Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

First Do No Harm – The Unattainable Luxury Part II

Posted by Possum Comitatus on December 20, 2007

The last thread was simply amazing for the quality and the depth of the contributions given by all (for that I thank you) , and it highlighted one of the biggest impediments that we face in trying to get to grips with what’s needed to finally address the national shame; there are so many problems, so many intertwined problems that a failure to deal with one area of a given problem can often result in failure migrating across into multiple areas of not only that given problem, but exacerbating other problems as well.

I mentioned the need for community security, and the parallel need for comprehensive prison reform to enable the provision of community security to be tenable in the longer term – but similarly without implementing better childhood education programs and massively reducing truancy rates, without facilitating some broader economic development, without implementing better preventative healthcare programs particularly relating to alcohol and drug abuse, there can be no long term sustainable levels of security for any remote or not so remote community. Yet policy failures in any one of these areas have impeded in the past, and will probably continue to impede in the future, progress in all of those other areas.

And this comes back to what seems to be the biggest problem of all – the complete absence of any consensus on what we all might regard as the “end game”.

The end game is the answer to a very simple question; “In 2025 – what does Australia envisage as being the ‘State of Play‘ of indigenous communities around the country?”

If we have no idea of our destination, we cant really say how we are going to get there.

I would really like to hear what your answers are to that basic question, especially since the contributions on this have been of such an incredible quality.

What might also be interesting is how some of the answers to that question will often collide with what we are doing now.

For instance, if we wish to see indigenous communities in 2025 exhibiting higher levels of living standards – that generally requires higher levels of home and business ownership and higher levels of disposable income. Yet that cannot be achieved by government payments alone. For that to come to fruition would require economically sustainable communities deriving most of their income from some tangible set of real economic activities. That means that initiatives like CDEP must be seen and treated as nothing more than transition programs between the high unemployment/high poverty rate experience of today and the real income generating jobs and businesses that will sustain these communities tomorrow.

But so often we’ve seemed to treat programs like CDEP as an ends unto itself, rather than the means to an ends it actually needs to become if we are to get anywhere close to lifting income levels. We can see it being treated today as an ends unto itself if we simply look at the large absence of initiatives aimed at making the need for programs like CDEP redundant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to achieve a point in the future where there is no CDEP scheme operating in Australia simply because it is no longer needed?

But this opens the door on the awful question of what happens if some remote communities aren’t economically sustainable? It’s all good and well to say that the economy isn’t everything – and it’s not everything, it’s half of everything. Without economic sustainability, nearly all of the communities involved would remain in poverty – bringing with it all of the baggage that poverty carries like poor health outcomes, depressed education outcomes, lower living standards and lower levels of community resources that are used to provide community services.

It’s not simply a matter of moving businesses into some community, adding a few government subsidies, watering gently and watching some economic development magically grow from the mix. Existing businesses might not want to move out there to begin with, regardless of the amount of incentives that are provided. If a community cannot generate a substantial proportion of its income by exporting community made products and services into the wider Australian marketplace – the people that live in that community will be subjected to long term poverty. But if industry won’t move there, it has to be created from within the community itself.

But sometimes that will simply not be possible. Sometimes, despite the best people doing the best things, creating something substantial out of very little resources will not always be attainable.

Yet does that mean economically unsustainable communities will need to be somehow let die – creating further dispossession in the process? Or does it simply mean that maybe we need to start looking at alternative ways to deal with communities of differing economic circumstance? Would such communities need to have a permanent population base? Is it possible to utilise the highly mobile nature of some indigenous populations as a partial solution in itself, encouraging some communities that cannot economically sustain themselves on a geographical basis, to utilise their population mobility by encouraging employment elsewhere for periods and returning ‘home’ for periods – bringing disposable income back to their communities in the process?

A mix of on and offsite community income generation will probably need to become a fairly common development model for many remote and not so remote indigenous communities – but such a thing will cause some degree of local resistance. Any change in any area of human activity brings some degree of resistance; resisting change is one thing us humans have become universally adept at.

Which leads us into another big issue – what happens when an incompatible viewpoint between local communities and government programs arise?

Sometimes a negotiated win/win result isn’t always possible. Sometimes the government will be wrong – let’s face it, governments are pretty used to being wrong, even if they fight tooth and nail to deny it most of the time.

But what happens when the local community is wrong? What happens when a circumstance arises where the tenets of self-determination that we all like to cite would knowingly lead to inferior outcomes for the community itself?

This problem might not seem that big – but when implementing far reaching, almost wholesale change of the multi-billion dollar variety, it will become a very big problem, very, very quickly, on many levels.

In the community economic development field, when people are deployed on the ground to assist a community (and this is pretty much a global phenomenon) the problem arises of where the knowledge gap opens between the people that have been brought in by the community to use their knowledge and talents to assist the community, and the community itself that lacks that knowledge – which is why they engaged the economic development people in the first place.

If Australia were to pull its finger out and start solving our national shame, every time a knowledge gap like this opens, there would be an indigenous leader fronting the press howling with outrage about how the government is telling blackfellas what to do again. A lot of this would be more about local black politics than anything else; there would be many political leaders in the indigenous community that would have the rug of their power pulled from under them as a result of any serious national initiative to provide better outcomes to indigenous people. Other times it would just be as a genuine disagreement between the government and the community over any given initiative on the ground.

If we, as a nation, are to make a serious attempt at this – we MUST have in place from the very outset, some framework, some group of respected indigenous and community leaders that would be willing to come forth and aggressively back the government when the consequences of the knowledge gap arise over those issues where it’s actually the local community that needs to adjust rather than the government program.

But this is important at a far deeper political level – it goes to the very heart of being able to take the Australian people on the journey of dealing with indigenous disadvantage and maintaining their support.

If most of what the public sees about any serious national indigenous project is one local indigenous political leader after another complaining about what the government is doing (and as far as the political sustainability of any program goes, whether the local leader is right or not would sadly be completely irrelevant) – the public support for what would be a multi, multi billion dollar program would quickly start to evaporate.

The moment that any large indigenous project became partisan political fodder that could be positioned as a race issue rather than a development issue, the whole thing would be in danger of collapsing; especially in the first decade of its operation before the fruits of its success alone could drive continued public support.

The management of dissent within the indigenous communities, especially over local black politics and the consequences of the knowledge gap opening up on occasion would need to be one of the most well managed parts of the entire program and one of the first, if not the very first thing to be done. If the issue management failed, any big attempt to finally solve indigenous disadvantage would be put in jeopardy from the very outset.

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91 Responses to “First Do No Harm – The Unattainable Luxury Part II”

  1. kwoff.com said

    First Do No Harm – The Unattainable Luxury Part II « Possums Pollytics

    The last thread was simply amazing for the quality and the depth of the contributions given by all (for that I thank you) , and it highlighted one of the biggest impediments that we face in trying to get to grips with what’s needed to finally address…

  2. kyangadac said

    There’s this gap between what well meaning people like you, Possum, think and reality and it’s called Australian Racism. It’s a set of attitudes and beliefs that are so ingrained that most non-Indigenous Australians can’t help themselves, and which makes most Indigenous Australians and their friends squirm in their seats. You write “But what happens when the local community is wrong?” And go on to ask should autonomy should be overruled?
    You would never ask those sort of questions about Landcare funding yet that is exactly similar to the sorts of programs that are being suggested here. Landcare funded local communities on an autonomous basis and if a local community didn’t have it’s act together they moved on. They did not suggest that the local community should be overruled. So why should Aboriginal communities be overruled ‘For Their Own Good’.

    Your obsession with the viability of local indigenous communities shows how successful the liberal party propaganda machine has been. The out station movement, as responders to your previous post pointed out, was successful in reducing many of the problems in the refugee camps of Yuendemu, Papunya etc. But they succumbed to a lack of support accorded white children and families in similar circumstances (where’s the Aboriginal school of the air for instance) and to 20 years of propaganda that had them typecast as some lefty pipe dream – oh and they filled up our art galleries with wondrous art that retails for $1m a piece at Sotheby’s and there not viable. Go figure!

    So there’s one place to start we can reform the laws regarding resale of art as has been done in other parts of the world so our best artists aren’t left with a pittance.

    But you see there’s that problem again. Australians don’t see themselves as a culture that eschews money for art, that regards dance and painting, and dreams as at least as important as football. We can’t because it would mean disowning our ocker heritage – which has nothing to do with Britain but was a homegrown invention of the ‘native born’ white australians in the 19th century that led (amongst other things)to the ‘white australia policy’ being incorporated into our original constitution.

    But there you go, I’m talking about our ‘secret history’ that we don’t won’t to know about (pace John Pilger). It’s not an Aboriginal problem it’s an Australian problem.

  3. Possum Comitatus said


    “You would never ask those sort of questions about Landcare funding” – I’ve never really looked at Landcare funding to any great extent, although I’m sure if I were to do so, I’d find many local initiatives that didnt amount to a hill of beans.. just like most government community development funding programs.

    If many billions of dollars are going to be spent on community economic development, a proportion of those programs will be coordinated, meaning that some decisions are going to be made within a pre-existing government determined framework providing only minimal input with those on the ground (most, but not all healthcare services for instance) – the consultation would be generic rather than specifically localised.

    However, With the funding of those programs that operate with less coordination, there will be, at times, inevitable clashes between the local community and the views of the government when the government may well be correct. There used to be a porkbarreling trough that doled out develpment grants to rural Australia – a popular initiative with this thing was to build local online commerce facilities for towns. So many millions were spent on hiring overcharging consultants and the end result was some store off the main street that provided subsidised online commerce capabilities to the local area merchants.

    The problem after these things were built was a simple one – the locals went, “all good and well, but we have nothing to sell”. The community leadership wanted online commerce facilities, the local population represented by that leadership had no use for it. If the government had a decent audit program on these slush funds (rather than treating them as simple porkbarreling arrangements), those sorts of grants would never have been allowed through the system.

    Similarly, on an economic development basis, sometimes the local community leadership and the funding provider (the government) will have disagreements over not only what is and is not feasible, but what is and is not appropriate give and take in return for that funding.

    If, for instance, in return for funding a number of business development grants of the type where the funding is used to wholly create a business, the government required that these businesses be audited every six months and if the business becomes in danger of collapsing over the grant period (through bad luck or financial mismanagement) the government had the right to appoint external managers of the business to prevent it from going under – that would be resisted should the government ever find the need step in to save those businesess that were funded entirely from government grants.

    But the same sort of thing would apply to many other areas of government involvement – because that’s actually how to get a decent success rate on government funded community economic development programs – cooperation whre possible and with oversight at all times.

    Usually the community is right on how to best allocate a given set of resources locally – but they are not always, because there is nearly always a knowledge gap between every community (black, white or brindle) and the area of expertise of the economic development team. If the local community says “we want to achieve X” and says we want to do it by using Plan Y, but the local economic development folk know full well that of the last 500 cases in AUstralia where a community has tried to “achieve X”, Plan Y has failed 70% of the time but Plan Z (the economic development teams preferred choice) has been succesful 90% of the time – if the local community still wants to run with Plan Y even after it’s been explained why it will likely fail – which plan should be introduced, Y or Z?

    You can call the awful possibility that some communities may not be economically sustainable an obsession, but that wont change whether they are viable or not. Ignoring the possibility means that the residents of those communities end up carrying the can, again, perpetuating poverty into another generation.

  4. JP said

    Possum, you write:

    “… some group of respected indigenous and community leaders that would be willing to come forth and aggressively back the government”

    “… every time a knowledge gap like this opens, there would be an indigenous leader fronting the press howling with outrage about how the government is telling blackfellas what to do again?”

    There’s an assumption in those quotes that the government are whitefellas, imposing their solutions from the outside. Instead of self-determination taking place at the community level (deciding what government programs are needed for each community) what if self-determination was embraced in a much bolder sense, and community leaders were involved in the global planning and resourcing of solutions as part of the government’s process. That way the issues could be resolved before programs were delivered, and the communities would feel ownership of the solutions.

  5. Steve_E said


    Thanks for pushing our thinking on this matter to the next step.

    In order to have a plan, we need a clear target. You ask what we want to see by 2025 (18 years from now).

    My thoughts below are a start and I hope we will see other contributions.

    1. By 2025 drug abuse (alcohol, kava, opiate related drugs, amphetamine related) at a percentage of population LESS than for capital cities.
    2. Before 2025 the incidence of doemestic violence and sexual crimes at a rate LESS than for capital cities.
    3. Participation in primary and secondary education (ongoing attendance and measured success rates at school) at rates ABOVE the average of capital cities.
    4. Participation in Tertiary education – TAFE and University at as a percentage of secondary school graduates that are comparable rates to the capital cities.
    5. This is the big one – full time employment rates at 60% of capital cities average. Part time employment rates comparabe to capital cities. Therefore, real unemployment (not the one hour per week measure) at comparable rates to capital cities. If this means programs such as CDEP with a training focus needs to continue, then so be it.

    If we can clarify the shape of the target, then we can map paths to achieve it (by measuring how we are progressing towards the target).

  6. Possum Comitatus said

    JP says:

    “what if self-determination was embraced in a much bolder sense, and community leaders were involved in the global planning and resourcing of solutions as part of the government’s process”

    That would be a necessity – but we need to remember that there wont be homogeneous views in any community. So for every community leader that would agree to plan A, there would be a community leader that would vehemently disagree and want plan B, as happens with any community development program. But from the outset, that disagreement would need to be carefully managed so it couldn’t be turned into another “whitefellas telling blackfellas what to do” perception on the one hand, or feed into the “whinging blackfellas” narrative in voter land on the other. Those perceptions would kill the necessary goodwill.

  7. JP said

    kyangadac wrote:

    “You would never ask those sort of questions about Landcare funding yet that is exactly similar to the sorts of programs that are being suggested here. Landcare funded local communities on an autonomous basis and if a local community didn’t have it’s act together they moved on. They did not suggest that the local community should be overruled. So why should Aboriginal communities be overruled ‘For Their Own Good’.”

    I agree that the attitude difference is real, and usually goes unseen. But there’s one important problem with your example.

    Where Landcare has moved on because the local community didn’t have it’s act together, the result is that a degraded environment remains unfixed. That’s exactly the approach that’s failed indigenous communities – they’ve been passed over because they’re seen as not having their act together, and none of the problems have been fixed.

  8. kyangadac said

    you missed my point. Landcare considered community iniative as one of the factors in it’s funding. If the community had a project that would comply with funding guidelines then that was a tick in the box for whether that project got funded.
    But Landcare did not impose projects on communities where the community iniatives did ot comply with guidelines.

    Considering whether communities are viable or not without considering the historical background is obssessive. You are operating from the assumption that viability as you or the government or some expert defines it, must be considered before all else. Can you imagine the outcry if this condition was imposed upon local government funding for rural communities. Look at what happened in Queensland recently. Why can’t you see that you are considering indigenous people to be children that must be led? Because the way I read it, that is exactly what you are suggesting.

  9. Ancient Mariner said

    Look I realize now about the institutionalized racism, I apologize for using the term indigenous or aboriginal, from now on only Australian, we are all the same, except for the massive disadvantage some Australians suffer, particularly those living in the Alice Springs town camps. I have learnt, I don’t want to be a racist, I am embedded in a racist culture, I have tried like Rod to actively work to get rid of it, but its like those infections that seem to go away and return later when your defences are down.
    I have made some wonderful friends traveling in the terriotory, Australians belonging to the Arrende people and the Australians found in the longgrass. I think its important you keep posting here teaching us about the inherent racist bias in our culture, help us clean it out. Where is the school of the air for the Australians living way out in the desert, where are the highschools? It’s a disgrace, one of countless, by the way I have spent a good part of my life trying to convince my compatriots the lefty pipedream is the way to go.

    Thanks Possum for this site and the chance for this dialogue, “it goes to the very heart of being able to take the Australian people on the journey of dealing with indigenous disadvantage and maintaining their support”.

    What I have learnt from kyangadac is this perhaps better said as

    “it goes to the very heart of being able to take the Australian people on the journey of dealing with disadvantage of those Australians suffering such hardship in remote areas and maintaining the support of the wider community”.

    At the heart of the racist propaganda is this idea of two separate distinct communities. We are one people. Let nothing stand between us and reconciliation.

  10. Possum Comitatus said

    Kyangadac @ 8 – the reason I’m mentioning viability is because if some communities arent economically viable, then for those communities the question changes from one of developing economic viability to one of how can economic non-viability be addressed WITHOUT further disposession? History tells us why things are as they are today, but it might not necessarily have much to say about whether or not some particular community is or is not viable in the future, just why it is what it is.

    If some communities arent viable but we continue to ignore the question and pretend that they are, all it will do is perpetuate the poverty and poor economic and social outcomes, and over the longer term the community will die from natural attrition. That surely isnt a good result by any yardstick.

    Landcare and council amalgamations are a good example.If we take Landcare as a single plank in a broader environmental management policy, while Landcare might have been a tick-a-box affair based on autonomous community action, native vegetation Acts that curtailed land clearing, regulation over water usage and a bag full of other parts of that broader environmental management policy were all imposed.

    With council amalgamations – some councils werent viable, so they were amalgamated so that they would become a part of a viable economic arrangement.

    So while local solutions for local communities ought to be the starting position, that wouldnt always be possible, especially when there might not be any community consensus on a given initiative or program – so there will always be some level of imposition, as there is with all of us for everything we do. But what I was trying to get at here is that when some level of imposition is necessary, what differentiates it from, say, the environmental management program during the 1980’s and 90’s is that dissent was never going to derail the entire program whereas dissent with a multi billion dollar indigenous development program would be capable of derailing everything if it wasnt managed very very carefully.

  11. The Keegan said

    HI Poss,
    A few years back I conducted a short study of a regional Victorian CDEP scheme. The economy in this region was vibrant; it was by no means remote. This was not a situation where there should have been any need for ‘make work’ programs. The scheme’s management had the best of intentions; they wanted to get people out into mainstream employment and sought to train them with appropriate skills to make the transition. However they kept running into one key obstacle – Rednecks. The Blackfellas could not get hired in the private sector no matter what skill set they had (e.g. a young Koori woman shows up to a job interview in a nice car that she’d bought over along long time of saving meagre CDEP wages, the white people interviewing her asked her where she stole it from. She didn’t get the job). The regularity of the knock backs, the reality of the barrier, just made this Mob settle for a wage below the poverty line, and the knowledge that at least they were working in kin groups where they didn’t feel shame every 5 mins. Without consideration of the discriminatory employment practices affecting this scheme, it would look like a sheltered cultural workshop; an end unto itself. But in reality it was the best the participants could make of a bad situation, and I for one didn’t blame them one bit for not wanting to engage with a broader community that just kicked shit in their face every time they attempted some form of economic integration. CDEP will never be redundant as long as there are Rednecks who run businesses, and we all know they are not in short supply. The end game for this mob was survivalism, and discreet, culturally sympathetic workplaces were an important aspect of their attempts to survive.

  12. flash said

    Racism against indigenous peoples is still rampant almost everywhere I have been. In America, it is similar to Keegan’s comments, although there are now situations where the Natives have equal rights or some semblance of power. What about the Native Title Claims process in Australia? Seems like a good first step in recognizing the rights of aboriginal peoples and giving them some voice in policy and resource decisions. Obviously, it is not enough, but one needs to start somewhere…

  13. otiose said

    flash @12 – racism is alive and sick in this community cf hanson/howard – however my children (25 & 21) are NOT racist – they were public school educated in the ACT – i suspect that we may have to rely on these kids and their cohorts to hammer the final nail ;(

  14. kyangadac said

    depending on your measure just about any traditional Australian community is non-viable. Except for those lucky ones who’ve scored good land out of the Indigenous Land COuncil under the Keting government and in most instances where talking about extended families rather than communities that might be viable. Without CDEP the unemployment rate amongst Noongar blokes in the Great Southern of W.A. was 50%, and that is in one of the most advantaged regions of Australia as far as Indigenous people are concerned. So take that as your starting point when considering ‘viability’ – any community where the majority of the population is Indigenous will have a majority of the population unemployed.
    Now think of this from an indigenous point of view, Papunya or Yuendemu or pretty economically disadvantaged but would you give up living there amongst people that you know and where Native Law is at least likely to protect you or go and live in a Town Camp in Alice Springs where there is no Native Law, and the “cops don’t care cause you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue” (Desolation Row, Bob Dylan)and a complaint is just as likely to see you in jail as the perp from another community or some ugly white bloke.

    This is what you are suggesting with this talk of viable communities. Sure we can move every indigenous person into the capital cities where they can be herded into slums and have they family make regular appearances in law ‘n order stories. You want more law ‘n order, that’s the way to get it. Fill the jails with Noongars and Koories and any other group you move away from ‘unviable’ communities – give me a break.

    I’ve worked in Indigenous communities on and off since 1972, and I can tell you one thing. NO program works unless it has the support and is preferably initiated in the community. Traditional Australians have been engaged in passive resistance for 200 years – they’re not going to stop resisting now. Nothing that you are all the king’s horses throw at them is going to stop them living where it looks good from they’re point of view.

    Let me tell you a story – in 1981 the Pintubi, one of the half dozen or so groups thrown together at Papunya by the Woomera tests in the 1960’s were the most disadvantaged – very few spoke English and Papunya was not their land. They decided to move into the rubbish tip one day. It made perfect sense to them and their neighbours but caused consternation in the white community. The reason – lots of habitat where bush tucker lived and the only remaining stand of trees left around.

    The problem with the Brough storm troopers was that they had no conception of the gap between traditional Australian living standards and the rest of the community.

    We need programs that pick up men (and women) after they’ve been in jail and offer them work for up to five years if we are to break the cycle of imprisonment.

    We need to put funds back into the ILC to buy back land with better governance and back up this time.

    We need rapid development of traditional Australian cultural studies in Universities and high schools. We need to fund on a permanent basis language centres.

    We need TV documentaries to be funded to show the real history of Australia. Don’t accuse me of being politically correct – go and learn about your local community first.

    We need to provide housing for every Indigneous person over the age of 50.

    We need to provide good accounting services to community organisations and to encourage Indigenous people to learn book keeping and administration.

    We need serious ongoing support networks for wadjilas(whitefellas) working in remote and difficult communities – so they can stay there and not have no teachers, no cops, no doctors because nobody will fill the positions except no-hopers, saints and sinners.

    We need to encourage cross cultural activities and find ways of talking and working together creatively – we need Greek and Chinese and every other kind of Australians to recognise that Australia has always been a multicultural community, that festivals and fairs where dances songs and poetry were the most sought after and traded item have been a part of our traditional life for centuries.

    We need to recognize that treating this land as a giant quarry is a recipe for disaster and that traditional Australians are serious when they talk about disturbing the Dreamtime spirits. It’s not just some hokey myth – it’s about surviving for millenia through cycles of climate change.

    We need to learn to love this country.

    We need to recognize that Native Title is our protection against invasion in the future.

    We need to come to grips with the subtilties and intricacies of traditional Australian philosophy and law instead of deriding it as ‘spearing’ etc.

    We need to participate in a great cultural flowering of science and art that acknowledges the wisdom of the elders and the land.

  15. Michael said

    State of play in 2025?

    No idea of exactly what it might look like, but have a general idea of some of the principles that should be in place.

    Firstly, self-determination. I agree with Mick Dodson that we’ve had it primarily in name rather than in substance. If you look at the NT, a local govt format was simply thrown over remote ‘communities’ and self-determination was pronounced. There was far too little intellectual time and energy spent on reconciling Western notions of governance with existing Indigenous modes of authority and responsibilty. That work still waits to be done (and some is), with positive effects likely to be felt across a broad range of areas such as education, health, criminal justice and the economy.

    Education. Basic competence for all in the indispensable skills of literacy and numeracy must be achieved. But needs to include Indigenous first languages.

    Flexibility and difference. We need to be creative in bridging the differing world views that exist and arriving at shared understandings There’s no simple formula for this, though it is impossible to achieve without conscious and consistent effort. But we may also have to accept that some level of difference is acceptable, even desirable. ‘Remediable difference’ is a belief that motivates many who work in Indigenous affairs – that the disparities, say in health outcomes, can be reduced. Though if we demand exactly the same outcomes we have to be careful that we are not simply mandating that remote Aboriginal people live white suburban lives. How much, and what, difference is OK? There are some inherent tensions that may not be solvable, at least not completely, ever.

    Recognition. We really need to get over seeing land rights and native title claims as a zero sum game.

  16. janice said

    Let’s go back to basics. The very first step to achieve reconciliation is that we of the white race, need to come to grips with the simple fact that our aboriginals do not aspire to become a clone of the white man in a black skin. Since the white peoples arrived on these shores, they have done their utmost to make the original inhabitants live, think and be white. Well meaning missionaries set out to instil their religious beliefs; well-meaning do-gooders set out to gather in the nomads, clothe them in white man’s attire, change their diet and habits in accordance with white man’s criteria and requiring they ditch their language in favour of english, leaving them confused and addled in their thinking to live in a no-man’s land. Very few white Australians have bothered to learn an indigenous language and even fewer have bothered to make any attempt to understand the traditions and lore of our indigenous peoples.

    Over the years indigenous Australians have been looked upon with distaste and of less worth than animals in the scheme of things. Suddenly, there was the discovery that Albert Namatjira, Claude Panka and others displayed a talent for painting the Central Australian landscape in water colours. Unfortunately, there was no fortune attached to the fame for Albert as he grappled with his elevation into the white man’s world. He and his talent were exploited, he was given ‘white-man’s rights’ to consume alcohol but not share it with his kin and he had white man’s law come down on him with a vengeance and he had no understanding as to the reasons for the trouble in which he found himself. (He was a pitiful sight to see during those years when he sold his paintings for a pittance in order to pay his legal fees.) Art galleries sprang up in Alice Springs catering to selling aboriginal art and artifacts to the blossoming tourist industry. Now, the aboriginals became a curiosity for tourists, a source of income for the white population but still shunned and pushed to the fringes of the town.

    All the above is in the past but it is in the past that we may find the necessary understanding as to how we may move forward to achieve a future for our indigenous Australians. To set up anything special and exclusive for aboriginals will only promote dissent in the white population as it has in past attitudes of ‘the abos get millions wasted on them – what about white poverty’, etc etc. We need to harness the talents of our indigineous peoples and help them turn those talents into an income for their communities and not just enrich those who help in order to exploit. We need to put in a concerted effort to consult with tribal elders and young adults in an effort to discover what they, as a community, would aspire to by 2025 – what WE would like and what THEY might want, could be two very different scenarios. Whatever we do manage to achieve for our indigenous people I would hope that they retain their identity and have the capacity to live happily and healthfully.

  17. A. Miner said

    I’m in the mining industry, and as most of the undiscovered mines are in the Deep Country, the odds are the mining industry will either be part of the solution or part of the problem.

    The first issue is that mining wont help employment that much. Mining is capital intensive, and while it can provide some jobs, I dont see any given project as being able to employ more than tens of people from the local area, rather than hundreds.

    The second issue is that from a selfish industry point of view, I think you really want the Lands Councils doing the negotiating, because if this is devolved down to the local level, then you’re going to have locals doing a deal for the first time, and thats always messy. The odds are, in fact, that the locals then are going to hire a law firm, and if you thought the CLC or the NLC was a problem, wait until Slater and Gordon are doing it on contingency.

    The third issue is that sooner or later we are going to get another Olympic Dam or Cooper Basin, and at that point the royalty cheques negotiated after Mabo are going to make chunk of Aboriginal Australia self-funding and thus independant of a future lands-rights-hating Howardesque government.

    Me, I’d like to see support for the local community itself doing the preliminary exploration work under a recon licence, and then getting these results written up and approaching mining companies about anything interesting that the locals want to see developed. That way, the local community would possibly end up with a carried-to-BFS (*) 10-15% interest, rather than a 1-4% native title royalty, and the mining company would have more certainty as to support among the locals for their projects (never forget the way local landowners ratf.cked Sydney Gas at Camden in the courts … but that was done by whitefellas, so the industry doesnt like to talk about it).

    Finally, dont underestimate what all this will cost. A cop and a nurse at a remote community wont leave you change out of two hundred grand a year, and there are a very small population of people that want to work in remote Aboriginal communities.

    A. Miner

    (*) Bankable Feasability Study – the point at which the mine is goanna happen.

  18. jassy said

    Possum I like this post better I was going to try and make some of the points you made, but was a bit overwhelmed by the quality of the contributions. But I want to applaud this:

    The end game is the answer to a very simple question; “In 2025 – what does Australia envisage as being the ‘State of Play‘ of indigenous communities around the country?”

    Without conceding the end justifies the means fully at least if there is vision the harm that is done can be chosen and attributed to the vision and the ends. I have also thought for sometime the ‘end game’ although never stated or analyzed was extinction / complete assimilation. This sounds harsh and is heartbreaking for many, but it appears to be end game of a very harsh realities we face, just a long long very very painful end game.

  19. […] Possum Pollytics has a second post, First Do No Harm – The Unattainable Luxury Part II. The premise of the title is at once interesting and questionable. In the first part, the conclusion was that in seeking not to do harm, and therefore inaction with regard to critical issues, for example criminal behavior, leads to greater harm. This conclusion goes to the question of perception and the analytical framework. For example, Aboriginal communities may intuitively, since it is a culturally derived value seek forms of restorative justice rather than retributive justice. One operates with shame and atonement whereas the the other with individual guilt and punishment. I notice that where Aboriginal people are included in the judicial process, as I believe in Victoria, they seem very tough on their own people that transgress. […]

  20. Paul T said


    Are we talking about asimilation?


    Why do we want our native inhabitants to be “mainstreamed”. Are we attending to the symptons by looking at housing, education, etc. Or are we undertaking a root cause analysis.

    Is it just good intentions by white-do-gooders, or do we really want to understand?

    Our Western mentality is for growth, improvement, change – is that the mindset of this cultural group? They are of a nomadic culture, we of a stationary culture.

    Will the end-game be (by 2025) that aboriginal culture is an historical fact?

  21. Kevin B. said

    Hi Poss

    Thank you for these threads, and to the people who have responded. Some of the repsonses I have found frustrating, but many have been enlightening. Boy, where do you start?

    The solutions by 2025 will be diverse. Providing opportunity for people in remote communities will require localised solutions depending on the nature of the communities and the surrounding social infrastructure. Even the term ‘opportunity’ is itesel a culturally loaded one, and we need to avoid putting our own biases on what that means for ABoriginal people. As an example, there are many small outstation communities around Fitzroy Crossing (FX) in Western Australia – some of which would appear unviable by any reasonable economic analysis. However, nost of these have been established by people with a deep connection to their land, and a desire to bring up their children away from the dysfunction of FX.

    Their history is of being forced from cattle stations into the towns where they were subjected to what Howard (aptly) called a “Hobbesian nightmare”. SO for these people, the economic depravity of their outstation is far better than the alternative – a point lost on many of the pundits who would close them down.

    So yes, these things are going to cost a heap of money – as AMiner pointed out – just to get a nurse and police officer to these places is very expensive, and that doesn’t really cover their needs at all (what about Kindy, or driving lessons, or vegetables?).

    But at the same time, there are communities that should be forcibly closed down – and often they are the largest, most visible, and therefore the most politically charged. These will require a massive force of policital will, built on a subtle appreciation of the points raised above.

    However, to really answer your question, the changes that most need to happen need to happen with us. I live in a small regional town in Western Australia. Most of the people here are pleasant and friendly, until the topic of Aboriginal people comes up – and then the necks turn red. In a tourist town with many places to eat and drink, there are more than a few people who would walk out of a cafe if they saw an Aboriginal person was serving.

    So our soution is about first looking at ourselves. We fail to appreciate and value difference (cf Camden). We fail to value the depth of the culture that Aboriginal people have willingly shared with us. We continue to impose solutions that are universal rather than situational. And we work from our own cultural biases, rather than an appreciation of the breadth of human understanding (thanks Kyangadac for your comments!)

  22. zoom said

    what do I want to see happen by 2025?
    Aboriginal communities making their own decisions about their present and future, without judgments being made by others as to whether these decisions are good or bad.
    After all, all of the perceived failings of Aboriginal communities also exist in our own white bread suburban ones (I read somewhere once that, when correlated to income, ALL outcomes for Aboriginal communites are statistically the same as whites – in other words, the problem is poverty not aboriginality).
    We cannot continue the paternalistic attitude that says that they’re failing in some area because it doesn’t suit OUR standards.
    By doing so, we encourage a culture of passivity – why try anything when someone else is going to take over half way through and tell you you’re getting it wrong?
    You only learn responsibility by having it. You only learn how to make decisions by making them and living with the consequences. You only learn how to manage money by having control over it…etc etc.
    Give them the tools to make their own decisions in a meaningful way and leave them to it. They’ll make mistakes, learn from these and eventually settle down to a lifestyle that suits them.

  23. Ron said

    it is necessary to solicit from Aborigines clear “ground rules”
    without worrying whether the following questions will cause harm

    Are Aborigine’s attitude the problem of wanting the best of both ‘Worlds’ & hiding behind whichever ‘World’ suits their argument
    or are Aborigines 100% innocent

    Why aren’t the Aborigines individually responsible for themselves rather than as a total racial group not being responsible at all

    Are the Adult Aborigines merely children or are they Adults who have no accountability for anything

    Do the Aborigines want all the benefits of ‘western’ culture (welfare, houses) but without the responsibility to earn the income

    Do the Aborigines wish to retain & continue all their traditional ways of living but expect ‘white’ Government to support them

    Do the Aborigines accept some western Laws when it suits them but reject others as ‘white mans’ laws

    Why do Aborigines insist on living in areas where the supply of adequate services is impossible yet then complain about their conditions & lack of those services

    Why can a male Aborigine in Melbourne be caught drink driving
    (in white mans cloths) yet turn up to Court (in ‘black mans clothing) claiming he’s a ’stolen generation’ & does not recognise ‘white mans’ law

    Do Aborigines want to be solely ‘Aboriginal’ in every way , or
    do they wish to assimilate into western jobs , houses , schools , or
    a bit of both and which bits

    Should Australia adopt the US solution to the indigenous Indians:
    make a treaty , give reserve blocks of land & allow the indigenous Indians their choice & responsibility to follow their hunter & traditional ways or assimilating outside of the reserves

  24. Ed@Bennelong said

    There is a degree of 50,000 year thinking going on here, as a simplistic justification of first principles. Justification of what once was, being proffered as what must be.

    We all have to live in the now and shape our individual, community and national futures. All cultures and the individuals in them, have to evolve and adapt to circumstances, neighbours, wars, injustices. Most will, and unfortunately some won’t. How we respond to those who can’t is our collective test.

    There can be a futile pining for the rose coloured glasses view of life in the fifties, just as there can be for the supposedly viable life of the first Australians pre-invasion. Why do we not include here stories of the social injustices, tribal wars, dislocations and hard luck stories that inevitably were part of the day to day narrative of history as experienced by the first Australians when opining what solutions must be. Is the balance all one way as some seem to argue. Are we arguing that some form of Utopia existed pre-1788 that must somehow be translated to the 21st Century.

    Human bastardry is not confined to white fellas. Self-flagellation is not helpful to formulating policy.

    In a fast changing world of billions of souls and finite and pressured planetary resources it is not a sufficient response to allow self-determination to be the ultimate rationale for solutions. Self determination has it’s limitations because we all must live together, we must share resources. We are all proxies for the policy solutions of our governments via taxes and our individual and collective efforts, just as assimilation responses can be effective in assisting those who self-determine that they wish to integrate into the mainstream economic and social life of Australia.

    The first principle test for whether or not a policy solution should be pursued is respect. Respect for those to whom the multifarious solutions are targeted and respect to those who provide the economic resources that are proxied to the formulators and providers of policy solutions.

    It is valid to deal with all Australian communities as economic entities. It is also valid to have as broad a scope of definition of what constitutes an economically viable community for all parts of the country. simple eg include barter versus dollars and cents. Assessing economic viability allows for baselining and measurement, whether the measures are social or economic. It is human endeavour and determined outcomes, whether self determined or imposed by economic rationalism that are being measured.

    Everyday in life we learn a new lesson, which helps us to be a better people tomorrow than we were yesterday.

  25. PeterT said


    Thanks for all your stimulating threads! They helped preserve my sanity during the election, and these discussions are exactly what are needed now.

    You say: “And this comes back to what seems to be the biggest problem of all – the complete absence of any consensus on what we all might regard as the “end game”.”

    I agree we don’t know the “end game”, but I am not sure that is a problem, let alone the biggest problem. The biggest challenge is how to sustain over time the many values that are being discussed, especially when they conflict with each other. Michael at 17 lists some of these principles. I would include economic viability of communities as another, but only one, and not the most important. As for where it will all lead, I have no idea. But I don’t think that matters.

  26. Ningaui said

    There are more questions here than answers. Where do we start? Where do we finish? Where do we want to be?

    About the start for getting it right. We need a treaty. The reason for this is that it starts things off right. It sets agreed rules for engagement. Without a treaty, any group or individual can make up some new rules at any time. This is what is happening now on both sides. There is always a cop out for both sides. One side says the other side is lazy. One side says that we will not agree to the rules of the other side. It is OK to resist, not to follow somebody ele’s rules. If I end up in jail that can be a badge of honour. The lack of a treaty encourages corrupt behaviour by both groups and individuals on both sides. Without a treaty there is no starting point. Just more of the same.

    Economy/autonomy. There are economic limits to whether a group can be autonomous. It goes for Australia. It goes for the United States. It goes for groups inside Australia. The rest of the world will not allow it to happen. But there are degrees of autonomy and self-direction. Is it possible for Governments to give groups money and say to the group you work it out and we will not hold you accountable for the results? Probably not for any extended period of time. Taxpayers will not let it happen. But if the treaty settlement included a guaranteed percentage of the tax take, then it is not Government money or taxpayers money. It is group money. The group can sort out accountability by its own rules. If it wants to live in places beyond the market economy it can.
    Beyond that the group could engage in the global economy by the rules and be entitled to government payments and accountability just like everyone.

    Values and laws. Everything anyone does depends on their values. A lot of the trouble because each group thinks that the other group should behave according to their values. Things might start off OK but then go off the rails because the real difference in values starts coming through. The treaty would be specific about the laws of the land that apply in a shared way in order to enable the two sides to work together. It would also be specific about separate laws that reflect the values of each group. There will need to be compromises. There will need to be agreed ways of ensuring accountability. The important thing is that things are specific, not hidden or papered over.

    Healing. There can be no healing without truth. There can be no truth without people facing each other and saying this happened and that happened. This is an important part of making a treaty.

    Where do we want to be? With a treaty we have an agreed set of rules, an agreed set of laws an agreed division of the nation’s wealth. It would have a preamble acknowledge both history and the present.

    So my friends, start right, jointly agree the rules. Sign a treaty.

  27. Ron said

    Ningaui Says:
    December 21, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    About the start for getting it right. We need a treaty. The reason for this is that it starts things off right. It sets agreed rules for engagement. Without a treaty, any group or individual can make up some new rules at any time.

    Ron said
    it is necessary to solicit from Aborigines clear “ground rules”
    of their responsibility, their accountability & do Aborigines want assimilation or their world & if so will they pay for it

    Congratulations Ningaui , we at least start at around about the same starting point (but with differences)

  28. Ningaui said

    28 Ron

    I don’t know anyone who wants to be assimilated.

  29. Zafar said


    In twenty-five years I would like Aboriginal individuals and communities in Australia to have the same options available to them that non-Aboriginal individuals and communities do. I have no idea what choices these individuals and communities will make – they may well be as widely varied as the choices that non-Aboriginal individuals and communities make – but everybody having a similar agency to choose would be an absolute good, imho. Both for Aboriginals and for non-Aboriginals.

    Of course choice is always hemmed in by limitations in real life. And the economic participation of individuals and communities is one of those unavoidable limitations. (Slot in education and job opportunities here.) So is social cohesion – which seems to be linked in some Aboriginal rural communities – according to some – to continuing to live in their traditional lands.

    Asking which Aboriginal rural communities are (currently or potentially) economically viable, however, is something that can only be done fairly in the context of looking at ALL rural (and some urban?) Australian communities and asking the same question. The answers, I suspect, are likely to be uncomfortable and politically sensitive. Certainly businesses and institutions (like banks) are already voting on this with their feet – but whether the Govt should endorse their decision by exactly mirroring it when it comes to provision of services is arguable.

    The thing is, there are many communities in Australia that are not strictly speaking economically viable – ranging from remote Aboriginal communities to small inland towns to the surfing suburbs strung along the North Coast of NSW. Many of these communities wouldn’t survive with their current standard of living without some form of assistance – either direct income support payments or the provision of services (schools/hospitals) that cost far more than the local tax base pays for. Why are we concerned about the cost of providing services to remote Aboriginal communities but not about the cost of providing services to the population of Cowra or of Byron Bay? Is it just a matter of degree – level of expense/person – or is there a consensus on the social cohesion payoff to Australia from subsidising people living in Cowra that there isn’t about subsidising remote Aboriginal communities?

    I’m not saying that all communities should have the right to always stay exactly where they are with a blanket commitment from the Govt to provide standard services, cost what it may – I just think that the costs/benefits that are taken into account when assessing the viability of a community should be standard for all types of communities. I don’t see such a big intrinsic difference between Aboriginal communities that need subsidising and non-Aboriginal communities that need subsidising, and I suspect that the (present or future) social pay-off from some level of subsidy might be similar for both.

    I’ve lurked here for many months, so just a quick segue to thank you for your blog. It clarified a lot of the election’s poll- barrage, and made me re-think some issues. On that note: how about a review by your good self of the statistics about cost of provision of services, economic deprivation and social indicators, contrasting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities? Currently we are talking about what we think is ‘the truth’, but (speaking for myself) without anything beyond anecdotal data to support our views.


  30. Ningaui said

    I don’t think Indigenous people should have the same options and choices. I think they should have some of their own options and choices that non-Indigenous people do not have. Their special choices about culture.

  31. Ron said

    I have asked in vain for ‘ground rules’ of what Aborigines themselves expect will be THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social responsibilities & expectations in the future
    (which are the very basis of 21st Century society)

    I suspect Aboriginal Leaders do not want address these issues
    because any realistic answer involves “substantial” assimilation
    of a ‘western’ economy’ and individual accountability ETC. ETC.

    Aboriginal Leaders know this.
    Their lack of Leadership perpetuates the hurdle to real solutions

    I assert there can be no solutions at all without substantial assimilation.

  32. Ningaui said

    Ron @ 31
    You put the wood on what Indigenous leaders and people should do. Other writers do the same for non-Indigenous people. It is clear that a proper outcome depends on both groups taking responsibility, not on either group avoiding responsibility by saying that the other group ought to get their act together.
    If you really want a way of getting this clarified by both sides join the call for a treaty. Many Indigenous leaders have called for a treaty. Views about the contents might vary. It provides the vehicle for both groups to be clear about the answers to the sorts of questions you are asking of only one group.
    With respect to assimilation, all groups adapt. The question here is the framework for how both sides will adapt.

  33. kyangadac said

    Ninganui @32
    While I agree with you about the need for a treaty I think that there are other ways we can address the issues of local leadership which I don’t think a treaty will solve.

    Depending on which state you live in local Indigineous organisations have funded staff or not. This is a function of the slash and burn when the Libs were elected in ’96. They slashed $300m (IIRC) from buidgets irrespective of what they were funding.

    But what’s needed now is for an assessment of the viability of these organisations, the Community Councils that exist in nearly every area of the country.

    The value of these organisations is that they can (and do)act as a focus for funding – once they loose funding for administrative staff, many programs disappear from local communities.

    One of the problems these organisations have is bad governance and lack of democracy. They often become captive to one family within a community who do not see it as anything but their property rather than as a public asset. This becomes more of a problem once they loose administrative funding because the assets are all that remain and there are no programs.

    Governance is overseen by the ATSICC (Commissioner fo Corporations) but they have been starved of funds over the last 11 years and have a backlog of complaints and virtually no proactive capacity. Essentially organisations have to submit yearly audits, membership lists and notice of Annual General Meetings(list of elected members etc). Unless a complaint is received all that matters is that these documents are submitted and that means that as long as the audit can be paid for the organisation will stay registered with the Commissioner.

    It’s easy to see how this system can be exploited and how organisations can become moribund, corrupt or open to nepotism etc. It’s a measure of the maturity of many communities that there are a lot of viable active community organisations.

    What’s needed is, following a general assessment of these organisations nationwide.

    They need to have partnership agreements with some or all of the following requirements.

    1) Elections supervised by the State Electoral Commissioner
    2) Paid administrator and caretaker positions employed from a central(federal) body but hired by the organisation in conjunction with the central body.
    3) Education in consensus decision making procedures tailored to Indigineous cultural needs. When conflict arises the general response is for people to be absent rather than to confront. This cultural response needs to be addressed sensitively but is often exploited by aggressive men and gangs.
    4) Transparency with the publication of accounts and reports through local government offices or similar.
    5) These bodies then become the focus of local decision making, other groups with funding (government, private etc) can approach these groups to jointly run and fund programs in the communities etc.

    I’ve seen this work and fail and these requirements seem to me to be the difference between success and failure. Establishing robust and resilient local democratic institutions seems to me to be the key to replacing ATSIC and similar bodies. In practice, one family group will dominate at any one time. But if there are democratic and open processes in place then families are usually quite willing to take turns year about or to work something similar. It’s very easy to get sucked into one side or the other but the reality is that within the community it’s never that simple anyhow, there are cross family relationships and people with loyalties on both sides who are critical to resolving disputes.

  34. ed@bennelong said

    Regarding a Treaty and Assimilation.

    Having done a little reading on treaties with other indigenous peoples and seeing firsthand the way Maori culture is both overtly and subliminally inculcated into NZ society, and agreeing that with a huge amount of goodwill, luck, alignment of the stars, a treaty could be a framework for a common starting point, I would like to know with whom a treaty would be made.

    To put this question in perspective using a few quotes from these two posts:

    “& to further complicate matters, this notion that there is AN Aboriginal state of being is of course a nonsense too. Who is this person of concern – the Australian Aborigine? They have never existed. You are Gamilaroi, or Narungga, Gundungurra, Dharawal, first part of a nation, then clan. Of country. Not a nation state constructed by a settler society.”

    “Groups from the Central Desert and from Northern Queensland are vastly different. To illustrate this, I remember overhearing an elder in Central Australia refer to some Northern Queensland aboriginal people as whites (in this context meaning “aliens”). We are dealing with a wide range of groups from widely differing geo-cultural backgrounds and it is staggering to me that the level of debate is still so ignorant that we bundle these groups into a single identity. There are of course common problems amongst all Aboriginal groups which stem from the common cause of exposure to European culture. As such it is convenient for concerned whites to discuss the “Aboriginal Problem” in this singular way. But the thing is that solutions to the dire problems that confront many of the communities are not likely to be universal.”

    “I would say that part of the problem with tackling the problem is that we’re lumping a whole lot of diverse cultures together under the label “Aborigines”.
    When Europeans first came here, they found a land inhabited by hundreds of tribes, who spoke hundreds of different languages, had different religious beliefs and cultures.
    Two hundred years later, we seem to believe that these differences have vanished and we have a homogenous group of ‘Aborigines’, who can all be dealt with using the same techniques.
    Although they may face much the same problems, the solutions for an Aboriginal child living in Albury need to be different to those for a child living in the desert outside of Katherine.”

    “In my view, half the battle (and most of my past frustration) with Indigenous policy lies in someone’s ability to get a handle on the nuances of Aboriginal people’s and Torres Strait Islander culture (realising and being able to articulate, for instance, the vast difference and distinctness between these two ‘groups’, or that Tiwi Islanders are also distinct, is a bit of a start. Realising that in reality we are talking about over 200 ‘mobs’, rather than an amorphous mass of ‘indigenous’ people is another).”

    Darren Godwell points to a degree of assimilation (in it’s most crude sense) that could be used as an argument against going down the treaty path:

    “1. There are only about 500,000 Indigenous peoples across all of Australia. This is a small number, really. Surely our nation has the imagination AND will to cope with this small number.

    2. A full 70% of that population live in regional cities or within an urban context. This is very important. It means most Indigenous peoples have a postman riding past their front door everyday, access to a telephone, within tv & radio reception and are surrounded by the services of government and a booming Australian economy – we still need to answer the question ‘why with all this social infrastructure are Indigenous life outcomes so dramatically different?’.”

    So is there an Aboriginal Nation with whom a treaty can be made?

    Can these cultures come together as an homogeneous nation to achieve a desired end game? Or are these cultural differences an impediment to making a treaty?

    Does asking this question show a lack of understanding on my part of the aboriginal’s concept of nation, tribe, clan or mob and how a treaty could be enacted in our context?

    If not, then we are back to questions like Ron posed.

    Without a treaty, which is both a barrier and a bridge between cultures, Ron’s conclusion of “substantial assimilation” would seem to be the ultimate end game. Or maybe as Jassy eloquently, but somewhat nihilistically put it at 18 “I have also thought for sometime the ‘end game’ although never stated or analyzed was extinction / complete assimilation. This sounds harsh and is heartbreaking for many, but it appears to be (the) end game of a very harsh realities we face, just a long long very very painful end game.”

    I have noted your statement that you don’t know anyone who wants to be assimilated. That is a conundrum without doubt. But the objective here is to discuss a framework for policy formulation. Are we talking degrees of assimilation, or no assimilation under any circumstances.

  35. John VK said

    Thanks Poss for two excellent Blog debate sets.

    Relevant Points.
    The aboriginal nation does not exist. It’s a myth as such, there are hundreds of tribes and various cultures, if they were to be homogenous as an identity it would likely have happened prior to settlement by aggression and dominance etc. The tyrany of distance and the terrain itself and lack of progress from hunter gatherer to farmer herder is the reason for tribal disconnects perhaps.

    Summary: Let’s stop talking about a fallacy and start looking at the problems as a group of culture singularities. Let’s stop talking about one indigneous Australia when there are many groups with the vast majority urban and accessible to urban social work and urban mainstream necessities, law and order, education and health care etc.

    And the various tribes outside of the cities as groups.
    There is no homogenous group like the Maori for treaty. On indigenous racism against each other I have seen it and why a treaty what does it solve for normal outcomes economic, social etc, nothing except another emotional roadblock or logjam. Finally not gonna happen.

    Next point.
    Some of these outstations and that is what they really are, are never going to be viable and clear cut benchmarks as set out at COAG will be problematic for communities that are just never gonna have a medical centre or a school or police. Life expectancies and child birth stats and dependence issues, infant mortality etc will probably remain fairly static. Because that is the result without services.

    I believe Mal Brough and the Hermansberg Community worked on this with the tribal groups having clear cut areas and the outstations people can travel back and forwards to their tribal lands (translocation). In that case Leaders stood up to Brough and he backed them coz it made sense. I reckon we will get more bang for buck by boarding indigenous kids in good schools as Pearson recommends as part of the solution.

    Indigenous people in cities urban must be examined with different thinking, why are they isolated, if it’s racism then it has to be addressed. There should be no CDEP in the cities or towns. Maybe micro lending as the experiments in the third world show work with some people.

    A few thoughts anyway. I’m not interested in the culture issues, to achieve mainstream, read normal lifestyle survival and social outcomes there will be mainstreaming. If people want to discuss heritage and language, why not, but not over the huge social cost, life expectancies, illness, employment etc. They have to have English and the other basic literacies.

    (We know it can be achieved because it’s been trialled).

    And for the left wing types that paint Brough a Nazi, where were the left wing solutions, yeah that’s right, the left believe neglect is a solution. The intervention was rushed, blame Howard not Brough if you need to hate and blame someone.

  36. John VK said

    Add on.

    ON the city racism issue, perhaps Media campaign like we did with the Japanese when we were seeking their tourism buck and wanted the old hatred of the second world war to cease, Old Joh Bjelke Petersen lol.

    Not a guilt black mail thing a friendly thing. Not a race thing a good day thing.

  37. Ningaui said

    The issue of the relationships between well-functioning Indigenous organisations and a treaty is fundamentally important. You say that a treaty will not address the issues relating to functioning Indigenous organisations and then explain your view about the issues and what is needed to address the issues. Implicit is your view about the treaty.
    My view is that a treaty is actually a fundamental first step to setting Indigenous organisations on a sound footing. The reason is that the treaty would identify that the rules of engagement. There would be guaranteed funds that are not at the whim of the government of the day. This alters the ground rules for Indigenous organisations fundamentally. It gives them real power. It gives them real accountability to their own side. It gives them responsibility for the outcomes. At the moment the rules and the values they reflect are essentially set by the powerful side, which is the government of the day. This chops and changes. People are shifted around from one place to another, through one program after another and by one policy after another. The basic take home messages coming from all the changes are: You have no power. We have the money. We make the laws. We tell you what is important. We will decide. Our values rule. It is very difficult to hold yourself accountable when you have no power. Very damaging. That is why the right start is a treaty.
    That aside, there is so much detail in your post on supporting Indigenous organisations that I don’t have the resources to look at it properly. I read it a couple of times and it mostly looks OK to me.

  38. Ningaui said

    Ed@bennelong 35

    I think the points that you have picked up from others and to which you have added are important. Basically, if you have a treaty, who do you have a treaty with?

    I would agree that there is a very wide variety of Indigenous groups who have wide-ranging and important differences between each other and that for some groups at least some of the differences are more important than the similarities. As some of the bloggers rightly point out the one-size-fits all programs hardly ever work very well for this among other reasons. There is also a view that there is no Indigenous nation or no Indigenous state, or, if there is, then these are not really Indigenous because they are a creation of non-Indigenous people. So, where to start?

    On whether there is an Indigenous nation. I am not sure about all the rules that go into calling something a nation. I actually don’t think it matters much. It is really a matter for Indigenous people to sort that one out.

    I suggest that we start with a basic sort of proposition to each Individual Indigenous person and to each Indigenous group: Would you be prepared to join with all other Indigenous persons and groups to negotiate a treaty with the government? The treaty would be about ensuring that things that you value about being Indigenous would be protected. It would guarantee Indigenous people a guaranteed share of the national wealth. It would identify the rules for engagement. It would be clear about how the laws connecting the two sides would work. It would start by saying something like: ‘This is the story to date and this is where we all want to go.’
    I think you would mostly get a yes. You might get some groups who would say well, we want to negotiate a separate treaty. You would hardly get anyone to say a flat no.

    On the other main point, about assimilation, I think that all groups adapt all the time. It is a strength not a weakness. I think the problem with assimilation is that it has got all this history to it. It could mean a group adapts to some circumstances that it is facing. Or it could mean that they get forced to change against their will. Because of Australia’s history, the second meaning is the one everyone puts on assimilate. Maybe it is better just to use the word adapt. Then the question becomes what adaptations do we all want and/or have to make to get something to work properly.

    The focus of this discussion is ironic considering what globalisation and climate change are going to do if we all don’t get our mitigations and adaptations right.

  39. Ningaui said

    John VK @ 35
    I think it is not useful to use words like fascism and left and right.
    I notice you used the word ‘translocation’. It sent a bit of a shiver up my spine, to tell the truth. The reason is that there is a historical pattern in relations between governments and Indigenous people that involves governments seeking to fix an Indigenous problem of the day by shifting Indigenous people, nearly always against their will. Usually, if the last government moved Indigenous people into one place, the next government or generation dispersed them. Left or right or fascist or socialist did not really come into it.
    You mentioned the outstations. I can recall the government of the day saying that the outstations were a solution to the problems faced by Indigenous people in the settlements. Then the previous government said that getting rid of outstations was the solution to the problems. Now, people have to go back to settlements or towns. This sort of thing started way, way back and it is still going on. It is hard to be accountable for yourself and to your family if you don’t know where the next government is going to send you. It is another example of why a treaty is needed: to get some ground rules to give people some power to stop themselves from being herded this way and that so that the government of the day can convince itself that it is fixing some problems.

  40. John VK said

    The treaty is always discussed from the Indigenous perspective.

    The are two parties to a treaty, so the argument becomes ok they are hundreds of tribes but we get them to form a bloc and we will create a super political tribe for a single purpose.

    Except for one basic stumbling bloc while you are creating one part of the treaty process, people are missing one tribe, the rest of Australia.

    There would need to be a referendum.

    It wouldn’t get up. And the result a lot of indigenous anger and hurt because of false expectations.

    A bit rude to forget the major side in the treaty process.
    Not gonna happen.

    There is no Waitangi principle, 50 % of the population or approx are not indigenous.

  41. John VK said

    It is not useful to say things like shiver up my spine. The left disappear (on sex abuse and the violence issues) except to lay blame on cue from NGOs and recommend nothing except emotional crap. Lamenting and weeping and woe is me and spend more.

    You obviously dont understand the concept, the people can be itinerant between society and their tribal lands.

    Option 1. Leave them where they are (do nothing).
    Option 2. Force them from their places.

    Option 3. Give them a town place with normal services and a country place for their cultural needs that they visit. (the country place will be just the same.

    Of course this might be slightly more practical than say a treaty or an apology but kids miught get an education some health care and some protections.

  42. Ningaui said

    John VK @40 and @41.
    I take your point about the shiver up my spine bit. It is true that there are very strong emotions in this area, coming from many directions, and that the connection between emotion and thinking needs to be examined carefully.
    I agree that the majority of Australians would not today support a treaty – or even that a substantial minority would support one right now. But that does not mean that it is a bad idea. It also does not mean that it will never happen. People can, and do, move on. We are not fixed in our views. I agree there would have to be a referendum, just like the one in 1967. It would not have passed in 1901.
    I agree wholeheartedly that a treaty cannot be one-sided. It has to have support from both sides or it will neither get up nor work.

    I am aware of the possibility of people living in one place and visiting another place for various reasons. I am not either opposed or for this idea. I can see it might be useful in some circumstances to some people. Certainly lots of people in this country go away from where they mainly live to recharge the batteries and reconnect with something that is important to them. At this time of year it is usually family. My point is that a treaty helps set a framework where Indigenous people themselves, rather than governments, sort this sort of issue out.

    I have not heard anyone from any side, anywhere, say that sex abuse and personal violence are either good or able to be excused in any way.

  43. kyangadac said

    On a treaty –
    We need to ask what is the purpose – the problem with an Australia wide treaty are those outlined by John@bennelong and JohnVK.

    We can approach this in another way though. Treaties are about recognition of prior ownership and the rights therein and about ongoing relationships with the colonial state. There are two politico-legal processes in play at the moment that address these issues. One is Native Title and, consequent from that, ILUA’s(Indigenous Land Use Agreements), the other is a preamble to the constitution.

    The preamble is chiefly a symbolic instrument which if worded correctly will give recognition of prior ownership and recieve a positive vote at a referendum. (I hope:-)

    ILUA’s are voluntary agreements that bypass the need to determine the existence of Native Title through the courts. There are already dozens in existence, as well, there are compacts, memorandums of understanding and accords that have been negotiated by local councils and private groups across Australia with local indigneous communities.

    This process can be encouraged, indeed I would like to see it made a requirement of federal funding for local governments. But without engendering discord it can easily be encouraged by positive political action. ILUA’s are the most legally binding of these instruments and are ratified by the Native Title Tribunal, but they can incorporate whatever a community desires whether it be a say in management of land, employment of an indigenous liason officer, support of a pre-school, raising of the flag etc. etc.

  44. Ningaui said

    Kyangadac @ 43

    An Australian wide treaty is possible if most Indigenous and non-Indigenous people support it. There are huge difficulties on both sides. But overcoming the difficulties would have huge benefits for both sides. If non-Indigenous people are saying that a treaty is impossible because there are two many differences between Indigenous groups, then it seems to me that a reasonable step would be to test this proposition by asking Indigenous people their views on the issue.
    The purpose for having a treaty is to provide a reasonable platform for both sides for sorting out issues. It is important because it provides each side with power and hence accountability.
    In the meantime, the lesser arrangements that you describe can be quite useful to both sides and should be supported in the ways you suggest, even though they are only a partial substitute. They are quite limited. The laws around them are basically decided, adjudicated and enforced by non-Indigenous people. The funding for them essentially comes from one side. So, Indigenous people are basically accountable to non-Indigenous people. It is really more of the same stuff that has been going on for 200 years, only a bit better because it is imbued with good will. A problem with good will is that it is an unstable commodity.
    In terms of the preamble, is not that where you put stuff that you don’t really want to be held accountable for?

  45. kyangadac said

    NInganui @44
    I don’t disagree with your sentiments. I think that from ILUA’s and Native Title decisions and preambles will come a call for a more comprehensive treaty for the very reasons you state. As one of the John’s above observed both the realpolitik of it being rejected by the non-indigenous population means that this process has to go first. The preamble I agree is unaccountable but it is precisely because of this that it will bring the issue of a treaty into focus. There is a broader question to consider which is the general reform of the Constitution – s history tells us this is seriously difficult without wide ranging consensus.

    Anyhow, I have to abandon this fascinating conversation now so have a merry xmas. And possum, thanks.

  46. Ningaui said

    Kyangadac @ 45 thank you and seasons greetings.

    For those of you who enjoy the absurd, the weekend Canberra Times has an article by Jack Waterford examining the NT emergency intervention with many serious thoughts about how it is working.

    The Sisters of Charity are having half their pensions sequestered so that they do not waste it on alcohol.

  47. Ron said

    Aboriginal leaders continue to refuse the most basic question:

    what do ABORIGINES THEMSELVES expect will be THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social responsibilities & expectations in the future

    Saying oh well the answers will get sorted out in a Treaty discussion or negotiation is absurd.
    This is really a tactic to evade answering the question

    Thousands of ‘white mens’ blogs and articles on possible solutions have been written….genuine but all useless

    Until the Aboriginal leaders have the courage to answer the basic question of what they Aborigines themselves expect in future (in the areas I nominated)…..

    then there will be no solutions possible because there is no ABORIGINAL ‘end game’ to lead to

    If the basic question is answered , serious debate & discussion can proceed. In the meantime articles on current & future problems will be sad but serve no purpose

  48. Ningaui said

    Ron @ 47
    What if Indigenous people say: ‘We would like to sign a treaty as a first step to sorting out all the issues because a treaty will be the basis for us to sort out our economic issues, our social issues and our legal issues?’

  49. Ron said

    Ningaui @ 48
    says ‘We would like to sign a treaty as a first step’.

    When was the last time a contract was signed as the FIRST step !
    Partys always declare their “positions” first , then discuss , then negotiate and IF there is agreement …a Contract is signed

    Ningaui , your way guarantees the status quo
    refer my #47 comment

  50. Ningaui said



    I take your point on the staging of signing a treaty but not your point on the status quo.

    I agree that a treaty will not just be signed out of the blue. Usually before a treaty is signed the content of positions are not stated until after the rules for negotiating the treaty are stated. Then the opening positions are stated and then the negotiations begin. (In your 47, and referred to also in your 49 post, you seek the opening position from Indigenous people now). In practice, treaty negotiations are probably much more of a shambles.

    You mention the status quo. The status quo is utterly untenable in terms of the human wreckage. No-one wants to guarantee that it is maintained. The reason we need to have a treaty is to move fundamentally from the status quo. The core issue with the status quo is that it discourages accountability because accountability is framed as Indigenous people being accountable to non-Indigenous people. The latter have the legal power, the military power, the police power, the adjudication power, the power of population numbers, the power to decide which language is used, and the economic power. Therefore non-Indigenous people essentially set the rules. In this set of circumstances, any ‘solution’ to any ‘problem’, no matter how framed or with what degree of ‘consultation’, is essentially an imposed solution. This is the fundamental problem that policies and programs aways run into – solutions based on one set of values are imposed on people who may have an another set of values. The solutions are either intentionally or unintentionally subverted or resisted. A common response appears to be complete or partial self-destruction. The programs only partially succeed, or fail completely, as a consequence. It is also why individual goodwill and even individual racism are basically irrelevant. Positive or negative feelings do not affect the fundamentals. It is why the blame game, talk of left and right, and so on, is such a complete waste of time.

    The lack of a treaty is the real status quo and why the permutations of policy, programs and governments, while constantly appearing to change, do not fundamentally change anything. It is why ‘solutions’ do not work and ‘problems’ persist.

    I acknowledge that signing a treaty will take some time. The first significant step, between 1901 and 1967 took over sixty years. It would not surprise me if a treaty takes about that time or even longer. We are not even past first base yet, which would be a general recognition on both sides that a treaty is both necessary and desirable.

    Most people now would say that a treaty will never be signed. It is possible to look into to the future and see with reasonable probability why a treaty will eventually be signed. For example, on current demographics it will take only about a generation before the Northern Territory will have a majority of Indigenous voters. So the first treaty may well be the Northern Territory breaking away from Australia to form an independent country. I am not advocating this as an outcome, just pointing out that a serious treaty negotiation is more likely than not.

    Incidentally, while the focus of this discussion is Indigenous policy, there would be huge benefits for non-Indigenous people in a treaty. Consider all the feelings of frustration, helplessness and confusion, anger, hatred, envy, sorrow, cynicism, pity and contempt that infuse the feelings of many non-Indigenous people when considering Indigenous people and issues. Some variation of the current programs and policies that have been tried and re-tried over the past two centuries will not resolve these wasted and wasteful emotions. Apart from the wasted emotions, there is an enormous amount of waste of government resources that is incurred with each failure or part-failure.

    So: No to the status quo; yes, to a treaty.

  51. Ron said

    Possum said:

    The end game is the answer to a very simple question:
    “In 2025 – what does Australia envisage as being the ‘State of Play‘ of indigenous communities around the country?”

    My reply and final comment on this subject is
    ‘white men/governments” should not answer this question because
    Aborigines can claim its a “white mans” solution.

    I believe the question should be put to Aboriginal Leaders:
    What do Aborigines THEMSELVES
    1/ believe the ABORIGINAL end game should be
    2/ expect will be THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social
    responsibilities & expectations in the Aboriginal end game

    Aborigines ‘s answers to 1/ and 2/ will enable informed debate
    which todate has never occurred.

    Whether any Government would accept all of the answers to 1/ & 2/
    is beside the point.
    What the answers will provide is a framework to discuss & a framework inwhich the Aborigines KNOW they’ve had input into.

    Aboriginal Leaders would be told by Government what is NOT open
    to discussion: eg. breakup of Australia , change from English or from 1 vote per person or from the basis of ‘Mabo’ title etc.

    A change to the fabric of this country will never be allowed by the majority under any circumstances

    Those like Ningaui who argue & I quote:
    Usually before a treaty is signed the content of positions are not stated until after the rules for negotiating the treaty are stated.

    No Government & I repeat No government would ever be silly enough to lock themselves into agreeing to negotiate rules to negotiate a Treaty without knowing the Aborigines position

    That would be a recipe for giving Aboriges anything they wanted
    Furthermore it allows Aboriginal leaders to avoid saying what
    they expect in future and what responsibilitie they will take on

    Harsh Call but true:
    It is the Aborigines who desire assistance , NOT white people.
    So its the Aboriginal leaders responsibility to articulate the answers to the 1/ and 2/ basic questions asked of them

    Blogers Solutions & comments in this Blog:
    Rod , Zafar , Michael , Ed and numerous other blogers here have
    made many many worthy suggestions which all could be taken into the debate/discussion foreshadowed above. They wish to even add 2
    (after getting the Aboriginal feedback to 1/ and 2/)

    Possum’s courageous remote community question:
    Implicit in the questions 1/ and 2/ is that Aboriginal leaders
    answers will be forced to include/address this issue & like ones

    This is the word Aboriginal leaders dare not speak AT ALL
    However the Aboriginal Leader’s answers to 1/ and 2/
    will be forced to include/address both this issue
    and the degree & areas of assimilation implicit in their answers

    complex solutions (rather than repeating the problems everyone already knows exists) that have been beyond the capacity of white & black Australians for decades may be addressed
    by following the pathway of 1/ and 2/ suggested above

  52. ih8JWH said

    Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is killed in a presumed suicide attack at an election rally and JWH agreed to
    200,000 troops wasting their time holding Iraq together when it should be split into three autonomous regions (shi’ia, sunni, and kurd). Those 200,000 troops should be sweeping the caves of torra borra, where this plot to kill Bhutto was obviously hatched…

  53. 3 responses…….

    Can anyone provide any evidence from any community – white or black – where increased police numbers have resulted in less crime? Similarly, can anyone provide any evidence that imprisonment is a strategy to decrease sexual violence in any community?

    Ron said…….. “I believe the question should be put to Aboriginal Leaders:
    What do Aborigines THEMSELVES
    1/ believe the ABORIGINAL end game should be
    2/ expect will be THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social
    responsibilities & expectations in the Aboriginal end game”

    Aboriginal Australia has been very clear and loud on these issues for a long time. The fact that this question needs to be asked is an indication that white Australia is not listening, not that Aboriginal leaders have not yet articulated a position.

    The essential problem is white Australia disagrees with and actively opposes the vision and demands of Aboriginal Australia.

    In broad terms, as I understand it from listening to Aboriginal spokespeople for 30 years, the key vision/demands are 1/land rights and 2/ self determination. Aboriginal leaders and all the reports including the $50 million dollar Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody has concurred with Aboriginal Australia that land rights and self determination are key strategies to tackle personal and collective dysfunction in Aboriginal society. Yet these key elements have been totally missing in government indigenous policy. Land rights has been reduced to native title which has been seen as an obstacle to overcome rather than as a rich opportunity. Self determination has been reduced to consultation, meaning wave after wave of ignorant bureacrats flowing into Aboriginal communities enquiring about Aboriginal vision – then ignoring it, followed by a proclamation of the government agenda that communities can “provide feedback” to, which is also ignored.

    Aboriginal culture, the essence of self determination, has been reduced to dot paintings and stage shows to feed the tourist industry.

    We have proven that all government policies to date have failed and contributed to the dysfunction and suffering. Yet we continue to resist self determination.

    White Australia must give up something – land, wealth, power – in order for any of the Aboriginal problems to be solved. It is the resistance to giving anything up, the psychological defense of the colonial paradigm that is entrenching the problems.

    and 3)
    Dysfunctional, uneconomic remote communities.
    Why is it that a remote Aboriginal settlement is considered uneconomic when it is surrounded by multi-million dollar mining, agribusiness and tourism industries? Why is an Aboriginal community uneconomic when the neighboring mine is considered part of the backbone of the national economy?

    Dysfunction and lack of services in remote Aboriginal communities has nothing to do with location. The causes of remote community poverty and inner city poverty are the same – disposession from the economic base of society.

    The solution to Aboriginal poverty is not cottage industry development in remote communities, it is traditional owners sharing in the wealth that is produced on or extracted from their land. This is why land rights is central, so that Aboriginal people can participate in the economy as capital owners – shareholders, company directors etc. The flow-on effect of this will develop much local industry.

    However, economic development without land rights will mean more of the same – small cottage industries with no capital and a few blue collar traineeships at local industries such as mines. Tokenistic at best but solves no problems.

  54. Kamatsu said

    John, not all remote Aboriginal communities are next to a mine. Some will still have to be assessed for economic feasibility.

  55. Ron said

    John Tracy # 53

    Aboriginal Australia has been very clear and loud on these issues for a long time

    No they have not
    And I notice you did not answer the questions either

  56. Ron

    Yes they have.

    Just because you weren’t paying attention does not mean nothing was said.

    It is not my position to answer your question but i did say Aboriginal Australia has consistently demanded land rights and self determination. Why do you feel this is not a valid answer?

  57. Ron said

    because Aboriginal leaders CONTINUE to avoid answering the simple basic question I posed in # 47

    Making simplistic slogans about ‘land right’s & ‘self determination’ is a cop out by Aboriginal Leaders

  58. Ron said

    Aboriginal leaders find it convenient to blame the white man but when a 21st Century question on THEIR expected future responsibilities will be

    (THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social responsibilities & expectations will be in the Aboriginal end game)

    we get vague slogans to avoid the answer

  59. Land rights and self determination are much more than vague slogans. It is true that they were slogans in demonstrations in the 70s and 80s but a deep and intracate vision was behind them and articulated by Aboriginal leaders. The result of these demands were , native title, which is a corrupted notion used to deal with land rights and ATSIC which was a corrupted notion of self determination. The movement that lead to the creation of ATSIC and native title was not at all shallow. However ATSIC and native title were not the constructions of Aboriginal leaders and were often resisted by Aboriginal leaders as they became used as tools to repress Aboriginal will and interests.

    Whatever you think of ATSIC and native title, they cannot be dismissed as mere vague slogans.

    The parliament never embraced land rights or self determination when they legislated for native title and ATSIC, but what little they did hold of the principles were systematically undone by John Howard who also undid the Fraser’s N.T. land rights act in his intervention.

    Land rights and self determination have been clearly stated as the position of expectations and responsibility, yet despite ATSIC and native title, or rather because of them, land rights and self determination have never been allowed to even be experimented with on Aboriginal terms, allways only within policy frameworks that white Australia feels comfortable with.

  60. Ron said

    I quote you:
    However ATSIC and native title were not the constructions of Aboriginal leaders

    blame the whites again instead of supplying a detailed answer

    what specifically ‘land rights’ and ‘self determination’

    the other 6 billion people in this world have to earn their own living themselves & be responsible for their own kids welfare

  61. Ron,

    Yes, ATSIC and native title were created by parliament as responses to the demands for land rights and self determination but they never embodied these principles. White Australia disagreed with what Aborigines were demanding and offered something quite different. This is an important point because many people blame today’s problems on the failure of self determination policies in the 70’s 80’s and early 90’s but the truth is self determination was never even experimented with.

    Land rights
    – legally acknowledging native title – Aboriginal interest in land by way of common law accomodation of traditional land title (as the high court did in the Mabo case) as a title of equal weight to other land title such as freehold, leasehold and mineral title – thereby giving traditional owners a capital base for resedential developments, commercial enterprises and a place at the bargaining table for such things as mining. And of course to continue traditional social ecological processes.

    Self determination
    – indigenous policy be drawn up by indigenous people by way of a democratically elected local, regional and state structure. These Aboriginal authorities should determine program guidelines and funding priority rather than white politicians.

    There is a vacuum on the national level since the demise of ATSIC but locally and regionally there still exists structures of elders, traditional owners and democratically elected community councils which need to be empowered by way of legislation and funding to enact their will and govern their communities.

    The Howard and the Rudd model is for a simple advisory body to give input to cabinet which is all powerfull in determining policy direction and funding priorities.

    I am not talking about more funding to Aboriginal authorities (although this is important too) but by redirecting current budgets out of the hands of white bureacrats and politicians into the hands of Aboriginal authorities.

    You said – “the other 6 billion people in this world have to earn their own living themselves & be responsible for their own kids welfare”

    This is just an irrational racist knee jerk reaction, displaying a cruel dismissal of Aboriginal suffering and a blind ignorance to the truth of history that has caused and continues to cause Aboriginal suffering.

  62. Ron said


    Firstly despite 3 requests , you like the Aboriginal leaders evade the basic question I posed re Aboriginal responsibility

    Secondly you play the typical pathetic ‘guilt’ card when faced with Aborigines actually having to accept 21st Century responsibility

    Thirdly you dismiss the other 6 billion people in the world who have earn their own living..presumably Aborigines do not need to

    Fourthly your model for ‘self determination’ would lead to formally breaking up this country.
    Get real the 99% majority will not agree

    Fifthly you blandly wish to institutionalise funding by white tax payers without any responsibility by INDIVIDUAL Aborigines to earn their own individual wages
    Get real the 99% majority will not agree

    Sixthly you disguise desired land title changes that would leave all australian land owners to a compensation claim
    Get real the 99% majority will not agree

    The mythical utopia desired by Aboriginal leaders & ‘do gooders’ for all Aboriginal communities is reflected in the ‘remote communities’

    1/ maintain pre 21st Century traditional Aboriginal life ways
    2/ reject 21st Century responsibilities that each individual
    has income responsibility for his individual family
    instead demand institutionalised funding by tax payers
    3/ ‘cherry pick’ 21st Century benefits
    but don’t pay for them
    instead demand these benefits be paid by white australia
    no matter how remote or uneconomic the community is
    4/ hope a government may open land title to compensation claims
    against every Australian home owner

    The simple reason why no end solution has occurred is because Aborigines 4 above demands have not changed and white Australia will never agree to them

  63. Ron, I have answered your question and given some detail when asked. It is clear that you do not agree but I cant see how you can claim I have evaded the question. I am sorry i cannot give you the answer you expect but what you expect seems to be very different from the position of Aboriginal Australia.

    What responsibilities to Aboriginal people envision for themselves? Total responsibility. What this means in specifics is different from community to community but before any community can enact their will they need to have all the restrictions to self management removed.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your question, if you asked something more specific I am happy to have a go at answering it, though I cannot speak for Aboriginal people,

    You are almost correct when you say “the 99% majority will not agree”, the only innacuracy being that 2% of the population are indigenous. This is the essential problem white (culture not skin colour) Australia resists Aboriginal will and interests. This is the basic story of Australia. This is a colonial society where the indigenous population has been killed, imprisoned and completely disempowered in order to facilitate the colonial economy and society. The interests of white and black Australia are opposed and the dominant, all powerfull white Australia gets its way through the exercise of its power over Aboriginal people.

    You are also correct in saying “that would leave all australian land owners to a compensation claim”. This was incorporated into Keatings original native title legislation, it is no more unrealistic than a medicare levy or what we are about to see in terms of carbon taxes. It is a minimal burden that seems to be rejected by white Australia on the basis of principle, not economics.

    All Australian land owners have title to their land by way of genocide and disposession of Aboriginal land owners, we are all living on stolen Aboriginal land. All land owners presently pay tax for a range of social obligtions and it is simply racist to say that rectifying the illegal appropriation of land should not be paid by land owners. In white law, those who recieve stolen property, even if they were not responsible for the original theft, are held liable. The stolen property, even if it was aquired in good faith must be returned to the legitimate owner. To deny Aboriginal people compensation for the theft of their entire economic base is to deny the humanity of Aboriginal people, to hold their rights and interests as inferior to and subject to white interests.

    As for your 6 billion other people. I think you will find 2/3 of them are similarly colonised and dispossessed by the affluent 1/3. Billions of people struggle with poverty, social dysfunction and genocidal state policies just as Aboriginal people do. It is the height of racist arrogance to believe the whole world’s population is the same as us white Australians. Most people on this planet have interests and circumstance that co-incide with Aboriginal Australia. Affluent Australians defense of their own interests coincide with racist and authoritarian regimes around the planet who maintain minority affluence at the expense of majority poverty. But Australia, like the USA is worse because it killed off most of the indigenous population, most regimes just enslaved the indigenous populations.

    So Ron, it seems to me that you and the rest of white Australia are very limited in what you will allow for indigenous people. Aboriginal demands for self management are totally opposed to your interests. As mentioned above, until white Australia gives up some power, money and land then the suffering of Aboriginal people will continue, no matter how many police are sent into Aboriginal communities. Until the 98% are willing to give up something then the lives of the 2% will not change. You are unfortunately correct that a racist and selfish Australian society will not embrace such a thing. It took the force of numbers, a prolonged guerilla war and international sanctions to force white South Africans to give up some money, power and land in order to facilitate South African self determination. I dont know what it would take to overcome Australian structural racism.

    Your guilt comment is just another racist knee jerk reaction, a psychological denial of the very history that has caused the problems. Denial is the primary manifestation of guilt. It is indeed you that is motivated by the notion of guilt in your irrational dismissal of history as well as the loud and clear opinions of Aboriginal Australia.

    I do not encourage you to feel guilty because that just leads to denial which is the status-quo of Australian consciousness. Guilt will never facilitate a giving up of money, power and land. Only compassion and empathy will, but these two human charachteristics are repressed by guilt.

    And finally, I have never heard an Aboriginal spokesperson claim to want to live in a pre-21st century existance. Who are you talking about with this comment? Or is this just a racist myth that exists in your own mind and you are projecting it on this blog?

    Aboriginal people do not want to return to the culture of the past any more than white Australians want to return to old European culture. Aboriginal culture is alive and relevant to today, which is more than can be said for many of the decaying institutions of English culture such as the church or the British peerage. Aboriginal culture is not about dot paintings, boomerangs and stage shows. It is about mens business, womens business and elders which is applicable to any historical circumstance.

  64. Here is a recent statement from the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA). Just so you dont think I am making it up.
    FAIRA played a central role in the U.N. declaration on the rights of indigenous people.

  65. Here is the UN declaration of indigenous rights


    which includes…….

    Article 3

    Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right
    they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social
    and cultural development.

    Article 4

    Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the
    right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local
    affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

    Article 8

    1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to
    forced assimilation or destruction of their culture……..

    The 98% of Australians that resist Aboriginal self determination are not only opposed to the will of Aboriginal people but also international law and principle, just as white South Africans did before the fall of apartheid.

  66. kyangadac said

    Ron @ 47 asks:
    “what do ABORIGINES THEMSELVES expect will be THEIR economic , legal , cultural & social responsibilities & expectations in the future?”

    well mate, what do you think YOUR responsibilties and expectations in the future are? Get a job support your family – thought so, no thought about the future for your kids in a world that’s overheated, in a country that’s been strip-mined bare, and invaded by people who sneer at your property rights because they’re based on a lie that you can’t acknowledge? Not relevant? If those questions aren’t relevant to you how come you feel so empowered to sneer at the poorest section of the Australian community? What justifies you, mate?

  67. Ron said

    re #63 you say:
    And finally, I have never heard an Aboriginal spokesperson claim to want to live in a pre-21st century existance.

    If that was true , then 21st Century existance involves economic , social & legal responsibility including getting a job & individually supporting your family.

    It IS the opinion of Aboriginal Leader Noel Pearson but he is in a minority.

    But most Aboriginal Leaders oppose this responsibility.
    They prefer to slogan for Aborigines to be permanently welfare & compensation recipients at white tax payers expense.

    (under the ‘guise’ of “land title” , “treaties” , “self determination” , “stolen generation” & “white conquest”)

    As this will never be agreed to by the 98% majority , Aboriginal Leaders have perpetuated a false myth for decades of a ‘pot of gold’ fo all aborigines who will never have to work for the gold

    Aborigine Leaders teach each generation the white man will pay , the white man owes you a living BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ADOPT THE WHITE MAN’s edcuation system and work ethic to get this pot of gold.

    What has and always will be the result of such poor & false Aboriginal Leadership:

    Aborigine child sex abuse , grog abuse , parents health abuse
    of their kids , education denial of children , violence against mothers ARE ALL committed by Aborigines against Aborigines

    These abuses are the responsibility of Aborigine’s themselves
    but Aboriginal leaders refuse to accept the responsibility

    Aussies believe this is OUR Country and Aussie’s reaction to Anzac Day is the undeniable proof.

    Whilstever Aboriginal Leaders deny this reality , they and the ‘do gooders’ will continue to offer Aborigine generations false hope of a pot of gold with all the social & economic consequences inherent

    Discussing realistic solutions is academic otherwise
    which is why there has been no real solutions and unlikely to be so

  68. Ron, can you name one Aboriginal person who opposes responsibility?

    You seem to be engaging in a racist rant, creating untruthfull characatures to justify your own resentment of Aboriginal people. I cant really respond to your latest assertions because they are simply false. Perhaps if you could give an example of what you are talking about I could respond.

  69. John VK said

    and no argument just an accusation of racism at 68.

    “You seem to be engaging in a racist rant”.

    and of course as Ron at 67 points out the rhetoric of John Tracey confirms the left and the aboriginal industry will not address the issues of rape, violence, unemplyoment,illiteracy and disease epidemics except the use of blame of everyone else for humbug results.

    Very few want to tackle or even discuss the issues except to discuss politics whether it be treaty, apology or COMPENSATION.

  70. Ron said

    # 68

    Aboriginal Leaders & ‘do gooders’ always resort to their own racist beliefs when confronted with 21st Century reality

    ‘Do gooders’ & Aboriginal Leaders are happy to argue
    for land title changes so Aborigines can claim compensation & royaly payments against all Australian land owners , and

    for welfare paid by white tax payers to permanently continue,and

    for ‘self determination’ of Aboriginal communities being a form of separating this country into 2 countries via apartheid

    It is a racist doctrine …which includes Aborigines wanting all 21st Century benefits but not the responsibility to work for it
    as a wage earner/employer like the rest of us

    Continue your ‘fantasy’ demands…its the ‘yasar arafat’ syndrome

    The 98% majority own this country. it is our country
    Continue to wallow in 1788 self pity

  71. John VK,

    Self determination and land rights has been put up as the basis to solutions to “rape, violence, unemplyoment,illiteracy and disease epidemics” as well as a range of other issues. Why do you dismiss this? Why do you think white paternalism can work now when it has not just failed miserably in the past 100 years but been responsible for creating the problems you identify?

    You too are racist in your assertion that Aboriginal people do not want to deal with problems. It is simple racism to suggest that white Australia knows better or cares more and should intervene/impose its will onto Aboriginal Australia.

    How is it that you can demand Aboriginal people “own” their own problems without self determination?

    Your statement “Very few want to tackle or even discuss the issues except to discuss politics whether it be treaty, apology or COMPENSATION.” is total crap, indicating a complete ignorance of, or dismissal of, what Aboriginal people are actually saying. You are making this up based on your own ignorant prejudice.

    You may like to read this “Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force On Violence Report” http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AILR/2000/20.html

    However, on the issue of compensation which is in the news today (stolen generation), why should Aboriginal victims of institutional abuse not be compensated? Should non-Aboriginal victims of state abuse also be ignored or is your opposition to compensation in law just restricted to Aboriginal people?

    A court has already awarded half a million dollars to one victim of govt. removal policy, is the court wrong for applying mainstream standards of justice to Aboriginal people?

  72. Ron and John VK,

    If you don’t think colonisation and protectionism is the cause of problems in Aboriginal society, what do you believe are the causes?

    Do you think it is important to understand the causes to be able to design a solution?

  73. Ron said

    Fact 1 Aboriginal abuses against their own race:

    Aborigine child sex abuse , grog abuse , parents health abuse
    of their kids , education denial of children , and Aboriginal male violence against Aboriginal mothers
    ARE ALL committed by Aborigines against Aborigines

    Clearly the Aborigines themselves are responsible for their own actions. Instead Aboriginal leaders play the blame game to whites

    Solution by ‘do gooders’ & Aboriginal Leaders:
    They believe
    changed land rights Laws allowing compensation claims against ALL white land owners and
    ‘self determination’ WITH GUARANTEED white tax payer funded welfare will solve these abuses !

    ie. the Aborigine perpetrators of these abuses will magically be good citizens AND
    the ‘Elders’ under whose Leadership these abuses have occurred will magically be able to stop these abuses !!!!!!!!!

    Instead blame the whites for Aboriginal irresponsibility

    ‘do gooders’ & Aboriginal Leaders do not teach Aboriginal kids
    the value of a western civilisation education & the priority to get a western civilisation job to support their own family etc
    so that a brighter future may occur

    Instead Aborigine Leaders teach each generation the white man will pay , the white man owes you a living , aborigines will get compensation …and Aborigines do not need to get employment etc etc in the ‘white mans’ economy.

    Aboriginal Leaders want a PERMANENT ‘free lunch’ from whites

    So Aborigines OWN BELIEFS prevent any solution !!!
    Why , because Aboriginal Leaders in truth do not accept broad Aboriginal employment in the ‘white mans’ economy
    (with the housing , income , social & legal responsibilities that entails)

    The racism comes from those who can not handle the above truth

  74. Ron, what evidence do you have for your “truth”? It seems to me you are again presenting your own prejudices and resentments.

    It seems to me that white Australia believes that Aboriginal society will pay for everything. White Australia assumed it could take Aboriginal land without payment. White society assumed it could use Aboriginal labour to develop the pastoral industry without payment. White Australia assumed it could withold wages and pensions from Aboriginal people (once pittances were paid).

    Still today, White Australia assumes it does not have to repay stolen wages.

    Yet you smugly accuse Aboriginal people of selfishness for expecting support of any sort from white Australia?

    I have never heard any Aboriginal person say that white people will pay for everything. On the contrary, the common wisdom is that white Australia will continue to take, take, take and give nothing.

  75. Xercius said

    Gee, Ron (above), that is certainly a view that can be assembled. As I have alluded to in earlier posts, however, it is somewhat simplistic. What is missing from its formulation is acknowledgement of some fundamental elements.

    For instance . . . no one can deny that some (and I stress, some) communities are in crisis and are afflicted by the social decay that you mention. What (as ever) is missing, however, is application of the ‘why’ question. Why have those communities become the way they are?

    Once you get an answer to that question, apply the ‘why’ question again. Keep doing that until you get to a point where the ‘why’ question can not any longer be applied. Then and only then have you found your starting point from which a solution may be developed.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s beliefs do not prevent any solution, Ron. It is fair comment, however, that some behaviour places a significant obstacle in the path to a solution. But, again, until you’ve exhausted the ‘whys’ in relation to that behaviour, you’ve got no hope.

    Treaties . . . the subject of my post grad work actually. I could literally write a thesis on this (hang on . . . been there, done that). It’s a thorny issue that needs to canvass issues such as sovereignty and discordant cultural affects. In short, however, Balandas think of a treaty as a document of some sort. This, in itself, is an issue, as that construct come from within a particular (dominant) social paradigm.

    A ‘treaty’ does not, however, have to take that form for it to be valuable, meaningful and workable. Saying ‘sorry’ could be part of a ‘oral’ treaty. Listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about housing design, access to ancestral land and appropraite solutions to particular community issues could be another element.

    A ‘treaty’ that might be workable is obtainable if it manifests as a demonstrated committment in a panopoly of areas. But, you need to have everyone in the tent.

  76. Ron said

    my Blogs # 67 , 70 & 73 may reflect the majority view
    and your blogs 71 , 72 & 74 may reflect the Aboriginal view

    We have opposing views on posible solutions
    let others rationally dissect our opposing opinions


  77. Ron said


    Does an Aborigine end game include BROAD Aborigine employment in the ‘white mans’ business economy ?

  78. Xercius said


    That’s certainly an objective I worked on for some time (in a policy development setting). It, however, is not without its challenges either, even if you are talking, say, engagement with the ‘white collar’ / professional strata of employment (and the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders targetted by the policy are highly educated / skilled candidates).

    Curiously, most of the ‘challenges’ faced in the development of such a policy seemed to come from the institutions for whom the adoption of the policy would need to be demonstrated.

  79. Ron said

    Xercius ,
    could you clarify your response please via me being more precise:

    Given that current employment in the ‘white mans’ business economy includes Aussies of all races , religions and colours with skills & education generally being the employment factor
    by the employer AND

    given therefore that Aborigines can be DEFINITIVELY expected to be treated on exactly the same basis by employers ,

    THEN does an Aborigine end game include BROAD Aborigine employment in the ‘white mans’ business economy ?

    ( I asume having made ny question more detailed that the answer is either a yes or no)

  80. Xercius said


    In short (and if I have understood your detail correctly): Yes.

    There’s a number of parts to that equation. One part is the overcoming of ‘racist’ attitudes. Another part is an acknowledgement by employers that — for many Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders — there do need to be made some concessions to their cultural imperatives (leave entitlements in the event of a death of a family member for example).

    Another part is education, particularly early childhood education, and even more particularly early childhood education in remote / rural centres. That in itself can be a mechanism for ‘beaking the cycle’ of dispair experienced by some communities.

    But (and I have to be a bit careful here), when you sit in a high level meeting of bureaucrats (from a broad range of Departments) and you have statements made such as,

    “Well . . . we’ll have to see a cost benefit analysis of anything before we can support it” or

    “If you think for one minute that we’ll have programmes tailored to suit Aboriginal people then you’re just kidding . . . they’re only 1 percent of the population anyway, so who cares?”

    That’s when you know it’s a much bigger problem than originally thought.

    If something as fundamental as appropraite educational opportunities has to overcome that sort of ‘challenge’ (I pointed out to the ‘cost benefit analysis’ person that we weren’t talking about a factory here, but young people with names. The ‘who cares’ response had me assiduously looking for new employment within the hour of it being made), then you know any ‘solution’ has to come from a far deeper-seated and widespread level.

  81. kyangadac said

    Ron @ 76 says
    “my Blogs # 67 , 70 & 73 may reflect the majority view”
    you reckon? I thought they just represented you’re view point. Got any evidence that the rest of Oz is as racist as you mate or just a big ego.

  82. Ningaui said

    If I have got the gist right, there is a view that the end game is for Indigenous people to give up on their culture, give up on their land, accept that they have lost against the invaders and accept that the invaders will never give up voluntarily what they have taken. I accept that Ron would probably prefer ‘settlers’ to ‘invaders’. Indigenous people must accept that ‘Australia’ and ‘being Australian’ is to be defined by non-Indigenous people; that non-Indigenous people make all the rules; that non-Indigenous people control the police, the policing, the content and direction of the laws and the administration of the laws. Non-Indigenous people will decide what is right and what is wrong. Non-Indigenous people will decide the boundaries of Australia. They control the military. They will do all these things because they represent 98% of the population and because they have the power to do so and they feel righteous.

    Indigenous people need to understand and accept that they have been beaten by more a more powerful and more morally upright people.

    It is therefore time for Indigenous people to enter the main economic game by getting educated and getting jobs. They must stop being beggars. They must move to where the jobs are. They will compete successfully on merit. They will gather capital, purchase houses, start enterprises and so on. In so doing they will all pick up non-Indigenous morality and therefore learn to treat each other and non-Indigenous people with respect they deserve. Indigenous people will then blame nobody but themselves for anything. There will be no racism because everybody will be the same. In fact, there will be no such thing as Indigenous people. Non-Indigenous people will then all be able to feel that they were right all along. People who argue against this approach are obviously ‘do gooders’.

    A ‘do gooder’ is essentially a wrong-headed person, perhaps with good intent, who does not understand that the only thing acceptable to non-Indigenous people is that Indigenous must become indistinguishable from non-Indigenous people in everything that counts.

    Words such as ‘blame’. guilt’ and ‘racist’ are stunt ‘do-gooder’ words, used to distort the truth which is staring us all in the face. It just requires the right balance of moral revulsion at what Indigenous people routinely do to each other and moral righteousness (based on non-Indigenous righteous behaviour and values) to accept this truth. There is nothing to be guilty about either as individuals or as a nation. Nothing and nobody was stolen or even borrowed. No-one was raped or murdered. No Indigenous children were ever abused by non-Indigenous adults. There has never been one non-Indigenous person known to have been convicted of this. But if there were, we know that all rapists, murderers have been, and are, equal before the law. This has been true for the last two hundred years. No-one was, or is, treated like sub-human rubbish. No-one was ever denied schooling on the basis of race. No-one was ever cheated of their wages. No-one was ever denied the vote on the basis of race. The police always treat, and always have, treated Indigenous people with scrupulous care. Employers and real estate agents routinely chose Indigenous applicants fully on merit. Could it be that some misguided non-Indigenous people who mistreat fellow non-Indigenous people have picked up a bit of historical fallacy that somehow or other ‘might makes right?’ An evil lesson indeed. On the other hand, lots of good things did actually happen in the past and we can gain emotional strength and pride in these things. We can celebrate these things that did happen. Like the courage and fortitude of the ANZACs.

    Apart from the good things, nothing happened to anybody, anywhere, anytime. There is therefore nothing to be blamed about, now or in the past. No emotional damage was done. No sexual damage was done. No social damage was done. No economic damage was done. It is not racist to tell this truth. With power and righteousness resolved, and fortunately wielded by the 98% with all the guns and butter, it is therefore time for Indigenous people to move right along. Anything else is apartheid and we would certainly not want to be anything like those nasty Afrikaaners would we? They really were racists!

    In order for the correct future to happen, Indigenous people must learn that their history starts today, right now. First step is for Indigenous leaders to acknowledge the truth of all this, accept full responsibility for the situation and make the pledge that all Indigenous people will get with the program. They must stop blaming non-Indigenous people and start blaming themselves for the situation in which they find themselves and for the way Indigenous people treat each other so badly all the time. Indigenous people have to accept globalisation, get educated and get jobs. Shift. Hustle. Once they have done that, they can forget that they are Indigenous people either as individuals or as a group. They must, individually and as a group, forget the past. Indigenous people must learn to accept fully that their values are rubbish. They must become just like non-Indigenous people. Then we can all just sort of rest easy.

    The problem with this general expectation is that I don’t think non-Indigenous people can forget how they got to be where they are, forget their past, or forget who they are. Even if non-Indigenous people were to do the best they can to help, I just don’t think non-Indigenous people could become total amnesiacs. They know their own truth too well. This presents both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with a series of dilemmas rather a simple challenge.

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