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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

violence in indigenous communities « Previous | |Next »
May 20, 2006

Bill Leak has only got the chronic violence in Aborginal communities half right:

Bill Leak

The bit missing is the child sexual abuse. That is where the debate is: should child sexual abuse in idigenous communities be treated as we treat alcoholism--- as a public health issue, with treatment programs in place?

Or is it basically a problem with law and order? Not enough police in the local communites and townships? Shoudn't vulnerable children, those at risk, be removed, as was suggested by Mal Brough, federal Indigneous Affairs Minister.

This was latter endorsed by both Peter Costello, the federal Treasurer, and supported by Senator Chris Evans, the ALP's Indigenous Affairs Shadow Minister. (Neither supported or endorsed Brough's very odd paedophile rings claim).

Why not safe houses for women and children? Why not take the abuser from the home, not the child, and offer treatment in lieu of prison?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:41 PM | | Comments (20)


Gary, So the Lebanese have called a truce, and the Moslem's have hid under their burkas and gone quiet. I know it's Abo bashing time. Step right up lady's and gentlemen just enough time to bash an Aboriginal, preferably before the price of oil or interest rates go up, or before we attack Iran. Anything to take your minds off a fiasco of your choice. Pathetic. And my wife wants to know why I drink.

Well isn't it funny the people who have most to say on this issue, have probably never met one, I mean they smell funny don't they? And so dirty and heavens to murgatroyed most of them are always pissed.

Yea right! This whole issue makes me want to throw up. My God what short memories we have .I am old enough to remember them being rounded up like cattle and thrown into paddy wagons because they had the unmitigated gaul to stray into an area not designated theirs by the white man.Not bad in their own country.Yea those mining towns where white men chased female Aboriginals down the road with a bottle of wine under their arm to carry a sexual favour, and later those same female Aboriginals giving birth to half cast children in burnt out moter vehicles.

These people don't need throwing in gaol they need bloody help not punishment.I dont give a flying root what anyone says so save your electricity, these people are like they are because of us end of story, guild the lily all you like at the end of the day we are all reaping the whirl wind we have sown with these people.

I don't need a college education to work this out. It's called cause and effect.


let us accept all that you written the destruction of aboriginal tribal societies by settler Australia in the nineteen century.

That still leaves the violence wrought by some aboriginal men against children and women today. Some of the stories being told are pretty horrific--do read the Lateline transcripts I linked to.

Should we condone that? Many aborigines don't condone it. They say rape and murder is wrong. I agree. I don't buy the way tribal law condones the man. Many of the younger aboriginal women are defening themselves with a knife against the violence wrought by aboriginal men.

I'm with the aboriginal women and children on this one.

Hey Gary,I am not condoning anything the thought of all of this as a family man myself disgusts me..But what I do is understand, is how all of this started.I have worked with Aboriginals,and would only go into details of that privatly.Suffice to say I have held a tea towl up to the head of a caved in skull of an Aboriginal women, fact.I am not talking about punishment for sex crimes,but most of the problems brought on by alcohol.Hey don't get me wrong I am a vengful creature and would hang men in this catagory by the bollicks.If you have mis-understood where I am coming from I apologise.I still stand by my comments.Phill

Gary,What I forgot to say in the last burst was,In my opinion this is again political oportunism by Mal Brough.This problem as you know is nothing new,and governments of all stripes have failed these people.
My opinion of Aboriginals has always and will always with out contradiction be formed on the basis it is their country and we are just renting it.

Phill, Politically we are one people and one country. The renting it part doesn't hold. Aboriginals have the expectation and right of justice as much everyone else does. A common law nation must have a homogenous approach to justice, or otherwise it has failed.

We already have laws against the offences that were outlined in the Lateline interview. Is the problem lack of effective policing at the local level?

There is no need to go into details. That was done by Nanette Rogers, the Crown Prosecutor in Alice Springs, on Lateline. Sure the alcohol is a big part--as Leak's cartoon indicates.
If you say that you are

not talking about punishment for sex crimes,but most of the problems brought on by alcohol

then that pushes you towards the public health side of the debate that is articulated by Barbara Biggs in the Canberra Times. She argues thus:
A remote-area NSW Government psychologist who counsels Aboriginal victims of child sexual abuse, wrote and told me when my own book about my abuse was published in 2003, how the Government didn't want to remove abused Aboriginal kids from their families. The reason? They don't want to be accused of another stolen generation.

She adds:
In January last year, when I toured the east coast to give talks raising awareness about child sexual abuse, a Townsville Koori radio station interviewer told me, on air, that in his area nine in 10 Koori kids would experience sexual abuse. When they go to the toilet, they put their feet against the door to stop adults coming in and abusing them, he told me. So, locking up Koori abusers would amount to imprisoning close to a generation of men.

She concludes this strand of her argument against the law and order apprach with this:
It is bad enough to put it in the too-hard basket by refusing to remove children or removing them to other abusing relatives, but to now suggest that instead we imprison the indigenous perpetrators is just as bad, if not worse. We would have more Aboriginal deaths in custody, more communities and young boys with jailbird role models as fathers and lower self-esteem of a people.

She then sshifts to the health perspective. Until we start dealing with child sexual abuse as we treat alcoholism, as a public health issue, with treatment programs in place, the latest research shows that any other punitive measures will only further exacerbate the problem.

you write:

In my opinion this is again political oportunism by Mal Brough.This problem as you know is nothing new,and governments of all stripes have failed these people.

I agree. However, as Michelle Grattin points out in The Sunday Age:
Mal Brough's priorities are right in trying to crash through on Aboriginal violence and child abuse, but he is in the midst of a messy fracas with Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin. There is some fault on both sides, but it needs to be resolved because a co-operative approach is vital.

And so the federal state politiking is up and running.

Alan Ramsay i n the Sydney Morning Herald is more acute. He quotes from Ms Lyla Coorey paper, "Child Sexual Abuse in Rural and Remote Australian Indigenous Communities: A Preliminary Investigation", which was tabled in the Senate inquiry established in July 2004 to consider government legislation to abolish the Hawke Labor government's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, or ATSIC, founded in 1990. The passage is this:

"One Aboriginal health worker to the Cape York Peninsula summed up her reasons why she suspected the incidence of child sexual assault was higher in rural and remote areas: 'a lack of things to do; children are far more vulnerable because of the misuse of alcohol in families; abuse is hard to deal with because families close ranks; communities are so isolated, where can you go to get away from abuse?; there are no safe places to go; children are walking the streets to get away from abuse at home, leaving them just as vulnerable outside the home.' Some of these factors keep children trapped in situations of prolonged abuse

Ramsay adds that Australian society retaliates by locking up Aboriginal children whose only escape from abusive family members is living by their wits on petty crime away from home.

This article by Prof. Larissa Behrendt, a Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, in the National Indigenous Times is useful.Behrendt says:

'Under the current national arrangements for Indigenous funding, there is an increasing focus on Aboriginal communities in rural and remote areas. This has already meant a redirection of funds away from urban centres like Sydney to those places that are now seen as the government priority.

This focus on remote communities has been driven by the findings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s 2001 Report on Indigenous Funding. The report identified areas of relative need and found that those areas were predominantly in remote areas.

However, the reality is the reality is that resources are limited and demand is exponential, and the minimal public funding means that, at the coal-face, organisations are expected to deliver champagne on a lemonade budget.'

She states there are certain responsibilities that government are solely responsible for and cannot abrogate. One example she mentions is health. In a report commissioned by the Australian Medical Association, Access Economics estimated that basic Indigenous health care was under-funded by $450 million annually, despite budget surpluses that have run into the billions.

"Politically we are one people one country".
Cameron, that is very convenient as we are the majority. I hold to my remarks.This country was taken from a race of people when men could read and write and navigate the high seas, not from another group of savages. The British people are famous for stealing what was not theirs under the banner of empire building. Empire building for just whom? Could be a topic for another time."Terra Nullius indeed" .

Your opinion on one country is like mine an opinion you state it like it is a fact, it is not shared by Aboriginals I know.The only concession I will make, because of a common retort I hear, sure if it wasn't the British it may have been the French, possibly the Dutch, so what.

The quicker the white man apologises to the Aboriginal race, for the abject bastardly way they have and still are treated the better.Mal Brough and his ilk are oportunists, and are made from the same stuff as the left over medevil bully boys who stole this country. This is still being perpetuated on down through the generations and this Sir, is not an opinion but a fact. We are are again treating this problem in a patronizing way, just like the great white chief in Washington knows best.

The white race in most cases has never understood these people they have a whole different concept of where it's at .Of course we think they share the protestant work ethic, we take away their dream time and try to supplant it with white mans religeon what In my opinion is,arrant nonsense. A race of hunter gatherers, for thousands of years and we want to stick them in a factory on an assembly line. I could go on about cultural differences. Boring mayhaps.

Of course, there are a lot of Aboriginals who are aware of the problems and have attempted to solve the problem, ie. stopping grog in out back communities, and what do we find? Yes those same people who would have them horse whipped and call them black bastards shipping grog in by air or other means.And what does our government do? Five fifths of fuck all, cause you see that's private enterprise. We stack them in blocks of flats 10 high and wonder why these areas turn into something more suited to Beirut. Again I could go on.

I must be missing something here. When were conservatives really that interested in Aboriginal problems, I mean am I crazy what did they do to Mabo? There is an ulterior motive here and Blind Freddie can see it Phill.

Phill, that is very convenient as we are the majority

As a modern Australian, I am as removed from colonial Australia, or even 1950s Australia, in my beliefs and worldview as modern Aboriginals are from the Aboriginies that exists in 1776, let alone 100BC.

Australia does not do racially based policy anymore. I agree that the federal government, as a permanent institution, should apologise for its role in the discrimination of Aboriginies, who as the largest of the politically weak minorities suffered most at the hands of the government.

Unfortunately ethnic Aboriginal Australia has been used a cultural kicking ball by conservatism in order to enforce a government-centric anglo-australian history.

The problem is that we need to look at out history as three waves of immigration, of which the Aboriginal people contributed two. So Australian history becomes one contigous narrative of achievement, innovation and progression.

One of the main problems is that politics is inhibiting the correct telling of history. Conservatism is most to blame as it tries to separate it in two; oral and written; aboriginal and australian. They are one and the same.

Cameron is right. Aborigines are citizens of Australia and part of the federated nation-state.

However, you are also right. The position taken by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough is linked to the colonial legacy that does nothing to tackle the underlying causes of chronic violence. That legacy represented Aboriginal gender relations and, especially, the care of children, as disorderly and brutal; and this iomage was used to justify state intervention, and the removal of children from their families.

Brough's response to the horrors made public by Alice Springs Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers Rogers' revelations was to announce the existence of a pedophile ring of senior Aboriginal men. No evidence was been produced, and it now seems clear that none exists.

The pedophile ring (an image of Aboriginal badness) was used to justify the removal of children from their families.So the old historical patterns repeat themslves.

Why not safe hosues for women and children? White woman have access to them? Why not aboriginal women?

Why not deal with the perpetrators of the violence on women and children the daily violence where women are routinely raped, set alight, mutilated and murdered? Why cannot the perpetrators be removed from the family?

there are success stories. Try this

Gary, From the article; We need to make success the core of our activity - that means making evidence-based solutions the heart of our research and policy decisions.

The trouble is once the issue becomes politicised, then the reasons for the problem become political and political solutions quickly follow.

Cameron/Gary."I am as removed etc" That's as may be but unfortunately modern Aboriginals are not.To deny that modern Aboriginals do not reflect on Australia's colonial past, and they are removed from it, is to deny reality. Most of them blame a lot of their problems on the invasion of this land by the white man, and to again deny this fact whether it is a wrong perception on their part, is irrelevant, it exists so it is.

As a child of the fifty's, having seen it with my own eyes, I do not need opinions or books or the interpretations of others to come to any other conclusion, that Aboriginals were and still treated like cattle.The police who have to deal with these people by the very nature of their personal contact with them, in turn become racist themselves out of fear and frustration. And believe me I know. So the whole situation just perpetuates, more fear+ more anger=more violence.

"Australia does not do racially based policy anymore" Umm now let me see is that overt/covert racially based policy?Wasn't it Bronwyn (bad hair day)Bishop who a few months ago was talking about making Moslem women remove the Burka in public? is it now the government wanting to make english the only language spoken in Mosques? Is it not the government who wants to intefere with the marriage right/rites of Moslems to run along the lines of christianity?

Now whether the above becomes official dunno, but the intention is there. What was it Hitler said" There ve vas drinking a little snapps the next thing ve in Poland.

Cameron obviously there should be some where for Aboriginal women and children to go if they are victims of violence, or indeed pedophiles. I think I am being mis-understood here, I don't condone these actions in the least I just think I understand from my own experiences, why they happen. I may be wrong. But what I am not wrong about is this whole issue is being politicised by conservative politicians who in the main wouldn't know what an Aboriginal looked like.Their utterences on this matter make me want to puke.They are that shallow most of them could parachute out of a snakes arse.

As I explained before I am a vengful bastard and if up to me the gallows would still be a thing of beauty.I could pull the lever or swing on the legs. I'm not that fussed

There is no denial.The history is accepted as are the reflections upon that history.

What needs to be added:

*is the failed economics and development;

*the need to provide protection for the women and children so they are safe and can speak out about the violence without to retribution;

*doing something about the perpretrators

Gary,As you are well aware the gaols are full of the perpretrators.I believe Western Australia has the highest Aboriginal inmate percentage to population in Australia.So obviously another method must be found to deal with a situation with special needs.

How many Aboriginal Police Officers do we have?
How many Aboriginal social workers do we have?
How many Aboriginal Prison Warders do we have?
How many Aboriginal Docters do we have?
How many Aboriginal Nurses do we have?
How many Aboriginal employment schemes have been initiated with input from main stream employers?
Are there any health services available that deal with problems associated with alcohol run by Aboriginals. etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Me thinks not enough.

Of course we can keep locking them up,I guess at the end of the day those that won't conform??????.

I don't know the answer,I will leave that to people with wiser minds than mine.But what I do know is this, unless we apologise to these people and try to clean the slate,compensate where necessary, and bloody start again,this problem will still be with us when you and I are dead and gone.Unfortunately nothing will be achieved whilst we have John Howard as P.M. he is part of the problem not part of the solution.

A treaty maybe???I mean the Maori have one how sucessful it is I don't know.Maybe a treaty along the lines the American Red Indians ,only ours would be seen to be un-breakable and form part of the constitution.Yea I know dream on Phill.


Wadeye is a disaster zone, nay a war zone. Yet only three years ago it was being touted as the way forward by the Northern Territory and federal governments.

the conservative discourse as it is unfolding in federal Parliament is about the application of law and order, tough sentencing for crimes such as rape and domestic violence and more resources for policing.

It has no concern with the healing process associated with saying sorry and beginning the reconciliation.

Economics is a key as many of the remote indigenous communities have little employment. The conservatives see this as romantic savage view of inner city elites, culture and going back to country. If the community is not economically sustainable then it should not be founded by the federal government---it should be funded by the indigenous community.

I agree that one pathway is aboriginal employment as you list above. But how do we educate?---it's not responsible to expect aboriginal people to go off to uni in a big city to become an aboriginal health worker.


So what has gone wrong?I still stand by my comments, something smacks of political oportunism here. As I have said before these problems are nothing new, and the perception of an escalation by some in the community,that it is getting out of hand is also nothing new.

"How do we educate"? Once the healing process has begun, which may take some time, then possibly young Aboriginals may get off the 'I am the victim kick' that is drummed into them by their elders,who have personaly experienced the actions of mis-guided and racist white men for, the reasons I have put forward.

In my past employment I have had more than my share of contact with them, most of them if given a chance, and treated like a fellow human being usually respond to common sense, and NO that is not to patronise them.They know when you are pissing in their pocket.


you write:

Wadeye,Agree. So what has gone wrong?I still stand by my comments, something smacks of political oportunism here. As I have said before these problems are nothing new, and the perception of an escalation by some in the community,that it is getting out of hand is also nothing new.

You argue that the political opportunism you smell comes from the conservative Howard Government, that is being tough on law and order to ensure the protection of innocent children from violent and serious offences.

You are silent on the Martin ALP Government in the Northern Territory. Haven't they done very little for aboriginal people to keep their white electorate onside?

Paul Toohey writing in the Bulletin says:It might sound hateful to say it, but it has been a pleasure to watch Martin squirm for this last week. She has comprehensively, and deliberately, failed to represent Aborigines of the north. She has been caught out. She has failed her four Aboriginal parliamentary colleagues and she has failed her entire Aboriginal constituency. She has no vision for the people who make up nearly a third of the Territory’s population.
Isn't that right?

Gary, I don't mention the obvious, ref the N.T. government maybe later. Not only does this issue smell of political oportunism ,it is political oportunism.The Howard government is fond of playing the racist card. In fact conservatives have a patent on it.During the Viet Nam conflict there was a cartoon in the Packer press depicting an Aussie soldier pulling a rickshaw, with an Asian looking soldier(viet cong/N.V.A.regular) sitting next to a blue eyed blonde haired rather buxom lady. I have seen all this crap before. Before the Aboriginals it was the Moslems, before them the Asians and so on. Gary I don't know what lofty circles you move in but most of the people I know hate Aboriginals more than any other ethnic group.

One of the best ways to get your base on board, and deflect pulic criticism on policy is to have a purge on an ethic group. i.e.the Moslems visa vie Iraq and now our own home grown problems. This is why John Howard will not apologize to Aboriginals he is astute enough to know most Australians of Irish or Anglo extraction think like he does. People who think like I do, not so many years ago would have been called nigger lovers or worse traitor.

You mention the N.T. governement. If you look back into history, the N.T. goverments have run a close second to the Queensland governments in their indifferance to Aboriginals. Martin squirming means nothing, she will retire into a lap of luxury care of the long suffering tax payer no matter how her demeanor comes across. And you are right she has no vision, and whats more, what really pisses me off she is supposed to represent the working class and underprivaliged in society ha ha ha ha. At my age naive is not in my vocabulary, if this wasn't causing a guts ache for us round the world, including a little serve from the Pope it would be business as usual.

To say there are not some politicians who truly care about this problem would be stupid. I am a caring Australian not a bloody jock strap. But they are far and few between. I tell you what lets put Wilson Tuckey in charge for a day.