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
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
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
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

Elferink and Gooda clash over underage marriage
Peter, Posted June 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm: some young girls may resist promised marriage more strongly these days, but I doubt whether some are in a position to do so.
It has been authoritatively reported by youth workers in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek in the last few years that rape of young women is rife in these towns.

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Does anybody know if the hours when the Arrernte words teaching program is held at the Apmere angkentye-kenhe are available somewhere on the net, or anywhere else?
I thought I had seen it advertised for every Wednesday night at 6pm, but this doesn’t appear to be the case?
I have gone there at this time, found it closed, and no notice or info on the door.
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Judge Borchers’ position should be assessed: CAALAS
Alex, of course one part-time worker with CAALAS is not able to, in your words, “work closely with EVERY SINGLE young person going throughout Central Australian court system, their family, community, lawyer, school and other service-providers to provide the young person with the support they need to get back on track and stay out of trouble”.
That is exactly my point, and why it is wrong for you to lay the blame on that worker, as you did when you wrote “if your PART-TIME advocacy programme co-ordinator did her job after this child’s court appearance in March, then he wouldn’t have appeared in court again in May.”
As I said earlier: That advocacy programme co-ordinator performed her job with great diligence and dedication, and cannot be held to blame for any alleged failure of duty of care, as the case load of such cases far exceeds the ability of one worker to cover even a small proportion of them. She was doing her job very well, covering as many of the cases as she could, but she wasn’t a magician. So your cheap jibe at her reputation is wrongly placed, and you should withdraw it.

Judge Borchers’ position should be assessed: CAALAS
Evelyne Roullet, Posted June 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm: Ralph was not talking about where or how the kid should be housed. He was referring to the bigger issue of the huge trauma in his life, caused by the alleged killing of his mother by his father. Kids who experience this level of trauma need intensive help and support, and we need to make sure that they get it, from wherever it may be best available.

Judge Borchers’ position should be assessed: CAALAS
Alex, on June 22, 2017 at 11:44 am you said, and I quote: “If your PART-TIME advocacy programme co-ordinator did her job after this child’s court appearance in March, then he wouldn’t have appeared in court again in May.”
So you cast an aspersion on her. It is entirely unwarranted.
Don’t wriggle out, apologise.

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