realised and consistency of objectives is an accepted fact of good government then maybe indigenous people can decide whether they wish to have some support to get on their feet or accept that support will not always be there to follow a life on the fringes of a society that may get utterly sick and tired of continual support.

      Many of the stolen generation have accepted that good schooling and health   has given them so much to be thankful for and it would no doubt be interesting to see whether they would rather have had that instead of the lives that many neglected children suffer if they survive at all.

    • Lauren says:

      10:39am | 22/03/12

      RE: your last paragraph - a family member of mine was part of the stolen generation and has admitted that, for him, it was the best thing that could have happened to him.

      Whilst I am in no way saying what happened was valid or a good thing, there ARE people out there who were part of this that see it as something that had a positive impact on their lives.

    • Inky says:

      10:29am | 22/03/12

      All this talk about a top-down focused government, but I’m inclined to say the government is very good at giving it to the people up the bottom.

    • Jane2 says:

      11:07am | 22/03/12

      The trouble with any intervention, whether it be drugs, alcohol, bad lifestyle choices or this, is its success is 100% dependent on the reciever of the intervention.

      The doers of an intervention can do everything in their power to change things for the reciever but if the reciever doesnt want to change it is simply wasted effort.

      In this case I think the intervention must continue as school attendence rates have improved, childrens health has improved, community violence is down. We need to continue the intervention for at least another 10 years to see the long term impact on the communities. If at the end of 15 years of intervention the life expectancy is unchanged, literacy is unchanged and health in general is unchanged, then and only then it should be stopped.

      This sort of change requires at least a generation to see the long term results.

    • Anon says:

      11:14am | 22/03/12

      I can’t speak for the NT bit in Queensland people are starting to avoid doing consultation through land councils because the feedback they are getting is that the land councils aren’t representative. That the land councils either aren’t consulting more widely, or if they do are ignoring views they disagree with. In some areas the perception is that view that comes out out of consultation with the land councils is the one that is going to bring the greater benefit, financial and other wise, to the families of the people running the land councils. We need to find a better way of doing consultation that gets around nepotism and fatigue

    • jason says:

      11:31am | 22/03/12

      You say “What we do know is that top-down policies fail” and suggest that
      “a grass-roots community developed approach” is part of the solution. You then say “policies affecting Aboriginal people need to be devised by Aboriginal people”, which has been tried (and failed) before. You wonder incredulously “Why the government did not arrange these consultations through the Lands Councils and organisations that already have strong relationships with the communities” then say that “Aboriginal people have been over-consulted with little tangible result. On communities, there is consultation fatigue.”

      Your writing is full of contradictions and lacking in clear, constructive alternatives to what’s been tried in the past. This is indicative of the problem on this debate. Too many armchair critics prepared to say “it’s a disgrace” and “the government is not doing enough” or “the government is doing too much” or “there’s not enough money” blah blah blah, without offering any real ideas nor (for the most part) actively joining in to assist (camping at old parliament house does not count).

      I don’t pretend to have the answer, but at least I don’t add to the naïve indignation. I can only conclude that aboriginal people need to broadly accept that the world has changed and that they need to move on from sufferings of the past (as any traumatised person eventually must), and not perpetuate the black/white divide through generations. We’re all just people after all. The only inevitable conclusion to address the problem is for aboriginal culture to join and accept and celebrate the wonders of the 21st century – yes have pride and celebrate your heritage, but retaining cultural cringes like decrepit outback camps for example (with understandably minimal medical facilities etc) to make us feel good that the connection to the land is being maintained or whatever only holds back progress. This is realism – you just can’t have it all unfortunately.

    • Cynicised says:

      12:40pm | 22/03/12

      I was with you until your second last sentence viz: ” The only inevitable conclusion to address the problem is for aboriginal culture to join and accept and celebrate the wonders of the 21st century – yes have pride and celebrate your heritage, but retaining cultural cringes like decrepit outback camps for example (with understandably minimal medical facilities etc) to make us feel good that the connection to the land is being maintained or whatever only holds back progress.”

       Who is the “us” you’re referring to? Are you an urban Aborigine ? I ask this sincerely, although I  doubt it, because not being one myself, I am fairly sure that the connection to the land, (country) is central to the religion and culture of  indigenous people in ways which are so deeply a part of their identity that to be separated (other than by necessity) from their  traditional home is  almost impossible to contemplate.

      Who are we to say they must leave? Who are we to decide what kind of progress is right for Aboriginal people? This is where the dilemma lies. At the moment, the solution seems elusive, but ultimately, one hopes that the people in remote communities are able to have much more autonomy in deciding their future than they currently enjoy. If they decide they must move away, then that is their decision to make, not ours.

    • jason says:

      04:04pm | 22/03/12

      No I’m not an urban aborigine, nor do I (obviously) claim to speak for ‘us’ as in everyone. I agree aborigines have a strong connection to the land. Of course they shouldn’t be forcibly removed, of course it’s their decision, I didn’t say it should be forced and your inference is puerile and orchestrated to suit your posting.

      It just frustrates me that squalid conditions continue in many cases, where essential services and facilities are just not feasible (economically and practically), so that things like infant mortality and life expectancy are always going to compare horribly to people living in urban areas. Hence my comment that you just can’t have it all, it’s unrealistic.

      3 options I can see then are:
      Either what I said was inevitable eventuates, that is there is a concerted effort from within (in this we are agreed, ie, Aboriginal leadership on this issue) to move on from past injustices and suffering and shift to integrate with a modern world, eg education and vocations (again – before you jump at me for being insensitive – continuing to rightly celebrate and take great pride in their culture and history); or

      Those with such a strong connection to the land, who find it impossible to contemplate separation from their traditional home, go back to a pure pre-1788 hunter gatherer nomadic existence; or

      We continue our futile attempts to combine the best of both worlds and the same old mess continues in perpetuity.

      Yes the first option is hard work, but more realistic than the second and unquestionably better than the 3rd.

    • Cynicised says:

      10:34pm | 22/03/12

      It wasn’t my inference,Jason, it was yours. However, we can discuss all we like about what Aboriginal people should or should not do. Although it does seem that your first option is the inevitable path to better outcomes for them, and as much as I understand the frustration felt by those who work with remote communities, (which the whole thrust if this article is about), the future of those communities will be still up to them, even though we may be disturbed by their conditions. All non-indigenous agencies can do is advise, if we no longer impose, that’s the whole problem. Square one, sadly.

    • Kemarre says:

      12:48pm | 22/03/12

      I have been working with Aboriginal communities for over 30 years and was part of the ‘intervention’ when it first started.  I am still working with a number of communities in the NT. Top down unfortunately is needed to broadly develop policies.  What is then needed is to develop operational guidelines that work in communities.  You do this in conjunction with the particular community.  Not one size fits all.  We currently have a situation where a Govt program’s guidelines requires a certain education standard of the person running the program.  In a community some 500 klms from Alice Springs this is not going to happen.  Our organization has offered alternatives but the poor old bureaucrats cannot get their heads around it.

      On the consultation re Stronger Futures it was a complete shambles.  A couple of ill informed public servants were told to go to each community and get a sign off on all that was good about the intervention.  There was no discussion from a community level and if community members tried to raise issues they were branded as trouble makers or as actors giving a performance.

      Communities have solutions to retaining a lifestyle that will improve for their children but Governments and their lackeys in FaHCSIA deliberately do not want to listen. All they want to do is roll out old so called solutions that did not work in the past and will not work in the future.  We don’t need bleeding heart mentality just common sense and a willingness to listen to alternative solutions.

    • Anna C says:

      12:56pm | 22/03/12

      I think we should stop thinking about Aboriginal people as a homogenous group and start treating them as individuals who are responsible for their own lives and choices just like the rest of us.

    • Fi says:

      11:26pm | 22/03/12

      What and be responsible for themselves like the rest of Australian society, whether it be Anglo, Asian, African and all the rest?

      Let’s face it, whatever ‘white’ Australia and the government try to do, it will either be too much or not enough. Is the government just supposed to give them a big Visa card with endless taxpayer funded credit? We can’t win. Indigenous people will never be happy, except I guess if we all leave. But of course leave everything modern behind you as you turn out the lights.

      Not sure where I’d go, because I was born here too. I have no affinity to another country. I can’t go to Europe and claim my heritage because my father was born there. I really am tired of being made to feel like I am a stranger in my own country of birth. I’m sorry, but in my 45 years I feel I have the right to have just as much affinity to this land as a 45 year old Aboriginal person. I should not be expected to live like a temporary resident.

      I’m really sick of this whole issue. Frankly, if standards of living, education and health of Indigenous people were raised it would be the best thing for this country and the economy. We need as many people to participate to make this country successful. But at what point do Indigenous people themselves have to take charge of their own destinies? Yes there are many obstacles, but there are endless opportunities available (and people willing to help), for them to improve their lives. They just have to take that step. The decision to say ‘no’ must be taken more often when it comes to bad lifestyle choices. It will not be easy but it has to start somewhere, otherwise this water treading will just go on and on.

      I was in a relationship with an Aboriginal man for some years. He was intelligent, did well at school and enjoyed sport. He also got offered many job and training opportunities unavailable to other non-indigenous people. So what did he do? He squandered every damn opportunity. He stuffed up and let people down who wanted to assist him in achieving whatever he wanted in life. And that included me. I realised that I could not be in a relationship with someone who wouldn’t be responsible for their own actions and wouldn’t help themselves. This is how I feel about the Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationship in this country.

 

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