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"rivers of grog" « Previous | |Next »
June 22, 2007

Now we have the graphic image of "rivers of grog" which have been blamed for an epidemic of child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory. The rivers flow out of Darwin, into the tributary towns of Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine, and eventually to the camps that ring them and into the remote communities serviced by them.

indigenousA.jpg
Alan Moir

So we have a Commonwealth solution: an alcohol ban for six months on Aboriginal land; licensees required to view photographic identification and record the buyer and destination of alcohol; the NT Government required to develop a comprehensive anti-alcohol plan; and withholds welfare payments to compel school attendance.

This plan by John Howard to curb the "river of grog, removes the autonomy of Aboriginal areas in the Northern Territory, and imposes state controls that do not apply to white society. Is it a regression to the ancien regime, where indigenous Australians possessed no civil rights, and were seen as being in need of the civilising influence of white society.

Maybe the prohibition of alcohol won't work, as it's a recipe for sly-grogging as Mick Dodson claims. But what could work is an attempt to address health issues, such as the poverty related conditions of malnutrition, chronic ear disease, anaemia, rheumatic heart disease and persistent lung infections caused most suffering among Aboriginal children. These have a greater priority than sexual abuse which would rank about number 20 or 30 in importance among children's health problems in the Northern Territory.

So argues Paul Bauert, the head of pediatrics at Royal Darwin Hospital, who advocates a full medical check for the territory's indigenous children, provided it iss backed up with access to relevant treatment and specialists.

Update: 22 June
Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald says in relation to Howard's plan:

Let us hope to God it works, or that even some of it works. But I very much fear that this is a paternalistic, ideologically motivated attempt to stuff the genie back into the bottle. The Little Children Are Sacred report is emphatic that there must be consultation with indigenous people. If we revert to bossing them around again, to imposing white solutions upon them from the top down, yet another failure is certain.

"Bossing them around again "is the most general concern about Howard's national emergency plan.


| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:01 AM | | Comments (21)
Comments

Comments

Finally there is action!

Finally the government was shamed into action.

Les,
Probably. Something had to snap after the Little Children Are Sacred, report fromn the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sex Abuse.T here is a 'Third World' living within Australia, to Australia’s shame.

Let's hope the commonwealth goes beyond a law and order approach. If you prevent addicts from getting grog, then you need to deal with the addiction. Will this happen? Will policies be introduced to meet the underlying causes of dysfunction and antisocial behaviour? Improved health and better access to education are key's to hope and opportunity for indigenous people

Or will it remain a law and order approach?

Gary,
I see that in the link you referred to Francis Sedgemore of the Guardian says it is a 'national emergency ' that is providing the justification for the severe restrictions on individual and community autonomy?

To me it smacks of political opportunism, and the government of the Northern Territory is the whipping boy in Howard's national political games.

It is the very lack of detail in the plans Howard announced that creates the impression that his current electoral situation was a major factor in his decision to act so decisively. Howard has known about the problem for a long time, done nothing to help and with the budget surpluses, had the resources necessary to do something.

Martin's NT government has done very little on this. There has been a long, history of denials by the Chief Minister and her political colleagues about widespread abuses in the Mutitjulu community. Do the politics in the white electorates in Darwin dictate inaction?

Sedgemore talks about the artificially-polarised debate between "PC do-gooders" and "common sense" reformers being constructed by the Australian. The rightwing supports Noel Pearson 's personal responsibility approach to welfare reform against the PC do-gooders.

Strange that the recognition of the need for health and education is dismissed as the concerns of "PC do- gooders"?

When are people going to wake up that the attack on indigenes is just another TAMPA-style "othering" of a victim group that can't fight back, to alibi a useless and mean spirited government that can't and won't do the right thing itself as to any given problem?
Three birds are kiled with one stone through this irresponsible and deopicable farce.
First, the Coalition gets to play the race card and look like the "wise father". It's reinforced that aboriginals are too useless to run their own lives, so Big Brother can move in and take over the running of their lives for them- the big heroes, the government!
Secondly, an instant scapegoat is present to kicked around in an election year - state "enemy" Labor governments underfunded for years by a federal government that wastes tens of $billions on defective military ordinaces but refuses to attempt a constructive national approach to a plethora of issues on the basis that that is "big government" and not its responsibility.
Thirdly, the federal government in launching this approach succeeds in fobbing-off precisely those human responsibilities that most belong to it through its superior access to revenue. The underfunded governments of the opposite political side are scapegoats as well as manufactured fodder for electioneering. The need to divert revenue away from tax cuts and other middle class and corporate welfaresis obviated; paradoxically they get to make heroes of themselves to the mortgage belt, blame their rivals and victims and duck human responsibility.
Meanwhile, human suffering expands exponentially.
Boy, would I like to see the likes of Brough, Howard and Costello out of their cocoons and on the receiving end of critical real-life problem like alcoholism and poverty; having their own lives bled from them because some pathological dilantette who could have done something real only wants to sit around and play silly buggers .

Paul,
I would argue that Howard is driven by humanitarian concerns and a desire to protect children as well as electoral considerations.

I see that Gregory Phillips in The Age supports your race card claim. He says:

Far from being a radical saviour concerned with the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse in the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister is mostly concerned with painting all Aborigines as being useless crooks and abusers. That way, he can put up a smokescreen to justify the weakening of Aboriginal communal rights to land under the guise of economic development.

He adds that sexual abuse and alcoholic dysfunction in indigenous communities is a massive problem, that many Aborigines have long advocated for better services to deal with the issues, and have strongly asserted that alcoholism and sexual abuse are not a part of Aboriginal culture. It is, in fact, a learned behaviour.

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says the plan is racist. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says Howard is "one of the best wedge politicians in the history of Australia" and notes the timing.

Nan,
I would argue that long periods of paternalistic control over indigenous communties historically did not produce self-sustaining communities.

The Howard Government needs to build confidence and trust within communities, if it is to avoid keeping people in perpetual bondage. To ensure that indigenous people stand on their own feet it needs to encourage them to be self-motivated and engaged.

Paul,
Noel Pearson in The Australian has some interesting comments on the federal government's plan. He asks:

'does the fact that Howard and Brough are politically motivated in the conception and activation of their plan make their plan unsupportable? Does the fact that there are electoral calculations underpinning this manoeuvre make their proposed intervention wrong?'

Pearson answers:

Of course not. I could not care less if the plan is accompanied by political motivations. If the plan is aimed at providing relief from suffering then this has priority over everything. Whether Howard or Kevin Rudd ends up being the prime minister of the next parliament is not worth two cents in my calculation compared with whether we have a plan that can cut through immediately.

Lessening the suffering of the children is what is most important.

Those that need grog will go to town to get it. 1/2 there money staying to feed their kids is a good thing.

Les
Most communities in the NT are dry, with penalties including impounding vehicles used to bring in alcohol.

Taskforce chairwoman Sue Gordon, the WA Aboriginal magistrate who wrote a report on child abuse in 2001, concedes that some people will move to town camps. Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough says it is up to the Northern Territory Government to take action to control the camps. If camps breach the terms of their leases, he says, the leases must be withdrawn — and Canberra will do so if the territory won't.Most communities in the NT are dry, with penalties including impounding vehicles used to bring in alcohol.

Nan,
I see that Louis Nowra, writing in The Age acknowledges that there is a whiff of paternalism about the Government's plan, and that he cannot see it succeeding in the long term unless the Government consults Aboriginal communities. He adds that:

The key areas to be addressed over the long term will be health (Aborigines have a life expectancy 20 years less than the general population), alcohol (it is more than just banning grog, addiction has to be addressed), the safety of women and children (even if that means removing children at risk), welfare (jobs have to be created), poverty reduction (the poverty in Aboriginal communities is mindboggling) and education (this is crucial for the future of Aborigines and their culture), and men have to be helped. Men are the problem and the solution.

He says that these damaged men need to be helped, especially the young men, because they are the next generation.

I have lived and worked in Kalgoorlie, Port Headland, Alice Springs, Meekatharra, Cue, Port Augusta.
The problems of sexual abuse is not restricted to the Northern Territory. Pedophilia is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Alcohol related violence to women needs to be addressed.
It is quite plain that what has been done in the past hasn't worked in some places and a hard line must be taken.
A lot of people making statements in the media about what should and shouldn't be done quite obviously have never been to a community that has alcohol problems because if they had they wouldn't be saying that the first thing to do is switch off the grog. Then address the health and child welfare issues.
But I am quite happy for them to keep sprouting their idiotic points of view because it will keep the issue on the table.

Les,
most of the commentators' I've read support John Howard's intervention.They qualify their support by saying that a law and order approach is only effective in th short term

Who do you have in mind when you refer to those "sprouting their idiotic points of view".

Anyone opposed to it.

also, It should be said that a large percentage of people in these camps will never work and do not have the capacity to progress beyond a grade 2 level of intelligence so grog is the way they will always go.

That's pretty vague isn't it. It's also very close to a straw dog, as it implies that qualified support is opposition.

I haven't read anybody who is opposed to national leadership or getting the police in and the grog out, and then starting on the comprehensive health checks and attendance at school. It's how it is going to be done that is of concern.

So do you mean this kind of response? Most of the objections are about the lack of seeking the cooperation and consent of aboriginal people, and the lack of medical followup for co morbidities that have their roots in poverty. Diagnosis is one thing treatment is another.

Les
Re your comment:

"a large percentage of people in these camps will never work and do not have the capacity to progress beyond a grade 2 level of intelligence "

It all depends on what you mean by capacity doesn't it. What do you mean?

Nan, I mean that the aboriginals living in these camps to be investigated are or are equal to the dumbest race on the planet. I don't think I can make it any clearer than that.

Gary, My only concern in this issue is that the abuse of children stops. A blind eye has been turned to it for many years.The abuse is not only going on by blacks. Whites have been paying black girls for sex in country towns and mining quarters for as long as they have been there and their not checking birth certificates.
There will be lots charged. Hooray!


Les,
I thought that are plenty of white people out there living off welfare, getting drunk a watching pornography, and engaging in sexual abuse.

Presumably, they do that because they are dumb----they will never work and do not have the capacity to progress beyond a grade 2 level of intelligence

So maybe we should police the lifestyles of the entire community.

Yes Good point Nan. Australia has a big problem with the so called Third generation unemployed.
But the economics of welfare is a different issue and how it relates to keeping other things going is another issue.
http://andrewbartlett.com/blog/?p=1549

There will be questions asked of all the pre 16 kids that are revealed to be sexually active. This is a very big issue and I don't think some realize it.

Les,
I agree with you that sexual abuse is not only going on by blacks." The common perception that child sexual abuse in the NT is a crime committed only by Aboriginal men is wrong.

Co-author of the Wild Anderson Report, Rex Wild, QC, noted this in his answer to a question at the press conference following the launch of the report:


LINDSAY MURDOCH - The Age: And who are the abusers? If there is no paedophile ring who are they?

REX WILD QC: …The worst examples of abuse of Aboriginal children is (sic) from non-Aboriginal men. There are a number of recorded cases of those in the Northern Territory over the past 20-odd years. Not all of them have been successfully prosecuted …

The Wild Anderson Report elaborates on this aspect of child abuse in the Northern Territory, and it identifies and explodes a number of myths, including that Aboriginal men are the only offenders.


Yes exactly.
I would expect there are many small paedophile groups out there perhaps even large groups.
(A difference between the Blacks and the Whites is that some of the Blacks feel that it there right to take on the young girls whereas the Whites are simply Predators.

The words "Drunken Child Abuse" is been said but there of course isn't always a Drunken aspect.

I guess too there is a HIV fear and fear of some of these new street drugs making their way into the communities. Both would be devastating.

Les
the Wild Anderson Report identifies and explodes a number of myths on this aspect of child abuse in the Northern Territory.

"Myth: Aboriginal men are the only offenders …It is the Inquiry’s experience that the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children is being committed by a range of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal offenders …The Inquiry…remains concerned that, at times, Aboriginal men have been targeted as if they were the only perpetrators of child s-xual abuse in communities. This is inaccurate and has resulted in unfair shaming, and consequent further disempowerment, of Aboriginal men as a whole. "(Report, p. 59)

And it addresses your view that there are many small paedophile groups out there perhaps even large groups.

"…the Inquiry found no evidence of any “paedophile rings” operating in the Northern Territory, there was enough evidence to conclude that a number of individual non-Aboriginal “p-edophiles” had been infiltrating Aboriginal communities and offending against children …As is often the case, these offenders appeared to have offended against many victims. However, they…often held positions of influence or trust in a community rather than being a “stranger”. " (Report, p. 63)