Writing’s On the Wall
Reports circulating in the mainstream media are targeting Aboriginal programs as inefficient and costly. So what is newsworthy about that? It’s not as if it’s a slow news cycle, given what else is happening in the world today.
The reporting should raise alarm bells among Indigenous organisations that depend on Government funding to service the need of Indigenous people. A Finance Department report prepared early last year revealed the Commonwealth is outlaying $3.5 billion each year on Aboriginal programs, which according to the report yield dismally poor results.
There is a “Business Model” used by Government, when Indigenous funding is under scrutiny, or indigenous organisations are for the chop. The pattern is subtle and orchestrated. First step, release the report to the mainstream press. In this instance, the Government’s Finance Department Report on Indigenous funding outlays.
The genie is then out of the bottle, newspapers report it, news radio reports it, shock jocks pick it up and with the help of some opposition members and selected Aboriginal talent set about demolishing the program. The “business model” is so refined and successful that people working in the area of Indigenous programs are helpless to do anything and are at the mercy of the press.
Part of the process is for the press to trot out a well known Aboriginal person to justify its attacks on Indigenous programs, this is called balanced reporting. It beggars belief how someone in the high level Aboriginal mainstream can accurately make a comment about a remote Aboriginal community. Simply because an Aboriginal person has achieved in the mainstream and has been educated with mainstream values, does not necessarily make that person qualified to comment on everything and anything to do with Aboriginal programs.
Before you know, discussion is rampant on the shock jock radio stations, the whole scene plays out, the Government gives the impression that it is acting in the best interest of Indigenous people, and takes action to cut programs. Mission accomplished. This business model is tried and true; for example look at how ATSIC was undermined, and there are others including the Aboriginal Legal Services.
A report by Amnesty International highlights the government’s intent to reduce funding to remote homeland. Funds that would normally go to the homelands being put into so called “Hub Towns”. This Hub Town business model sounds a lot like the South African model of the apartheid era; herd all the blackfellas into Hub Towns or “Townships” as the South Africans called them, and let them fight it out for services.
There are aspects of the model that, with dedicated people, could work, particularly in the areas of education and health. It is a lot easier to attract teachers and doctors to larger towns than to remote communities. But then there is the cultural aspect that must be considered. More than one-third of the NT’s Aboriginal population lives in 500 remote homeland communities.
Internationally acclaimed indigenous artist, Anmatyerr elder Kathleen Ngal, 78, said if Utopia residents are forced to move to “hub towns” they will become “third-class, non-existent human beings.” She said “My paintings are maps of our country … through my art I am educating the world about my country and my culture”. “I cannot paint when I’m not on my land.” She wants her grandchildren to have the opportunity to live on their country and to know their stories. “Country owns you or holds you, not you holding the country and becoming master of the land,” she said. The Federal and Territory governments are set to stop funding remote outstations when the Intervention ends next year, choosing instead to direct money to 21 of the biggest communities. The effect on aunties such as Kathleen Ngal will be devastating.
The recent productivity report into the future of health services for the ageing found that people like to stay in their homes and in surroundings that they are used to. A 82 year old lady told news 24 that she did not like the hostel that she was in. Not because of the staff simply because she wanted to be home on country. The commission has made recommendations that allow our old folks to live and die with dignity on their special piece of country. Their own homes.
Why can’t Kathleen Ngal and her countrymen stay on their country?
Why must they be herded like sheep into Townships of despair? Why?