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Promise fulfilled, Tony Abbott ticks off Arnhem Land

The Australian predictably gives the PM a tick for his discussions with Indigenous leaders and community members “to gain a better understanding of the needs of people living and working in those areas”.

Though reading Gabrielle Chan’s diary of daily events paints a rather different picture of very contrived photo ops, limited access, and local people either told not to speak or too scared or disengaged to bother – they have seen it all before – the FiFo Ministerial hoopla.

Tony had an awkward cup of tea with Galarrwuy Yunupingu and then visited four businesses owned by the Gumatj Corporation, which is headed by Galarrwuy, to have his photo taken in various settings wearing safety goggles. The media were told exactly what to film and when, and no questions were allowed.

On one of the rare occasions where the press were allowed to ask questions, one intrepid NITV news reporter deviated from the script by asking Tony Abbott whether it was appropriate for New South Wales Police in riot gear to forcibly remove multiple Aboriginal children from a family home in January.

“Prime Minister I need to take you back to January in Mooree when NSW police in riot gear raided a home to remove eight Aboriginal children,” Mr Morgan said. “Is that an appropriate use of force?”

The prime minister began his response by stating he had been on the Truancy Team in Arukune in 2009, where he was told his presence was helpful because he “looked a bit like a police officer.”

“I think that it is important to get the kids to school,” Mr Abbott continued. “It is important to get the kids to school and I think all reasonable measures should be considered to get the kids to school because there’s no way they’re going to get a decent education if they don’t go to school and a decent education is the foundation of a good life.”

Okay okay we get it – you want to get school attendance rates up, though I’m not sure that’s what you were asked.

In fact, Tony is so devoted to getting kids to school, the budget includes a school truancy officer program in 74 schools at a cost of $18 million; $54 million over four years for extra police in remote communities; and $26 million for Indigenous teenage sexual health programs next financial year.

But there ends Abbott’s commitment to Indigenous education.

The Aboriginal Early Childhood Support and Learning Incorporated (AECSL) is a NSW organisation which has been funded by the federal government for over two decades. It is a peak body that provides policy work, advocacy, training and professional development for the network of Aboriginal controlled preschools across NSW.

A week before Christmas, the Federal Government gave AECSL’s president two weeks’ notice by email that it would no longer be receiving the 500-thousand dollars in funding it had been getting annually. Similar agencies in other states have also been cut.

Also in December last year, the chairman of the First Peoples Education Advisory Group, Emeritus Professor Paul Hughes, received a letter advising him that the group, formed two years ago and comprising a number of Indigenous academics, principals and other education experts, would no longer receive funding.

The letter from Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said that while he appreciated the expertise of members of the group, the fiscal environment meant the government had to consider any expenditure “very carefully”.

“Supported by the overarching structure of the Indigenous Advisory Council, the government’s focus will be on engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expert stakeholders around specific issues,” he said. “This is in line with our policy of reducing bureaucracy and red tape.”

Professor Hughes said the members of the group, which was established by former education minister Peter Garrett, had a year left on their contracts.

He said he was surprised and disappointed by the move, especially the notion that the government would now seek to engage with “expert stakeholders”.

“One would have thought experts would mean an advisory group such as ours, which was set up for that purpose,” he said.

“I particularly worry the quality of advice they’re now going to receive from experts will be diminished.”

Federal funding for 38 Aboriginal Children and Family Centres has been discontinued. These new centres were created under a COAG national partnership agreement to provide integrated education, family support, child care and health services in 38 disadvantaged localities across the country to children and families in desperate need. After a $296m investment in their establishment, some centres are only just opening their doors, and now only two state governments have indicated an intention to support their future operation.

Over the next five years $534 million will be cut from Indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios.

More than $160 million of the cuts will come out of Indigenous health programs. The health savings will be redirected to the Medical Research Future Fund.

The cuts include a $3.5 million cut to the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

On top of the program cuts the Government has confirmed the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a democratically elected agency that is in the best position to represent the diverse needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and play a pivotal linking role between governments and Aboriginal communities, will not get $15 million earmarked for the representative body over the next three years.

Funding for Indigenous language support announced in the last budget will also be cut by $9.5 million over five years.

The Australian Government has also announced a $3.7m cut to the Budget Based Funding program, under which the vast majority of Indigenous community-controlled early childhood services are funded. The cuts will affect staff who are working with the most disadvantaged, high-needs children – often in rural or remote areas where finding experienced staff is a constant challenge.

One cut that has received some publicity is the $3.6m withdrawn from Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (IFVPLS), part of a broader $13m cut to Aboriginal legal aid. IFVPL are often the “go-to” office for Indigenous women in regional towns for a myriad of problems, not just family violence, due to their compassionate, culturally sensitive practice.

Other cuts include:

  • $450m from Outside School Hours care, which provide vital services and are often the only programs available for children after school and during holidays;
  • axing the Universal Access to Preschool ($500m per annum), which will disadvantage Indigenous children in the critical year before formal schooling starts; and
  • $14.7m from Early Learning Projects – this will mean community-driven programs such as iti ninti tjuta in the APY Lands will no longer be funded despite showing positive results.

Far from improving services and results, we read that:

“Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra’s dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s takeover of Indigenous Affairs is in “disarray”, public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the “doldrums”.

Remember when Mr Abbott’s director of policy Mark Roberts allegedly said to Andrew Penfold, a former investment banker who is now chief executive of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, that he would “cut his throat” if the Coalition won the election?

Tony tells us that he means what he says and wants to be judged by his actions.

Here is a reminder of what he has said recently:

“The First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent. Let me repeat that, it was the defining moment in the history of this continent. It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world.” – August 29, National Museum Defining Moments Project

“I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled, or scarcely settled, Great South Land.” – July 3, conference in Melbourne

“The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England, not always for good reasons, and from that rather inauspicious beginning we have become a rich, a free and a fair society which has contributed so much to the wider world in good times and in not so good times.” – Holdfast Bay Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony in Adelaide 2013

“”There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done” – June 30, Australia Unlimited 2010 Summit

‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’ – April 5, 2010, Q&A

I will let you be the judge of how important our Prime Minister considers the well-being of our First People.

 

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18 comments

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  1. Samantha Roberts

    Mr Abbott seems so far removed from reality that he actually believes what he says.. In one breath he is concerned for the education of these children and yet he neglects to inform this community that the only jobs that will be available will be cleaning the likes of Mr Abbott’s office or yard as university degrees are only for ‘rich white people’ (sorry about the removal of your children once again by force but suck it up and be grateful we (whiteman) are giving them an education.. It makes me feel sick to the stomach.. literally. I think the worst part is that with an ‘education’ there is a possibility that anyone could turn out like Mr Abbott.. (I shake my head and grab my stomach because it literally makes me feel ill) He should have been bragging about coming from the big house…. (*part of me wants to believe I am too hard on Mr Abbott and then another part of me says ‘snap out of it you have these opinions based on the facts you know about Mr Abbott). I just want to know Mr Abbott – ARE YOU SORRY?

  2. Kaye Lee

    I should have included the cuts to the Gonski reforms. Needs based funding would obviously help the disadvantaged most.

    And other discriminatory budget decisions…..

    The proposed $7 GP co-payment will discourage many Indigenous people from accessing health care, especially preventative checks. This will have a significant impact on long-term health outcomes. Community health clinics have indicated that they will try to absorb the cost rather than pass it on to clients, but this will effectively cut funding from frontline services.

    The pension age will be raised to 70, whereas the life expectancy of an Indigenous man is 69. This is a clear example of a “universal” measure systematically disadvantaging Aboriginal people.

  3. DanDark

    Yes the hypocrites of hypocrites is our Tones, he was there for his PR and that is it
    The whole trip was contrived and was intended for him to look like he was doing things
    He did also say before12 months were up they would have a draft for the referendum
    Wow that time is up and he sheepishly had to say they will have it done in days now not weeks
    Well what have they been doing for past 12 months…..nothing yep nothing,
    This trip backfired on the jerk, but some journos are blind to tones and have very brown noses 🙂

  4. Paul Scahill

    Once again the so-called leader has added to his list of LIES. He just is unable to help himself. Mr Tony Abbott is not able to decipher what “he said” from what everybody else heard and understood. He is what is known as a dickhead (first degree). It would appear that he lives in a little place at the BOTTOM of the political garden all by himself (and his three word and four finger) expressions. I can not believe that any person of sound mind (in this country), could even contemplate casting a vote in his direction. There has never been a word contrived that would explain the mindset of such a moron. In the time that he has been P.M. if he has done or passed a law that is worthwhile, he will repeal it that is the type of dickhead we are talking about. Anyway I dont wish to waste any more time explaining this person, so I shall desist just as his grandmother (the speaker) of the house would ask me to do!

  5. pappinbarafox

    Read Ken’s article on Mr Abbott’s words over on The Political Sword. Excellent reading.

  6. Wayne Turner

    Of course these Libs always have plenty of OUR money,for ANOTHER war 🙁

    This was just ANOTHER “stunt” at OUR expense.

    Imagine if Abbott and co spent more time on good workable policy,than stunts.

    But,no it’s all about trying to con the masses.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Tony Abbott volunteers in Indigenous communities, so we are told.

    In August 2012, Tony Abbott did indeed go to Cape York — for 2 days.

    It was a working bee of sorts and some of Australia’s business leaders were taken along to volunteer as well. Photos of Abbott with tools in hand were taken.

    He claimed $9,636.36 taxpayer dollars, spent to fund the hire of a private charter flight for the 2 days.

    On another one of his trips to an Indigenous Community in 2010, Mr Abbott was off to sell his version of the Wild Rivers Legislation to the traditional owners it would impact.

    So, just how much did Mr Abbott listen to the local people of the Indigenous community he visited? How much was this reflected in his policy?

    ”We do not support his shonky Bill,” said activist Murrando Yanner of the Carpentaria Land Council. ”We think it is badly drafted and legally unenforceable.”

    ”He will leave unhappy,” said Mr Yanner, who supports the existing Wild River legislation. ”His new Bill is a dog’s breakfast.”

    That trip that cost we, the taxpayer, $32,545.00 in flights alone was for just one night!

    http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/tony-abbotts-costly-indigenous-community-volunteering,5628

    One wonders how much was spent on this latest jaunt to Arnhem Land.

  8. PopsieJ

    He is the most abnoxious turd ever to hold the office of PM, how on earth did a country end up with such an idiot, BUT what is even more frightening is that he is apparently supported his fellow colleguesand of course Murdock presstitutes, have they no shame. History will not believe what is happening in Australia today.

  9. A Regional Michael

    Abbott has just used this trip solely as msm fodder.

    For Abbott, it is not so much what he can do for Aboriginal communities as what they can do for him politically.

    Thus, for the cameras, he runs his hand through the hair of Aboriginal children, wearing his creepy sinister smile, and probably thinking of the thousands he will pocket in travel expenses away from Canberra on this trip, while also ruminating how well the Murdoch press will build up his ‘caring’ profile for capital city consumers.

    The man is a disgrace as Prime Minister, and particularly so, as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

  10. Möbius Ecko

    Morgan: ALP 37.5 (+0.5), L-NP 38.5 (+0.5), GRN 12 (+1.5), PUP 4 (-0.5). 2PP: ALP 54.5 (+0.5), L-NP 45.5 (-0.5).

    All his war posturing, scaremongering and token promise keeping isn’t working at the moment, which is why he’s upped the ante and signalled new laws taking away freedoms. Shorten in lock-step agreed 100%.

  11. DanDark

    If phoney Tony just kept his big trap shut for a change he might get a lift in the polls,
    nothing else has worked for the brain dead goose till now….

  12. Matters Not

    Further figures from Morgan.

    Analysis by Age group shows the ALP still with its strongest advantage among younger Australians. 18-24yr olds heavily favour the ALP (76.5%) cf. L-NP (23.5%); 25-34yr olds favour the ALP (62.5%) cf. L-NP (37.5%); 35-49yr olds favour the ALP (55.5%) cf. L-NP (44.5%); 50-64yr olds favour the ALP (53%) cf. L-NP (47%); only those aged 65+ still clearly favour the L-NP (60.5%) cf. ALP (39.5%).

    Now if we could only get the ‘young ones’ to enrol and then vote.

    Don’t worry about those aged 65 and over (like me), they are a dying breed.

  13. June M Bullivant OAM

    When I sent and email to the Prime Minister about the family near Alice Springs who had their water cut off by the developers working nearby, he had his office ring me to see where I lived. nothing was done for the family, the Land Council decided to supply them with water for 12 months. Does that say he cares, not by his actions it doesn’t.

  14. DanDark

    June M
    Just recently a whole community had their water cut off for weeks to force them to move, because the Good for nothing Giles didn’t want them there
    Abbott only cares about Abbott that’s it, and maybe his new bullet bomb proof beemer, its obviously not dickhead proof if he is travelling in it though..

  15. stephentardrew

    For someone with a big mouth sometimes these bastards leave me speechless. It was once all theirs now look at the state of indigenous people. Shame, shame, shame, I bow my head in shame.

  16. Lorraine Stansfield

    This government is shameful and without any moral compass. I have never been as angry with an Australian government as I am with the Abbott government.

  17. John Fraser

    <

    Its almost as if "The Magic Pudding" had never been written.

    Abbott cuts and cuts funding ……. and then says funding is rising.

    But what is even more astounding is that Aussies believe that cutting mining taxes will be good for them.

  18. J Marsh

    It is all very well to get the kids to school BUT to be effective they must want to be there and to learn so how about a curriculum that is going to engage the kids interest!

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