By former Coordinator-General for Remote Services in the NT, Bob Beadman (pictured).
Thanks for again raising the unmentionables. The things that discomfort people, the politically incorrect issues, but the matters that will ultimately destroy the Northern Territory unless they are corrected.
And they won’t be corrected until they are out in the open, examined, dissected, debated, dealt with. Essentially they are all about Indigenous peoples taking up participatory roles in the economy.
Social indicators make that an imperative. Economic reasons leave no alternative. Fewer and fewer workers nationwide simply cannot continue to keep a growing proportion of dependents. The baby boomer bulge in the nation’s demographics underlines this point.
In the Northern Territory’s case, the increasing proportion of Indigenous people make it blindingly obvious.
I notice from your 16 December email that you are encouraging a debate, amongst other things, about how long people can expect to be paid the dole.
This broad area of public policy was visited again and again in all four of my Coordinator General Reports.
Report 1 talked about declining jobs and training, and applying the work test.
Report 2 raised employment, economic development, social fabric, and school attendance.
Report 3 again raised school attendance (and alcohol as mentioned previously).
Report 4 summarised the previous work, and again revisited welfare, jobs and training; school attendance and attainment; and early childhood development.
You will also find comment in there alleging that governments distort downwards the true level of unemployment. What else is one to make of statistics in one remote community after another where the numbers in receipt of Jobsearch Allowance is often 10 times greater than the numbers considered unemployed?
The outcome of the recent Territory Elections warrants examination. One construct is that the bush communities have realised at long last that there must be a better life than intergenerational welfare dependency, and that they voted for fundamental change.
It was the bush that installed the Country Liberals into government.
And the new government has responded by creating a Cabinet Sub-Committee on Regional Development and Indigenous Advancement to better understand and progress action on these complicated, interconnected, issues.
Mr Beadman has written extensively about alcohol abuse and the “taboo topic” of foetal alcohol syndrome. He said this in his report number three to the government, covering the period of May to November, 2010, which includes a chapter entitled “Alcohol – the beverage of mass destruction”.
As for the unarguable evidence [about alcohol abuse], authorities only needed to turn to records of the Protective Custody Shelters (and sobering up shelters, or spin-dries as the desensitised people who deal with the fallout daily call them), or the Women’s Refuge Shelters, or the school attendance records.
If readers are still unconvinced I invite them to do a bit of research for themselves; on the incidence of grog in hospitalisations, road trauma, domestic violence, incarceration, homicides, assaults, stabbings, and the tragedy of foetal alcohol syndrome.
Or they could turn to the quantity of grog tipped out by police, the numbers of police grog related interventions by town by year, the work of the First Response teams. I can suggest a couple of other sources for further reading:
The Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation informed us on 7 June 2010 that one third of Australian women drank alcohol while pregnant, and that grog can have irreversible affects on the child.
“Drinking during pregnancy could cause severe abnormalities. But it is more likely to lead to learning difficulties.
As the kids get older their difficulties increase’ said the Deputy Chairman. ‘They fall further behind at school, become disruptive, and end up in the behaviour management unit. This grim scenario was 100 per cent avoidable. Don’t drink during pregnancy or when breastfeeding’.
People seem to have been very uncomfortable speaking about foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Hopefully this reluctance was put behind us with the announcement on 17 July 2010 by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs of Australia’s first study into the prevalence and impact of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder on Indigenous children. Professor Elizabeth Elliott, a leading expert on the disorder and who will be involved in the study, said there had never been the funding or the expertise available to do such a study.
The announcement elaborated on the disorder. It can also cause stunted growth, brain injury, poor bone formation, kidney damage, eye and hearing problems, poor memory, attention deficiency, impulsive behaviour and mental illness.
The announcement appears to be the government’s response to a submission lodged more than a year ago, concerned that Australia had fallen behind in recognising and diagnosing this “completely preventable syndrome”.
A few days later it was revealed that a submission by Northern Territory Child Protection workers to the Bath Board of Inquiry into Child Protection in the Northern Territory proposed that “pregnant women who chronically abuse drugs and alcohol should be imprisoned for the safety of the unborn”.
The submission also called for “intensive parenting education in schools for students from the age of 13 – needed due to the social breakdown of the ‘grandparent generation’ in many Aboriginal families.
“Given the young age of the average first-time parent in remote communities, the process on intensive parenting education needs to start within the school system from the 8th grade and continue to the 10th grade”.
It is quite obvious that we haven’t effectively got these sorts of messages out there. It is imperative that we abandon whatever inhibits us from intruding on that personal space and deal with these taboo topics.