I would like to start by wishing everyone a very Happy 2014. This year, and hopefully not too far beyond is certainly going to be a challenge.
Shall I say it; Tony Abbott has exceeded expectations. I think that all know from Abbott’s gilt-edged promises that “the Abbottoir” would fulfill his destiny and do his best to dismantle anything and everything which does not fit in with his perception as expressed in Tony World. In Tony World for example, women of calibre are worth every single taxpayer dollar to enable them to employ au pairs and live in nanny’s. In Tony World one visit to an indigenous community once a year means “taking an interest”.
Tony World is superficial. Tony World avoids anything awkward such as having to provide truthful answers. Tony World runs and hides, and hopes that it will all go away.
It was therefore shortly after the election, and with some feeling of dread that I read the announcement that Abbott had decided to take control of both indigenous and women’s issues, both of which require avoidance of the superficial, a commitment to provide truthful answers, and a determination to NOT run and hide. These qualities being the antithesis of what all have come to expect from the person Tony Abbott.
My immediate impression was that by taking control of these two very important and to Abbott, somewhat vexatious issues, that he could grandstand – take the high moral ground by claiming that these issues were “so important to him” that he had decided to take direct control, whilst at the same time not have a minister who had to answer questions.
Almost two years ago, I wrote this article: A Stint in Jail which in part reads:
Late June last year a report was tabled to the House of Representatives: Doing Time – Time For Doing. As well as the above, this report includes that:
- Between 2000 and 2009, the incarceration rate for Indigenous Australians rose by 66%.
- Between 2000 and 2010, the actual number of Aboriginal men in prisons rose by 55%, and the number of women rose by 47%.
- 70% of remote Indigenous adults have hearing loss or problems, but that Australian Hearing, “which provides free treatment for children under the Hearing Services Program, doesn’t visit juvenile detention centres”.
So why are Indigenous young people imprisoned at 28 times the rate as white kids? Creative Spirits provides the following:
Police remain hard-hearted and indifferent to prison rates and, in some cases, to Aboriginal prisoners themselves. The Children’s Court is often being told imprisonment is the only option due to lack of accommodation.
“Incredibly trivial offences”
There is evidence to suggest that police treat Aboriginal people differently for trivial offences, for example some Aboriginal people end up in jail because they did not get the postal notifications of court dates after which bench warrants are issued and bail is unlikely. Another example is being caught with 1.5 litres of any alcohol including beer in a restricted area carries with it a 18 month jail term.
Peter Collins, Legal Director of Aboriginal Legal Services in Western Australia (ALSWA):
“Every day of the week we act for Aboriginal people who’ve been charged with disorderly conduct. “Their crime: To swear at the police. They use the F word, they use the C word. Often they’re drunk or affected by drugs or both, or they’ve got a mental illness or they’re homeless or whatever. But it seems to me the only people in this day and age who are offended by the use of the F word and the C word are police. And so these [Aboriginal] people are hauled before the courts for these incredibly trivial offences.”
Lack of understanding of white law
More than 90% of people in Arnhem Land, NT, could not answer basic legal questions. 95% of Yolngu people could not explain the 30 most commonly used English legal terms, such as ‘bail’, ‘commit’, ‘arrest’ or even ‘guilty’. Even 90% of community leaders, school teachers and council representatives had no understanding of these legal terms.
This might explain why in 2008 over 80% of the Northern Territory prison population was Aboriginal. Many of them might as well be innocent because they didn’t understand what ‘guilty’ meant.
Richard Trudgen, CEO of the Aboriginal Resource and Development Services:
“People thought that pleading guilty actually got them through the court quickly and they didn’t go to jail. When they realised what the term guilty meant they were able to identify some of the things that they were convicted of that they never had anything to do with.”
Another reason why Aboriginal people make ‘false’ statements in court is that they are hearing-impaired through a cycle of poor health. There is a clear relationship between hearing loss and early Indigenous justice problems – 90% of Indigenous inmates in Darwin Correctional Centre suffer from hearing loss.
Priscilla Collins, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA): “Half the time our clients break the law because they don’t understand it”.
*** Note: this young offender was given a custodial sentence, was raped while in jail and killed himself upon his release.
The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of non-violent offences, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure.
Ref: Heilpern, David M, “Sexual Assault of Prisoners: Reflections”  UNSWLawJI 17; (2005) 28(1) University of New South Wales Law Journal 286
Tony Abbott as Prime Minister: Indigenous legal aid to be cut by $13.4 million
The biggest blow toIndigenous funding was to legal aid – $13.4 million will be taken out of the sector over the next four years.
But the treasurer says it is part of returning the budget to good health.
“Much of the projected growth is from social programs, including welfare, education and health. Spending reform will inevitably require difficult choices about the policies that Australia needs now and in the years to come,” Treasurer Joe Hockey says.
As an example: Those services cut (will) include the $45 million that was promised during the election campaign to set up four training centres that the government is hoping will train 5,000 Indigenous people.
Tony Abbott however will, set up a committee which will “meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and senior ministers, starting next month, and will inform the policy implementation of the government”.
I am highlighting just one of Tony Abbott’s delusions, that he intends to help indigenous people. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, that he is delusional rather than stating specifically that he has lied.