Friday, 21 November 2008

northern territory intervention - scam sham and shame

life for australian Aborigines is not easy. they are discriminated against in their own country and by their own government, are poorly served by all public and private sector services and per capita government spending on aboriginal communities is miniscule compared with non Aboriginal communities. since white occupation of this country, Aborigines have seen control over their lives, families and land, usurped by the new rulers while their welfare has deteriorated. it has long been established by study after review after government report that the key to improvements for Aboriginal australia lies at least in some measure, with greater rights of self determination and greater government investment in basic social infrastructure.

17 months ago the bastards that were running australia (hey most of the country agreed with me at the last election), decided to react to public/media outrage over the state of our native people. specifically, media reports on child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities had been the fashion of the month and people were rightly horrified at the extent of it.

the government decided that in order to stop this and other "horrors", drastic measures were needed in some Aboriginal communities. they called it the NTER (northern territory emergency response). the troops were sent in, litterally, together with police, medical staff, social workers and bureaucrats. some of the proposed measures included new police stations, compulsory health checks for all Aboriginal children, quarantining half of all Aboriginal welfare payments and removal of their right to restrict public access to their land.

in keeping with a long standing aussie tradition, nobody asked the Aboriginal recipients of this "help" what they wanted or needed. nobody asked supporters of these communities or people who lived and worked there for their opinion. nobody even bothered to ask what was already working.

Few in the non-indigenous community were concerned that some of the measures required the suspension of the anti discrimination act or that this sort of disenfranchisement is at the root of many of the problems in the first place or that Aborigines were being presumed guilty before being proven innocent and that this was being targeted at at people based on their ethnicity alone.

the then opposition (now government) agreed to the measures - after all, who wants to be seen as protecting paedophiles but they did promise to conduct a review of the program after 1 year if they were elected. the year has passed and the review has now been published. it is short and easy enough to read but following are some bits that stand out:

While considerable quantitative and qualitative data is available in the key areas of health, housing, education, policing and employment in remote Territory communities, it was clear that little or no baseline data existed to specifically evaluate the impacts of the NTER

The Board also found that at the time of the Review a number of measures, such as education initiatives, safe houses, policing, night patrols and child services, were yet to be implemented in many communities.

The improvements that are sought—in personal security and wellbeing, health, housing, education and productivity—will only be achieved through consistent engagement and partnership between community and government.

Objectively the circumstances in remote Aboriginal communities are in such a state of accumulated need it will take years to lift their housing, infrastructure and services to a level comparable to those of other Australians. And nothing much will be achieved, even over years, unless the effort is intense as well as sustained.

it recomends that...
The Australian and Northern Territory Governments Governments recognise as a matter of urgent national significance the continuing need to address the unacceptably high level of disadvantage and social dislocation being experienced by Aboriginal Australians living in remote communities throughout the Northern Territory.

In addressing these needs both governments acknowledge the requirement to reset their relationship with Aboriginal people based on genuine consultation, engagement and partnership.

Government actions affecting the aboriginal communities respect Australia's human rights obligations and conform with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The current blanket application of compulsory income management in the Northern Territory cease.

The overall number of police in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities be significantly increased and put on a more secure footing

The permit system under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 be reinstated to control general public access to the townships on Aboriginal land and that the provisions be effectively policed. This requirement be embedded as one element of a community safety plan.

The results of the intervention so far are mixed. there is some anecdotal evidence of improvement in some communities but there is also evidence of extra hardship being caused by some of the measures. the review recommends that Aboriginal communities are worked with (not on) and that they are given the services and resources already available to the wider community. it recommends removing those measures that only serve to take away Aboriginal control over their own lives and that relevant data be collected for proper assessment. this sounds very much like the many recommendations already made, to remove unfair racist measures and to give people the resources and help they need to fix their own lives.

so.. is the government going to act? like heck it is. in another great aussie tradition, the government has announced that the intervention will go on for another year as is before being reviewed (still without the needed data). we have assuaged our collective conscience and the suffering of Aboriginal children and their families has long since moved out of the media spotlight.

another opportunity missed anustralia. what a bloody mess.