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.’
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Imagine going to work and having no desk, no office and no employees. That’s what I did in 2011 when I spent four weeks on secondment with Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group in Redfern. I went on secondment with Babana to help find premises and assist in getting funding to employ a staff member - two small things that most businesses take for granted.
Babana isn’t a normal business, it’s a not-for-profit focused on Aboriginal men who live and work in Redfern. Led by Mark Spinks, Babana reconnects Aboriginal men with their culture, community, employment opportunities and health services. I worked with Babana as part of Jawun - a not-for-profit organisation that forges relationships between Corporate Australia and a range of Indigenous organisations in communities across Australia.
It’s a classic example of the old “teach a man to fish” proverb and my role also included skills transfer.
As a dirty foreigner from across the ditch, I feel as though I have free license to bag out Australia. It’s not as though we Kiwis have much else to do during the rugby off-season.
And when it comes to Australia Day, it’s pretty easy to find criticism. At no other time of year do so many Aussies so clearly conform to the negative stereotypes we’ve built for them – loud, obnoxious, a bit dim and very, very drunk.
An ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand, Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, once quipped that Kiwis emigrating to Australia were raising the average IQ of both countries. The tattooed yobbos who drape themselves in flags on Australia Day are the best evidence you could ever dream of for that proposition.
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It really is difficult to keep track of Julia Gillard’s shifting priorities.
As she stood before the media in the Prime Minister’s courtyard yesterday, Gillard could only provide one justification for her decision to meddle in Labor’s preselection process and effectively end the 15-year parliamentary career of Trish Crossin by fiat.
She was “troubled” by her party’s historical failure to send a single indigenous representative to Canberra, and Nova Peris would help right that wrong.
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Last night, ground-breaking band Yothu Yindi was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
Their music has had a huge impact in raising public consciousness of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It’s fitting that they seized the opportunity – being recognised by the music industry – to talk about the importance of Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
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We are about to embark on the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, and it promises to be ugly. Speaker Anna Burke will earn her money.
The complete collapse of the Government’s measures to discourage boats loaded with asylum seekers from reaching our shores has the Coalition even more fired up than usual.
Julia Gillard no longer seems to have any defence against the charge that Labor opened our borders to people smugglers when it dismantled the Howard government’s policies.
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In a radio interview during the week, Tony Abbott gave a vivid description of his style in the ring when he won boxing blues as a student at Oxford University.
“I was basically a whirling dervish,” he said. “I just went in, arms flailing. My intention in the ring was to knock them out before they had the chance to do the same to me.”
He added: “I had four fights. I had four wins. What do you expect? They were all Poms.”
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Last week’s announcement of new minimum standards for alcohol in remote Indigenous Australia show that Jenny Macklin simply doesn’t get the grog battle which rages in our nation’s centre.
Her ideas, as reported last Thursday in The Australian, are neither tough nor new. For decades, state licensing authorities have had “tough processes” including public interest assessments and lodging of objections.
In NSW and Queensland, community impact statements assess the health and social impact of approving or varying a liquor license. But however tough the language, problems arise when processes become a “tick and flick” or conditions laid down fall upon the local copper for enforcement.
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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Controversial humour. We’ve all heard the ‘jokes’ that fit this category before. They range from somewhat acceptable digs at ‘yo mama’ to serious jibes about culture, race, religion and sexual preferences.
It was also the disclaimer of sorts that Facebook inserted into the Aboriginal Memes URL before the page was eventually taken down yesterday—as if to say it was more acceptable when operating under the guise of humour.
Copycat pages have since surfaced in a more horrible (hard to fathom), albeit a somewhat less targeted format just hours after the Aboriginal Memes page was no longer accessible: “Things that will offend people,” and “Being offensive for the hell of it”, are just some of the latest distasteful outlets which have emerged solely for the purpose of offending people.
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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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Three Aboriginal people have died in police custody in Alice Springs since January. The first was 28-year-old Kwementyaye Briscoe, who died after being picked up by police for public drunkenness. In other words, he was taken into protective custody. That someone died while in a situation designed to keep them safe is sadly ironic.
Four days after Briscoe’s death, a candlelight vigil was held on the lawns opposite the Alice Springs courthouse. I will never forget the tears on the faces of those who loved him, the wails of grief.
Briscoe’s family were clear they did not want this young man’s life to become just another statistic, another figure to add to the Aboriginal death in custody count.
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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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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.
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.
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If a week is a long time in politics then 106 of them must be close to an eternity.
That’s how long it has taken Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson to steer his controversial nuclear waste legislation though both Houses of Parliament.
Introduced as an urgent matter with Coalition support in February 2010, the law passed the Senate this week. While the delay might cause frustration to an impatient Minister, in the timeframe over which radioactive waste remains a serious human and environmental risk it is but a blip.
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Nobody likes to look incompetent or inept. So it’s no wonder the Federal Government fought to keep secret a report that revealed the $3.5 billion it spends each year on indigenous programs has generated “dismally poor returns”.
Close to two years after a 470-page Finance Department report slammed the Government’s management of indigenous programs and expenditure there’s been no radical movement, no overhaul of the Departments responsible, and none of the 115 recommendations adopted.
The report may never have even been made public save for a long-running freedom of information case brought by Channel 7.
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A couple of months ago I was gallivanting around the UK on a holiday. One night I popped up to the apartment I was crashing at to grab my jacket when I heard a voice through the window from the road below.
“Come on darlin’, you don’t have to do this.” Across the road a woman had climbed up onto the third story of some scaffolding. She wasn’t particularly sober, she’d tied a noose around her neck and she was about to jump.
If today is a typical day, by the time you’ve hit the hay tonight nearly 178 Aussies will have attempted to end their lives. Seven would have gone through with it. It’s a national tragedy. And in some remote parts of Australia it’s just tragedy after tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.
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I don’t think anyone is that shocked to discover former Carlton president John Elliott is a bigot and no doubt Can of Worms let his comment air because of the publicity, but sadly it seems the sentiment behind his recent racial slur is echoed by a cross-section of Australians.
Some comments on the story included:
“Aussie is OK as an abbreviation, but Abo isn’t? I never knew that Abo was offensive?”, and “Why can’t we use the word ‘abo’ it is just an abbreviation.”
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The health and welfare of our young people has been at the centre of many policy announcements made so far this election.
Childcare centres and chubby babies provide popular photo opportunities for campaigning politicians, and both parties are arguing over who’s paid parental leave scheme is best.
Focusing on our young people is important: they are the future of our nation, the next pillars of our community; but is it the role of government to tell us how to raise our children?
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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.
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While some argue Tony Abbott has “opened up the culture wars” by declaring the practice of respecting traditional Aboriginal land owners at official gatherings as “out of place tokenism”, you can’t deny that though controversial, the Ab-Blaster has a point. These repeatedly enforced preambles for the Whatever Tribe Of Wherever grow ever more meaningless each ensuing shindig, and are at best, descending into farce.
It isn’t culture, it’s clutter. PCYC CEO Chris Gardiner has also picked up the dustpan and brush, declaring kicking off parliament with the Lord’s Prayer is not only intolerable, but “anachronistic at best… superstitious at worst”. The message is clear – it’s time for a clean out Australia!
This is a big, brown and far too dusty land, and there’s plenty more mouldy, moth-eared, curry-stained tokenistic traditions still loitering about the flat, in desperate need of either chucking in the wash, or just a good old chucking out.
Anzac Day marches:
This bizarre annual tradition of old blokes marching up and down city streets, blocking shopping access to discount fashion outlets and electrical goods warehouses, has surely done its dash.
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There is nothing more certain to generate cynicism than having to suffer political correctness in full force. When the experience is compounded by the paternalistic condescension of those who don’t really believe what is being said or done but in their generosity are reaching down to those they really see as simpler than them, it’s intolerable.
The idea that you must open your gathering and deliberations by paying lip-service through a ceremony or incantation demanded by vocal spokespersons for what amounts to sectional interests, should offend most citizens.
For many, when the ceremony invokes a cosmology or belief system that they consider anachronistic at best, or superstitious at worst, it is particularly galling.
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Back in October last year, I promised a group of Aboriginal stockmen that I would soon return to observe progress in the re-establishment of an Aboriginal cattle industry in the Northern Territory.
It was not a promise that I considered I could break just because I now had a different job. The problems of indigenous Australia need to be taken seriously by Australia’s leaders and not just by the ministers and shadow ministers with special responsibility for them.
That’s how I came to be on a quad bike, low on fuel, following tyre tracks in the gathering dark earlier this week. That’s how I sampled a witchety grub and honey ants dug up by the women of an outstation called Ukaka.
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Anthropologist Peter Sutton has a long association with indigenous people.
In his new book The Politics of Suffering, he makes an observation that deserves quoting at length:
The first consideration must be to focus on those conditions that are conducive to the emotional and physical wellbeing of the unborn, infants, children, adolescents, the elderly, and adult women and men. It is remarkable how many people living in the comfort, affluence and healthy surroundings of Australia’s suburbia have, in the debates over indigenous policy and especially the Intervention, covertly promoted the view that respect of cultural differences and racially defined political autonomy takes precedence over a child’s basic human right to have love, wellbeing and safety. It is as if political feelings and political values are more important than one’s emotional feelings and moral values as fellows of those other human beings in the ghettos.
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When the Indigenous All Stars run on to Skilled Park tomorrow night it won’t be just another game of football.
The game has been sold out for months and has been a dream of Indigenous league players and Indigenous people for decades.
For the indigenous players it’s about more than just rugby league – it’s a chance to represent and pay tribute to their communities and people. The game is a celebration of indigenous culture and has great symbolism, but equally important will be the profound effect it has on Indigenous youth.
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When Kevin Rudd delivered an apology to the indigenous people in 2008, he committed himself and his government to a series of practical measures, designed to lift many aborigines from appalling conditions of poverty and abuse.
He promised a new bipartisan approach under the leadership of himself and the Leader of the Opposition. Subsequently, he promised the report on this great moral challenge on the first sitting day of each Parliamentary year.
Today these solemn promises can be seen for what they were: hyperbole from a Prime Minister who regularly makes grand statements but fails to follow-up on many of them.
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Around this time of year, Aborigines are conducting ceremonial business in central Australia, including circumcision initiation rites.
News Ltd reported on Monday that three teenagers had turned up at the Tennant Creek hospital, 500km north of Alice Springs, bleeding badly from circumcision procedures that had gone wrong.
They had been circumcised in a makeshift bush camp just out of town. The boys spent three nights in hospital. It can be revealed here that a fourth teenager presented at Tennant Creek hospital on Sunday night, also with lacerations.
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The reputation of Western Australia as a frontier state received another unwelcome boost today with revelations that an Aboriginal man was set on fire after being shot with a taser gun while sniffing petrol.
At issue is whether the taser gun started the fire, or whether the man, who was violent and threatening to set himself and the police alight, started it inadvertently with his cigarette lighter.
But even before the case is investigated, it’s been declared case closed by the state’s top cop.
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THE best thing about the mooted ban on climbing Uluru is that it gives slightly overweight, middle-aged white people who enjoy the occasional cigarette the perfect vehicle to forgo taxing exercise on the pretence of respect for indigenous heritage.
The worst thing about it is that it seems to be a bit of pre-ordained, politically correct posturing that will add to the nation’s ever-expanding collection of hollow symbolic gestures that do nothing to increase white Australia’s respect for, or understanding of, our Aboriginal history, and may actually work against it.
I have never climbed the rock and probably wouldn’t _ not just because I’m kind of lazy and would rather do the bus tour, sit down in front of the rock for a while, and get back for beers at sunset at the Yulara resort _ but also because it clearly distresses some Aboriginal people. It just seems kind of rude.
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Here’s my guilty admission. I sat through Samson and Delilah and I wanted it to end.
The violence, the petrol-sniffing, the exploitation – white and black, and the indifference were all confronting.
But it wasn’t my squeamishness that had me longing for the closing credits. What did me in and left me feeling completely bombed was that for much of the movie you are placed in the shoes of Aboriginal young people who have seemingly little to live for.
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