Cr Kudrenko puts poverty and disadvantage on council agenda

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Far from addressing matters to do with the recent activities of Geoff Booth, the only question from the public put to councillors last Monday was about how council could address “the underlying causes of poverty and disadvantage in our community”.

 

The question came from Christa Bartjen-Westermann. She told the Alice Springs News Online that she was speaking as a private individual. However, her LinkedIn profile shows that she works in social services.

 

She had noted that Councillor Jade Kudrenko (pictured) had recently raised the issue, in relation to discussion of a proposed increase in fines for breaches of public places by-laws (driven by former Cr Booth). Ms Bartjen-Westermann said it would be a “win-win” way of tackling anti-social behaviour and wanted to know what Cr Kudrenko’s vision for council’s role would be.

 

Cr Kudrenko said there was one small way council could start. She asked Director of Corporate and Community Services Craig Catchlove if a meeting could be organized of social services in the town to provide their suggestions on “how we might be able to make some positive changes” as feedback on council’s Strategic Plan, about to go out for public comment.

 

Mr Catchlove thought that would be a great idea and he would ask for it to be done.

 

Later in the meeting Cr Kudrenko asked, as she has been doing over a number of meetings now, about council’s efforts on increasing Indigenous participation in its workforce.

 

CEO Rex Mooney reports each month on council’s Indigenous employment statistics. Council has an aspirational target of 20% Indigenous participation in its workforce, which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been reached. For the month of July 2013 the figure was approximately 14.38%. The majority, 20 individuals, are employed at the depot (outdoor workforce), with one at the Civic Centre, one at the Town Library, and one in the WMF (whatever that is).

 

Cr Kudrenko wanted to know if council had had “any contact with the RJCPs” with a view to engaging job seekers from the town camps. RJCP stands for Remote Job and Communities Program, the federal government’s one stop employment service in remote regions. In Alice Springs the provider of this program is Tangentyere Council.

 

Mr Mooney said that yes, council’s HR staff had made enquiries but there was nothing definitive to report. However, he pointed to council engagement with the police to provide youth diversion. “One young chap” is undertaking 30 hours of service at the moment.

 

Cr Kudrenko was pleased to hear that but emphasised the importance of engaging with people actually looking for paid work.

 

 

 

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9 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Bruce
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    @2 Well Bob, I respect your views however my beliefs (as yours) are informed by well over a quarter century of living and working in Central Australia; town and remote. They are not “knee-jerk” reactions at all. If I could see some real improvements happening for the millions and billions spent on indigenous issues I would have some hope. But I see little hope.
    Even the millions spent in refurbishing the housing will have little long term effect. Spoke to a builder who has been working on a bush refurbishment program. Some of the houses needed gutting and starting again.
    Some were last refitted two years back. This is the future for the program here in Alice and remote. Do you feel it is fair that workers sweat in Sydney and Melbourne (and everywhere else) toiling so their taxes rebuild houses every couple of years?
    This isn’t my definition of a “fair-go” Bob. One woman demanded to know when her house would be painted.
    Meanwhile she sits there without work or motivation all day. She never considered picking up a paintbrush. I would like the NTG to paint (and repair) my house every two years as well.
    Sorry Bob, you feel me guilty of “sloppy thinking”. Maybe it is just a different reality than the one you might be seeing. I wish I could think that things are getting better for all the Billions (yes, Billions*) spent.
    I wait to see some improvements in health and education. But they seem to be going backwards.
    The baby-bonus is resulting in an epidemic of kids who will be Dept. Children and Families then Corrections clients for life.
    I firmly believe that too many people have accommodated their misery. Goodness, we don’t even enforce limits on the number of dogs that share living and sleeping quarters in government housing!
    Our indigenous have much better opportunities than poor African and Asian people. We need to stop making excuses for them and demand that they start to take some personal responsibility. Yes, easier said than done. However to keep making excuses to my mind simply perpetuates the racism. Racism works two ways Bob.

    * Note: The 2012 Indigenous Expenditure Report (see Aust Govt. Productivity Report) says “Estimated expenditure per head of population was $44,128 for Indigenous Australians, compared with $19,589 for other Australians (a ratio of 2.25:1)”.
    Further, the population of Central Australia seems about 60,000 people of which 50% is indigenous. I tried to find data at ABS but settled on Wikipedia (regret “sloppy” data). Now “DO THE MATH”.
    It equates to spending of $1.3b in 2012 alone. I’m not certain if that includes or excludes funding by the NT Government as well.

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  2. Bush Teacher
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Yes, Bob, sloppy thinking is unhelpful but ‘lower primary school enrolments and attendance generally have improved greatly.’
    Where is the evidence for that improvement? We certainly have evidence that, overall, remote school outcomes are in decline, the latest NAPLAN results attest to that.
    Alarmingly the NT remote absenteeism from NAPLAN tests is far higher than anywhere else in the country and these are not counted.
    Independent research has shown that absent students are highly likely to do poorly on NAPLAN tests so in effect NT outcomes are even worse than the official results reveal.
    Bruce’s claim that ‘Billions of dollars have been spent with little effect between the Feds and the NT Govt in this town and region’ is an exaggeration but not as far fetched as you make out.

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  3. Bob Durnan
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    25 Yr Ratepayer Bruce (posted October 9, 2013 at 8:57 am) reckons “nothing will change till alcohol is driven from the camps, housing occupancy is capped … and house inspections (and evictions) are enforced.”
    Well, it is true that there is a need for more action against the high tides of alcohol which flow daily, not just through the town camps, but through much of this town and some remote communities, Bruce.
    I agree with you on some of your sentiments (the need for more welfare sanctions against those who are well enough to work, have skills and are able to find suitable work, but don’t bother to do so, or don’t keep turning up; the relative insignificance of some of the cosmetic changes; and the problems presented by the combined weight of too many family demands, too little education and poor health, for example).
    On the other hand, your extravagantly negative analysis of government policy and programs, and your proposals for solutions are both incorrect and thoughtless.
    Your claim that “billions of dollars have been spent with little effect between the Feds and the NT Govt in this town and region” is plain wrong. Very little of this money was spent on letterboxes, street signs or paving streets unnecessarily: the vast bulk of the recent investment in our region (which, by the way, has not been “billions”) went on upgrading old houses throughout the region; building new houses in certain communities; replacing inadequate sewer lines, extending power and water into new areas, and bringing roads, lighting and drainage up to scratch; and providing better supports to parents and children.
    There are many people living better lives on town camps as a result of the 85 houses that were built, and other improvements that were made under the Alice Springs Transformation Plan.
    Likewise many people have benefited from the 30 new houses and many other new facilities built at Hermannsburg.
    Many families living in the other thirty-odd bush communities in our immediate region have also benefited greatly from upgrades and extensions to houses, and improved family support.
    This includes young people who attend school and have aspirations. It’s not easy for them or their parents, case workers or teachers, but credit must be given where results are occurring: lower primary school enrolments and attendance generally have improved greatly.
    However it certainly would be a “change”, Bruce if “housing occupancy [was] capped – and house inspections (and evictions) [were] enforced”, but not of the kind you seem to imagine. The immediate result would be the presence of hundreds more people, including dialysis patients and many people with other serious health problems, children and people in wheelchairs, sleeping rough under trees, without access to ablution facilities.
    We need expansion of child and family support services, and many more new houses, in Alice and throughout the region; we do not need more knee-jerk negativity, uninformed criticism and sloppy thinking.

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  4. 25 Yr Ratepayer, Bruce
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Yes, there is much poverty of mind as well as of body in our town. Many people could be (financially) wealthy one day and dirt poor the very same day. I have come to the conclusion that many people here cannot escape their situation and do not even try.
    Their situation is “normalised” and they know no-other. It is tragic. This is a condition caused by lack of aspiration, being dragged down by family, poor education and health.
    The causes are multiple and so intertwined as to be inescapable. What we must do is provide the opportunity for the few with talent and aspiration to escape and prosper. Alice is a Tale of Two Cities with Dickensian parallels: affluence beside wretched poverty. Nightly I go to sleep with distant shouting and screaming from those camp residents camping out rough trying to escape the horrors that seem to dog them.

    Billions of dollars have been spent with little effect between the Feds and the NT Govt in this town and region.
    The 9000 or so ratepayers do not have similar resources and we can afford no more! Our town camps, courtesy of the Intervention have spent tens of millions paving streets, erecting street signs and installing letterboxes! But nothing will change till alcohol is driven from the camps, housing occupancy is capped and dogs are banned and house inspections (and evictions) are enforced.
    I see no intention to enforce bans using patrolling guards 24/7. Personally I feel the only solution is a tough one. Close the camps and send people back to the communities except those whose traditional lands are the Todd Basin. Everyone acknowledges that health outcomes are better in the bush.
    But there is no pollie with the goolies up for making the tough decisions. So Jade, you can move all the motions on poverty and disadvantage that you like. A great idea, and certainly not new, to engage camp residents into work!
    The reality is that they are given no incentive to work. Their basic needs are currently met and if they do try to work their family drags them back down. So they will work till the first pay check and find it’s simpler to be with the mob.
    It’s this simple: till people are collectively hungry they have no incentive to change their lot.

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  5. Paul Parker
    Posted October 4, 2013 at 8:57 am

    IF ever to seriously address “the underlying causes of poverty and disadvantage in our community” essential is cheaper single accommodation, studio style.
    Accommodation affordable to those on Centrelink incomes is essential for many to see ability to improve things for themselves – albeit small step by small step, yet possible.
    Budget skills, ability to acquire and retain personal property, changes thinking towards ability as recognize opportunities to improve things with dreams possible, it all begins with affordable accommodation.
    Alice Springs without stable and affordable accommodation turns dreams into nightmares, thus encouraging intoxicated and other escapes.

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  6. Peter
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Is it not ironic that an area that has one of the highest indigenous populations in the country has a council that can not reach a target of 20% indigenous employment? I am sure there is more than enough applicants to assist the council to meet the target. Maybe council should actively seek indigenous applicants. Be proactive and canvass the high schools, colleges and job network members. Understandably there may not be positions available at the minute to meet the target. Yet I am confident if the council were serious about this target they could achieve it. In relation to fines. Frank makes a good point. What is the use of said fines if all they return is a trickle of what is expected? Fines that are lower and can be paid on the spot may well recoup more funds than higher fines that people can not pay or do not pay. If one has no ability to pay a fine then accumulating many is no deterrent. Incurring smaller payable/enforceable fines starts to become a burden on those who transgress. Worth a thought.

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  7. Posted October 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Mr Russell Guy,

    The fines for parking offences in Alice Springs are very low and I have known interstate registered cars not to have their parking tickets follow them home. Instead, should they not pay, they are never tracked down because interstate authorities want more than the face value of the ticket as a fee for the processing of the ticket interstate, so it in fact costs ASTC, so they do not follow through on the ticket. Essentially the honest and decent ones pay, and the dishonest uncaring ones don’t, and there is no consequences.

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  8. Russell Guy
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Perhaps, we could lock-up the tourists who haven’t paid their fines in a specially designed holding pen, big enough for their caravans so they could live in them and we wouldn’t have to foot the bill for housing and feeding them, but it would have to have high walls, possibly with razor wire on top so that they couldn’t climb out and get on the grog.
    We would have to make sure that the add-on recovery fees were paid before letting them go and if they didn’t or couldn’t pay, well, perhaps … maybe, we could put them to work at the golf course chasing the ducks out of the water hazards so that we could say that we have the best golf course in the country.
    Imagine, “play at Alice Springs Country Club. Absolutely no chance of hitting a duck”.
    Or, is that cricket?
    At least we’d get something back for all our trouble.

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  9. Posted October 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Before we look at getting more money for the issues that arrive, perhaps it’s high time an analysis was done on what percent of fines are paid in what ways. Some may go to fines-recovery, some paid outright, some are put on a payment plan, some may have their wages garnisheed.
    Comments from community members I have talked to indicate many allow their fines to go to recovery and organise to pay them off at only a few dollars a week (usually with the help of legal aid).
    Another interesting item might involve re-writing the ticket / ticket system for inter-state (registered automobiles) visitors to ensure they pay their violations prior to departure or add on any associated recovery fees for the co-operation of interstate authorities.
    It may be a case of ensuring better payment of the fines already issued over increasing the amount claimed per instance.

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