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Wadeye « Previous | |Next »
May 24, 2006

Wadeye, formerly called Port Keats, has become a warzone as gang members fight each other in a turf war that has made its streets unsafe. Yet, just recently, it was touted as a place on the mend, a disturbed town where hope finally shines after years of disruption and neglect. So when I listened to some of the parliamentary budget debates yesterday in the House I picked up my ears when the MPs touched on aboriginal spending, and inevitably, the recent events in Wadeye. I was suprised by the hostility shown towards the outstation or return to country movement and the underlining ethos of aboriginal autonomy/self-determination. To hell with culture, the remote communities are uneconomic, and their people should be persuaded to move. What came through was a tough Australian law and agenda:


Law and order is required to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes against women and children are removed so they are not left in the community continue their violence, to spread fear, and to intimidate those who have been strong enough to speak out.

Malcolm Fraser makes some good points in his op ed in The Age. He says that more police in Aboriginal communities and prosecuting wrongdoers is only a small part of the solution.

Wadey, he says, grew because:

... government policies pushed Aboriginal stockmen off the stations, yet our governments have done little to find employment for those who now live in Wadeye. Apart from community development employment projects, there are only 25 paying jobs in a community of 2500. This is a recipe for social disaster, and that is what we are seeing.

The Canadian Government accepts this responsibility for its indigenous communities. Their officers sit down with the leaders of remote communities and work out enterprises appropriate to each. They then provide the infrastructure, and the training. Remote communities in Canada are now running their local railways, managing forestry and other enterprises.

Fraser agrees with Noel Pearson that a welfare mentality has developed in many Aboriginal communities and governments are responsible for this policy.

Fraser refers to the Canadian experience to point a way beyond the punitive approach taken by many MPs on the conservative side of politics. For instance:

In the late 1970s the government of Alberta inquired into the causes of social disaster in aboriginal communities. It found that one cause was the large proportion of those giving leadership in these communities who had an alcohol problem. In response, they established the Nechi Institute in Edmonton. This institute is run by indigenous people, using indigenous methods, and during the past 20 years has trained 4000 indigenous people in drug and alcohol work. Today a majority of those giving leadership in indigenous communities are non-drinkers, and non-drinking has become an asset in the elections for community leaders. This has been achieved by education, not by alcohol bans.

At this stage Australia probably needs both---bans and education. But we get the former not the latter.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:59 AM | | Comments (0)