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bad indigenous governance « Previous | |Next »
May 25, 2006

As I understand it Clare Martin, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Government and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, wants to address the violence in towns such as Wadeye with more housing to ease overcrowding.This is in contrast to the tough law and order approach of the federal government.

Allan Moir

If the federal government wants to put more indigenous people in jail for longer, then what would those policies achieve in circumstances where the normal progression from school to paid work is the exception rather than the rule? The implication is that incarceration as a destructive mode of growing up has little connection to enabling Aboriginal people to join the market economy. Some hold that the fundamental cause of criminal activity in remote Aboriginal communities is the lack of economic growth. If so isn't education necessary to enter the market economy?

If this points to support for Clare Martin's position, then what is increasingly coming to the fore is the way the Martin Government diverts federal funds marked for Aboriginal services elsewhere --to the northern Darwin suburbs.

A report, written by a Darwin lawyer, Sean Bowden, states that the :

Territory Government is underspending by tens of millions of dollars a year on indigenous communities that resemble Third World refugee camps [and is] The Chief Minister, Clare Martin, who is also Minister for Indigenous Affairs, is facing increasing pressure over her Government's failure to deliver basic services to remote areas such as Wadeye. Residents of Darwin had access to first-class infrastructure and services, with modern schools, hospitals, libraries, parks, pools and community centres while indigenous people in remote areas faced low life expectancies.

Federal grants account for about 80 per cent of the territory budget and the report states that there was a:
growing body of opinion and evidence [that] the territory Government was redirecting money from where it was meant to go, like the regions, to where its own spending priorities lay, like Darwin's northern suburbs. When the residents of the northern suburbs scream, the NT Government acts - to not do so would be to risk handing government to the Opposition.

The Territory Government has blood on its hands with respect to the aboriginal hellholes.

Jack Waterford in the Canberra Times says about palces such as Wadeye:
There's no real work, or prospect of any, the health and education system is a shambles, housing is appalling, and the cost of delivering services is phenomenal. The communities are artificial anyway, composed of different and antagonistic groups, and there is a lot of drunkenness, fighting, domestic violence, trauma, suicide, imprisonment, apathy and despair.

They may be within their own traditional lands, but there is little evidence even of sustained cultural, let alone, economic use of that proximity, and even less evidence that it is producing life, liberty, happiness and good health.
The question of why such hellholes are sustained is a quite legitimate one. It has long been asked by critics of the past 40 years of failed policies. It is increasingly being asked by others.

He pmentions that some have placed a question over the viability of the outstation movement. So where do they go? To the fringe camps around Alice Springs and Darwin. Waterford asks:
Life in these fringe camps is the more difficult because of the constant influx of such visitors. A typical dwelling - of perhaps three bedrooms - might contain 20 or 30 people, half of whom will be children.And where's the work? And if there were work, how are these people, many of whom barely speak English and few of whom have any education, going to get it in competition with everyone else?

Doesn't that imply that there would have to be decent housing proportionate to the people's needs, and real money spent in upgrading local services to meet the extra burdens such an increase in population might cause? Can we see that happening, given the track record of the Northern Territory Government in diverting funds.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:09 PM | | Comments (0)