Preferential Business Treatment

19 Mar 2015. The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, announces a plan to boost spending with Aboriginal companies to $1.17 billion per year (3% of $ 39 billion) over five years, up from the current $ 6.2 million (0.015%). The low 0.015% figure currently spent is despite ­existing exemption policies that make it easier for public sector agencies to buy from indigenous businesses.
The government will also ­increase the indigenous workforce within the commonwealth public service from its current level of 2.6 per cent to 3 per cent by 2018. This will result in an extra 1,200 indigenous employees. Senator Scullion conceded the Government had struggled to maintain its Indigenous employment levels in recent years
More in The Australian, ABC and Indigenous.gov.au
Comment by Wake Up Time: here we go again. Despite existing exemption policies for Aboriginal businesses, they don’t manage to get more than 0.015% of the contracts. To increase this to 3%, the government will have to buy either substandard, non-competitive products and services, or pay too much. How fair is this to non-Aboriginal businesses? Scullion might state that he understands that this will be the criticism, but understanding that does not justify his policies. Racial distinctions are always wrong, even if mining magnets like Forrest (the inventor of this plan) like them. The solution is to help businesses to get stronger in the competitive market, also if they have indigenous employees.
The same applies to forced increase of Indigenous employees: the government will either pay too much, or get sub standard employees. Employ people for their skills, not for their skins.

Lifestyle choices (cont)

12 Mar 2015 The fall out continues about the PM’s remarks. He stated that “we can’t endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have. If people choose to live in areas where there are no schools or jobs, there is a limit to what they can expect the state to provide. If people choose to live miles away from where there’s a school, if people choose not to access the school of the air, if people choose to live where there’s no jobs, obviously it’s very, very difficult to close the gap.” The opposition calls it a disgrace and film maker Rolf de Heer slams Abbotts remarks. Aboriginal leaders also disagree strongly with Abbott.
Comment by Wake Up Time: It looks like Abbott is facing a form of criticism he is used to give himself; criticism without content, without substance and without alternatives. Tony Abbott knows Aboriginal communities well and his remarks might by insensitive, but they are correct. It’s time for his critics to come forward with proposals how to really address the issue.

Lifestyle choice

5 Mar 2015 The Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has blasted Tony Abbott’s comments that living in a remote community is a lifestyle choice, saying it is a “deranged debate” conducted in a “substandard manner”. The prime minister made the remark on ABC radio in Kalgoorlie on Tuesday in response to questions about the Western Australian government’s plan to close up to 150 of the state’s 274 remote Aboriginal communities after it received a federal funding cut. More on The Guardian
Comment by Wake Up Time: Abbott’s wording might have been insensitive, but the point he makes is valid. Many remote communities are not sustainable in the ‘mainstream’ sense of the word, because of lack of services and work, and welfare dependency. Of course, it could be that Aboriginal communities should not be measured by ‘mainstream’ standards. But if that is the case (a point made by left wing politicians and Aboriginal leaders) then another structure should be put in place to solve the problems. So far, no-one has ever come up with such suggestion, most likely because there is none. Abbott is right.

New stolen generation?

26-02-2015 More than 900 Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care, according to the Guardian. The main, contradicting views, regarding this topics are the government’s vision that they simply look after children that live in abusive situation, while Aboriginal activists consider it a new ‘Stolen Generation’ policy. The likelihood that Aboriginal children end up in out-of-home care are eightfold from other children, according to a report on Child Protection 2012/13.
Comment from Wake Up Time: No proof can be found that the government removes Aboriginal children because of different standards or criteria than other children. The fact that relatively many Aboriginal children end up in foster care is probably mainly the result of the living conditions in which many Indigenous children grow up, as shown in Wake Up Time.

Trouble at the college

19-2-2015 The Yirara College in Alice Springs is facing many problems, according to the Alice Springs News. Rampant misconduct by some students is making Yirara unsafe for other students and staff and makes meaningful teaching all but impossible. “The kids just refuse to obey. They walk out of class, they tease each other in (Aboriginal) language. The teacher can’t understand them.” Dozens of kids, the most difficult ones, should be culled from the approximately 200 who are enrolled now, to give the rest a chance of learning progress, says one of the teachers. Half the teaching staff – seven out of 14 – resigned last year. The newly arriving kids are woefully unprepared for life at Yirara, and with a grossly inadequate primary education, have no hope of keeping up with the standard curriculum. Students who barely know the alphabet are thrown in with kids who have good primary education. Policy documents dealing with conduct are completely unrealistic: “If a student does not follow instructions three times they are to get detention”. Every single one of Yilara’s students, yes, 100% of them, are in the bottom quartile of achievement (AS News).
If that rule would be implemented, 90% of the school would be in detention, says a teacher.
Comment from Wake Up Time: The situation in primary schools in remote communities is revealed, in detail in Wake Up Time. It looks like the situation at this college in Alice is the same. The only ones who will finally be able to change this situation are the parents of the involved children, and their social networks. Governmental and educational bodies blaming each other is distracting from the real issue: Indigenous people need to take responsibility themselves.

The Gap is wide open

11-2-2015 Newly published reports show that the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians regarding health and education have not narrowed. The report estimates that total spending per person was $43,449 for Indigenous Australians and $20,900 for other Australians – a ratio of 2.08 to 1. [SMH]
Comments on this fact always refer to ‘more needed efforts’ by governments and the community at large. Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker, co-chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, state in the SMH that “the federal government must stay the course – it must continue to lead on closing the gap in Indigenous health, make no more cuts to Indigenous health funding, retain and increase funding to the successful Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, and connect the Closing the Gap health strategy to other Indigenous priorities, given the issues are interconnected.”
WA Council of Social Service CEO Irina Cattalini told Fairfax Media: “We need to invest in families and communities and support them with the programs and services they know make a difference.” The Prime Minister told that more needs to be done, and the opposition leader Bill Shorten pleaded for more funding.
Comment from Wake Up Time: Building more and better health facilities, expanding schools and whatever other measures are proposed will not, or hardly be effective if the local people do not engage. The Early Learning Centre in Willowra, and the Art Centre in Ali Curung are examples. Many communities do have the finances, directly and indirectly from mining. Money is not the biggest hurdle, real committment from all those involved, is.

Being with Uluru: a God inside

5-2-2015 The Alice Springs News reports on the meditative and mindful experiences of Taiwanese backpackers visiting Uluru. Research by the university involved in-depth interviews: “During my trek I felt the ‘The Rock’ was not only a stone but also a live entity, there were trees on it!”
“Although I didn’t totally understand the history of the rock, I did think that there was a deity inside the rock, and that was the reason why the rock is so holy to the Aborigines because it is a place that is pregnant with new life.
The travel to Uluru for these Taiwanese backpackers awakened their senses and provided a rich experience that may be quite different from how it is traditionally “sold” to Australian tourists.
Comment from Wake Up Time: It is almost impossible not to be very impressed by Uluru and its link to the local Indigenous people’s history. Therefore it is essential that the local people regain full management, not only by collecting the dollars, but also by fully running the information centres and the guided walks. It is a shame that hardly any, if any, local Indigenous people are involved in this.

150 WA communities close

29-1-2015 Up to 200 indigenous communities in Australia could lose access to power and water because the government says it can no longer afford to deliver the basic services. The remote communities are mainly located across the northern tip of Australia and the Kimberley in the country’s northwest. “Communities will not be ‘closed,’” WA Premier Barnett said. “There is nothing to stop people going on to land, but there are going to be issues about the continuing provision of power and water and other services to 274 communities.” [Global Research] [ABC] [Guardian]
Any future living conditions in the remote communities would consist of the bare minimum.
Announcements in many media and websites led to an outcry all over Australia.
Comment by Wake Up Time: It seems reasonable to apply standards for remote communities all over Australia in the same way. If remote agricultural communities are contributing to the nation, governments will continue to supply services. The main question is probably whether this standard could also apply to remote Aboriginal communities. It’s hard to see why it couldn’t and shouldn’t.

Mismanagement, once again

22-1-2015 Mismanagement is not a uniquely Aboriginal ball game, but it looks like it is deeply embedded in the Indigenous bureaucracy. South Australia’s traditional landowners of the to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands face investigation over mismanagement.
Controversial sackings and accusations of mismanagement have plagued the APY executive in recent years. There have been seven general managers since 2010. (See The Australian)
The federal government withdrew already more than $6m in essential services, which is predicted to impact about 4,000 Indigenous people across 60 locations. The funding cuts are part of nationwide deals made between state and federal governments to end the commonwealth share of support for remote communities in return for a one-off payment. The West Australian government has foreshadowed the closure of more than 150 communities – mostly Indigenous – because the funding withdrawal would render them “unviable.” More in The Guardian.
Comment by Wake Up Time: several land councils in the NT use Kafkaian networks to distribute money to individuals in both the bureaucracy and in communities. These structures are revealed in the book. The situation in SA is most likely very similar. More scrutiny is required into the wheeling and dealing of land councils. It might be time to replace the entire system.

Invasion Day

15-1-2015 Australia Day is arriving, and once again it comes with the common controversy. Aboriginal people tend to call the day Invasion Day, as it marked the arrival of the First Fleet. Indigenous leaders call to descend on Canberra for `Invasion Day’. Indigenous leaders and campaigners from the “National Freedom Movement” are calling for supporters to descend on the Canberra Tent Embassy for a sit-in on January 26. The Aboriginal rights group is holding five different forums around the country to encourage people to make the journey to Canberra for the day they call “Invasion Day”. Further forums will be held in Brisbane on January 20 and Alice Springs on January 22. [SMH]. On the Conversation website the topic is highlighted in all its diversity.
Comment by Wake Up Time: If a country likes to celebrate its unity and to step over thresholds and hurdles, than it should be wise in choosing its National Day of Celebration of its Identity. It is hard to come up with any date more UNsuitable for that purpose that exactly the date marking the beginning of the ethnic divide in the country.
Any of the other 364 days of the year would be more suitable to serve the purpose.