Indigenous people frozen out of deciding their futures
Good Government is about empowering people, creating a sense of community, facilitating change and giving people real choices.
Fifty years ago the people managed our communities, looked after employment, hospitals, policing and schools. Problems that occurred in the community were sorted out by the community.
However successive policies by both parties have moved Australia away from a community empowerment model towards a centralized control system with bureaucrats managing down on communities. The people with the power to help sort out problems with hospitals, policing and towns have been progressively removed from our communities, taking their power with them.
Now, local police commanders and hospital managers are appointed by State and Federal bureaucrats without local input. Community people are excluded from these decisions and are unable to apply their hard learned knowledge about what works.
Regional communities have been left with low resources and a handout mentality.
Governments have taken over community management. In Australia, roughly 6 per cent of Government spending is allocated to communities - in America and England it’s somewhere around 24 per cent.
I recently came across the following statistic: in the 1960s there were 22 taxpayers for every person on a Government benefit – welfare, pensions, etc. Now there are around six. This is a damning statistic which paints me a very clear picture about what happened to the Roman Empire.
When you stop listening to your communities you destroy people’s enthusiasm to deliver services and they start coming to work for the money and not the passion. Their voices are no longer heard, mistakes are made. Hospitals are a classic example. There are more health service bureaucrats then people delivering the service.
When communities are disempowered to the extent that we have been in Australia you don’t get the best people standing for local Governments. Why waste your time when there is no real decision making? In city and coastal areas you get tin pot property developers on councils after a fast buck - in the bush we generally get the incompetent.
Rural and regional communities have suffered, and Aboriginal people whose lives are buffeted by shifts and changes in government policy, have suffered more.
Most non-Aboriginal Australians would have no idea what it feels like to have your family and community directly managed by bureaucracy. Indigenous families live daily with the revolving door of Government decision-making.
In our regional communities Aboriginal people wait for the Government to solve their problems. The local council sees Aboriginal affairs as a State and Federal Government issue, so it’s not their problem. It’s why we have large scale dysfunction in our Aboriginal communities in regional Australia.
But despite this, I believe that Aboriginal people lie at the heart of reinvigorating our regional communities.
While years of drought and centralization policies see non-Indigenous Australians leave town, Aboriginal people will remain in regional Australia and grow because of their connection and commitment to their country and their higher birth rate.
So the answer to reviving our regional communities lies with our youth – empowering the next generation of Indigenous Australians to take leadership positions in their communities and drive them forward.
Investing in the Indigenous leaders of tomorrow make both social and economic sense. The collectivist nature of Aboriginal communities means that by empowering individuals through education we will empower those around them.
The Aboriginal Employment Strategy was set up for precisely that reason. It’s a company 100 per cent managed by Aboriginal people that manages up not down. It builds self esteem, pride and self belief and is a grass roots community model that works.
Our goal is to create a group of young, skilled and motivated Aboriginal people that set new standards in Aboriginal success and career path development, and are proud of their communities and where they come from. This group of people will be the new wave of community leaders.
In giving greater decision making and funding to communities some will manage better than others. It’s up to local communities to judge their leaders and remove them where necessary at local elections; a rising tide lifts all ships. If there is money in communities people will focus on the spending decisions.
These days people in regional Australia blame federal politicians and bureaucrats for the failures in their communities and cynicism about politicians and political agendas grows daily.
We get plenty of debate about getting rid of State Governments but the focus should be empowering people and better funding for local Governments, to stop the handout mentality. It’s about giving power and decision making back to communities.
All politics needs to start at a local level. By empowering communities, and managing up we will get a better standard of politician entering State and Federal Parliament.
We need more politicians that are used to delivering, not lightweights that don’t know how to make a decision and spend millions on consultancies, leaving no funding for local initiatives. NSW is a study in centralized decision making gone wrong.
The power to turn this around lies in the hands of the people and good debate which focuses on empowerment. It’s imperative that we invest in our Indigenous youth, empower our regional communities and we can rebuild an Australia that is better geared for the future.
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