Hilary Re your reply Posted @November 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm: …

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

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.

Bob Durnan Also Commented

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.

Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog
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.

Recent Comments by Bob Durnan

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.

Fewer pokies, help for gambling addicts
Bev Emmott, I don’t understand some of your comments, but I get the drift. “Where are the drunks in Sadadeen,” indeed?
Maybe you could try some of these activities?
Swimming, athletics, archery, shooting, motorbike riding, keeping bees, knitting, embroidery, playing pool, darts, training dogs, raising birds, keeping cats,
following non-Aboriginal art at Araluen, the Art Shed and elsewhere, doing painting, visiting the prisoners, assisting the disabled, helping young single mums, volunteer work, making sculpture, writing, cooking, helping Maureen York, soothing Matthew Langdan’s feelings, dining out, dining in with friends, cycling, walking, running, netball … etc etc etc.
There are not enough hours in the day, or days in the week, or weeks in the year!

The millions and the misery
Re Michael Dean’s mean minded aspersion against the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) staff (Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:37 am: “Amazing … $32m budget and $28m in salaries. They know who to look after, don’t they.”)
Michael, you need to stop and think a bit before you make statements like that.
Consider that the 333 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions on the Congress payroll include about 20 FTE doctor positions, covering seven town clinics (at Gap Rd, Sadadeen Shops, the Diarama Village shopping centre, the Alukura Women’s Clinic on Percy Court, the male health Ingkintja, the youth mental health service at headspace, the after-hours service for the whole community at the hospital), plus a clinic at Amoonguna and four remote clinics (at Mutitjulu, Utju, Ntaria and Ltyentye Apurte).
Most of the rest of the staff are nurses and other health and allied health practitioners, working over these same twelve sites, as well as doing outreach into other services and agencies.
If you deduct the salary packages and on-costs of the doctors from the total, you will see that the average annual wage packages, including on-costs, of the 313 FTE non-doctor staff is around $75,000 per annum.
This is not excessive, considering their skills, the difficult jobs that many of them perform, and the remote locations in which many of them work.
In the last 20 years this workforce has contributed greatly to improving the life expectancy of local Aboriginal people and reducing the gap with other Centralian residents.
Considering the continuing shorter average life expectancies of Aboriginal people, and the gap between their health and the average health levels of other Australians, do you really think that this expenditure is not warranted, Mr. Dean?

Be Sociable, Share!