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Indigenous Populations

A recent search indicates that the Northern Territory has the smallest population of any Australian state or territory, it has the third largest area and the proportion of its population which is Indigenous is the highest in the country.

For a variety of reasons, the NT population (mainly the non-Indigenous portion) is in decline and the proportionate GST funding model takes no account of the fact that the actual geographic size of the NT does not diminish if people leave!

When you add to that the following facts you must begin to wonder how any locally elected government in the NT could hope to be successful:

  1. A majority of the Indigenous population lives in remote townships and settlements.
  2. Pregnant women from these remote communities have to move into the nearest town with suitable birthing facilities, at least a month ahead of their due dates, disrupting family connections.
  3. Many who are unwell have to seek hospital care in the city, because local facilities are not sufficient, and need to bring family members with them.
  4. There is often friction between local indigenous communities and those from other regions who need accommodation and access to services.
  5. Access to alcohol is always an issue and those from dry communities often tend to be reluctant to return to their community after they have had to come to town for, for example, medical treatment or attendance at government offices not available out bush.
  6. The NT Land Councils are in receipt of mining royalties, which they are then required to distribute for the benefit of the relevant communities.
  7. Not only in the NT, elected local councils do not necessarily have the knowledge and skills necessary to handle community funds with integrity, and they are often the prey of unscrupulous managers, who line their own pockets at the expense of the community.
  8. White governments seldom consult adequately with local indigenous communities.

There are many other issues which could be raised, including the out of hand rejection of the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ by then PM Malcolm Turnbull.

Even within any one Australian jurisdiction, there are differences between tribes and groups as to how they need help from government. What is a common thread is that they want more involvement in discussions of issues affecting them personally and as distinct groups.

Just as a male doctor will never experience, and therefore fully understand, the severe period pains which some women suffer, (and, to balance that, I understand that no woman will ever experience the pain inflicted on a male who is kneed in the groin!) so too, white, urban administrators will seldom have any in-depth understanding of the needs of members of a remote Indigenous community.

It is time for white people to bow to the more informed assessments of Indigenous leaders and establish committees, with a majority of members selected by the relevant community, in planning services for the Indigenous population across Australia.

For far too long we have lived in the shadow of the white Australia policy and the efforts to ignore the ancient cultures and knowledge of our First Nations.

I am not an expert in this area, but then – neither are many of the bureaucrats who develop and administer policies with no sufficient care for their appropriateness for the people affected by them.

I realise New Zealand’s foundations were laid in very different circumstances from those applying here in Australia, but I am so impressed by how their First Nations enjoy a degree of inclusivity which is totally lacking here!

It would be fantastic to see a change of attitude in this area once the next federal government is elected.

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7 comments

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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    RJ36, few southern politicians, or indeed people, would understand what life is like for our indigenous population but I believe some blame rests with the Land Councils and indigenous leaders. And then there is Morrison, whose government presides over and administers a punitive and paternalistic welfare payment system —the basics card— and who has the temerity to call the NT Labor Government the worst in Australia. This after carving multi-millions off the NT share of GST income. There is much for which NT Labor can be criticised — the approval of fracking for example — but the economic impacts of the withdrawal of Impex and the GST loss, and subsequent decline in population, are factors beyond its control. Finally, the hypocrisy of the leader of the worst federal government in Australia’s history bagging out Labor NT should be apparent for all to see.

  2. New England Cocky

    Uhm … from history the NT government is more concerned with funding government jobs in Darwin that remote Aboriginal centres and directs whatever Federal funding for what ever project into the financial melting pot to maintain that status quo. First Minister Claire Martin was rolled when these facts were made public.

    Then you have the despatch of fresh recruits to spend their mandatory period in remote communities, regardless of their previous experience or professional status. It is a bit like the common education policy since 1988 of complaining that teaching recruits lack skills then paying peanuts and getting monkeys when you want professors.

  3. Kaye Lee

    I absolutely agree with all you say Rosemary but I would caution that Jacinta Price may not be a worthy representative for Indigenous people. She, like her mother, seems to be very much in this for herself.

    “The News asked Ms Price, on the day the 13th Council had its first meeting, about rumours that she had political ambitions other than the town council, and might resign before the end of the term.

    She said: “I am absolutely committed to serving Alice Springs on Council for at least the next four years. There is much work to be done and I look forward to it.”

    Six months later, she announced her intention to stand for Lingiari.

    Not only that, for someone who felt there was a lot to do, she missed many council meetings and attended by phone for most of the ones she did “attend” which meant she could not take part in confidential meetings.

    Jacinta Price: 4 year commitment lasted 18 months

  4. RosemaryJ36

    Kaye – I, too, agree with what you say. Sadly, I believe that the number of Indigenous people who can speak meaningfully for their people – Stan Grant – leaps to mind – is limited.

  5. Kaye Lee

    They drag out Warren Mundine????? Sure, he is connected – sadly it’s to the business community rather than the Indigenous community.

    There are many Indigenous people who make wonderful contributions but would they want to go into politics? They want to make a difference, not a noise.

    Having Pat Dodson as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, as Labor proposes, is at least a start and a loooooong way in front of having Tony Abbott as your “Special Envoy”.

    Stan is good occasionally but he usually leaves me disappointed.

  6. Alcibiades

    Liberal, Gilmore (NSW), margin of 0.7%. Taking into account retiring member, ‘notionally’ Labor seat on 0.8%.

    Warren Mundine, parachuted in as Liberal candidate by Morrison at the last minute, after multiple public refusals by others, and unknown non public refusals by how many ? Overriding Grant Schultz pre-selection, national executive refused his nomination.

    Ann Sudmalis retiring, Grant Schultz(a rabid machine politics RWNJ) forced her out, had subsequently won pre-selection against an empty chair, now running as an Independent. Prominent ex-liberal members support the ‘not a chance‘ Nationals candidate, Katrina Hodgkinson, heavily conflicted sitting Nationals party vice-president & high profile ‘Lobbyist’ on paid leave from of one of Australia’s most powerful & questionable lobbying firms, ‘Barton Deakin’.

    Lifetime community local Fiona Phillips is Labors candidate. Longtime community local Carmel McCallum is the Greens candidate.

    Bookies odds:
    Labor 1.14
    Liberal 5.00
    Green 6.00
    Nationals 12.00
    Independent 16.00

  7. Kaye Lee

    Katrina Hodgkinson was up to her neck in water mismanagement as well, agreeing to irrigation lobbyists demands in opposition to advice from her department when she was the relevant minister in NSW. When the shit hit the fan, she retired in 2017 forcing a by-election, putting it down to a “length-of-service” decision. The Four Corners program on water theft, “Pumped”, aired on July 24, 2017. Hodgkinson announced her retirement a week later, Run Forest, run.

    Despite her excuse that it was time for her to go, Hodgkinson was elected Federal Vice President of the National Party of Australia in August 2018 and now wants to join the gravy (or should that be water) train again. I hope the people of Gilmore know this woman’s dodgy past.

    Interestingly, Hodgkinson took over from Alby Shultz in her first foray into NSW parliament.

    (Sorry Rosemary, I am straying from your very important topic)

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