June 26, 2007

a national emergency

rg believes the true national emergency is this policy put forth by john howard and the sanctimonious attitude he's currently spewing forth.

rg has many views on howard's platform to save aborigines and their children from themselves, and has become virtually bogged down with a weight of words struggling to make their way from brain to fingers and onto the keyboard. wading through the quagmire of reports, interviews and opinions by the commentariat, mental paralysis has nearly ensnared this blogger, such is the destructive depth of howard's vision and action. it has taken some time, but let's kick off what will no doubt be a significant stream of blogs with a succinct outline on rg's position:

this emergency response disempowers the already disempowered. abuse and addiction stem from anger, resentment and pain that needs to be acknowledged; the abscess needs lanced for healing to start. recognition of indigenous trauma is fundamental. consultation is a sign of respect; this was abandoned on a national, state/territory and community level. howard's policy is paternalistic, bigoted and lacking short- and long-term logistical vision.

howard is a hypocrite. this policy is a big, ugly race card drawn from the bottom of howard's election deck. it is a bid to look powerful by exerting power, not only over this nation's indigenous people but over states, territories and voters. howard is trying to appear human and caring; his obnoxious history belies this facade.

the federal alp are dangerously close to wedging themselves with their quick-flowing support for fatally flawed policy. to question this attack does not equal racism; to go blindly and cheer while people are acted upon without their consultation or input is. the idea of children living in such abject poverty and being abused on such a level is devastating, stomach-churning and something no-one with a pulse would wish for - but regrettably this is old news that has not been addressed by howard and his government for 10 years, despite copious commissioned and independent reports and pleadings from indigenous leaders and individual communities. this 'national emergency' has been festering and growing continuously, aggravated by the abandonment of federal attention, aid, funding and education.

when your nation's pm starts making comments such as, 'i'll be slammed for taking people's rights away, but frankly i don't care about that', alarm bells should start sounding. LOUDLY.

rg is suddenly very, very alert, and terribly, terribly alarmed. what about you?


Legal Eagle said...

Okay, I'm gonna be controversial here.

I share your concerns about paternalism. I strongly feel that paternalism is not the answer to indigenous problems. However, I also feel that things can't go on like they have been for the last 30 years.

Welfare payments have been poured into indigenous communities for the last 30 years in an effort to alleviate poverty, but if anything, paradoxically, conditions have gotten worse. Perhaps the money isn't getting down to the grass-roots - but surely we should be seeing some sort of improvement by now?

From my understanding, there are problems with child sexual abuse, substance abuse, alcohol abuse and the like to a far greater degree in some indigenous communities than there are in the broader community. Is it racist to say this? I don't think so. It is a statistically documented fact. I'm glad that at least something practical is being done. Something needs to change.

I tutored indigenous students for a few years. My philosophy was to try to teach my students how to study, so that they wouldn't need my services when they enrolled in the next subject. I hope I succeeded. I think this should also be the focus of governments: teaching people to stand on their own two feet, and take control. That's real self-determination.

I'm not a fan of the Howard government, and I'm worried about this particular plan. I'm really not sure that sending in a SWAT team is the answer, but maybe some reasonable limitations on grog use and the like are okay.

However, I think that indigenous communities do need drastic action at least in the short term to break the cycle (such as banning alcohol and making support payments dependent upon children attending school). I think if the grog and petrol problems are cleared up, a lot of the attendant social problems will be alleviated. Child neglect and abuse is far more likely to happen when parents are "out of it", and don't notice what is going on with their kids.

It is vital for the government to back up action with support - proper policing, proper health care, proper education and the like. Without support and proper care, you can't help people stand on their own feet. The problem will just continue.

RG - parental politico said...


you are absolutely right: things cannot go on like they have for the last 30 years.

true it is that welfare payments have been made in a bid to alleviate crushing poverty - but throwing money at people and expecting them to 'make good' with it is wishful thinking if there is not infrastructure provided to assist with physical, educational and psychological advancement.

it is not racist to say indigenous australians have a staggeringly higher percentage of child sexual abuse and substance abuse, or a chronically inferior access to education. but it is misguided to assume people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and 'fix' these problems without (a) addressing the cause (such as culture, psychological trauma and oppression) or (b) providing the tangible means and guidance to do so, not just a dole check.

i agree governments should be encouraging people to, as you say, stand on their own two feet and take control. but when governments (past and present) alienate, disenfranchise and effectively abandon an entire group of people, then offer cash and a 'go clean yourself up' message, how is that teaching people to stand on their own feet? it's a shaming tactic that enables the 'provider' to adopt a 'well, we've done what we can, you're a lost cause' attitude. no responsibility can be taken by either party.

your students no doubt benefitted from your keen mind and practical approach to education - but it must be remembered that very few indigenous people actually make it through high school, let alone uni, so perhaps it would be safe to assume that someone somewhere along the line had taken time, such as you did, to provide a 'blue-print' for (educational) self-determination. it's impossible to stand on your own if the foundations upon which you stand are moving sands.

indigenous communities evidently need serious help, but this is nothing new. no educational facilities, minimal health assistance, practically zero infant health care - what possible result could there be? and without consultation of community leaders who are in the unique position of knowing more than anyone from canberra what needs done, that result isn't going to change. even now howard's plan is high on action and negligent on consultation.

i think if the grog and petrol problems are cleared up, a lot of the attendant social problems will be alleviated - this is the ultimate cycle of poverty and addiction; the social problems cause the addiction, which fuel the social problems, which breeds the addiction...yet no-one seems to be looking at root causes here.

intervention of the kind proposed by howard is careless and self-aggrandising. a more studious approach, an establishment of facilities based on community advice would have been more appropriete. i liken this response to an intervention with a drug user forced into rehab; it's never going to work until that person is asked what they want. the wall to rebel against needs to be removed; howard and his swat team are that wall.

Legal Eagle said...

I definitely agree that any successful plan has to be undertaken with full consultation of indigenous leaders.

I think the poverty and hopelessness in indigenous communities is complicated.

In part, it is caused by the fact that many indigenous people live in remote areas and it's hard to get services out there.

In part, it's caused by a feeling of alienation and resentment. Old ways have died out, partially because white settlers wiped them out, and people don't know what to replace them with.

It's caused by people being taken from their families, for a variety of reasons - some malicious, some well-meaning.

I think casting indigenous people in the role of eternal victim is non-productive. It suggests that it's all our fault and there's nothing indigenous people can do to help themselves. Of course the indigenous community is in a parlous state at present partially as a result of the actions of non-indigenous Australians in the past and presently. But it is also in a difficult state because people have made certain choices. In some families, I gather the dole money is instantly spent on grog and drugs, and then there's not enough food for the kids.

I refuse to take the blame and responsibility for some teenage guy killing a small boy by drowning him and raping him repeatedly. That is not my fault. It was entirely HIS choice to do that heinous deed. Yes, he might be poor and disadvantaged, but that doesn't mean he is excused from going out and raping and killing small boys. That is his responsibility.

And actions like that need to be stopped. The more children are damaged, the more they will grow up with a totally warped view of the world. If it takes the AFP to force people to realise that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable, perhaps that's what needs to be done.

All the indigenous students I taught were lovely people who had immense chances to contribute to society. Some of them had come from very difficult backgrounds, but they had overcome that. It wasn't easy for them by any means, and one of my students had ongoing mental health issues as a result of being abused both by her parents and her various foster parents.

I think it's really important to give people a sense that they have control over their own destiny, rather than fostering a culture of blaming everyone for their problems.

In saying this, I don't think the Howard government is going the right way about it.

Like you, I think that it's VITAL to consult the community whom you are trying to help, to ascertain what they feel is needed. Otherwise you're just a patronising paternalist, whether you're from the left or the right. Some kind of community consultation (such as Rudd was suggesting) would have given this action legitimacy in my eyes.

RG - parental politico said...


I think casting indigenous people in the role of eternal victim is non-productive. It suggests that it's all our fault and there's nothing indigenous people can do to help themselves. i think it's counterproductive to ponder terms like 'fault' or 'blame' in a situation like this; it's something you can't apportion.

indeed people are responsible for their life choices, but the choices actually available to a person determine the ones they can make. i am not suggesting you, or i, or anyone else is personally responsible for heinous acts committed by individuals, nor am i suggesting that 'white oppression' is a catch-all reason or justification for killing, raping or generally harming others.

what i am saying is that more thought needs to be put into they why and how of such community and personal decay. sometimes we need to be shown and educated as to what, and how, we are responsible for our actions - this applies to everyone.

I think it's really important to give people a sense that they have control over their own destiny, rather than fostering a culture of blaming everyone for their problems. i agree. but it must be (and is starting to be in the general media and commentariat) acknowledged that howard's plan succeeds in achieving the opposite of this.

how can any community feel they have a sense of control over their destiny when they weren't asked how they think it can best be shaped or healed? to me, this is the most failed part of howard's proposal. we learn to respect ourselves and others when we are respected; it flows.

rg is not a howard-lover (although mal brough had me quite impressed on 730 report tuesday night), but had he taken one week, which is all that has passed since his announcement - although it seems much longer - and held a confab with indigenous representatives, the authors of the report, state and territory heads, the ama and a few other select bodies, i would agree with you, le, that it would have given this action legitimacy.

Legal Eagle said...

Really, I think we're in agreement rather than disagreement when you get down to tin-tacks.

Incidentally, I cited you in my post, I hope that there was some increased traffic flow on?

RG - parental politico said...

agreed, le.

rg read your post and was again impressed by the clarity of argument and considered points - anyone would think you're a legal eagle!

thanks for citing the mother load; rg is stat-less and has no idea of traffic. perhaps this ought be rectified pronto.