As a fresh-faced young lad newly-arrived in the Alice from …

Comment on Sit-down money: Pointless jobs for the dole by John Bell.

As a fresh-faced young lad newly-arrived in the Alice from the city down south in 1967, my first job in the NTA District Office was to implement the Training Allowances Scheme in the remote communities of Central Australia, as far up as Hooker Creek.
With my Darwin colleague Brian Chin, who implemented the scheme in the Top End, over the next five years I saw the development of the scheme’s job-creation attempts in all of its spectacular futility.
The politics of it all was fascinating. Liberal Minister William Wentworth introduced the Training Allowances Scheme to keep union influence and agitation out of a challenging and fragile work environment.
In the form of below-award training allowances, a bonanza of cash money began to flow into communities like never seen before. To paint rocks white on the roadside.
Then the Whitlam Labor government came to power, and the creek-flow of cash become a flooding river of gold. Still painting rocks white in the brave new era of outlying home camps and Toyota Dreaming.
I saw the mind-boggling scams, the cover-ups, the hare-brained community projects dreamed up in Canberra, the practical difficulties facing community staff, the sheer lack of worthwhile “jobs”, the challenge to stay honest and optimistic, the rampant political correctness attitude that demanded good people keep their mouths firmly shut or lose their jobs.
For a naïve young white city boy who came to Alice fired up to work with Aboriginal people after meeting the incomparable pastor Doug Nicholls, it was a culture shock to beat all culture shocks.
I can say now, with the benefit of a lot of years that have flowed under the Causeway Bridge since then, that I feel for all Aboriginal people in those communities, together with their community staff and the fair dinkum community-based job creating agencies who face the reality every day.
I take my hat off to them all. I am so thankful that I had the privilege to be there at a unique time, to see the reality.
Back down here in the Big Smoke, I can see that the city mob generally, including the majority of politicians, would not have a clue about what makes remote communities tick. Not even the foggiest.

Recent Comments by John Bell

Fracking inquiry left me thankful, fearful, focused
@Rosalie Schultz. “If the Inquiry recommends a ban we’ll see energy transition – just like in SA and Victoria”
I doubt in reality you would want to experience the transition like down here in Vic and SA.
SA dangles perilously close to statewide blackouts relying on backup from a Vic power grid that is under incredible stress as Victorian households are paying the world’s highest power prices.
With no short term solution on the Labor Left Green SA and Vic government horizon.
Trust me on this one, it is a state of crisis for average punters down here in Mexico who have trouble making ends meet.
While the comfortably salaried soy latte-sipping Green control freak moralists of Lygon Street take in the morning sunshine at their trendy footpath cafes lecturing us “Suck it up,losers. We are doing this for your long term benefit”.
They say nothing when you ask them: Where are we going to get the money to pay our power bills right now? No answers forthcoming.


Sweet Country, a voice demanding to be heard
@Surprised. Yes. It is well acted. By the usual suspects eg Bryan Brown et al. I find that film directors go overboard though, directors’ licence, and tend to pander to public sentiment of the modern day at the expense of historical accuracy, the truth, the reality. Rabbit Proof Fence was an appalling example, the hurtful portrayal of O.A. Neville who was in real life a good man who did his very best for those little girls with the highest duty of care. As good as it is, Sweet Country still nowhere near as good as Jedda and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, my opinion only.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@ Evelyne Roullet. Yes. Could not agree more.
Used to meet Mrs Higgins at the gate, every year, at the sports on Bangtail Muster Day and at the gate at Traeger Park, for 31 years.
Wonderful memories of a great lady who put her heart and soul into all the kids of Alice. The Youth Centre and the Gap Centre. Great places.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@ Evelyne Roullet. I bet that the late Mrs Joan Higgins, a WW2 nurse who nursed the wounded in Alice, and whose Youth Centre sits under the shade of ANZAC Hill where so many town kids came together for sport, would be looking down and smiling on your beaut idea.


Will we say sorry to the Abandoned Generation in 10 years?
@ An Alice extended-family member. Thank you for perhaps one of the most thoughtful and compassionate comments that I have ever had the good fortune to read on the saddest of all social issues – the dysfunction and tragic breakdown of family – whether in the Aboriginal or wider community. Your comment is now pinned to my cerebral noticeboard for future reference and citing.


Be Sociable, Share!