Re your post @November 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm Chris Sarra …

Comment on Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog by Bob Durnan.

Re your post @November 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm
Chris Sarra is a bit contradictory when publicly discussing the issue of “carrots and sticks”. While he is certainly critical of the perceived cost of the case management and the administration of the new SEAM model, and is savagely opposed to the cost and operational aspects of the Noel Pearson / Cape York version of the experiment, he seems to fail to recognize the parallels between Macklin’s stick (the temporary with-holding of some welfare income) with the often sturdy sticks involved in his own practice.
Sarra established his reputation through his transformation of Cherbourg State School between 1998 and 2004. He developed his practice of ‘high expectations,” high quality teaching, interesting projects, affirmation of Aboriginal identity and insistence on respect, to create an effective program where participation and attendance rose and achievement rose too.
However, his theory is very much based on a synthesis of “support” accompanied by “challenging and intervening at times when individuals or communities are clearly not exercising their responsibilities appropriately. A relationship is anchored by low expectations when we only set about supporting and developing, without the courage to challenge and intervene.” (Chris Sarra, “Indigenous Policy: be compassionate, be brave”, National Indigenous Times, Oct.11th 2011).
In Sarra’s case, he used both his experience as a rugby league player and his training as a teacher to create a respectful atmosphere in the school and help engender serious respect from his more difficult pupils, and this included deploying some robust methods for exercising discipline in the Cherbourg School.
The approach worked admirably, producing a transformed learning environment and turning around many lives. In the process, it also led to seven complaints being laid against Sarra by disaffected students and their carers, which resulted in four complaints against him being upheld by the Queensland Education Department in 2004 (see ABC TV Australian Story “Good Morning Mr Sarra”, 4th October 2004).
Not long after this, Sarra delivered a speech that consolidated his ascension to the national educational stage. In it he said: “So it’s useful to reflect on what such children need. And they don’t need the undeliverable rhetoric …
“What really matters is what’s deliverable on the ground instead of this pseudo-radicalism that delivers nothing. I’m opposed to forms of libertarianism that promise much with its talk of rights and democracy, yet deliver nothing to indigenous people who are sniffing petrol, paint and glue, and who are stealing cars and need to understand where their boundaries are.
“Changing the culture of a school is a difficult process, especially in a school like ours and one in which it had to change.” (Chris Sarra, Principal, Cherbourg State School, “Imagine the Future by Learning from the Past”. Address to the Communities in Control Conference, Melbourne, 7th June 2005).
He recently averred that “there also needs to be structure in the kids lives … where the environment is predictable. Where there is a consequence – if you do the wrong thing, someone will growl on you, but if you work hard and do the right thing there will be a reward.” (Chris Sarra to Stephen Hagan, “A chat with Stephen Hagan”, National Indigenous Times, 2nd November 2011).
To imply that the Sarra method is not partly dependent, in practice, on its own judicious deployment of sanctions, and sometimes punishments, would be quite misleading, if not delusional.

Bob Durnan Also Commented

Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog
Hilary
Re your reply Posted @November 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm:
I do not “think that a human rights perspective is irrelevant,” but I think a truly beneficial and just “human rights perspective” needs to be based on a balanced, intelligent and integrated model of human rights.
The tendency of some advocates to privilege the instrumental rights of some adults over the substantive rights of their neglected children and other vulnerable people seems to me to be neither balanced nor intelligent.
For example, the freedom of some adults to neglect their children’s welfare, and ignore their need for close supervision by too often allowing them to do whatever they want, including not going to school on two or more days out of five, is sometimes justified in the name of “culture,” tradition, autonomy and “self-determination” rights. Such “rights” seem to be given greater weight by these advocates than the rights of children to receive adequate care, supervision and education.
Governments are ethically and legally bound to act on behalf of children in such situations. When government actions fail to produce more acceptable behaviour, they have to increase the pressure for change, or remove the children from the situations that are almost certainly causing them irreparable harm that will endure for the rest of their lives.
I do not believe however that the enactments of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) and Income Management constitute breaches of human rights, as they are pre-eminently special affirmative action measures, or positive discrimination, designed specifically for the benefit of groups of people who were demonstrably experiencing extreme harm as a result of the previous inappropriate provision of welfare payments without reasonable requirements or responsibilities – children.
The nature of the “evidence base to the positive effects of human rights” is also more complex and contentious than your reference indicates that you appreciate. Your understanding of the realities and problems of contemporary social, cultural and economic problems in town camps and remote communities seems quite limited, otherwise you would probably not keep lecturing us so patronisingly with your simple mantras and nostrums.
Whilst it is true that the “compulsory income management,” “federal government policy shutting down CDEP,” “legislation relating to customary law,” and “NT government policies dismantling community councils” have been disempowering for some, for many others these have been empowering; for the great majority they have at least provided the opportunity of a more realistic and neutral terrain on which to begin building better and more egalitarian lives.
Long-term compulsory land acquisition has not occurred, although I believe that it (along with fair compensation to the original owners) would have been well justified; people living in towns need to have a land tenure system that is based on the “common good” of residents and their needs rather than on an hereditary system of land ownership and control by a local elite.
The ultimate autonomy of the great majority of individual residents has probably been increased more than it has been diminished by these changes. They are certainly not changes that you hear more than a few people on communities complaining about; and most of the previous arrangements also had their coercive aspects, by virtue of the semi-feudal rights that they conferred on the few over the many.
I strongly suspect that, to the extent that the SEAM process proves to be worthwhile in terms of achieving its goal in remote Aboriginal communities, you will probably find reasons to deny it, as it appears that you may be psychologically allergic to the idea that Aboriginal people could ever be really responsible for any of their own behaviours.


Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog
Hilary
Further re your post @ November 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm:
I agree with you that “housing needs remain dire. These are what communities which have been terribly under-resourced for decades are calling out for – more housing, more services, more activities for young people – the services that Australians everywhere else take for granted.”
However, I would point out that these things are exactly what the governments have been attending to, on a massive scale, over the last three or four years: they have been pouring huge amounts of resources into the very communities which are coming under the SEAM experiment.
The schools where SEAM already exists, or is about to, are in the communities which have most benefited from the billions of dollars being expended under the NTER Intervention programs.
The reason why SEAM is being introduced to these communities is that the governments’ largesse has, in many cases, not been translated “to more children at school”, although it has usually led to more teachers, more school buildings, more teacher housing, more education support workers, as well as to more night patrol people, welfare workers, youth workers, pre-school workers, child welfare workers, counsellors, police, health workers, nurses, recreation workers, training, community houses, better stores, less alcohol-related disturbances, and many other benefits.
Under these circumstances, no reasonable person could criticize the government for wanting to give recalcitrant parents a little nudge.


Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog
Hilary
Re your earlier post @November 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm:
Many concerned Aboriginal leaders told Macklin and Snowdon that they think they should withhold some welfare from carers who neglect those in their charge, e.g. with-hold a part of welfare from people who don’t ensure that their children attend school often enough, amongst other things. These responsible leaders think this will assist in sorting out the non-attendance problem. Why do you doubt Macklin’s word on this and also the judgement of the responsible Aboriginal elders in the places she visited?
You are right about the USA studies that looked at welfare sanctions linked to school attendance. They did find that it was the intensive case management that made the biggest difference. But the case management was supported by sanctions and non-negotiable guidelines and penalties i.e. little “sticks”, or potential punishments, which also contributed to the success of the case management and the improved outcomes by providing a strong underpinning to the other measures.
Macklin’s new SEAM proposal is based on intensive case management, with sanctions as the absolute last resort, just like in the US experiments. If this system made the difference there, why shouldn’t it do so here? Why are you in denial about the truth of this?
Re the Halls Creek school attendance experiment: this was a very flawed design, and predictably failed. It is not comparable with the more sophisticated and integrated approach being mooted by Macklin for NT communities. Much more relevant are the other experiments with Income Management and child welfare that have been occurring more recently in various parts of WA. These have been having more success in producing behavioral changes in irresponsible carers.
The early SEAM trials, which only occurred in about half a dozen NT sites, were carried out using an under-developed model, although they too have had some varied success, according to people involved with the education bureaucracy. These trials were very slow to get started, as protocols took far too long to sort out, maybe due to some bureaucratic resistance or inertia. It will be interesting to see their evaluation results.


Recent Comments by Bob Durnan

Torrent of toxic Facebook posts after Mall melee
Russell Guy (Posted below on July 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm), as you and Sue Fielding (Posted below on July 14, 2018 at 8:46 am) both posit, “generational trauma, racism, alcohol abuse and domestic violence [are] some of the reasons for anti-social behavior among the young people responsible [for much crime and disturbance in our town]”.
What you and many others fail to recognise is that Chief Minister Michael Gunner, Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield, and most other NT Cabinet members share this analysis. They are collectively taking serious steps to address these problems as quickly as possible.
They are doing this via several important measures, including by working in partnerships with Aboriginal community groups, organisations and remote communities to establish and support new out of home care and rehabilitation services; designing and building new therapeutic and educational rehabilitation institutions; as well as by assisting Alice Springs and other regional centres to develop positive directions and strategies.
As you observe, “Anger and frustration are two of the motivational issues, [as well as] mindless vandalism, which is existential for many kids”. However, anger, frustration and mindless vandalism, when permitted to flourish during the child’s development phases, can themselves become a driving habitual mode of operation and subconscious rationale for living.
These ingrained compulsions may be so strong that they become a huge obstacle to rehabilitation, and a powerful force undermining workers’ attempts to undertake generalised prevention strategies and early interventions with other young people who may be shaping up to replicate the patterns set by the dominant role models in their peer groups.
It is ignorant and patronising to suggest that [the politicians] are not completely aware of the need for investing “in healing, strengthening and skilling up young people”, and that they are not committed to achieving this as soon as possible.
The Chief Minister is providing strong support for both a national Aboriginal art gallery, and a national Indigenous cultural centre, in Alice Springs. He is also funding extra development of regional art centre facilities and staff accommodation in remote communities to help attract international tourists to spend time in Central Australia.
He is doing this to help provide direction for the town and region, responding to the requests by Indigenous leaders over many years.
His vision will extend the tourist season to year round activities, as these facilities will be air-conditioned and enable comfortable extended holiday breaks for Asian, European and North American visitors during the northern winter.
Trevor Shiell has some fine ideas, but he fails to see that the art gallery needs to be at the heart of the town, where it will maximise involvement not only of tourists, but also of townspeople on a daily basis, particularly local Aboriginal people, via jobs, training, social and cultural activities, and family events. A place to be very proud of, in a town that is providing futures for our youth, including Aboriginal youth.


Turn rock-throwing into backflips: how community can help
Nice exposition Rainer. Some very useful ideas and analysis there.
However, in relation to your advocacy for volunteer based programmes, such as on bus runs, night patrols or supervision of activities: I believe that it would be a grave error to make assumptions about the practicalities of these proposals.
Recent experience indicates that Alice does not have a reliable supply of such volunteers.
The midnight basketball came a cropper a few years back because of this factor.
The Uniting Church’s Meeting Place is not open very often for the same reason.
All the main existing youth spaces have appealed for volunteers at times, without much response.
A proposal to run Saturday night football for youth during the last Christmas holiday period failed for the same reason.
If a bus run or patrol is to operate through the night, I believe that it must be staffed by professionally trained, paid workers.
On the buses, a small core section of the client group are not easy to handle, even for the best professionals. Playing mind games with the driver becomes an integral part of their night’s fun. Chopping and changing explanations about what their problems and needs are, contradictory requests about where to go, and, in some cases, manufacturing reasons for not going being able to go home, are all part of the challenging behaviours displayed by some of the very alienated clients.
Threatening drivers and other staff may be a regular way for some to get extra attention. These rebellions sometimes become contagious within the cohort.
Your point about the need to employ workers who are fully cognizant of trauma informed theory and practice is, I believe, extremely relevant in this type of work.
For some young people, simply staying up all night and on the streets is their major act of defiance. They get a sense of achievement and success in their rebellion, including strong peer recognition, by this simple act.
The Department of Children and Families’ old YSOS unit (Youth Street Outreach Service) was very effective in dealing with these young people and their very difficult habits, before it was so tragically shut down by the Robyn Lambley/Terry Mills/Adam Giles budget cuts of 2012/13.
At the time, Giles said this service was no longer needed, because it was not dealing with a lot of clients.
Predictably, after its disbanding, problems associated with youth out at night rose inexorably, until things returned to the levels that had been occurring ten years ago, just before the YSOS was started.
It would now be very useful to find the people who worked on the YSOS, and get their views about what worked and why.


The millions and the misery
Jones (Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:46 pm), you display an unreasonably negative and incorrigibly antagonistic attitude towards the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and its considerable achievements in the health field.
You may have heard the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to you. You continually use your ignorance as a cloak for confidently, and very unfairly, maligning Congress.
For your information:
1. The primary causes of most renal disease are very long term, and are mainly associated with poverty. The impacts of the chronic stresses from living in poverty begin in utero, then early childhood, with kidney stones and infections much more common. The stress burdens and infections contribute to weaknesses in organs such as the kidneys. These experiences are all imprinted on a person in ways that may lead to renal disease in later life, irrespective of what health service a person attends. As already discussed, a great deal of the global obesity / diabetes epidemic is socially determined, and health services can only do so much on their own.
2. The rate of end stage renal failure requiring dialysis amongst Congress’s own long term resident clients is vastly less than the rate in the rest of remote central Australian Aboriginal communities. The rate in remote areas is generally more than eight times greater than the town. If you are going to use data, you should use it correctly.
3. There is no basis for your statement that “the [overall] incidence of this terminal disease [i.e. renal failure] is a good measure of the success or failure of diabetes programs for which Congress has responsibility”. The situation is much more complex, as explained above, and health services can only do so much.
4. In light of the above facts, there is no validity in your statement that “the incidence of end stage [renal] disease is out of control despite the tens of millions of funding provided to Congress.” Rather, it would appear that Congress’s funded programmes have contributed to the rate of end stage renal disease being much lower in the long term Alice Springs Aboriginal population than it would have been without those programmes.
Jonesy, it is now incumbent upon you to relinquish your pathological denial of Congress’s achievements, and “agree that Congress has long been a leader and good practitioner in prevention and early intervention strategies and practices.”


The millions and the misery
Yes Evelyne Roullet, I have heard of HTLV-1. It would be hard to not have, given the recent publicity.
But no, I don’t know how much Congress, or anybody else, contributes for research and cure of it.


The millions and the misery
You are being perverse, Jones (Posted June 8, 2018 at 7:18 pm), and you are not nearly as well informed as you seem to think that you are.
Being a provocateur perhaps, just for the sake of it?
I pointed out that Congress (Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, or CAAC) has helped to greatly increase the average length of Aboriginal life expectancy in our region.
CAAC has played a leading role in achieving this increase in average life expectancy, not just by medical interventions, but also by fostering social and behavioural changes, such as by helping to ensure that when children are quite sick that they are brought to Congress by their parents, and are referred to hospital when needed.
You are possibly unaware that before Congress started providing health services in 1973, many sick Aboriginal babies were not being treated in the hospital, for a range of reasons.
Most important was the fact that the hospital was only desegregated in 1969.
Added to that was the fact that the hospital had also formerly played a key role in informing the Native Welfare Branch about the presence of mixed race children in the hospital, or where they were living, and this often lead to their removal.
Thus there were some powerful legacy issues.
In this context, many parents had been very reluctant to take their children to the hospital.
Although you agreed with me about CAAC helping to greatly extend the average rate of Aboriginal life expectancy in our region, you then went on to condemn CAAC for not preventing diabetes, and for allegedly not taking effective steps to intervene in its progress.
These are clearly unreasonable accusations on your part, based on a simplistic understanding of the complexity of the relevant issues, and the history of the situation with diabetes.
Much of what you say about this matter is factually untrue.
It is clear that you have not looked at the CAAC annual reports carefully, otherwise you would know the proportion of Congress diabetic patients who have their blood sugar tested regularly each year is quite high. Further data shows that a high proportion of patients have excellent sugar control.
These figures and many other key performance indicators (KPIs) are published every year in Congress’s annual reports.
This is in stark contrast to most other general practices, which rarely publish such data in their annual reports.
Please have another, more careful look at the CAAC annual reports, which are available on line.
You will find a wealth of information which you and other interested members of the community can use to judge the success of Congress.
As for prevention of diabetes, it has a very long development period.
Most of the CAAC diabetes prevention programmes are also long term by their very nature, and begin with trying to ensure healthy pregnancies, healthy births, and good early childhood health and emotional wellbeing programmes.
CAAC is now providing these services to many of its clients.
However, some of these programmes have only been funded in the last 10 years, some of them only starting quite recently. Several of them are not yet funded in many remote Aboriginal communities.
As you may be aware, the diabetes epidemic is a massive global health crisis that has been caused by what is known as our “obesogenic” social environment, which is rich in high fat, high sugar, high salt, high carb ultra-processed foods, and increasingly sedentary, inactive lifestyles.
Congress alone cannot be expected to change this.
There is much that is still needed to be done in public health terms.
For example, Congress has been advocating for a sugar glucose tax of 20% for more than a decade.
Congress has long advocated that funds raised by such a tax should be hypothecated, or reserved, to be spent solely on a subsidy to ensure fresh fruit and vegies are affordable in all remote communities.
This key position and advocacy has been Congress policy well before the AMA and other peak medical groups around the world adopted it.
Congress removed soft drink machines back in the late nineties, something that most of Australia’s public hospitals and major medical centres are only starting to do now, 20 years later.
Another key endeavour, where CAAC has had some success in recent years, is in the area of reform of the NT Government’s regulation of alcohol consumption and sales, in order to reduce the average level of consumption amongst problem drinkers and those at risk of becoming problem drinkers.
This is widely acknowledged to be a necessary pre-requisite before many further advances in the preventative programmes area can be expected to take place.
You can’t have it both ways, Jones.
You should admit that Congress has long been a leader and good practitioner in prevention and early intervention strategies and practices.


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