According to a new report by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Northern Territory has the highest rate of homicide in the country (5.7 per 100,000 in 2009–10 compared to 0.8 in the Australian Capital Territory).
These figures will come as no surprise to people like Northern Territory MP Bess Price, who has campaigned for years against the horrendous levels of domestic violence experienced by Indigenous women.
Price has been criticised by the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service for saying jail helps keep Aboriginal people safe: ‘While they are being imprisoned, they don’t get to drink, they don’t get into trouble, they are fed three times a day.’
Indigenous people are still struggling to get a toehold in the Australian economy with financial exclusion rife, according to a recent report from the Centre for Social Impact entitled Measuring Financial Exclusion in Australia.
It should come as no surprise to those with even a passing interest in Indigenous affairs. It’s hard to keep up with all the doom and gloom performance indicators in education, health and housing. The alarm bells have been ringing for so long we’ve become ‘ho hum’ to the noise.
So financial exclusion is no different. The report shows that Indigenous Australians are doing it tough. Actually, they’re doing it the toughest.
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The Punch has this afternoon contacted former Greens leader Bob Brown, who is currently aboard the Steve Irwin as leader of a Sea Shepherd mission in the waters off WA’s Kimberley coast.
We’ll update this post as soon as we hear back, but the gist of our inquiry is his response to a letter from an aboriginal elder, begging him to abandon his whale-saving mission and consider the interests of local aboriginal people.
Some background. Brown has abandoned his traditional Kathmandu fleecey tops for tropical apparel as he seeks to block on environmental grounds the proposed Browse LNG project at James Price Point, which at a cost of $45 billion would be the world’s largest gas project.
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Update 10am: Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin’s office has provided The Punch with this statement: The Government has not cut funding for Mai Wiru stores. In fact, the Government has offered Mai Wiru continued funding while it considers a range of options to best support stores in the APY Lands. We are working closely with the community and Mai Wiru to do this work. Outback Stores run a number of successful community stores across remote Australia. They only operate in places where they have the support of the community.
The Federal Government is in the process of a hostile takeover of community stores in South Australia’s remote APY lands. Aboriginal communities are fighting hard to preserve their grassroots model with its explicit focus on healthy eating.
It is hard to believe, but even services with exemplary outcomes face the chop in the year of the Federal balanced budget. Community-led Commonwealth-funded Mai Wiru will have its funding terminated this week and its twelve stores closed, liquidated and replaced by Canberra’s preferred provider; Outback Stores. The South Australian Government has advised they do not to have the funds available to support Mai Wiru and have sent the organisation back to the architect of the takeover, Federal Minister Jenny Macklin.
Outback Stores have a chequered history since they received $48.1 million in 2005, to enter communities by invitation and upgrade community store infrastructure, capacity and viability. To date, up to $80 million of funds have been provided, despite only 21 of a possible 110 stores in the Northern Territory signing up to the model.
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I almost wish I hadn’t written this column last week. I argued that Adelaide recruiter Matthew Rendell should not have been forced to resign over his warning that AFL clubs could get to a point where they only recruited Aboriginal players with one white parent.
Rendell was pretty convincing when he argued he wasn’t suggesting this should be a policy; rather warning that this dire situation could come to pass. It was all about the context.
With the gloriousness of hindsight I would have written it differently because the AFL community engagement manager Rendell made the comments to – Jason Mifsud – has a slightly different account of the conversation that makes it sound less like a pie-in-the-sky throwaway line and more part of an ongoing stereotyping within the AFL.
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Hands up anyone who has never said something that could sound racist. A joke, an anecdote, an off-the-cuff comment. Something that, printed in black and white, would sound much worse than its intention.
If your hand is up you’re probably lying. Or you think that because you prefaced it with “I’m not racist, but…” you magicked the racism right out of it.
A man’s career is over because of a self-confessed silly, throwaway line about Aboriginal AFL recruits. But is that fair, and will it make AFL a less racist place?
Another year; another Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s report. More statistical improvements at the margins but the core issues evaded and unaddressed. For the next ten years we could deliver the same speeches with little material change on the ground.
That’s because three things remain unaddressed. Australia fails to apply activity requirements for work in remote Australia like we do everywhere else. We also fail to apply state law and prosecute parents who refuse to send their children to school. Last, our welfare reforms have hobbled into the third wave of ‘trials and pilots’ because Canberra prefers talking tough over being tough on welfare.
Australia has struggled for decades with Aboriginal exceptionalism; the argument finessed by John Altman which casts any move to stimulate a real economy as a western assault on the romanticised traditional life. This view insists on an impossible world of welfare without work, on the grounds that First Australians are fundamentally different to the rest of us.
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It will be a shameful day for Australia if it does not change its Constitution to both prohibit racial discrimination and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The proposed changes are, individually, both worthy and overdue. But together they become complex enough to threaten the success of any referendum.
The recommendations are to remove the “race power” section, prohibit racial discrimination, but allow positive discrimination “for the purpose of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group”, to recognise indigenous Australians in the Constitution itself (rather than in a preamble), and to acknowledge indigenous languages.
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Recent bad press about Aboriginal programs in NSW might make you think that all programs designed to help Aboriginal people are failing. But this is not the case.
A boxing program, “Clean Slate without Prejudice”, has delivered great results since it first began in June 2009.
An initiative of Redfern Superintendent Luke Freudenstein and Aboriginal leaders, the program involves police training alongside local Aboriginal youth three mornings a week. Accompanying the ducking and jabbing is some good natured ribbing as the police and young Aboriginal people get to know each other.
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It was only Day 13 of the New Year, 2012. And on this day, I attended the funeral of the eighth South Australian Aboriginal person to die – the eighth death in our small community this year. And it was only Day 13.
These eight deaths are not of Aboriginal people who have lived to a ripe old age. The funerals were not celebrations of long and productive lives. No, they were all premature deaths, some of them violent, all premature and preventable.
Aboriginal people are always at funerals. We attend out of respect for our people and community. We give our condolences and cry for our loved ones.
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You don’t often hear people challenging someone’s claim to be Italian. Or Swedish, or American. Generally you accept what they say even if they don’t have an accent, or a funny surname, or blond hair.
Aboriginality, on the other hand, apparently remains a contested field.
The Federal Court last week decided that high-profile and controversial columnist Andrew Bolt had breached the Racial Discrimination Act in his columns ‘It’s so hip to be black’, and ‘White fellas in the black’, which questioned why nine prominent ‘fair-skinned Aborigines’ identified as Aboriginal.
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Teenage mums in Adelaide’s northern suburbs will soon lose their welfare payments if they don’t go back to school.
Local federal MP Nick Champion asked for his electorate to be included in the Federal Government’s tough-love trial. As he says: “We are not doing anyone any favours if we do not help teen mothers finish school.”
I’m sure many of you are nodding in agreement. It’s hard to argue with a program designed to empower kids with knowledge and skills, instead of cursing them to a life of welfare dependency in the blind belief that they’ll rise up from entrenched disadvantage when they’re good and ready. But if conditional welfare is acceptable for white girls in the northern suburbs, why is the State Government so squeamish about the issue in SA’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands?
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It’s widely thought that either Marie Antoinette or Marie Therese of the French aristocracy uttered the fateful words ‘let them eat cake’ when told that the peasants were starving. Regardless of who said the words and whether they were said in arrogance, ignorance (or even at all) the PR damage was done.
We all know what happened next.
Last week SA Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Grace Portelesi, had her very own Marie-moment by vacillating on the question of whether Anangu people living on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in the far north west of South Australia were going hungry.
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When Charles “Chicka” Dixon passed away last month, Australia lost a vigorous advocate for Aboriginal rights. Chicka was an agitator and a unionist but he was also a realist who understood that to get ahead Indigenous people needed skills and training and opportunity.
But this training had to be real and translate to actual work. Aboriginal people are among the most trained people in this country, yet they represent the highest unemployed.
Chicka Dixon and I would have disagreed on many things, but on that point he could not have been more right.
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