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passive indigenous welfare « Previous | |Next »
October 1, 2006

In a recent op.ed. in The Australian Noel Pearson argues that it is not just passive money that kills responsibility; passive service delivery provided by the nanny state also kills responsibility on the part of indigenous parents, individuals and communities. We do need to acknowledge that, despite the best of intentions and lots of money, government policies (eg., CDEP work-for-the-dole program) have not led to any great improvement in Indigenous wellbeing. The social democratic welfare philosophy has failed indigneous people to the extent that it has led to welfare dependency and living on the welfare safety net.

How does Pearson argue his case? He says:

One of the effects of breakfast programs provided to schoolchildren in Cape York Peninsula is that parents are absolved from their responsibility to feed their children with the income they receive from government on their behalf. Hungry children turning up to school is a terrible problem and we must solve the immediate pressing need. But if we are going to have a sustainable solution, we have to be able to at least make parents pay for the breakfast program. Otherwise young mothers and fathers come to think of parenting as something that does not involve providing children with breakfast; there is a program down at the school for that. This abandonment of responsibility then becomes the social norm of that community.

Pearson argument is a a neo-liberal one. The welfare bureaucracy - and the non-government and private sector organisations that are dependent on government contracts - need clients more than the clients need them. An industry premised on passive welfare service delivery has jobs, careers, fiefdoms, budgets, leadership, ambitions, mortgages, promotions, status, grand plans, strategies (and now, with outsourcing, profits) at stake, and it resists the restoration of indigenous responsibility.

We do need to acknowledge that grog, violence and unemployment represent a social disaster for indigenous people, and that this scourge has been the caused by three decades of passive welfare. Life in this safety net for three generations is not a good thing as it doesn't produce good social results for families and individuals.

The problem is lack of jobs and a lack of skills to do those jobs. Though tourism and health care do provide job opportunities, indigenous people need to accquire the skills and education to be able to do those jobs. Indigenous responsibility breaks the ethos of passive welfare and it opens up the option of transforming the passive welfare resource into something constructive. Tourism and health care do provide a way to take responsibility--health care means aboriignal health workers being trained to deliver health care to the own people in the way they see fit.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:10 PM | | Comments (0)