Aboriginal Affairs

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).

Wrecked communities can be healed with education and jobs. Pic: Lyndon Mechielsen

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.’

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  • marley says:

    06:15pm | 05/03/13

    @Christian Real - it’s not just about land claims, though that is certainly part of the picture. In Canada, the “Indians” (ie the First Nations) have had an umbrella organisation on and off since the 1920s to represent them to and against the government.  The original small lobby group has… Read more »

  • Arthur says:

    05:23pm | 05/03/13

    marley, Abbotts neocon attitude is the type of attitude that led us into getting into so much debt in the first place. How is Abbott going to fix the economy, by getting people to take out bigger housing loans to build bigger monuments to their own stupidity in our capital… Read more »


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.

Indigenous Australians were banking on better access to the financial system from the Gillard govt

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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  • Sustainability says:

    05:25pm | 07/09/12

    @Tator, The biggest challenge to remote communities is the rising oil price.  As the price of oil increases so to will the cost of maintaining these remote communities. Read more »

  • Life is going to get tougher says:

    05:13pm | 07/09/12

    While not agreeing with your comment I do note that the sustainability of the remote communities become increasingly less viable as oil prices have permanently perched themselves above 100 dollars a barrel.  As the oil price heads further north during the rest of this decade this problem for indigenous communities… Read more »


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.

Look, a whale! Oh wait, that's a rock. Pic: Damian Kelly

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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  • Local of Broome says:

    11:45am | 14/08/12

    @ Russell, my vast knowledge of JPP and Broome is from living there my whole life and from camping out there as a small boy from early 1960’s to today. Living off the land like my people have for many years. Listening to elders that have lived in the area… Read more »

  • deanne says:

    06:43pm | 13/08/12

    @ Russell, because as I said earlier, independent scientists are questioning the veracity of some of the science behind the environmental studies and impact assessments that you seem to be wholeheartedly endorsing. Read more »


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.

By the community, for the community. Pic: Supplied

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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  • Susan says:

    10:22pm | 29/06/12

    I’ve only just come to thing but I think this peer-referenced article about Outback Stores is worth a read…just to consider some of the issues it raises: http://www.cis.org.au/publications/issue-analysis/article/1622-healthy-stores-healthy-communities-the-impact-of-outback-stores-on-remote-indigenous-australians @Little Joe…Lack of competition..and that’s an issue that article raises. Read more »

  • Audi says:

    08:45pm | 29/06/12

    Total Bull S Galooloo this only applies to Aboriginal people any one else’s dole what be cut off for choosing to live there. Just try it! Read more »


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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  • papachango says:

    09:59am | 28/03/12

    Given there’s currently no Tory party in Australia, I agree it would be difficult for them to win. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, have a very strong chance of winning - not because they’re particularly fantastic, but because the current lot are so woefully incompetent and dishonest. Read more »


    05:34am | 28/03/12

    Hi Subotic, I can say that with all honesty that I am not surprised in the least!  Why should this particular time be any different?  That would be just asking you to work too hard and it wouldn’t be fair to you, most of all. Just one question though “was… Read more »


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?

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    01:59am | 24/03/12

    Hi Subotic, I am truly sorry to disappoint you however I am not from an Egyptian background at all.  I have spent more than 33 years on Australian soil if that makes any difference to you at all.  Would that make me an Australian or Egyptian, anyway? I have also… Read more »

  • Bill says:

    01:26pm | 22/03/12

    Demetiou’s at his bully boy best yet again. He’s the one that needs to go. As for the Crows, shame on Trigg and co. for not supporting their man. This is political correctness gone mad. Read more »


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.

Do you reckon this is good news, Mick? Pic: Ray Strange

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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  • the punman says:

    06:13pm | 17/02/12

    Pun intended? Read more »

  • andye says:

    01:16am | 17/02/12

    so did anyone actually condemn it as racist? it seemed pretty balanced to me. who are you guys all arguing with? Read more »


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.

You better not screw this up, Julia. Pic: Ray Strange

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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  • ron down south says:

    01:01pm | 26/09/12

    I came to this Great land of Australia 58 years ago worked to make it the great country it is under a great Flag But beside it fly’s another Flag WHY in all those years is the want of the Aboriginal we give this and we give that when is… Read more »

  • Ssaamm says:

    02:22pm | 21/02/12

    It all stems from the start, no treaty (like they were instructed to do) so broke their own laws, never declared war which would make settlement legal, english common law never protected or counted Aboriginals (cant apply that), terra nullius debunked in our highest court because its been proven their… Read more »


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.

Try doing this at 6am

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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  • amy and scott says:

    09:14pm | 24/02/12

    So much emphasis has been placed on the Redfern indigenous youth whilst other youth is neglected.  Lets face it, the Aboriginal population only makes up a very small minority of the area however, there are personal agendas and ladder climbing not to mention self absorbed egos to content with. Read more »

  • Carlos says:

    08:11pm | 10/02/12

    Really eeonyjd the metaphors! However, a motorway may not be the best answer. Some decent guidebooks and maps may be a less invasive way of making the forest’s beauties more apparent and appreciated, as would trade missions for getting the forest’s products out into the marketplaces of the surrounding countryside…I… Read more »


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.

Illustration: Sturt Krygsman

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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  • Crerreque says:

    07:09am | 19/07/12

    Yayayayay! Mine came from the mail some days ago and first thing I did was go through and pick out my much-loved Awesome Items. And i quickly wrote an email inside cover as well as gave the item to my personal boyfriend. But now i’m wishing I would bought 2… Read more »

  • shep says:

    04:14pm | 20/01/12

    @Emel What an ignorant and uneducated rant.  Nasty bloody sheep farmers and neglected small business.  A hell of a lot of shit pour from the pens of the completely self-absorbed. Do you really feel that you’re capable of contributing a lucid and throughful response to such a fraught issue so… Read more »


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.

Cartoon: Peter Nicholson

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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  • Nicholas Steel says:

    02:39pm | 06/10/11

    It’s odd that the progressive community are quick to accuse all and sundry of racism. However they are silent on the 40 million deaths from malaria that have occured due to the environmental movement banning the use of DDT as an insecticide in the early 1970’s. If you examine census… Read more »

  • PG says:

    02:19pm | 06/10/11

    “They think people who have been sideswiped by colonisation, sent into a tailspin of poverty, ill health and despair, people who suffer appalling health outcomes, shorter lifespans and intergenerational unemployment, are somehow better off than they are” I agree with the point you are making here, however if you have… Read more »


Teenage mums in Adelaide’s northern suburbs will soon lose their welfare payments if they don’t go back to school.

Amata in the APY Lands. Pic: Adelaidenow.com.au

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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    04:42am | 28/09/11

    Hi John, Much appreciate the fact that you took the time to reply!!  I could not agree you with you anymore or any less!!  Like most European Nations, we should be able to offer the incentive to at least try & establish some sort of profession & lasting occupation, whether… Read more »

  • Demoman says:

    05:21pm | 26/09/11

    Can we then lower tax on the middle class? I’d rather have them breeding than the low classes or importing immigrants. Read more »


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.

The APY Lands Women's Council rep Mrs Ken at a local market. Pic: Naomi Jellicoe

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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  • Aussie (what) Pride says:

    10:45am | 14/09/11

    It’s great to see that even though times have changed, the redneck Australian attitude certainly hasn’t.  Gunyas have next to no idea about what it is to Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, so many are quick to say ‘well let them get a job, live by white mans law’ etc. As an… Read more »

  • Dark Horse says:

    11:13am | 07/09/11

    Some of these people tell us they have lived on the land for up to 60,000 years, but all of a sudden, they need houses, subsidised freight and government handouts, Toyotas etc. Many indigenes squander their sit-down money on grog, cigarettes and gambling and leave nothing for food. Is that… Read more »


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.

Chicka Dixon, a great pioneer

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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  • John A Neve says:

    07:30am | 23/04/10

    Acker, Your last post indicates the real value of your comments. Now we all know why you and those like you always blame others for you failures. Read more »

  • acker says:

    08:02pm | 22/04/10

    @John Neve… I don’t know where you live but I suspect it is a long way and very different environment from that of Dick Estens and Chicka Dixon. Just remember John every rs-hole has an opinion whether any one listens thats another matter. Read more »


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