Tag Archives: aboriginal people

Genocide in Australia – unthinkable?

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Genocide is a difficult subject to read or talk about. It is even more difficult to write intelligently about it, but Professor Colin Tatz has managed remarkably well in his book, Australia’s Unthinkable Genocide (2017). R.G. (DICK) KIMBER reviews. FULL STORY »

Have we ever had it as tough in Australia as in other countries?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

What’s most annoying (and indeed deeply offensive) about John Pilger and various academic commentators is their readiness to associate the plight of Aboriginal people with that of victims of genocide from other places around the world. But have we ever had it as tough in Australia as in other countries, asks Alex Nelson. FULL STORY »

It pays to read the fine print: were First Nations fear-mongering?

“They will take your vote, and take away your freedom! Lock you up, and give your children away! Make you pay for living on your land! Make you pay rent forever! Kick you out of town after taking your money! Control your Governance and say they now what’s best for you!”

That was the fine print on the back of the First Nations Political Party how-to-vote cards, a lot more dramatic and threatening than the spoken statements of Ken Lechleitner, co-founder of the party with Maurie Ryan, whom we have quoted in recent articles.

The Alice Springs News Online asked Mr Lechleitner if these messages to voters could be substantiated. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: Ken Lechleitner, left, at the August 7 meet-the-candidates forum in Alice Springs. First Nations candidate Edan Baxter has the microphone. He has since resigned from the party. FULL STORY »

Bedlam in the eye of the beholder

 

My mum, who in terms of Australian travel has never strayed beyond the reaches of the east coast, has booked her flights to Alice today. This has got me to looking about the house and thinking, I really need to clean that, rearrange this, put these away and definitely get rid of that red back spider. It’s that thing of seeing your space through somebody else’s eyes and of course I want her to be comfortable whenever she stays with me. Something she definitely would not have been, had she woken up as I did with a bearded dragon lizard shuffling about the room, fixing me with his little eye and imposing stance.

In the past I’ve loved having overseas or interstate visitors. They renew your dulled perspective with their fresh gaze. So how does that play out in an amazing and troubled place like Alice?

Riding my bike home after work I skirted around broken glass, dodged drunken ramblings and staggerings, rode past the cops who had just pulled over to a bunch of people sitting by the river. I turned into my street and my housemate was on the phone to the police. A woman and her male companion had been having a fight out the front of our house. She was completely pinned to the ground with the man on top of her trying to tear her mouth at the corners with his bare fingers. She was screaming “Call the police!” after my housemates intervened and were also aggressed. The woman had a sit down and glass of water and didn’t want the cops called anymore, by that stage however the phone call was in full swing.

 

Pictured: The Todd, not always so peaceful. FULL STORY »

Ryder case: ‘We can learn from this’

The death of Kwementyaye Ryder

 

Early last year an article by two Australian academics began circulating on the internet, proposing that the prison sentences passed on the five men convicted of the manslaughter of Kwementyaye Ryder – seen to be too light – were a “consolation prize” for their “whiteness”. They painted a portrait of a “frontier town” where “if Aboriginal people are no longer formally prohibited from remaining within town limits after dark, their places remain on the fringes of Alice Springs: among scattered ceremonial grounds or as presences to be monitored and moved on at the edges of malls and souvenir shops, in dilapidated and dangerous town camps, and in the shadowy, uncertain shelter of the dry river bed”.

The five, in the events of that night, were  “re-animating their own ancestral rituals of white violence”, they argued.  The tragedy of Mr Ryder’s death was “one more instance of racist violence and assault inscribed with the trauma-memory of exterminatory massacres”.

The authors, Suvendrini Perera (Curtin University, Perth) and Joseph Pugliese (Macquarie University, Sydney) were commended for their dissection of “the white power play of the NT justice system” by Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, to whom their article was dedicated. Mr Jackson asserted that “had the perpetrators been Asian, Muslim, African or indeed other Aborigines, then it would be a different story”.

All of this struck me as a particularly unhelpful and often quite wrong-headed analysis of the events, their social context and the way in which they were dealt with in the court and by the community at large. It also flew in the face of the public statements of the Ryder family: their call for calm as the justice process began in August 2009, their acceptance of the verdict and sentencing when it drew to an end in April 2010, and the comment from family spokesperson Karen Liddle that the community could learn from these events.

In this spirit I worked with Mark Finnane, my brother and an academic himself with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security at Griffith University, Brisbane, to write an alternative analysis of these events. KIERAN FINNANE and MARK FINNANE comment.

 

Pictured: The memorial to Kwementyaye Ryder at the place where he died, Schwarz Crescent, Alice Springs. FULL STORY »

Intervention – solid black? Or shades of grey and even some light?

1343 Aboriginal residents in 16 remote communities give their assessment of what the Intervention has achieved and the challenges to come.

 

The Northern Territory Intervention – “punitive” and a “betrayal of Aboriginal people” as conditions deteriorate even further, as the Stop the Intervention Collective in Sydney (STICS) would have us believe?

Or making some headway, as the responses of 1343 Aboriginal residents surveyed in 16 remote communities suggest?

Believe the STICS media release that paints a picture, without nuance, of devastation and despair?

Or the research results that discern the shades of grey, particularly between small and larger communities, and even discern some light?  Your call.

The Community Safety and Wellbeing Research Study was commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA, the one responsible, of course, for the Intervention) and was conducted by four social research companies, employing 50 local Indigenous people to work with them. They made three trips to each community between December last year and June this year, systematically asking residents, using a questionnaire, about the changes that have taken place over the last three years, producing quantitative data for statistical analysis. Residents also took part in discussions about their own experiences and priorities in their community, producing qualitative data.

The study summaries the key “very strong” messages from the survey: the majority of people judge that their life has improved over the last three years; young people are the epicentre of many difficult community dynamics; and, small communities are very different to large ones.

Its authors comment that there is an enormous policy challenge to create conditions in which it is more difficult for young people to opt for a ‘party’ lifestyle, and easier to get a job. They also says there is scope for working to understand why larger communities are much more difficult environments in which to achieve positive change, and to fashion policy to address their very particular dynamics.  Pictured: Children during lunch break at Ntaria School in 2009. Their hot meal had been provided by a school nutrition program, the likes of which, along with the Basics Card, have meant that more kids over the last three years have been getting more food. Photo from our archive. KIERAN FINNANE reports. FULL STORY »

Carrots for jobs, sticks for education and grog

New NT Intervention measures

 

While the Australian Government is extending the ‘stick’ approach in the field of education, tying welfare payments to school attendance, and alcohol, extending income management arrangements for people with alcohol related problems, there was no mention of the stick in relation to jobs. The announcements today, part of the Northern Territory Intervention Mark 2, are all ‘carrots’, sounding very like the carrots proffered in the past. This new bunch cost $19.1 million.

On the government’s school attendance ‘stick’ Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion says: “Labor is all talk and no action with the re-announcement of welfare quarantining of Aboriginal parents who don’t get their children to school.

“This government can re-announce this policy until the cows come home but it is no good unless it is acted on and people are breached.”

Headlining the government’s new programs are 50 new ranger positions in the Working on Country program.

There’s also emphasis on local filling local jobs, with traineeships to support up to 100 Aboriginal people to fill service delivery jobs in their communities. FULL STORY »

The town is safe in public servants’ hands: forum told

Report figures on the proportion of Aboriginal people expected in Alice by 2030 “way, way off”. Researcher now says she got it wrong.

“Rest easy, the public servants are onto it. But if you’ve got any (cost free) new ideas, let us know.”

This was essentially the message from Tuesday’s feedback forum on the Alice Springs Community Action Plan. The fact that the forum did not cover new ground or open up a space for new insights, directions and initiatives would have given comfort to the boycotters (see separate report), although Alderman Eli Melky did attend.

First up, consultant Jane Munday summarised the report she had compiled, “intended as the first stage in developing” the action plan. This is described as a “research report”, commissioned by the Department of the Chief Minister. Ms Munday is experienced and well-qualified in public relations and marketing. Her report is essentially about a number of consultation exercises she conducted; its “research” is not of the probing kind. For instance, she repeats what is frequently heard in public fora, that “the proportion of Aboriginal residents (now 21%) is expected to increase to about 45% by 2030”. She sources the figure to a presentation at the Kilgarrif forum by the Department of Lands and Planning.

Such an increase would be huge, a radical change to the demography of the town and with potentially far-reaching implications, but it is “way, way off” according to Dean Carson, Professor for Rural and Remote Research at Flinders University. Ms Munday has provided a comprehensive reply which appears at the end of the full story. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photos: The crowd thins as boredom sets in. NT Police’s Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations, Mark Payne. FULL STORY »