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A note on Aboriginal self-help « Previous | |Next »
August 12, 2003

Comments have fallen off at late at public opinion so I take it that everyone agrees with what I have been saying.

I did receive this email from Rose Farrow as a response to this post. Rose draws attention to this speech that was given by Tania Major, a young Cape York woman, who addressed the Prime Minister of Australia directly when he visited Cape York last week.

I have reproduced Rose's email in full.

Richie Ah Mat has lobbied John Howard to stay on indefinitely as PM. His traditional land is rich in minerals and he has been involved in arrangments or deals with mining companies Comalco and Alcan. I think the PM picked Cape York because he has significant support there - from Richie Ah Mat and Noel Pearson. They are both being very instrumental in the establishment of partnership programs with business and the community. The jury is still out on whether this will bypass or overcome the conflicts over resources occurring in ATSIC.

The idea of looking beyond the 'welfare' system is hard to fault. While the needs are great, and government funding for health, education etc is essential to continue, so is there a need for enterprise building within indigenous communities, to start the long process of building an economic base independent of government. This is the beginning of true self-determination and real self-empowerment.

I agree that the attraction to the conservatives is in response to the perception that 'progressive', left-of-centre policies have failed to 'progress' the welfare of indigenous communities. Self-reliance is seen as the answer to this failure. It is also more likely to garner local non-indigenous support in conservative regional Australia.

However, a balance will still need to be struck between the local leadership support, conflicts of interest, and nepotism. There are still few people on the ground in the position to generate the kind of commercial backing required to create successful enterprises, and the kind of atmosphere conducive to responding to market forces etc. Hopefully, training and experience, and a few successes, will give oxygen to the notion of creating new enterprises, within an ongoing process of economy-building.

Couched in terms of 'practical reconciliation' the idea of economic partnerships is attractive to a conservative government seeking to address the dismal failures of successive governments, and the shameful degree of social harm occurring in many impoverished and disenfranchised communities. Lets hope cluey indigenous leaders like Noel Pearson can negotiate and generate real economic growth in their communities, out of a conservative need to at least appear to 'care'.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:06 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

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