In the hours before the recent long weekend, when most people’s thoughts turned to families, holidays and grand finals, Labor’s political spin machine was still running on high rotation.
And it appears that even the bipartisan goal to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage by providing clean and safe housing for indigenous Australians is not immune to Labor’s political tactics.
On Friday, 28 September, Minister Jenny Macklin wrote to Queensland Housing Minister Bruce Flegg in response to Mr Flegg’s correspondence regarding the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing; a seemingly routine matter.
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That’s “hello” in the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains.
And isn’t it a travesty that none of us learnt it in school. Of the 250 Aboriginal languages spoken across Australia before white settlement, only 15 (or six per cent) are still spoken fluently across all age ranges.
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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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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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True story: At an important function a while back an Aboriginal elder gave a traditional welcome to country. The audience looked suitably solemn, if a little glazed.
The elder said: When you give me my country back, then I’ll welcome you to my country.
Oblivious to the subversion, a succession of politicians and dignitaries took to the microphone and thanked them for the welcome.
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Are you feeling offended? Put out? Insulted? You’re not alone.
He Who Almost Always Offends, Andrew Bolt, offended some people a while back. Then their lawyer offended him. Then one of the offended turned around and offended a third party, who offended her right back. Youch.
Surely it’s time to start building some bridges – of the reconciliatory, conciliatory, and the ‘get over it’ kind.
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When it comes to waste and mismanagement, Julia Gillard’s Building the Education Revolution debacle is recognised as the gold standard, but it has a new challenger in the form of the Labor government’s Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
However, federal Labor – like its state Labor counterparts who gave themselves glowing reports for their management of the BER – has insulted our intelligence by their boasts in early January that it has exceeded its 2010 targets for building houses in remote Indigenous communities.
The reality is the government has blown the same amount of taxpayers’ money on administration costs and inflated salaries for consultants under SIHIP as the disastrous schools halls project, in relative terms.
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Competition in corporate Australia has always been fierce. Everyone wants the best people, systems, products and services.
But behind the smiles and claims to the contrary, everyone from the Chairman down wants to get one up on their direct competitors on every metric that matters.
At stake are bonuses, bragging rights and most important of all, continued survival in the corporate jungle.
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Albert Namatjira is an indigenous Australian who died almost half a century ago but his life has recently become the subject of a play at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre and “Namatjira” should be required watching for anyone ready to hold a mirror up to their own face and take a equanimous approach to our cultural divide.
Quite aside from the extraordinary skill, energy and physicality of the two main actors’ brilliant performances - they carry ten characters and about five accents between them- the narrative tells us as much about Namatjira’s ultimately tragic life as it does about Australian history in the early 20th century and it’s an awesome journey.
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I was heartened last week to note the launch of the GenerationOne project to address Indigenous disadvantage in Australia and in particular, the approach the campaign has taken towards reaching out to the younger generation to “make a difference in our lifetime”.
It is certainly not the first time such a grand plan to address the gap between non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous has been announced, however the backing of high calibre celebrities and notable businesspeople goes a long way towards bringing this idea to the attention of mainstream media – something many similar projects have failed to achieve.
This is an issue that requires the attention of all Australians, however individuals can often feel powerless in the face of such an immense and longstanding disparity, not knowing how one person can make a difference.
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