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

Indigenous well being « Previous | |Next »
July 4, 2009

This week's Productivity Commission report---Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009 showed that in most areas Aboriginal disadvantage is static or deteriorating. This is despite Australian governments committed themselves collectively to overcoming the disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians in 2002. The Report states:

Overall, Indigenous people have shared in Australia’s economic prosperity of the past decade or so, with improvements in employment, incomes and measures of wealth such as home ownership. However, in almost all cases, outcomes for non-Indigenous people have also improved, meaning the gaps in outcomes persist. The challenge for governments and Indigenous people will be to preserve these gains and close the gaps in a more difficult economic climate.

Gary Banks, the chairman of the Productivity Commission said that The most significant thing is that this report is happening at all. It is the first time governments have not only expressed a strong desire to do better but have created a reporting vehicle that will hold them accountable.

MoirIndigneous.jpg Moir

The Commission adds that Governments acting alone are unable to overcome Indigenous disadvantage. Meaningful change will also require commitment and actions by Indigenous people themselves, with support from the private and non-profit sectors and the general community, as well as governments.

Under the Council of Australian Governments benchmarks of December 2007 and March last year all governments in this country pledged to: close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a generation; halve the gap in the mortality rate for indigenous children under five within the decade; ensure all indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities have access to early childhood programs within five years; halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievement for children within the decade; halve the gap in year 12 attainment with the decade; and halve the gap in employment outcomes within the decade.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:00 AM | | Comments (8)


This is a shocking report. Not because of what it reveals about aboriginal disadvantage and dissolution, but because of its clear privileging of 'race' as the most potent historical agent in modern day Australia.

I was pleased to see the results broken down into big city, regional centres, and remote communities. But with each of these three it went no furthyer than comparing "indigenous" people - whoever they might be, the Report never says - and NON "indigenous people.

Ultimately, the REAL data we all need to face up is the precipitous differences in outcomes for aborigines living in big cities, where they do well quite well, right down to the 3rd world remote areas and 5th world very remote communities.

There was no attempt to compare race against the two other factors that have more agency: class and remoteness from wider Australia.

Noweher is NON "indegenous" Australians broken out at all. For example, we know that Sunni Muslims have the second incarceration rate, while Jews have better outcomes than Anglo-Celts.

The binary thinking that irradiates this Report has been quite deliberate to be used by the bmembers of the Aboriginal Industry for MORE taxpayers money!

Remarkably, some conservatives have claimed on blog comment threads that the intervention has been an outstanding success.

It's hard to see how we will ever get any intelligent political action from Canberra about the problems faced by indigenous people. A piece in yesterday's 'Sydney Morning Herald' by Paul McGeogh reported that the part of the intervention some Aboriginal women liked was the managed income. It's hard to see how creating an underclass of citizens whose mundane personal finances have to be handled by the government is any kind of solution to anything. It's just the bureaucratic version of the old company store.

I'm convinced aborigines will have to find their own way forward from the dire situation they find themselves in. The white majority should provide resources when they are requested for a reasonable purpose, and understand that they might not always be used in ways that accord with our notions of best practice public administration.

What I find funny is that although this report talks about COAG working together to help aborigines, individually they do not. With aborigines still being relocated from their town camps and traditional areas, how can they be expected to improve their well-being. We need to allow them self-determination and to stop subjecting them to colonial norms.

Andrew McLeod in the Age highlights the tension in indigenous policy re the the Productivity Commission report that Aboriginal children are six times more likely to suffer abuse than non-Aboriginal children. He says:

if I were to call for that Aboriginal child to be removed from an environment in which it was felt that a 12-year-old girl having sex with an adult was OK, I would be accused of repeating the evils of the removals policy implemented by my father. Conversely, if I called for a 12-year-old white child in Melbourne to be left in an environment where she had sex with an adult, I would rightly be called perverted.

We don't appear to have an "Australian cultural standard" that could help us determine "harm", "right" or "wrong" regardless of ethnic background. McLeod says that the simple question of "when is a child at harm?" raises many more cultural issues that we must not only debate. It is a quandary we must solve because in some Aboriginal traditional cultures and laws, sex with a 12-year-old is acceptable, in others not, whilst in European culture it is not.

instead of race in scare quotes we can use culture.

The Commission noted, that some projects showed promise, because there were some approaches which were clearly working. And all of these were co-operative. Wherever and whenever projects had been successful, it had been as a result of extensive consultation, bottom-up decision making and most importantly a long-term, ongoing commitment from all those involved.

No Peter

The Report was not about "culture".


Why was that post directed to me? It did not address anything I said.

My comment about projects that were working because of co-operation, consultation, bottom up decision making addresses your claim that:

The binary thinking that irradiates this Report has been quite deliberate to be used by the bmembers [sic] of the Aboriginal Industry for MORE taxpayers money!