30 May 2006

Spare Aboriginal communities from quick fixes

We'll take it as given that paternalism, Aboriginality ipso-facto as a law-and-order problem and assumed eventual extinction have failed. We could be seeing the last gasp of paternalism in the current govrnment - and if Howard can be persuaded that paternalism/benign neglect toward Aborigines is a non-starter, it might really be all over. But for the moment: what is the vision for Aboriginal communities: no schools but plenty of soldiers eh?

Gary Johns has made out that he's cottoned on to this right wing caper since leaving the ALP but hasn't got the whole conserving traditional values thing. And the national president of the party he left behind is a fool: I'm not a doctor Warren, so tell me how a fly-in-fly-out operation will alleviate glue ear or alcoholism, hmm?

Hysterical campaigns like we've seen over recent months reinforces perceptions (including self-perceptions) of Aboriginal communities as leaderless and hopeless. The surival of Aboriginal societies, and the people within them, depend upon their being well-led and hopeful. This will take a long time and a great deal of goodwill - governments and NGOs need to identify both rather than pouring oil on both troubled waters or squeaky wheels if they would actually make the difference their posturing would suggest.

Bad policy comes when policy reacts too sharply to events, when its lack of philosophical underpinnings and negotiated agreement allows it to be buffered by the winds of the media. And Aboriginal policy is the worst policy-making Australia does.

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