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Indigenous Affairs: emergency intervention « Previous | |Next »
June 21, 2008

Nicolas Rothwell has an op-ed in The Australian on the emergency intervention in indigenous affairs in the Northern Territory to break the old welfare and administration trap under the umbrella of moral outrage abouthe sexual abuse of children. Rothwell says that:

The intervention was a piece of human engineering on the grand scale. And over the past 12 months, in the 73 remote communities targeted by the emergency taskforce, there has indeed been a frenetic amount of activity: almost 9000 child health checks have been performed, 50 business managers are running affairs in the remote communities and more than 12,000 indigenous territorians are under income management, with half their welfare payments quarantined. This strict regime now applies across the board in seven town camps and 49 communities.

He then asks to what effect? It's a good question as the critics have argued that the intervention's many detractors point to its duplication of existing programs, to its stigmatisation of entire communities as sex abusers, and to the hardships and injustices caused by the blanket quarantining process. Rothwell response is that the early signals suggest intriguing short-term gains:
large rises are being recorded in school attendances in central Australia and select northern communities, among them the big township of Wadeye. There are drops in gambling, drinking and drug taking. School nutrition programs are in place, with impressive effects on child health. An extra 50 police are stationed in the communities, and ambitious plans for expanded school facilities and new housing are being rolled out. ...But beyond its immediate effects, positive or negative, the emergency response has served as a phase change: an established order, based on near-universal pension payments, has been called into question.

Undoubtedly this is true. All the signs are that will be no rollback, no return to the way things were before under Rudd and Macklin.

Rothwell argues that Macklin has quietly modified the Howard-Brough intervention by reimposing access permits for outsiders to visit NT communities, restoring the part-time work programs of the community development employment projects and picking apart the 99-year lease model that had stood at the heart of the conservative economic vision for indigenous remote Australia. Macklin is revising the Howard-Brough i intervention's more contentious mechanisms while maintaining its role as trigger for deep-reaching social reform.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:51 PM |