Friday, June 20, 2008

Protests and demands for rights; what about responsibilities?

It's been a year today since the implementation of John Howard and Mal Brough's Aboriginal Intervention.

Aboriginal intervention, one year on:

But in the 73 "prescribed" Aboriginal communities, much less has changed.

Dysfunction and destitution still reign supreme. But, there are signs of improvement, if only incremental.

Health checks have been performed on 10,900 children. Fifty-one extra police officers are on the ground. More than 11,000 people in 48 communities are now having their welfare payments quarantined.

And, anecdotally, it seems the "rivers of grog" no longer run quite so fiercely.

Major General Dave Chalmers, operational commander of the taskforce overseeing the intervention, says the welfare measures in particular are tremendously uccessful.

"I would say that overwhelmingly people are very supportive of the protection from humbugging and the increase in food that income management has given them," he says.

Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott believes the intervention has done much good.

An interesting interview with some people from Hermannsburg will be available at the ABC AM site (Friday 20 June programme). This also includes a plea from Mal Brough to put in place the mechanism to keep the intervention in place and to provide follow-up for better health outcomes in communities.

Now I've seen posters on my campus calling for a National Day of Action against the intervention. I wonder at the motives of the people stirring up this "action".

National Day of Action.
Aboriginal people are suffering stark discrimination as they are forced to stand in segregated queues in Centrelink, in supermarkets and in schools. The practice of traditional culture is becoming impossible for many, unable to travel due to welfare restrictions. As Lyle Cooper, Vice President Bagot Community has said, “I thank you Prime Minister Rudd for your apology…(but) it’s an invasion all over again. We are being told where to shop, what to eat, how to act and how to live”.

I have some points I'd like to make:

1. Segregated queues at Centrelink? Well, it's probably a culture thing. Or it's because the segregated ones need special treatment, by a specially trained Centrelink officer... yeah, it's a cultural thing. Segregated queues at the supermarket? Well, that'd be so that the vouchers can be used. What's the problem?

2. Rights. I was of the understanding that 'indigenous' aboriginal people of Australia have the same rights as the 'indigenous' white people of Australia. I don't hear mention of the responsibilities of people demanding "rights".

3. Where there are protests against the intervention I want to hear what's being done in these communities to put an end to the dysfunction. It's no good saying that the intervention is wrong, stealing land and so on - give an alternative? And it's not throwing more money at the situation, nor is it forming more committees and having more consultation. There's been committees and consultation up the wazoo and it has achieved nothing.

There are some communities where where people within the community have stood up and made it known that assault, substance abuse, drunkenness and sexual abuse are not acceptable. Usually it is the women have stood up and demanded changes in their communities. These communities are fighting the problems instead of complaining about nothing being done.

To fix a problem like this first it must be admitted that there is a problem and then action must be taken.

Of course, if people chose to live in populated areas there would be much more opportunity for them and their families to be taken care of by the system, and I'm sure that their neighbours would not tolerate any unacceptable behaviour, as they would from any other neighbour. Although that my open a whole other can of worms...

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