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Putting our First People last

When informing the First Peoples Education Advisory Group that they would no longer receive funding, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mr Scullion said the government was dedicated to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians through the empowerment of local people and cited the government’s new indigenous group, headed by Warren Mundine and including Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly and Rio Tinto managing director David Peever.

“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.

So I was somewhat surprised to hear Mr Mundine, in response to the funding cuts to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, state that his committee was not intended to be a representative body, but was created to provide policy advice to government. Does that imply that policy should not represent what the people want and that the committee will tell the people what they need?

Labor’s spokesman on Indigenous affairs, Shayne Neumann, said the move brought into question Tony Abbott’s promise to be a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Mr Neumann contrasted the treatment of Congress with the government’s decision to provide $1 million to set up an Indigenous advisory council chaired by former ALP president Warren Mundine.

”What Tony Abbott is proposing to do is slash funding to a body of elected Indigenous representatives while spending $1 million to establish a hand-picked Ministerial Advisory Committee in its place,” he said.

We then have Treasurer, Joe Hockey, confirming that the government will stick to its election pledge to cut 43-point-one million dollars from legal aid services, including those accessed by many Indigenous Australians, as well as plans to cut the position of Co-ordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services.

The legal aid cuts will be spread across four main areas: legal aid commissions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, community legal services and the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.

Indigenous legal aid will have $13.4 million stripped from its budget, a move that legal groups are warning will entrench Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as second-class citizens.

Aboriginal incarceration has skyrocketed more than 70 per cent since the NT Intervention began in 2007. The CLP leader Terry Mills promised to end paternalistic policies, address the “underlying causes” of disadvantage and put Aboriginal people in control of their communities. After they won the election, he was dumped by phone and Adam Giles took over and ruled out reinstating the Aboriginal councils which used to provide representation and services.

All funding was cut from Larrakia Nations in Darwin for Aboriginal controlled “night patrols” that try to resolve community conflicts and minimise contact between homeless people and the police.

The CLP also axed Larrakia’s “return to country” funding, which provides loans for residents of remote communities to get transport home.

Alice Springs police set up outside every bottle shop in town, using Intervention laws to confiscate alcohol from any black person and breaking up groups with or without grog.

SMART courts, which provided diversionary options for people facing charges who are drug or alcohol dependant, have been abolished. So has Balanu, a successful diversionary program for Aboriginal youth facing time inside.

Strong Aboriginal Families Together, a new Aboriginal controlled organisation set up to address the horrific rates of child removal, has also been cut by 50 per cent.

Money was found however to fund 100 new police positions, despite the fact that spending on police is already at three times the rate of the rest of Australia, and the NT government is building a massive new prison in Darwin, along with promising to criminalise public drunkeness and build internment camps for “mandatory rehabilitation”.

Queensland’s former Aboriginal reserves became formalised communities under Deed of Grant in Trust status in the late 1980s, “for the benefit of Aboriginal inhabitants or for Aboriginal purposes”.

The land was given communally to Aboriginal Community Councils (now Aboriginal Shire Councils), rather than sold or gifted in blocks. Because the land is communally owned, Aboriginal councils don’t collect rates.

The Queensland government subsidised Aboriginal communities through the state government financial assistance program to make up the shortfall, but not anymore. Because they may choose not to live up to the neoliberal dream of home ownership and capitalist productivity, Indigenous Australians are labelled “dysfunctional”.

In addition to jobs and social services, the Newman government is cutting this funding to Aboriginal communities. The reason is to increase self-sufficiency and decrease Aboriginal dependency on handouts, according to local government Minister David Crisafulli.

But the underlying principle is still that Aboriginal people should fit into white society. This was the rationale behind assimilation, behind self-determination in the 1970s and behind the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention. And it is the rationale behind the current Queensland government funding cuts.

Aboriginal communities have different understandings of “self-determination”. For them, it means “freedom from paternalistic and authoritarian structures” (in Tonkinson’s words). It means being able to choose their own path – whether that path heads towards economic independence or not.

The Queensland government’s State Government Financial Assistance gave Aboriginal communities financial autonomy. Although they relied on this “government handout”, it gave communities the option to decide on their future.

Taking the funding away will have severe impacts on Aboriginal communities. They will lose jobs, programs, and services. But they will also lose this opportunity for real autonomy.

In June, Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett signalled what is becoming a national trend; the finding of budget saves by cutting spending to initiatives assisting Aboriginal peoples. He refused to sign the Closing the Gap Indigenous health agreement and raised doubt about other programs.

Trachoma, diabetes, renal failure and hearing loss are at horrific levels among Aboriginal peoples, especially among the poorest 200,000 Aboriginal peoples, of whom more than 100,000 thousand live in what have been described as third-world conditions by many, including UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, Amnesty International Secretary-General Shalil Shetty and world-renowned documentary film maker John Pilger.

WA, alongside the NT, has Aboriginal homelessness, youth suicide and health issues such as trachoma and otitis media at horrific levels and with some at world record levels. Aboriginal incarceration rates in Western Australia are a national tragedy with one in 14 Aboriginal adult males in prison, the worst incarceration rate in the world.

Rather than taxing the superprofits of mining companies and banks, rather than taxing the polluters, rather than reducing tax concession and loopholes for the wealthy, we put our First People last.


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  1. Geoff Of Epping

    Holy moley….this government is really starting to scare the bjeezus out of me now.

  2. lawrencewinder

    Don’t the Aspirational Bogans who voted for this rabble realise now, just who the rabble are governing for?

  3. Le blogeur gair

    Either Abbott has bought Mundine, or Mundine truly is a traitor to his people and his party. Abbott is well and truly shafting the indigenous population, and Mundine it would appear is looking on with a smile. Shame on them both!

  4. dave the brickie

    Probably all at the behest of our Dear Leader,Minister for having no feeling for the down trodden and weakest in society,and Prime Misogynist for Woman.What a Klutz.

  5. Kaye Lee

    I would like to thank my family and friends, and the people who take the time to comment on our articles, for the balance they provide and the questions they pose when they read what I write..

    From my son: “Let me know when you get paid for it.”
    My response: “My opinion is not for sale” (proviso – I am happy to tell anyone what they should and should not do, and if they would care to pay me for it I will consider allowing it though you could probably get advice for free if you just asked me).

    From my husband: “You sound like a communist trying to bring down a democratically elected government with all your negativity.”
    My response: “Kiss me you fool.”

    From my sister-in-law in response to this article: “While you continue to perpetuate the idea of them and us you add to the problem”.
    My response: “I’ve drunk too much to adequately answer that. You are right, but how do I help address inequity and injustice?”

    They make me think and they make me smile.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Kaye Lee, your cheque is in the mail. :mrgreen:

  7. Michael Taylor

    From my son: “Let me know when you get paid for it.”

    What he really meant was: “Can I have some money?” 😉

  8. Michael Taylor

    In all seriousness, we love your writing and your opinions. You are a valuable member of The AIMN.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Hey my husband wants to pay you for listening to me so I don’t keep talking at him.

    And son is happy with the world because he just caught the biggest bream he has ever caught. Some things are more fun than money 🙂

  10. Ken Brown

    I have just been out in the Pilliga near Narrabri, listening to Aboriginals describing how Mundine and hos lot have sold them out.

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Nova ? Shorten? Where are these 2? I would have hoped that they were jumping up and down, even writing articles for the aimn.

    I have wondered if Shorten was one of those in the ALP who bitterly opposed Rudd delivering the Apology.

    Mundine sold out years ago – which is probably why he did not get the senator gig that Carr ended up with.

    Nova on the other hand is awful quiet.

  12. Janina Theblondeone

    Love your writing Kaye Lee…and I’m hoping some Aboriginal Elders get together and point the bone on our illustrious leader.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Rugby League Team South Sydney Rabbitohs has many Indigenous players and a large following in the Indigenous community in Redfern.

    The club runs an initiative called Souths Cares.

    “Souths Cares is an independent not-for-profit public benevolent institution, established to support the local community and address social need across the South Sydney region. Its charter is to support disadvantaged, marginalised and indigenous youth and their families with a specific focus on education, training, health and employment.

    Souths Cares leverages the Rabbitohs NRL team to engage the community and affect positive social change.”

    It was with sadness, and anger, that I read this story this morning.

    “SOUTH Sydney’s dream to relocate to new high performance centre in Maroubra has been shattered after the Federal Government withdrew support for a $16 million package that was promised to fund the project.

    In awful Christmas news for the Rabbitohs, Treasurer Joe Hockey this week announced the money would be no longer forthcoming to pay for a state-of-the-art complex containing a gymnasium, pool, high altitude chamber, theatrette and indoors sports arena.

    Souths officials were further infuriated to learn that a $10 million funding promise for Brookvale Oval – located in the heart of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Warringah electorate – has been retained.”

  14. patsy

    maybe..just maybe mundine should look in the mirror and see that it is not a good suntan he has but he is indigenous himself….how could he sell out to abbott and co…..these people need our help and money in that order….shame on him…..turning on his own people…….

  15. lupus66

    No Government since the 1970s has come to grips with the idea that there are Aborginal people out there who don’t want a ‘whitefella’ job or a pseudo-McMansion, that they just want basic services and the right to get on with their own business. In one of the Queensland DOGIT communities, it was that at the time thought that adminstrative positions with the Council could be filled by local Aboriginal people. But some years later all those positions were filled by whitefellas. Why – not because people lacked the skills but because the locals saw that as whitefella business while they had blackfella business to attend to. Yes, Kaye, we are returning to very paternalistic times!

    While this will show up as lupus66, I am otherwise known as Ken over on TPS.

  16. Fed up

    From my years of working for Docs. I come across many such white families. Where is the special treatment for them.

    They have exactly the same problems, that many believe all Aborigines have.

    Not many Indigenous families on my books at the time. Yes one or more very good DOs and foster carers.

    It is not a problem, that is caused by race or culture.

    It is a problem of poverty, that can be found in all race

    Yes, Nova has been out, commenting on the latest brain fart from Abbott. That of truancy officers, with no back up. Not even sure, they have to have training.

    It appears that Nova has been working in schools for the last couple of years some idea of what is needed.

    Same for the latest, in the North. Those who do nothing about their problems such as drinking will be on more that 97% income management. I wonder who the judge and jury is, when it comes to these people.

    I wonder if there is to be a mechanism for them to challenged being classed as.

    Why just for one race or culture?

  17. Fed up

    The old truancy laws within NSW, involved, yes truancy officers.

    Yes, even the police and welfare officers. Involved children being taken before the courts, and labeled as uncontrollable.

    It involved parents being fined. Involved children being locked up.

    Truancy still flourished in spite of the laws of the time.

    Did lead to many, mostly boys, continuing on to a life of crime.

  18. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    Mundine is brown on the outside but white on the inside, sometimes described by those with brown skins as ‘potatoes’. Sad isn’t it.

    Our first Australians are people who are trying to stand tall, educate their own people & become their own people, not carbon copies of the White Anglo Saxon people who are still trying change them because we think that we are the superior race.

    I am a 4th gen. Australian of English Scottish, Irish descent but I am absolutely so ashamed of how our Indigenous people have been & still are treated.

    I applaud our Indigenous brothers & sisters in their struggle to become the people THEY want to become.

  19. Frank

    Time for the people to stand up as one!!

  20. Kaye Lee

    Solidarity to the people. I agree Frank!

  21. harry pittman

    Mundine is there for one reason! HIMSELF.He will do as Abott wants to try to get his own political agenda back on track.

  22. Pingback: Fascinating Aboriginal Website | Cultural Adventures

  23. Pingback: Fruitcakes of a Feather « The Australian Independent Media Network

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