It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature …

Comment on Sit-down money: Pointless jobs for the dole by Alex Nelson.

It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature but not at all surprising. Today we have Labor Opposition NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy attacking the failure of the Community Development Program (CDP) for which NT CLP Senator Nigel Scullion is responsible as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Over three decades ago essentially the same story was played out in the media but the roles of the respective political parties were reversed: “The Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) is floundering in many areas of the Northern Territory, CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff told the Senate last week.
“He claimed in some settlements, Aborigines are listed as being in the workforce and are being paid accordingly, but in reality not attending work or carrying out their duties.
“This is causing a great deal of discontent among those Aborigines who are working for their pay,” the Senator said. “They are angry that others are receiving the same amount of money for doing nothing.
“In this situation the CDEP is nothing more than another form of unemployment benefit,” he said.
“Senator Kilgariff said he had asked the Federal Government what plans it had for encouraging increased Aboriginal employment in the remote areas and has suggested that funding for employment be channelled into areas such as fishing, garden plantations, animal husbandry and abattoirs.
“He said lately funds had been unavailable for such projects despite their ability to be high employment initiators” (CDEP ‘floundering’, Centralian Advocate, October 12, 1983).
The CDEP program was stoutly defended by Labor MLA Neil Bell, Member for MacDonnell, who “this week attacked comments made by Territory CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the Community Development Employment Programs for remote Aboriginal communities.
“There are certainly problems with administration of CDEP’s [but] the CDEP schemes are an attempt to address the short-term and long-term effects of epidemic unemployment on these communities’, he said.
“He said the public should be aware CDEP schemes were funded essentially out of money which would otherwise have been paid out in unemployment benefits. He said the schemes were a valuable form of job creation” (Centralian Advocate, December 16, 1983).
So, here it is, exactly 33 years to the day between publication of Neil Bell’s comments and the latest story on Alice Springs News Online – and there has been no shortage of similar stories on the same and related themes between the decades.
Nearly two decades ago I had my own personal experience of working on the CDEP. I witnessed and recorded first-hand the deliberate rorting and corruption of the program administered by the (subsequently defunct) Arrernte Council of Central Australia but there was no response from any of the government organisations (including police) or mainstream media (notably the ABC) about the information I presented to them (His life on jobs for the dole – On one occasion I confronted one person about this situation, only to be rebuffed “if everyone else can do it, why can’t we?”
It’s particularly telling that Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion now maintains a studied silence on these kinds of issues. This wasn’t the case in 2008-9 when, as an Opposition senator, he was at the forefront of a Senate inquiry into Centrecorp chaired by then Shadow Attorney General George Brandis: “The News has been covering the Centrecorp controversy in 44 reports and comment pieces since April 1998, and a dossier of Alice News reports was a substantial part of the briefing NT Senator Nigel Scullion gave Senator Brandis” (Alice Springs News, November 8, 2008).
(The subsequent report on Centrecorp would rank as one of the greatest exercises in white-washing I’ve ever seen).
Senator Scullion was also vociferous in his criticism of the NT Government at the time: “Billions of dollars in Federal funding earmarked for Aborigines and disabled people has been misspent by the Territory Government, a Federal politician said.
“And he has called on his colleagues to join him in his strident demands for an inquiry to find out where the money went.
“NT Senator Nigel Scullion last night said he had ‘deep suspicions’ the Territory Government had misspent the funding.
“[He said] There is more than $2.5 billion in GST revenue being given to the Territory Government. The spending of this money should reflect the Commonwealth Grants Commission formula.
“There are also other grants which are tied – the money is specifically for indigenous and disabled Territorians. But I’ve been looking around and I can’t see that there’s anything different or that anything’s been improved for them” (Centralian Advocate, September 5, 2008).
Conveniently, the NT Government was then Labor including Malarndirri McCarthy, Minister for Children and Families (amongst other portfolios). How the wheels turn!
All this endless circularity reminds me of the dialogue between two US paratroopers depicted in the episode “Carentan” (Band of Brothers, 2001) when 1st Lt. Harry Welsh jumps into a foxhole with Pt. Albert Blithe, who had earlier been traumatised in battle.
Welsh: What happened at the aid station today?
Blithe: Doc Roe, he called it hysterical blindness.
Welsh: It’s a game, Blithe. That’s all. We’re just moving the ball forward one yard at a time. Nothing but a game.
Blithe: What is, sir?
Welsh: This. The whole thing. Just a game.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Turn rock-throwing into backflips: how community can help
I smile at the circularity of Rainer Chlanda’s preferred location of a youth hub without walls at the “courthouse lawns” (DD Smith Park), adjacent to the Alice Springs Police Station (the former Greatorex Building) and across the road from the local magistrates courthouse.
I say “circularity” because the first drop-in centre for youth on the streets at night was located in the old police station on that corner where the courthouse now stands. Established in 1976, it was named “Danny’s Place” and lasted all of no more than a year when it was forced to shut down to make way for the said courthouse.
And from that time on, youth drop-in centres, real or proposed, have bounced around from one site to another all through town; including an old house in the north end of Todd Street that was demolished to make way for an office block (now called Eurilpa House), the empty Turner Arcade – the last shop there was Grandad’s icecream shop, a once popular hang out for kids of my generation, also in the north end of Todd Mall (that was my suggestion, nearly 30 years ago) which was later bulldozed to make way for expanding Alice Plaza and new carparking spaces; and even the abandoned waterslide site in the early 1990s, which instead was demolished to make way for infill real estate development (Mercorella Circuit, near the YMCA).
We have decades of recent history of kids in trouble (or causing it) being shunted from pillar to post. As a society, history shows we’re not really fair dinkum about resolving this issue.
Sadly, there is nothing new in any of this – Rainer’s father and his colleagues were reporting on these kinds of issues 40 plus years ago, and it continues unabated to the present day.

Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority
@ 5 Minute Local (Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:41 pm): Definitely living up to your pseudonym. Your suggestion is not a new idea – it’s been raised several times since the early 1970s.
The last occasion was when the construction of the railway north to Darwin was being finalised in the late 1990s-early 2000s when there was significant lobbying of the NT Government to re-route the railway around Alice Springs, including by the Alice Springs Town Council.
I also took up the cudgels on this issue as an individual and was publicly criticized by a local CLP member, notwithstanding the same member several years earlier had himself advocated the removal of the rail yards out of the town centre and to re-route the eventual railway to Darwin via west of the town.
These pleas were rejected by the government as being too late or too expensive (it would have added about three per cent to the overall cost, from memory). There’s no prospect of this happening now.

Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority
@ John Bell (Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:51 pm): John, the only sacred trees on the Melanka site would be (or are) two old river red gums near the southeast corner adjacent to the intersection of Stuart Terrace and Gap Road.
None of the other trees I’m aware of on that site are local native species nor predate the construction of the Melanka Hostel.
This includes the towering lemon-scented gums of which the majority are now dying or dead as a consequence of lack of care and the extended dry conditions.
Consequently the trees don’t pose any significant issues for redevelopment of most of that area, at least as far as sacred sites are concerned.

Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority
@ Hal Duell (Posted June 12, 2018 at 7:59 am): Hal, I’m still in the process of collating information. Gathering the history pertaining to this location is rather like measuring a piece of string but it all adds up to demonstrating the considerable heritage value of this site, the extent of which I think will surprise many people.
The nomination for heritage listing of the oval and school will definitely proceed.
The fact that this issue has blown up in the NT Government’s face demonstrates the stupidity of over-reliance on advice from vested interests (with no regard for anything except their bank accounts) and overpaid outside “experts” who have no background in local knowledge.
Once again we see the consequences of the corporate amnesia that afflicts this town and Territory, and history shows it makes no difference which party is in power.

Cemeteries could be turned into parks
There is another method of burying the dead which is also held to be environmentally friendly, it is called “promession”.
According to the Wikipedia entry on this subject, it’s a system of disposal of bodies of much more recent origin (two decades ago) than alkaline hydrolysis (19th century).
It involves cryogenic freezing of bodies in liquid nitrogen to -196°C (in effect, crystallising them) after which vibrations are applied that shatter them in minutes into fragments.
This material in turn is freeze dried and all metal or other non-natural components (eg. fillings, artifical joints) are removed.
The final stage involves “the dry powder being placed in a biodegradable casket which is interred in the top layers of soil, where aerobic bacteria decompose the remains into humus in as little as 6 to 12 months.”
Invented in Sweden, it’s a method already expressly adopted in South Korea and has expressions of interest from up to 60 other countries.
I think promession also deserves consideration as an option for burials.

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