Yesterday’s Prime Ministerial address to the nation on Closing the Gap with Aboriginal Australia showed just how complex this historic undertaking will be. Now in its fifth year, the simple measures like service access are promising, but evidence of utilisation and outcomes remains elusive.
Australia’s Aboriginal population will pass 600,000 later this year. That is a 45% jump since the 2001 Census; mostly in our eastern seaboard cities and towns.
Contrast this with the remote Aboriginal population which has stabilised at just over 100,000. It still grows at 1-2% annually in Queensland and the Northern Territory but is falling at an even faster rate in remote South and Western Australia.
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Julia Gillard today announced celebrated athlete Nova Peris would be the ALP’s first indigenous representative in Federal Parliament. Peris, who is not a member of the Labor Party, will be parachuted into the number one spot on the ALP Senate ticket in the Northern Territory, much to the disgust of the woman who currently holds that position, Trish Crossin.
The PM was unapologetic about dumping Crossin, who has been in the Senate for 15 years, describing Peris as a “captain’s pick”.
Gillard simultaneously declared her support for party processes, while exclaiming she was “troubled” the ALP had so far failed to send and Indigenous Australian to Parliament. After all, 42 years have passed since the Coalition selected Neville Bonner as the first Indigenous Federal Representative.
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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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“You’re not welcome on our land, Jenny Macklin.” The young female voice cut the air in Hobart’s Grand Chancellor ballroom at Friday night’s NAIDOC dinner as the Minister departed the stage to the sound of her own footsteps.
Back in 1997, John Howard got the same treatment. At the Melbourne Reconciliation Conference, parts of the indigenous audience silently stood mid-speech and turned their back. The images were flashed worldwide.
But this was different. The voice was Nala Mansell-McKenna, the startlingly young State Secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. She spoke with authority; having just officially welcomed the 600 guests to her people’s country. Third, apart from the ABC online, the incident went unreported by the Hobart Mercury and other mainland dailies.
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There’s a pre-season football stink going on down Melbourne way which is a little hard to decode for those of us who live elsewhere. But here’s the guts of it.
Eddie McGuire is under fire for interviewing Melbourne Demons player Liam Jurrah on his new Fox show Eddie McGuire Tonight (EMT). Criticism has come thick and fast from, among others, Fairfax’s Caroline Wilson, The Australian’s Patrick Smith and the Melbourne Demons club itself.
Jurrah, who hails from a remote NT community, will face court in May on charges relating to a recent incident where he flew to Alice Springs and intervened in a family dispute. Alice Springs police allege an axe and machete were involved in the incident.
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The Australia Day event at The Lobby in Canberra has become all about Tony Hodges, Kim Sattler, Barbara Shaw, Michael Anderson, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, the police and a bunch of idiots who saw fit to hijack the day. It wasn’t supposed to be about them.
Our political leaders had gathered at the restaurant to bestow the new National Emergency Medal on 26 Australians who, paid or unpaid, did extraordinary work during the Victorian Bushfires and Queensland floods.
In her speech before the event was hijacked by an appalling set of bad decisions the Prime Minister said: “Today we award these Medals to a group of Australians who inspired us with their courage and service during two of the most devastating summers of natural disaster Australia has ever witnessed: the Victorian bushfires of 2009 and the Queensland floods and cyclone of December 2010 and January 2011.”
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So we now know who is responsible for putting Julia Gillard into the most peril she’s been in since she became Prime Minister - her own office.
A senior member of the Prime Minister’s team has tonight resigned after it emerged he was the one who tipped off an Aboriginal Tent Embassy contact that Tony Abbott was in the Lobby restaurant yesterday - information that led to the Prime Minister being dragged to her car in undignified scenes that are now world news.
Tony Hodges, who was the one trawling the Press Gallery yesterday afternoon trying to sheet home blame for the ugly scenes to the Opposition Leader, is tonight no longer working for the PM. If it wasn’t so disgusting it would be funny. This came a day after a member of senior Cabinet Minister Anthony Albanese’s staff saw fit to send his boss off to the Press Club armed with a raft of fantastic quotes from a Hollywood movie.
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Once upon a time, in a mythical kingdom called Canberra which most people don’t really believe exists, a lady called Cindergillard lost her shoe.
The lady didn’t lose her shoe at a big fancy schmancy ball, but what can you do? Ball, restaurant, same effect.
The hunt was on. Who would the shoe fit? In ye olde days, they settled this kind of issue door-to-door. On this occasion, the matter was handled in the mercenary manner of the interwebs.
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Julia Gillard should be congratulated for maintaining even a shred of dignity after being dragged minus a shoe through a crowd at a speed she couldn’t keep up with. Most Australians were horrified by the images from the steps of the Lobby restaurant, and in turn would have been relieved when a composed PM, with two fresh shoes on, reassured everyone from outside The Lodge that she was fine.
She should never have been placed in that terrible position in the first place, and there are many questions unanswered about how and why she was.
1. The location for yesterday’s inaugural emergency services medal presentation was poorly chosen.
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The Aboriginal Tent Embassy has never engendered any public respect. It has never done anything to bring black and white Australia together. It is sadly fitting then that the 40th anniversary of this illegal assortment of galvo humpies was celebrated with an unprecedented outburst of violence which saw our Prime Minister being dragged along the ground and our Opposition Leader behind a riot shield.
The scenes in Canberra represented a new low in the four-decade history of this politically useless eyesore. If it was the intention of its inhabitants to draw attention to the plight of black Australians, they instead invited nothing but scorn.
The irrational nature of their conduct was captured in a single quote from Tent Embassy founder Michael Anderson yesterday: “To hell with the government and the courts.”
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With Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin in the Northern Territory last week consulting on “what’s next?” for the Northern Territory Emergency Response, it’s timely to throw the concept of ‘exit strategies’ into the mix. In particular, how do people exit the Government’s income management program and take control of their finances?
It’s a very real dilemma for governments at all levels. Teetotalers and drunks, spenders and savers, good and bad parents - it makes no difference. If you’re an Aboriginal person receiving welfare payments in the NT, you live under the Emergency Response and half your welfare must be spent on the priority goods like food, clothes, rent and health care.
You can’t use the money for alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling – well at least not the quarantined half anyway…
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Good afternoon, conquerers and conquered alike. If you’ve missed the news, The City of Sydney has overnight officially declared the 1788 settlement of Sydney an invasion. Council voted 7-2 in favour of the name change, citing a dictionary definition of invasion as “to take possession, to penetrate, to intrude upon, to overrun”.
Another definition we read today describes an invasion as “military action consisting of armed forces of one geopolitical entity entering territory controlled by another such entity.” By that definition, the First Fleet was no invasion. The convict ships may have had weapons, but were hardly “armed forces”. And Australia was not “controlled” by Aborigines. Yes, they controlled some aspects of the environment through practices like firestick farming, and yes, the concept of terra nullius was a disgrace. But Aborigines didn’t “control” Australia.
You can tie yourself in all kinds of knots arguing over definitions. You can also make some unbelievably foolhardy comments, as indigenous leader Paul Morris did today in a news.com.au story where he jaw-droppingly said “Jewish people wouldn’t accept a watered-down version of the Holocaust so Aborigines should be to call the events of 1788 an invasion”. From where we sit, there’s only one way to settle this. That’s to look at some of history’s famous invasions to see if they might help us assess the events of 1788…
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Home ownership is the great Australian dream. A place to call your own and where your heart is.
My parents are both proudly Aboriginal. As a young bloke, I remember their pride when they bought their first home, a little house on the edge of town.
Growing up I watched them struggle to pay the mortgage, through good and bad times. Extensions, cars, funerals and even my university education were all paid for via refinancing the family home. I’m sure it’s a story that would be familiar to many Australians.
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A brief glance at Australia’s history shows that changing our constitution is never easy. Only eight of 44 referendums held since Federation have been successful.
But I am optimistic that we can achieve nation-wide consensus on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people will be a significant step towards building an Australia based on strong relationships and mutual respect.
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Self-identity - who you are, what your values are and what you believe - is critical to success in any society, whether it is cultural, sporting, professional or political.
Without a firm understanding of who you are, it is very difficult to present a point of view or know where you stand on a particular topic.
Not knowing or recognising your cultural heritage will suppress your purpose throughout life.
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The Prime Minister has announced that she will establish an expert panel to investigate the best way for indigenous people to be recognised in the Australian Constitution.
Julia Gillard’s announcement is no surprise in of itself. It merely makes good on an election promise and, at least among major political parties, has bipartisan support.
But as Kevin Rudd has showed us, the road from announcing an “expert panel” to something actually getting done is a long one, and there are a lot few issues to be teased out between now and seeing this in the Constitution.
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Some people really just shouldn’t open their mouths in public - a woman called Emanuela D’Annibale is one of them.
D’Annibale was trying to fix a major PR problem she’d created for the brilliant new Generation One initiative to increase indigenous employment, when she managed to make things oh so much worse.
She told this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald that the reason she hadn’t hired a young indigenous woman she thought was too white to represent Generation One was because “I wouldn’t have picked her for Aboriginal at all ... to me she looked like an Aussie girl.” As opposed to all those un-Aussie indigenous women I suppose.
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When Jennie George asked me to meet one of her constituents I was happy to oblige out of a respect for Jennie but without an expectation that it necessarily related to my responsibilities.
How wrong I was. Through the door came Michael McLeod and with him the remarkable story and passion that is his life.
Luck begins for all of us with the conditions of our birth. And from the outset it was clear that a successful life for Michael would require a triumph of will over fortune.
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