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The NT Intervention one year on: Brilliant idea or utter nightmare?

Canberra, Thursday, 21 June 2007 – just before Question Time the former Prime Minister, Mr Howard announces at a hastily convened press conference:

Well, ladies and gentleman, Mr Brough and I have called this news conference to announce a number of major measures to deal with what we could only describe as a national emergency in relation to the abuse of children in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

The NT Intervention, as it came to be called, was hotly debated in many fora, including Webdiary, on such threads as (in alphabetical order):

Are Aborigines Howards’s Tampa 2?

The dissident view on Howard's martial law plan

The dissidents' alternative plan for NT Aborigines

Law Council on NT Emergency Laws

Mick Dodson: the truth under intervention spin

The PM who saved the children?

Recommendations of the Sacred Children report

URGENT letter to Senators re NT indigenous laws

Now, as we approach the first anniversary of the Intervention, it is timely to look back and consider whether it was a brilliant idea or an utter nightmare.

All this week Crikey is running a series of articles on different aspects of the intervention. Sophie Black, Managing Director of Crikey, has kindly given Webdiary permission to republish those articles – with, of course, appropriate acknowledgement.

Thank you, Sophie, and here goes:

NT intervention leak: a year on, it's a shambles
by Sophie Black

Crikey has been leaked a weekly progress report on the Northern Territory Intervention almost a year to the day that then Prime Minister John Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough called a press conference to announce a "National Emergency" in response to the Little Children Are Sacred report.

The document leaked to Crikey, entitled 'Northern Territory Emergency Response Situation Report as at 1500 hrs Wed 14th May 08', paints a picture of an incomplete roll out of the Northern Territory Intervention, an emergency response that Mal Brough recently admitted to ABC Darwin radio was put together in 48 hours. ( listen here.)

According to the document, only 63% of children in remote communities have received health checks, and only roughly one third of indigenous adults in remote areas are under income management. And despite Howard's promise that all government funded computers would be audited for pornography, no computer audits have been carried out as yet.

The document details progress on areas such as Child Health Checks (CHC), Schools Nutrition Programmes, Financial Management, Work for the Dole, Pornography, Community Clean Up and Government Business Managers.

As Saturday's anniversary of the Intervention looms, a Northern Territory insider has told Crikey that with the exception of the Northern Territory police and the Commonwealth's Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Health Services (who are working to a two year fully funded program), every other group that come under the intervention umbrella "have been playing it by ear." Given that the Howard government only costed the intervention for one year, groups have been operating with no notion of a timeline for task completion or of when the funding will run out.

According to the document, dated mid May:

CHCs had been undertaken in 70 of 73 prescribed communities. (note: Crikey understands these health checks were already underway by Aboriginal Medical Services before the intervention and have been in place for a two years...)

93% of communities have had CHCs undertaken.

total coverage rate of children through Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and Medical Benefits Service (MBS) CHCs is 63%.

Income management (IM) is in place in 42 communities (of 73) and associated outstations in seven Town Camp regions as at 14 May

Pornography -- no computer audits have been undertaken so far, despite Howard's promise that all government funded computers would be checked.

Centrelink have received approximately 40 Ombudsman's complaints, mostly around a lack of understanding concerning the IM (income management) process.

5 SA POL will complete their deployments and will be replaced by AFP officers on 28 May.

But while the intervention roll out is lagging in almost every area of implementation, the Northern Territory's economy is looking remarkably robust, partly due to the population influx as a result of the Intervention.

Access Economics predict that the Northern Territory is set to boast the highest economic growth rates over the next five years of any other jurisdiction in the country.

According to an NT News report in April, the Territory's economy is surging ahead of the national rate with an expected 7 per cent growth next year:

The Access Economics March quarter business outlook said much of this growth would come from the Federal Government's spending on the intervention.

NT growth will dwarf the national rate of 3.9 per cent.

The documents leaked to Crikey indicate that as of mid-May there were 810 federal public servants in 72 Aboriginal communities as part of the Intervention, not counting 52 Government Business Managers.

Conservatively, this would come to an annual wages bill of around $90 million if the public servants were in their home towns, but each of these 810 public servants is also being paid accommodation and travel allowance and quarterly airfares to their home base. These figures also exclude contractors and consultants ranging from Community Employment Brokers, cadastral surveyors and builders.

As a result, the local hotel industry is experiencing record hotel occupancy rates, as whole floors of rooms have been taken up on long term hiring for federal public servants. Restaurant, hire car companies and bottle shops are also enjoying the run off.

Meanwhile, Crikey understands that the federal Finance department has been raising concerns about many aspects of the Intervention that they inherited from the Howard government.

An NT source told Crikey that Lindsay Tanner was raising questions within weeks of his accession to the Finance ministry over the fact that virtually none of the Intervention had been forward funded in the federal budget beyond 30 June this year.

When asked about the cost of the Intervention, then Prime Minister John Howard said:"it will be some tens of millions of dollars. It's not huge but there could be some costs in relation to the extra police."

The source told Crikey that the cost of income management alone is currently running at $3000 per person per annum — to manage average welfare payments of around $10,000 per recipient. The documents point out that there are around 10,500 people under income management.

Going by ABS figures, this suggest that approximately only 1/3 of indigenous adults in remote areas are under income management.

But as the NT economy flourishes from the side effects of the Intervention, Crikey understands the job prospects for Aboriginal people have — if anything — declined. According to the documents, over 1700 people have been “transitioned” off CDEP.

Only 667 have been able to be employed in Australian and Territory government funded jobs. The other 1000-odd people, and their dependents, have been moved on to welfare payments.


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Totally off-topic

Fiona, maybe I forgot to tack a ? on the end of my title, where one was grammatically appropriate. I must admit to having drunk a couple of bottles of very moreish porter at the time. 6.4%, and overly hoppy. Hops contain a gently mind-altering drug, which sets beer apart from other alcoholic beverages.

Where I keep my spare Qs is a secret. Even when sober, I can't quite get rid of my paranoid suspicion that someone out there covets them.

NTER health checks

Kathy Farrelly: “Many children have had medical checks, and received treatment as a result. … It may be a small step, but it is a step in the right direction. Most definitely there is still a long way to go. The task at hand is a huge one.”

We should perhaps remember that Mr Howard’s original promise was the compulsory medical examination of all indigenous children in the Territory under the age of 16, with the aim of detecting evidence of sexual assault. No mention of parental consent (why should that sound familiar?). And, oddly enough, the then Government had to backpedal on that one really really quickly because the doctors didn’t like the idea of being had up on assault charges themselves …

But that is ancient history, of course. And I agree with you, the task is a huge one. So the first question is, are these now voluntary standard health checks working? Consider these figures from Chris Graham, Chris Munro and Amy McQuire of the National Indigenous Times:

To date, around 11,000 Aboriginal children have been checked. The Rudd government claims to have reached around 64 percent of children in prescribed communities (it claims a total population under the age of 16 at around 17,000 children).

In reality, the number of children in the areas is closer to 21,000, which means the government has more likely reached just over 50 percent.

As reported late last month by The Courier Mail, following the completion of 7,433 children, just 39 were found to be at risk of serious neglect or abuse.

The second question, are these health checks working? People far better qualified to comment than I (namely, medical practitioners who have worked in the Northern Territory for a respectable length of time) have raised concerns about the effectiveness of such health checks, especially when done on a “fly in fly out” basis, and the waste of scarce resources involved in giving such checks when those resources could be more effectively used.

Dr Glynis Johns, a GP working in remote indigenous communities for the past five years, gives one example:

Best practice requires doctors who are committed to staying in the one place for a while -- six months at least in one stint I’d say. We’ve had the NT intervention child health checks come and go, generally staying for three weeks at a time. One week for orientation, one week seeing kids and one week debriefing as far as I can see. Looks a bit like a holiday. Some of these child health checks have been proper and appropriate, no doubt. But, I’ve seen many which have wasted our tax money.

One 12 year old was referred to me by the intervention doctor for contraception. Good, I thought. A realist here. Twelve year olds do have consensual sex and there’s nothing stopping them. But, wait a minute, the child’s urine looked like smokey dark tea, full of protein and blood. Moreover, she had a urinary tract infection. A quick glance at previous pathology over the years revealed a child with urine probably indicating chronic glomerulonephritis, a serious condition which could easily lead within years to renal failure and dialysis.

Nothing was mentioned in the 15 pages of NT Intervention Health Check as to the past history of renal problems. This child was, once again, going to slip through the system. All it needed was for someone to look at the child holistically and see the alarm bells which have been ringing for years. Surely, that was what the Intervention team was being paid for.

Other children have been sent to major hospitals at vast expense as "urgent" cases to see paediaticians for investigation of heart murmurs which had not previously been documented. As these same paediatricians visit the community every six weeks or so, money and disruption to lives could have been minimised if they had merely referred the children to the visiting community paediatrician.

Two pediatricians, Drs Rob Roseby and Andrew White, emphasise the need for continuity of primary care, rather than one-off checks:

It is possible that health care has been delivered to some children for ear, skin and other common problems, which may not have been delivered otherwise. But far more children could have benefited if the funds had been more wisely spent.

The big problem is focusing on health checks without resourcing and developing the primary care programs needed to manage the health problems that were already well documented. Our experience is that when quality services are provided in communities, uptake from Aboriginal children and their families is actually high. Most of the health issues looked for in the checks need comprehensive continuous programs from primary health care, not once-off (or even annual) checks.

The quality of the child health checks has been enormously variable – just as you’d expect when bringing in workers who were often unfamiliar with Aboriginal culture, did not have time to establish effective therapeutic relationships and were often inexperienced in dealing with the clinical and social problems they encountered. There has been great variation in how conditions were managed and referred, and although evidence-based standard treatment protocols are in place these were not always followed.

The fact that results of child checks showed many children with ear and dental problems is not a surprise; this was already known, and reported many times and in many places.

To improve ear health, governments should support existing health services to provide comprehensive, continuous and high quality primary care programs focused on prevention of chronic ear disease and hearing impairment in young children. To only focus on surgical interventions in older children is misguided and, although this may make some difference for some children, it will in most cases be too late as the critical years for learning language have passed. And what was needed for dental health was dental services - not checks.

(The comments by paediatricians Dr Garth Alperstein and Dr Andrew White on Croakey Health Forum One year on: What have we learned from the NT intervention? are also worth reading.)

Another major criticism by “local” doctors is that the Intervention is not working in conjunction with existing health services, which has had detrimental effects on the morale of health professionals who have undertaken to work long term in the communities. The marked disparity of pay between “locals” and Intervention health professionals probably wouldn't be helping, either.

Ears, nose, eyes and throats - easy

The easy checks. Keep it above the belt. But surely the health checks were to assist in the detection of sexual abuse and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases as well as other ailments.

So if the adults do not agree to the child who is suspected of being abused being examined, and the child is too scared, do we assume that much of the abuse is going to go undetected along with the diseases it can cause? Seems so. 

Elevated white cell counts will tell the Dr something, maybe an infected ear or tooth but if he is too scared to insist that he examine beyond the tooth or ear, then clearly the health checks have cetain limitations.

Can see the dilemmas health professionals face. Not sure what one can do to get around them.


I wasn't trying to be unfair to Kathy. I was responding to her call for us all to get back to the subject, wasn't I? At least that's what I thought I was doing.

PS: what did you do with my question mark? You're not collecting those things, are you, by any chance? I only ask in case you might want a couple more.

Fiona: Your reminder of the importance of keeping on topic was greatly appreciated, Bill. On your other point, I don't remember doing anything with your question mark. Just out of curiosity, where do you keep your spares?

Past, present, and (what) future

Kathy Farrelly: "The NT Intervention one year on: Brilliant idea or utter nightmare?"

Neither. A stop-gap measure.

"It may be a small step, but it is a step in the right direction."

I don't know about that. While some good has come of it — some kids' ears are better, some are eating better, and other benefits have come to some individuals — it looks like a step sideways to me. It diverts attention from the underlying problem. The underlying problem continues to be ignored.

When white people first arrived on this land mass they found an indigenous population much healthier than they were themselves. And much happier, I would suggest. They certainly had superior eyesight, superior hearing, a higher level of physical fitness than their invaders. And better motor skills. Not to mention teeth. Some of the invaders expressed astonishment at the native people's longevity. Some of them were almost ancient, by European standards of the time, and still active. Now their descendants' lack of longevity is a national disgrace. How did this come about, and who is responsible?

The intervention gained support on an emotional basis, rooted in the notion that widespread sexual abuse of children was rife in Aboriginal communities. "We know that this is going on," was the oft repeated theme. Which raised the question, often asked: If you know it is going on, why don't you arrest the perpetrators and put them on trial? That question was continually evaded. It seemed the accusers who knew it was going on could not identify the victims, nor the perpetrators. They needed an Intervention to get to the bottom of things. Now, one year on, how many pedophiles have been prosecuted? From what I can gather, the number is zero. My bullshit detector is jumping about all over the place.

The waters here seem to be muddied by confusion between three things. One thing is the plight of urban Aboriginal people; another is that of ones living on the fringes of rural redneck centres; and the other is that of those relegated to things called "outstations". While it may be realistic for the first two categories to aspire via whitefella style education to follow role models such as Cathy Freeman or Noel Pearson, each of whom have embraced the invaders' view of the world, it is harder for people whose nature is still determined by their own culture. It is this third category of people which is targeted by the Intervention. They can become just like us, Justin? Or like Malcolm B Duncan? What makes you think they want to?

A more appropriate role model for them might be George Rrurrambu. As well as learning to operate in the whitefella world (his parents forced him to go to school), he held onto his own culture and language, and went on to learn those of the inland peoples. I am assuming that George's name may be spoken again now. According to another man from Elcho Island: "When someone dies, and I have the same name as him, I have to change my name for one year, or two; then I can have my name back."

The mindset of those whose land we exploit is different from ours. Differences: try to find words in any language indigenous to this country equivalent to our words work, and war and envy. I have searched, and found none. Interestingly, the concept selfishness is there to be found in many stories. The selfish one always gets his comeuppance; and, puzzlingly, often takes on an almost revered status henceforth.

Explorer William Dampier made some interesting observations. He tried, without great success, to put some Aboriginal men to work, carrying barrels of water. He enticed them to work with gifts of clothes, which they put on, laughing all the while at the novelty of it all. When the strange thing called work was over, they took the clothes off and politely handed them back. They were not interested in reward for their efforts. A bemused Dampier: "These people appear to show no admiration at all for any of the things that we have."

They had a word for progress. It meant how far they were on the way to some specific destination. Our meaning for the word must confuse them as much as it does me. We mindlessly embrace progress towards — what? From the way things look today, annihilation of the species, it would seem.

Fiona: In fairness to Kathy, Bill, she was quoting my thread title. The underlying irony of its dichotomization is, I am sure, apparent to you.

Even I am ignorant

Certainly the "one size fits etc" is bound to cause problems itself as again that creates the perception that every indigenous community has all the problems mentioned and that, indeed, every community shares the same values. Going from one side of Australia to the other and from the south up to the far north there are amazing variations in local traditions.

Having been ignorant myself at a young age of the fact we even had an indigenous population, being taught old fashioned history that basically precluded any mention that Aboriginals still survived in large groups in the country, it was only until my early 20's I began to have some sort of realization there were actually large numbers.

A death about 5 years ago brought home yet another aspect when one of my son's friends died of a drug overdose on the Northern beaches. His Aboriginal boyfriend, unable to cope with tragedy, hanged himself a few weeks later. He was from beyond the Cairns area and his family wanted his body returned to be buried there. I hosted a few family members when they flew down to collect him and listened fascinated for a few nights as we talked into the small hours.

Learning that his tribe was a matriarchal society was a revelation and that this was quite common amongst many tribes, with woman being the power brokers. Not only accepted by the men but also explained this lad's constant talk of all his "aunties" up north – the women of his community that one went to for advice etc. Again it reinforced how completely ignorant I was and most probably the majority of white Australians .

I did pick up several running strands of thought though that again reinforces that we could well learn more from them-than perhaps they from us. The idea that no-one owns the land and it's there for everyone to benefit from and the idea that you leave it in good shape for those who come after you. That they have a spiritual belief that seems to transcend across all communities who could never have physically met-those in Tasmania believed basically the same as in the most northern parts of WA.

I hope the Rudd government does handle this correctly . One thing I also picked up – that is not too dissimilar to Chinese beliefs. That most communities, including us, will come and go to dust after a certain time. Like the Chinese they seem to see life in terms of millenniums of light years. In the end we aren't that important unless we and our real goal are to treat each other fairly while we occupy our spot on Earth for our allotted time.

Gee? Imagine that? Aboriginal women speaking for themselves...

Marilyn Shepherd: "Eliot, all this tedious posting of links and the words of a few good women who agree with parts of a program is over the top

Well, the thing is, Marilyn, these are Aboriginal women who disagree with you on crucial points. Maybe we should listen to them?

Here's another one... 

Helen Kantawarra is president of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and a community leader at Hermannsburg. One of the biggest changes brought about by the intervention was the quarantining of welfare payments so that money can't be spent on alcohol and tobacco....

SARA EVERINGHAM: So you don't agree with this one size fits all approach?

HELEN KANTAWARRA: No, no not at all because I think it should be voluntary. There's a lot of responsible people out there who has been ... managed their money without all this anyway.

SARA EVERINGHAM: What about people who aren't managing their money and who have children and either their children aren't getting enough to eat? Do you think that it should be voluntary for them?

HELEN KANTAWARRA: Well, if they're a problem in the families, it should be case by case.

SARA EVERINGHAM: You were recently living in one of the town camps in Alice Springs, did you see there that there were any benefits with income management?

HELEN KANTAWARRA: Yeah absolutely. We all have family members who have alcohol problems and I've seen the difference in my own immediate family where ... with this income management now that they're only spending half of their money on alcohol and gambling and the other half they've actually got food on the table because it's being managed by Centrelink.

And for families like that I think it is a good thing, it is a good thing because it takes the pressure off the other family members who do buy food and stuff and then the ones who don't, then they put pressure on the families who do and then it becomes this big cycle.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Would you like to see income management continued for some people?

HELEN KANTAWARRA: Well like I said, I think it should continue for dysfunctional families, but I don't think it should be right across the board.

Fiona: I've been visiting a remote NT community for the past couple of weeks, Eliot. The criticism of the "one size fits all" approach - which has been one of the criticisms made of the Intervention by both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians since its inception - is one I have heard regularly from women here. In general, they support it for those families who need it.

By the way, a lot of the anti-alcohol measures that were well in place a long time before the Intervention was born or thought of, were at the initiative of the women ... but hey, prior consultation with the communities isn't really necessary, it is?

Giddy-up, stalking horse!

Fiona Reynolds: "... hey, prior consultation isn’t really necessary, is it"?

Silly girl, how can it be disempowerment, if something as blasphemous as prior consultation is a factor. Might spook the horses!

And of course if you can get away with that sort of arbitrary imposition of viewpoint in a precedental situation you can later extend it to others. We learn welfare beneficiaries in the wider community are also to have further road blocks placed in their way, on their way to disempowerment too, a la neo liberal, of the same type as the NT communities.

But then the NT was always about so much more than an innocent attempt to intervene on behalf of aborigines in isolated outback communities. And if some of those communities were in trouble, how much of that was due to eleven and half years of arrogant, studied neglect by Howard in the first place.

Not that that forgives Labor exploiting yet another dud coalition policy that is convenient and expedient for their own short term purposes.

Put up or shut up!

Paul: "Not that that forgives Labor exploiting yet another dud coalition policy that is convenient and expedient for their own short term purposes."

And your solution to the problem in the NT would be?

Any takers?

What the government is doing is certainly not going to solve the problem in the long term, I agree. But they are making an effort. Already many children have had health checks. And as John pointed out, the murder rate is at an historical low.

Sure beats sitting around on your collective fat arses drinking copious cups of coffee, bitching and achieving naught.

It ain't perfect, but unless you learned people can come up with a viable solution, I suggest you give the government a bloody chance to try and make a difference.

Put up or shut up!

Fiona: Errr, Kathy, I seem to remember a few occasions when you have been "bitching" about the current government's not having made a difference in a number of areas.... :) Actually, I agree with you here: this situation is not and has never been one for a quick fix (like quite a few others that need attention, but probably close to the worst and close to needing the most time and effort).

last waltz

Off to bed 'till I espied a nauseating story by Sarah Smiles and Russell Skelton in Fairfax online "WA Today",( NOT Age or SMH??) 20/6, entitled:

"Truckies target underaged girls for sex" (sorry, no links),

which I felt you might like me to share with you.

This charming narrative raises the old issue of white guys targeting Aboriginal children for sex and the at times unpleasant results.

But wasn't the NT Intervention claimed to about abuse by Aboriginal males of Aboriginal young people?

If not, why was Brough's first move to get rid of the permit system, to give whites greater access to black communities?

C'mon Kathy; put up or shut up!

White truckies and black girls

Paul and Kathy: The story about the truckies and black girls is here.

Surely Paul, you are not going to argue that Mal Brough had the entry restrictions on black communities eased to facilitate the access of randy white males to teenage prostitutes in the black communities?

As far as I can see, black objections to the Howard response to the Little Children are Precious report (the NT 'intervention') are coming from a section of the black male population of the NT, while the black support for it has come pretty well exclusively from women. I know of no survey or poll on that matter, but that is the impression I have had from the TV coverage, where the only black people prepared to support the intervention on camera have been women. To my way of thinking, that shows great courage on their part. The peer pressure against them supporting any initiative coming from the white side of the Australian divide must be enormous.

Ultimately, the intervention is about enforcing existing law in the NT relating to assault and protection of children. Enforcing it across the black-white divide has always been difficult, and for many reasons.

Of course, there are those who would argue that the solution is for the government to stay right out of black communities, but to keep increasing their funding until the problem disappears.

That could be a long time. There is clearly a cycle there that has to be broken, and to my way of thinking, increasing the personal feelings of self-worth of the victims and the most vulnerable, while reducing the power of the predators is pretty basic to the process.

I'll say it again, put up or shut up!

Forget about Brough. This isn't about him. (Off on a tangent Paul?) As with Howard he is a thing of the past. Let's look to the future, eh Paul?

If you think that this not a fair dinkum attempt to help the Aboriginal people, what, then, are your thoughts as to what the government should be doing to improve the lives of our indigenous people?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there have been some positive outcomes from the NT intervention. Many children have had medical checks, and received treatment as a result. Surely this can only be a good thing Paul. It may be a small step, but it is a step in the right direction. Most definitely there is still a long way to go. The task at hand is a huge one.

Rather than try and divert the debate here Paul, (Toorak, truckies etc) let's focus on what this thread is about.

The NT Intervention one year on: Brilliant idea or utter nightmare?

"a viable solution..."

To what, Kathy? Child molestation (adolescent sexuality in at least some cases passed of as pedophilia?).

Why not right across the whole Australian community, rather than one isolated, in effect scapegoated, group?

Why have not the sex police run around Mosman or Toorak checking out the girls and boys there for signs of abuse? Just to show the Aboriginals that the policy of Intrusion is not racially based...

Or solutions to Aboriginal poverty and the cumulative results of two hundred years of white settlement, including exploitation, theft, brutality, white rape, and near genocide.

Why are the people who wrote up the "Little Children are Precious" report not that happy with the result as to government activity triggered by their report?

What happened to prior, or any, consultation with the subjects of the Intervention itself?

Always micro manage, disempower and control freak people before you allow them participation and empowerment in their own lives, like.

Fiona / Kathy

Besides which, I seldom drink coffee...

Actually you miss the point, Kathy. As in completely. I don’t reject the NT intervention for being inadequate.

I reject that it was ever a dinkum attempt to help indigenes even in the slightest, and any benefit that comes out this charade is purely as a result incidental to its prime purpose of keeping up just that charade.

And I explained why in previous posts. Starting with "H" for hypocrisy

Give Rudd a chance.

Fiona: "Errr, Kathy, I seem to remember a few occasions when you have been "bitching" about the current government's not having made a difference in a number of areas...."

You are quite correct (as usual), Fiona.

However, I also said that I was willing to adopt a wait and see attitude and give them a chance. I  suppose I HAVE softened my stance a little.(I'm a glass half full kinda girl). I am not so certain that Rudd is the answer, and Julia Gillard leaves me cold. Be that as it may, we have been in the wilderness for eleven years, and I am trying to keep an open mind here.

I am hopeful that Rudd is genuinely trying to make a difference, and will!

In any event, no one has come up with a viable alternative.

Fancy a martini me old mate?

Fiona: Now there's a novel idea, Kathy...

Just like us

"For what puprose do I need the sort of education that you think I have to have?"

Thanks Jenny for asking the question and the rest of your post.

The honest answer to that question may be: so that you can be just like us; so you can go out into our world and survive, maybe even become a Cathy Freeman or Lionel Rose, oops don't need much educashun for sport so let's say Noel Pearson. Yep you can become just like us, or even Malcolm B Duncan. 

But as Jenny says they don't necessarily want to be just like us, and why should they?

The sad thing is we have never been able to do the right thing by these people because our decision making has always been compromised by our burning desire to steal from them.

We have done a pretty good job. Why would aboriginal people want to be just like us?

I've never asked an aboriginal person what  they wanted from life, have you?

By all means teach the children and give them the opportunity to be just like us, if they wish, but also let's allow them to explore both cultures to their hearts' desire. And if it costs a few bob, so what.

Eliot I can hear all by myself

Eliot, all this tedious posting of links and the words of a few good women who agree with parts of a program is over the top.

Bruce Trevorrow died today. That is a tragedy and I refuse to add links because all of you can google his name and find out why it is a tragedy.

Thus is the beauty of the net.

Richard: I hadn't heard that news yet.  It's a sad day indeed.

Billion dollars blown?

I only have a little time but this might help.

Band-aid solutions are just band-aid solutions

Michael de Angelos: "…white Australia hasn't got a damned clue about the original inhabitants of this land and are still intent on imposing our (highly dubious) values upon them…"

Thank heavens. At last we have someone who is prepared to get to the heart of the matter. It is a pity none of the Little Children Are Sacred report's authors were able to do so. People indigenous to this land mass are in many ways not like us. They don't share our fundamental mindset. And — fasten your seat-belts — most of them don't want to.

To be found among the many motherhood statements in the report is:

The combined effects of poor health, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, gambling, pornography, poor education and housing, and general loss of identity and control (they love that word "control") have contributed to violence and to sexual abuse in many forms.

So Aboriginal communities are in many ways dysfunctional. But we already knew that. And where in the report is any reference to what brought about this dysfunctionality? Nowhere to be found. Our remedy is to ignore the cause and keep the lid on things by imposing more control. It appears to be working, insofar as murder rates are down, at least for the time being, in Alice Springs. But the fundamental problem is ignored.

Imagine our world invaded by aliens from another. They know nothing of our world. We would be happy to tell them about it, and how to live in it; but they are not interested in hearing from us. Gradually we begin to realise that they actually think they own it. All they want us to do is keep out of their way while they exploit it in pursuit of some kind of wealth we don't even recognise. When they think about us at all, they try to assimilate us into their way or life by imposing their way of thinking on us. Our way of life is over; and our way of thinking about things ignored. The invaders generously let us live on parts of our land they don't want, and throw us crumbs from the wealth they extract from our world.

Is it any wonder that many of us go nuts, and become dysfunctional?

No need for seat belts here

As I have written many times on Webdiary, the assumption that the indigenous people aspire to that which we all aspire to, be it our values, our culture, our style of living, a permanent job, or anything else is ridiculous, and anyone with any intelligence, or who has lived in a predominantly mixed white/indigenous community as we do, knew that long ago.  And that is amongst semi urban indigenous groups. In the remote communities the assumptions are even less valid or relevant. It is no wonder so many programs over so many decades have failed in their stated objectives.

As for saying Sorry making any difference, an apology may have been important for those taken from their families, but there is little evidence that I can see that those who live in our town really care one way or another. They clerarly just want to be left alone and make no effort whatsoever to mingle with the white community, and why would they? As I noted before, a form of voluntary apartheid exists in may western towns. That is not because of racism. It is because what is important to the white population is clearly not important to the indigenous, and vice versa. We are to put it simply, different peoples with vastly different aspirations, and not just aspirations. The twain if it does meet, does not do so very often.

So we can impose health checks, we can order the kids to go to school, we can clean up the garbage littering the streets, we can build more homes, but the core issue that underpins the divide will remain. I do not believe anything can ever change that.

Clearly we cannot, however, just throw up our arms and say there is nothing that can be done for indigenous people. That is not an option. But the Government had better be prepared to be there for the long haul and be clear about just exactly what it expects to achieve. If it sets its objectives other than in terms of what the indigenous people want and aspire to, then it will fail. 

I think if I was an indigenous child and being told to go to school to get an education, I would be asking: For what puprose do I need the sort of education that you think I have to have?

I would love to hear how the white teachers would answer a question like that.

Right wing aboriginal women sledging indigenous kids

Marilyn Shepherd: "Eliot, why is it that everytime some right winger like Sue Gordon has an opinion you like you hang on their every word as if they are the only ones with a voice?"

Well, you're a typical far-Left winger, and we pay you the respect of listening to your opinions, don't we?

Anyway, here's another of those right wing Aboriginal mothers banging on about the Intervention:

"Hermannsburg and the surrounding outstations are home to about 700 Western Arrernte people and Mavis Malbunka is one parent who made sure all the children from her outstation got the health checks.

MAVIS MALBUNKA: Yes, I did encourage our children. We brought the children from our outstation to have their check up through health check teams and also, some of them in my group have found they had a bit of problem with ears and also with the heart.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And have those problems been fixed, have they had more treatment?

MAVIS MALBUNKA: The little one had a heart problem, but that was fixed and my older one that had problem with the ears, that was fixed, and she was sent into Alice Springs for check up.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Were you worried at all? There was a lot of discussion, a lot of concern in the early stages in the intervention, that the health checks would be compulsory and invasive. Did you have any concerns?

MAVIS MALBUNKA: Well, I was a bit worried but I thought it's going to be a good thing for our kids to be checked up."


Typical fascist racist attacking Aboriginal kids!

Oh, look out! Here comes another one!..

TONY EASTLEY: We've heard that only 64 per cent of children have been checked so far. What about the others? What happens to them?

SUE GORDON: Well, I think what's is, you're probably referring to somebody who got hold of a weekly report which said that was the per cent of kids that had been reached at that stage, and that was going back in May, from what I've heard. I haven't seen the evidence of who's said that.

But that's not really a measure of where we're at. You can't say, "Oh, we're going to have all the kids checked". We had hoped we would have got all of the kids that we could but with the floating population of Aboriginal people, also the fear mongering that went on in the early days, you were never going to get all the kids checked.

The best part, though, is that the health checks haven't stopped, they're ongoing."

Well, she would say that! It's about the oil!!

Agreed - a rort

Indigenous Australians need something , but Howard's final and completely shameful wedge that must have shown even the dimmest witted what a scumbag the creature is should have been put on temporary hold until a giant rethink took place.

It was clear from watching the ABC program the other night about Aboriginal kids and the way that some turn up for school every day, some walk in when they feel like it, and some simply go walkabout, that white Australia hasn't got a damned clue about the original inhabitants of this land and are still intent on imposing our (highly dubious) values upon them which include the moralising about "pornography" etc.

That was despite some well-meaning people trying to instil some sort of guilt in kids who wag school when those kids should feel no guilt and probably don’t have a clue what these people are even talking about. It just isn't part of their agenda – this fixed idea that things happen in a strict order. That is our perception of how life is conducted, not theirs, and possibly we could learn a whole lot more from them than visa versa. In many things they are light years ahead of us.

Mal Brough's invasion complete with troops and police was destined to even further marginalise these people while a few outspoken token Howard favourites like Noel Pearson (who must now be aware of the fickleness of the dogs you lie down with as his News Ltd daily column dried up overnight after the election) acted like they could speak for all indigenous Australians.

The damage done by people like Pearson, who like Howard is another who insists that everyone must conform to their perceived standards, is immense. He merely confirmed every racist piece of garbage I've heard including from my pal who admires Pearson and still claims that "Aboriginals get two pensions ".

At least the break-down of the figures do show what has always been the case – that when governments announce that hundreds of millions are to be spent on indigenous Australians, the majority of it goes to pay public servant wages.

Toss in a Hanson for a few years (with the Coalition's blessing) and the lie is permanently fixed in too many minds – that Aboriginals get money thrown at them left right and centre and just spend it on booze and porn and whatever but it's "wasted" money.

Of course women and children have to be protected from harm – and one of this giant cock-ups most sordid aspect is how Howard used that as the excuse after years of being told the problem existed – purely for political advantage. But the problem is complex.

Witness the extraordinary jailing of the group of youths after intervention by prosecutors and re-trial over the rape of a child. Nearly all of them were children themselves at the time. We can be sure of one thing: they will emerge from jail as hardened adults and become ticking time-bombs.

Or the recent revelation (which should have been so obvious for so long) that most Aboriginals facing court have absolutely no idea what is actually going on or understand what us bloody whiteys even mean by certain terms. Thus by pleading "guilty" many thought this simply meant you could get the ordeal over with and go home.

So how many Aboriginals are in jail and are innocent of any crime?

Help is needed badly but I bet what is currently being proposed won't work – not that I have any solution – but I can imagine those innkeepers would have been cursing the original owners of this country but are now cheering the problem has occurred as their cash registers fill up.

Gordon does not speak for all aboriginal women

Eliot, why is it that everytime some right winger like Sue Gordon has an opinion you like you hang on their every word as if they are the only ones with a voice?

Absolutely right John

John: "While it is perhaps still too early to judge the improvements the intervention has made to our aboriginal communities in the NT, one statistic that cannot be argued is that the murder rate is at an historical low. This probably means that the level of violence has been lowered. This has to be a good outcome for the women and children."

Absolutely John.

We should remember too, that Rudd has supported this intervention, (and rightly so in my opinion,) since Howard introduced it a year ago.

 In the Australian today. 

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | June 19, 2008

THE Rudd Government yesterday moved to reinforce its commitment to the Northern Territory indigenous intervention, handing down a 12-month report card that argues it has accelerated the rollout of key measures.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin told The Australian the Government was determined to strengthen rather than weaken the intervention in Aboriginal communities, releasing new figures to prove Labor's commitment.

Labor promised to review the intervention, launched in June last year by John Howard in aneffort to stamp out sexual abuse and violence against children, and improve living standards in communities, if it won government....

The missing link

I provided a link for that article from Patricia Karvelas, that somehow disappeared into the ether..


It also reports that an audit of all government-funded computers for traces of pornography had been completed at the start of the month and was now being analysed.

 Contrary to the Crikey article.

Now let's ask an Aboriginal woman...

Paul Walter says:

"A big fat rort. A sort of down under Iraq with Brough in the role of Cheney, and the public left to pick up the tab for a seriously weird, vicious election gimmick based on a despicable racial slur."

Okay. That's one view. Now let's ask an Aboriginal woman:

"Almost a year on, the Northern Territory intervention not only survived a change of government but also often rancorous debate about its fairness and its effectiveness.

Bearing the brunt of this has been Magistrate Sue Gordon, the head of the task force charged with overseeing the intervention.

And the firestorm of controversy surrounding the policy seems to have done nothing to dent her support for it."...

SUE GORDON: I'm glad this is a once in a lifetime, where major funding has gone into the NT to benefit Aboriginal people.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The former Federal Government introduced the legislation to combat high levels of drinking, drug use, sexual abuse and lawlessness in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

Sue Gordon says there was no choice but to take a comprehensive approach.

SUE GORDON: It's not simply a case of just appointing more child protection officers putting a few coppers here and there. It's about improving housing, ensuring kids attend school, banning alcohol to give people a respite, drugs, pornography, managing income for the vulnerable people.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Magistrate says the intervention is yielding results. On the issue of law and order, she says there are now 51 extra police in remote communities and women are reporting that they feel safer.

Magistrate Gordon also points to the success of issuing licenses for community stores, saying it's reduced the cost of many essential items. She also says the controversial practice of income management has made life better for many, especially women.

SUE GORDON: Income management means that part of Centrelink payment is managed by Centrelink to help pay for items necessary for the well being of the family, and the woman are now saying they’re very happy, they want to keep income management in place, because it gives them a breathing space.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: On the key issue of Indigenous health, Sue Gordon is also optimistic. She says medical teams have performed health checks on children at almost all of the communities.

These checks have been a lightning rod for criticism and Magistrate Gordon says the critics need to look how the dire the situation was before they were introduced.

SUE GORDON: I would actually argue that while there are many commentators saying that mandatory health checks are a breach of human rights, I haven't actually heard many commentators point out that for decades before the emergency response, the human rights of Aboriginal people in the 73 prescribed communities and town camps were being regularly breached.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Sue Gordon steps down as chairwoman of the task force later this month. In the twilight of her tenure, she says progress has been made but that the intervention should be allowed to continue so success can be long-term.

Alice Springs murder rate is at an historical low

"The murder rate at the moment has obviously for a number of decades been unacceptably high in Alice Springs," he said.

"There's no doubt about that and certainly the rate at the moment is probably the lowest it's been in the last 20 or 30 years I would suggest."

Superintendent Parnell says that over the past decade, there have been between six to 13 murders a year.

"This year we have only had one murder and certainly for the last quarter last year we had none so for the last three quarters, we have only had one murder and that is a historical low. There is no doubt about that," he said.

He says the drop is due to alcohol restrictions in the town but also the Commonwealth intervention in the Northern Territory.

While it is perhaps still too early to judge the improvements the intervention has made to our aboriginal communities in the NT, one statistic that cannot be argued is that the murder rate is at an historical low. This probably means that the level of violence has been lowered. This has to be a good outcome for the women and children.

Still no intrusive girl check ups in white Vaucluse.

A big fat rort. A sort of down under Iraq with Brough in the role of Cheney, and the public left to pick up the tab for a seriously weird, vicious election gimmick based on a despicable racial slur.

And apart from closing down the employment schemes and collaring these people’s welfare pittance off them, absolutely nothing promised has been actually done.

Almost as much shame on Rudd's lot for not repudiating it straight away.

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