Abbott’s green army: it’s time to enlist


Are you an Aborigine?  Are you disabled?  Are you a young person currently unemployed, or even enjoying their Gap Year?  Then Tony has the job for you!

You might be paid only half the minimum wage and not be covered by Commonwealth workplace laws but (and this is especially for the Gap Year kids), you might like to consider it as akin to working on a kibbutz . . . it’s all about the experience isn’t it?

Only Tony Abbott could create a ‘workforce’ where the workers aren’t legally workers and have no workplace rights“: Adam Bandt.

Clearly the intent of this ‘initiative’ is all about killing several birds with one stone, with Tony Abbott clearly expecting to be able to claim that he’s tackling the ‘absolute crap’ of climate change (his promised Green Army) while simultanously artificially bringing down the numbers of youth unemployment; while undercutting the rights of the young employed, and undermining the minimum wage.  And perhaps those Graduates and Aborigines might be the same people whose jobs he cut.

Women, junior workers, graduates and indigenous people will bear the brunt of a federal government order to cut 14,000 temporary workers, an analysis of government workplace statistics shows.

Graduate and indigenous recruitment will be slashed, hiring will be frozen across the bureaucracy and lead science organisation CSIRO will be among the the agencies hardest hit with the jobs of up to 1400 scientists and researchers threatened.

Does anyone else see something quite Dickensian about the vision of ‘an army of’ people with disabilities ‘enlisted’ to do “. . .manual labour, including clearing local creeks and waterways, fencing and tree planting“.  Perhaps it hasn’t entered the minds of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt that many people with disabilities might struggle to perform tasks such as fencing and clearing local creeks of rubbish, and especially for a compulsory 30 hours per week.

Surely it cannot be possible that a person with a disability such as Downs Syndrome might be shifted onto the lower allowance of NewStart should they prove themselve capable of “manual labour”?

As suspected, Abbott’s so-called Green Army is nothing more than a Work for the Dole scheme which will primarily focus on cleaning up rubbish.  After all it was one of Tony Abbott’s more memorable predictions, that Aborigines should be grateful for what ever job they could get, even if it’s just “picking up rubbish around the community”.  Brilliant in it’s inception, Aborigines get to clean up rubbish alongside those other “dregs of society”, the disabled.  It should be quite an adventure for those graduates and Gap Year kids expecting an environmental, kibbutz-style experience.

Having clearly given up on the pretext that Abbott’s Green Army has anything whatsoever to do with Climate Change action, the real crux of the matter has now finally been admitted – it’s all about tidying up those messy unemployment and Disability Support Pension figures.

From the Daily Telegraph:

JOB snobs who refuse work because it’s too far to travel are in the federal government’s sights under reforms that would also collapse the disability support pension and unemployment benefits into a single universal welfare payment.

(Kevin Andrews is). . . determined to remove the “perverse incentive’’ to claim the disability pension because it is worth an extra $250 a fortnight compared to Newstart. . .

Abbott picks his priorities


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:

Non-Aboriginal indifference

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” [2005] 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.

Who Tony needs to visit

Tony Abbott has committed to spending one week each year in a remote Indigenous community. Offering encouragement from the sidelines, Warren Mundine informs us that:

“What Tony Abbott is doing is ensuring Indigenous issues become a bipartisan issue and he’s making it a personal crusade of his own”.

Forget about this publicity stunt. Instead, carry this same ‘admirable’ attitude with you and spend a week elsewhere where you have some learning to do. Here are some suggestions:

Spend a week in the Nauru detention centre.

Spend a week in Treasury.

Spend a week with some pensioners.

Spend a week with a dying asbestos victim.

Spend a week with a women’s group.

Spend a week in Centrelink.

Spend a week with an Internet service provider.

Spend a week in the public service.

Spend a week in a poor paying job.

Spend a week in a boat.

Spend a week in hospital.

Spend a week in a public school.

Spend a week with a gay couple.

Spend a week with an immigrant family.

Spend a week with a non-Christian family.

Spend a week with a youth group.

And while you’re there, show more respect for these groups than you have our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Tony Abbott: raising the bar of stupidity

I must admit that I admire Tony Abbott for having the courage to continually demonstrate his extreme level of stupidity. Over the weekend he has leapfrogged local clowns such as Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and Piers Ackerman and now sits alone on the top of the idiot tree. On the international scale, he is now in reach of George W Bush.

What put him there?

This, during his address at the City of Holdfast Bay Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony in Adelaide:

The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England . . .

He really has raised the bar of stupidity, hasn’t he?

Mr Abbott, not only did Australia have an Indigenous population for 60,000 years, but the white settlement here in 1788 was to establish a penal colony. For goodness sake, even new-born babies know that one.

If only Mr Abbott would have listened to little Johnnie way back in 2007:

Prime Minister John Howard has described the “neglect” of history teaching in Australian schools as “shameful”, announcing that he would make the subject compulsory for all students in years 9 and 10.

Mr Howard said students would be made to attend 150 hours of Australian history lessons over two or three years from 2009.

The history guide, to be distributed across the nation, says it is intended for study in years nine and 10, but the first three of the 10 topics could start in year 8, it says.

Mr Howard said compulsory teaching of Australian history would be a condition of the next Commonwealth schools funding agreement with the states and territories, which begins on January 1, 2009.

Yes, Mr Howard, it is shameful. Just look how Tony Abbott turned out . . .


A history of failure

The remarks Liberal MP Andrew Laming made after clashes between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander communities escalated at Logan, south of Brisbane, have been widely condemned. The MP for Bowman tweeted: “Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day’s work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?”

His comments have been widely condemned and rightly so.

Sadly, they reflect an attitude that has been entrenched in the Liberal Party for more years than we care to remember. As far as Aboriginal affairs go, they also have a history of failure (as do all governments).

Here’s my take on it.

I once heard a comment that went something like this: The aspirations of Aboriginal Australians are expressed through a political system designed, first and foremost, for the white majority. In my many years in Indigenous affairs and as a student of Indigenous history it was a theme that dominated my public and academic life.

Australian history has left a legacy of Aboriginal inequality and disadvantage. In our self-congratulatory celebration of egalitarianism and the fair go, we conveniently overlooked that fact that our treatment of Aborigines amounted to a contradiction of the very values we claimed to espouse. The inability to regard Aborigines as equals has never really left the white consciousness.

There are a number of measures that can be used to establish the degree of inegalitarian treatment accorded to Aborigines: legal equality; political equality; economic equality; equality of opportunity; and equal satisfaction of basic needs. I could broach social injustice, government ineptness, and bureaucratic mis-management in emphasising these inequalities.

There are many disadvantages suffered by Aborigines that need remedying, but what needs to be dealt with, and in what order? Is it inadequate housing? Is it the parlous state of Aboriginal health which still results in unacceptably high infant mortality rates as well as a diminished life expectancy? Is it the rapid loss of Aboriginal culture? Or the high rate of Aboriginal unemployment?  Undoubtedly the problem is complex, but where do governments start to seek remedies? What are the political solutions?

History illustrates government inability above all else to deliver any remedies, due mainly to the makings of the Australian polity. Federalism stands out, and in particular the complex space that Aboriginal affairs occupies within our political system. In a federation like Australia it can be very difficult to achieve uniformity of power. Why cannot governments that perceive the existence of a regional or national problem, for example Aboriginal health, work constructively to eradicate the problem? Who is to be blamed, Commonwealth or State?

Aboriginal affairs involves many areas of governmental responsibility, including education, health, sanitation, land use and relations with police forces, which are all State government responsibilities. When Commonwealth and State governments disagree in such matters, whose view should prevail? A great deal of essential service delivery falls within the responsibility of State governments, but these governments often fall short of delivering full and satisfactory programs.

However the argument goes much further than being based on pure politics. In a polity like Australia, where the development of the land by both farmer and miner has for so long been described as basic to Australia’s prosperity, it is difficult for governments to ignore claims from such powerful interests. The mining interest has fought particularly strongly against land rights and native title. The propaganda battle is rarely won by the central government.  It is easier for a State Premier to claim that the Native Title Act threatens peoples’ backyards than it is for the Commonwealth to explain the complexities of the legislation.

This is but one of the many shortcomings if I focus on program failure or distortion, for it is in these results that many hopes and expectations are deflected, destroyed or frustrated. An analysis of service delivery reveals that the problem is multi-faceted, not only having to do with the nature of modern bureaucracies, but also with the activities of politicians, the attitudes of white Australians, and the perceptions o Aborigines themselves.

In this arena of political and public perceptions, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) used to come under some heavy fire; from politicians, the media, and the wider community. Perhaps there was resentment because ATSIC had given Aboriginal people a voice in the political system.

The argument on this was compelling. Many Australians watched distrustfully as, under Whitlam’s grandiosity in 1972, large amounts of money were directed to Aboriginal affairs.  As a result there was a great deal of importance placed on the need for ATSIC, in particular, to be accountable for its operations, reflecting no doubt the uncertainties of whites concerning the standards of operations of black institutions. Following accusations of the misuse of money, audits were made of various bodies, again nominally ATSIC, and government funds for many Aboriginal services were reduced, and eventually, ATSIC was wiped from the political and social landscape. Yet claims about ATSIC’s waste of public money usually ignored the difficulties that that body had in delivering any worthwhile services to the Indigenous community. ATSIC had an unbelievable array of demands on its finite budget and was simply not in a position to meet every demand.

At the time I was passionate in my condemnation of the Howard Government. Howard’s commitment to the reduction of government spending in Aboriginal affairs administration has often been cited. Also political parties have come to be so divided on Aboriginal issues – why the likes of the Howard Government was less sympathetic to Aboriginal issues, or too cautious in the invocation of Commonwealth power for the benefit of Aborigines than were the previous Labor Governments of Hawke and Keating. It is forcefully argued that Howard was indeed influenced by the claims of the more powerful interest groups.

Political parties’ views are extremely important in helping explain the place of Aboriginal people in the Australian political system. A series of questions that were asked of a sample of members of parliament – while Howard was prime minister – revealed the existence of varying party views that form an important framework to the development of Aboriginal policy. Some of the differences between Labor and Coalition MPs were imposing. It is worth having a look at some of these answers as they clearly identify who did and did not support Aboriginal causes. Consider them as a backdrop to discussions on issues such as Mabo, Wik, Native Title, the Stolen Generation or the more contemporary Northern Territory intervention.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines

  1. Government has responsibility to grant land rights:  ALP 93.2%   Lib/Nat 40.8%
  2. Settle land claims before development:    78.2   24.2
  3. Aborigines should have special cultural protection:   76.7   43.7
  4. Approve of treaty recognising Aboriginal rights:   85.6   11.2
  5. Law should allow for Aboriginal customs:   60.0   21.4
  6. Constitution should recognise Aboriginal self-government:   29.0   4.6
  7. Aborigines should not be assimilated:   80.3   42.2

I could attack the media with as much veracity as I do the political interests. Press coverage should help ensure that the area of public policy is kept well and truly on the political agenda, for without it would be very difficult for Aboriginal interests to achieve anything of importance. Perhaps the best example in recent years has been the manner in which the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody disappeared from sight once the report became public. Such a lack of sustained coverage makes it easier for governments to ignore many matters of short-term notoriety. The desire for a story often overrides considerations of accuracy or fairness. Who could argue with this? Drunkenness, rioting and poor living conditions are given more attention than the stories that could show Aborigines playing a positive role in the general community.

In recent years, the desire of Aboriginal people to lead lives with as much freedom from government constraint as possible has grown to the point where it is now a major element in the way in which they see their future relationship with the Australian nation. Aboriginal people were sovereign before 1788, and many demand the right to be sovereign again. This desire for autonomy is just one of the perspectives of how Aboriginal people would like to be perceived by governments.

That would be a good place to start.

Getting rid of idiots like Andrew Laming would be another one.

The elder statesman

Like any young Labor voter in the 1970s I despised Malcolm Fraser with a passion for his role in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, and I continued to have contempt for the man throughout his political life.

One of us has changed for I now quite admire him, as do many old Labor people. Or maybe none of us have changed; the changes being the state of politics that surround us and after all these years we have found some middle ground.

Malcolm Fraser represented a Liberal Party that bears no resemblance to the one he proudly led. He now views it as being a party that has drifted so far to the right it is no longer recognisable to the values he once stood for. On that, I agree with him. Almost eight years ago he:

. . . delivered his most scathing critique of the party he led to three federal election victories, and confessed that he had thought seriously about quitting after half a century of membership.

Under John Howard, he said, it had become a party of ”fear and reaction”, conservative not liberal, and willing to play the race card and discriminate against asylum seekers.

He quit the party in May, 2010.

As Prime Minister in the 1970s Malcolm Fraser opened the doors to a quarter of a million Vietnamese refugees and papers released under the 30 year rule showed that Howard bitterly opposed that. So did I, I’m sad to admit, but that’s how many of us felt back then. I became more tolerant, understanding and accepting of refugees by the 1990s while Howard never did. We all know he turned the 2001 election battle into one of race and where xenophobia dominated the political landscape. It’s easy to see why Fraser didn’t like the way the party had become under Howard.

Learning that he’d stood by his principles for humanitarian reasons was the second thing he’d done which earned some admiration.

The first was during the Rwanda crisis in the 1990s when he was the face of CARE Australia. I have since learned that:

In 1987 Mr Fraser formed CARE Australia as part of the international CARE network of humanitarian aid organisations. He was chairman from 1987 until 2002. He was also president of CARE International from 1990 to 1995, and its vice president for the next four years.

He was, then, more than just the face of CARE Australia. He was its heart.

The same article (above link) notes that within two years of leaving Parliament in 1983 he had become a key figure in Australia’s international and diplomatic relations.

Notably, he was Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Committee of Eminent Persons against Apartheid which was formed to encourage a process of dialogue and reform in South Africa in 1985-86 and in 1989 he was appointed Chairman of the United Nations Committee on African Commodity Problems which reported to Secretary-General de Cuellar in June 1990.

Compare that to the next Liberal prime Minister, who upon leaving Parliament wasted no time in pursuing a post-political career of self-promotion and self-indulgence.

In an interview he gave with Professor Robyn Eckersley in late 2011 Fraser again lamented how the Liberal Party had ‘lost its way‘ and was particularly scathing of its current leader, Tony Abbott.

Eckersley: You recently declared that Tony Abbott is a dangerous politician, perhaps one of the most dangerous in Australia’s history. What did you mean by that?

Fraser: [He’s] unpredictable. He says what jumps into his mind. Let me give an example. When farmers were complaining about miners searching for coal or for gas on farms, he spoke almost as though he did not understand that under British law, Australian law, the Crown owns the minerals and the wealth under the ground and if a mining company can get a right to mine or investigate over your farm then that has always been in a sense too bad for the farmer.

You can try and oppose it but that is what the law has always said. Now Tony, in encouraging the farmers, really spoke as though he was quite unaware of that current and historic position. But it was expedient at the time to get the support of the farmers. It might be a bit harsh but I think in a month’s time he will have forgotten he said that.

Eckersley: Is the unpredictability the main reason you called him dangerous?

Fraser: The unpredictability.

Eckersley: Any other reasons?

Fraser: I think the whole party is very much on the extreme right. I happen to believe that the Minchin/Abbott duo to get rid of Malcolm Turnbull – who had actually won a couple of party room votes, even though narrowly – but then they said we’re not going to work with you anyway, we’ll walk out.

The minority was saying we won’t accept the majority and the majority just accepted it. It was an extraordinary occurrence and I believe that rather than being on the emissions trading scheme, it was because Malcolm was showing some significant signs of being a liberal and they didn’t want a liberal in charge of the Liberal party, they wanted a conservative in charge of the Liberal party.

I would encourage you all to read that interview. It not only shows that Fraser hasn’t changed but how much the Liberal Party has. It also shows that the party lost a man who understands the important issues of today, such as climate change, humanitarian issues, Indigenous issues and the Murdoch domination of our media and how it should be addressed. The Liberal Party today has no interest in any of those key problems.

No wonder they lost their elder statesman.


Aboriginal Australians: they’re not all alike

When this blog first started, as well as posting political and media related topics, we also posted many informative topics on Indigenous Australia. It is a topic that is close to most of us here and we have always endeavoured to the best of our ability to promote an awareness of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the country they settled 60,000 years before Europeans.

This post was first published in June 2010 when we had just a handful of contributors and readers so I would like to re-introduce it now that we have gathered a large number of both along the way. It is a post that challenges the pan-Aboriginalisation opinions of the Indigenous Australians by the wider community, which is, simply; ‘they’re all alike’.

On balance I do not think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal characteristics in a general way, especially when those characteristics are based on culture.

One of my old university lectures broadly defined a culture as the human behaviour which is learned in a social environment and adapted to that environment.  As Aboriginal societies developed and adapted throughout a continent that contained a variety of environmental zones, it is concluded that Australia thus contains a variety of Aboriginal cultures.

However, these cultures do share common threads.  Three major points of similarity in cultural concepts include values towards the land and environment, relationships, and the creative stories of the Dreaming.

Aboriginal culture cannot be separated from the land.  Aborigines believe they are related to the land and that the land is sacred.

The land was created during the Dreaming and all people were born from this land, and within it the ancestral spirits still dwell.  During the creation the spirit beings took (among others) human form, and as they travelled the earth their activities, formed the environmental landmarks that are still visible today.

The values placed on relationships (in a broader sense than meaning kinship), is based on the principle of helping each other.  Within groups all possessions would be shared.  It was a moral requirement that foods be distributed to all group members, and any surplus would be traded (or offered) to other tribes, as would any item that the receiving tribe may not have access to.

The third similarity between cultures relates to the Dreaming.  Each culture may have their own interpretations of the Dreaming stories and even their own descriptive name for the event, but the mythical or religious significance of the Dreaming is a source that makes possible the celebration of life.

All aspects and activities of life are based on the Dreaming, be it in the rituals, the arts, hunting and gathering, and the two cultural similarities already discussed; the bond with the land and the principles of relationships.

How life was lived by the spiritual ancestors in the Dreaming is as it is lived by people now.  This is a concept that is difficult to explain to non – Aboriginal Australians, yet it is a concept so easy to express by those who live by it.

The similarities of attitudes to the environment itself can also be the greatest influence in creating cultural differences.  As there are environmental differences, there must be cultural diversity, and that the environmental differences in Australia had indeed given rise to socio – economic patterning.

To expand on this, a more detailed look at what identifies a culture would need to be examined than the broad offering of my old lecturer.  Cultures are integrated systems consisting of a great variety of ideas and activities influenced by the ecosystems, or simply, a way of life within an ecosystem.  A particular ecosystem may exist for desert dwellers than that say for tribes that lived on the coastal regions.  The foods hunted would be different as would the weapons used.  Language could thus be different as perhaps would art.  Different climatic conditions would also influence the way of life.

On balance I do not think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal cultural characteristics in a general way.  To do so would be classifying the Aboriginal people as a race, and I don’t believe that they are a race.  I support the opinion that throughout the continent there were territories clearly defined by language, geography and descent which divided the land into hundreds of identifiable nations.  Would you call Europeans a race?  Would you say that the Scots have all the same cultures as the English.  It is my belief that to misrepresent a person’s culture is denying that person their identity.

On balance do you think it is valid to refer to Aboriginal cultural characteristics in a general way?

2:3 Normal or de jure version of flag, or obve...

The Australian Aboriginal Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An apolitical observation

I generally don’t believe anything that comes out of the mouths of members of the Coalition so I haven’t given much credence to whatever they say. But this latest babble of bullshit has stirred me:

The federal opposition has accused Labor of ordering public servants to create political material to attack the Coalition.

Amid business calls for public servants to be allowed to do their jobs, opposition treasury secretary Joe Hockey has lodged an official complaint alleging “potential political interference” in the public service by Treasurer Wayne Swan’s office.

Tony Abbott said it was not the number of advisers that was the problem, but the way in which they were used by the government.

The Opposition Leader said the Coalition would review the entire bureaucracy but “I think it’s the misuse to which political staffers have been put, with dirt units and so on, rather than the fact that there are political staffers as such”.

As a former Federal Public Servant may I protest that this is a load of absolute and utter rubbish? It’s clearly just another fabricated  “look over there” moment to deflect media and public attention away from a very damaged Tony Abbott.

But if they want to pick on the Public Service with bizarre claims then I take the liberty to throw back a few observations of my own.

I worked as a Public Servant under the Howard, Rudd and Gillard Governments. As a Public Servant I was apolitical, working for the government of the day while casting aside my own political preferences and I performed diligently and loyally to all three. Of those three governments it could be considered that the behaviour of several Howard Ministers only was questionable. I am not at liberty to expand on this.

However, I am at liberty to provide my observations, whether they be correct or not. Neither might they agree with the observations of other Public Servants. But here they are:

  • I didn’t consider that John Howard or Joe Hockey were honest politicians
  • Tony Abbott was very unpopular with a former department due to his alleged nastiness
  • Kevin Rudd drove people fairly hard
  • The Liberals when in government appeared to politicise the Public Service
  • There were rumours that members of the Howard Government attempted to obtain information off public servants for political advantage
  • The Rudd Government acted far more professionally than the Howard Government
  • Julia Gillard was very popular and respected by her departments
  • Many of Howard’s policies in the employment area did not appear to be working
  • The Labor Governments were more concerned with helping society’s needy
  • The Labor Governments had more of a focus on education and job training than Howard’s
  • I did not consider Joe Hockey a competent Minister
  • Labor made more cuts to the Public Service than Howard
  • There appeared to be a greater emphasis from the Howard Government on misleading the electorate
  • The Howard Government did not appear genuinely concerned with the plight of minority groups, in particular Indigenous Australians

What have you good people observed from the boundary line?

Photo courtesy of

All Aborigines are drunks!

I think most people would have seen articles in the news lately about a particular racist Facebook Group. Aboriginal Memes was created purely for the purpose of targeting Aboriginal people with racist taunts and the propagation of negative stereotypes aimed at damaging public opinion. In essence, the site ‘celebrated the destruction‘ of Aboriginal people, portraying them as inferior drunks who sniff petrol and bludge off welfare. Rightly, there have been questions raised as to whether this site is in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act and much of the offensive material has been subsequently removed.

I’m sure that most people would also be aware that the current Opposition, if it wins Government, has targeted the pertinent section of the Racial Discrimination Act for repeal as it is their view that it undermines the right to freedom of speech. So in 18 months such racist, hate-driven sites will be lawful.

Get ready for the onslaught. We might will be bombarded with all sorts of myths.

If we can’t stop the rubbish, maybe we could do our best at dispelling the myths.

A post I wrote almost a year ago attempted to do exactly that. As the subject is now topical because of the publicity surrounding Aboriginal Memes, I’ve dusted off the cobwebs to again promote what I consider to be an important message. It’s about the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunks.

I heard the phrase consensus reality while listening to a recent talk.  I liked it.  It stuck with me.  I also liked what it defined, when explained, that it is a shared, social construction of reality that we believe to be true.  It doesn’t have to be true; we just need to nod our heads in agreement that we believe it to be true.  A bit like herd mentality, really.

Can you think of any examples?  I can.  Many, in fact.  The pages of history are filled with them.  The earth is flat!  The earth is the centre of the universe!  God created the earth in seven days!  Or some more contemporary ones: The dingo didn’t do it!  All politicians lie!  All dole-bludgers are lazy!  All gay people die of AIDS!

One I used to hear a lot in my former line of work always put me on the front foot: All Aborigines are drunks!

This is the horrible perception shared by the majority of non-Indigenous people in this country.  The consensus reality.

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen Aboriginal people drinking or drunk in parks, yelling at each other or intimidating passersby.  These may be the only Aborigines that many city dwellers see on a regular basis and hence they fall victim to consensus reality.  Every Aborigine I have seen has been drunk, so it must be true; they’re all drunkards.

I’m quite happy to tell you that it isn’t true.  More the truth is that Aboriginal people drink in open areas, whereas non-Aboriginal people tend to confine their drinking (and unsocial behaviour) to enclosed areas such as hotels, restaurants, clubs or their or someone else’s home.  For every one drunk Aborigine I’ve seen in a public park I’ve seen 500 drunk white people in a public bar.  Further, for every Aborigine I’ve seen drunk in a public park I’ve seen hundreds of sober Aborigines in country towns or remote lands.  I for one don’t share the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards, yet this is the stereotype often reinforced by the media and the wider community.

There is an element that are, but this is not the purpose of this thread.  Nor is the important reason why some drink, notably due to loss of culture and identity.

Now let’s look at some facts on Aboriginal alcohol consumption:

Contrary to public perception surveys have in fact found that proportionally fewer Aboriginal people drink alcohol than whites do.

29%  of Aboriginal Australians did not drink alcohol in the previous 12 months, almost double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal people are 1.4 times more likely to abstain from alcohol than non-Aboriginal people.

Further statistics I have found, which are similar to those that were produced while I was at ATSIC show that:

By comparison with non-Aboriginal people, a large proportion of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all and, in some Aboriginal communities, alcohol consumption has been banned by the residents.

Up to 35% of Aboriginal men do not drink alcohol compared with 12% of non-Aboriginal men.

40% to 80% of Aboriginal women do not drink alcohol compared with 19% to 25% of non-Aboriginal women.

In the Northern Territory, it has been estimated that 75% of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all.

So why do we perpetuate the myth, the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards?  I am certain that events such as the Northern Territory Intervention helped perpetuate the myth.  But it is about as far from the truth that the earth is flat.

Our Indigenous brothers and sisters deserved better than of the image society has created of them.  Let’s not stereotype all Aborigines because of the visible ones.  The invisible ones are a proud people.  Perhaps that’s the consensus reality we should be promoting.

Let’s make our voices louder than the Aboriginal Memes of the future.

Kneel before the great white god

There are times in our lives when we witness or hear something that belittles an individual, the act of which repulses us yet the memory of it lingers with us over the years.  These cruel acts offer an insight into how people who are different to us cope with the attitudes that persist in mainstream society.

Having spent many years working in Indigenous affairs and blessed to have many Aboriginal Australians in my group of close friends, I have been exposed to the horrors of racism and the sickening dogma of white supremacy.  Two events stand out.  They are horror stories, made seemingly more horrific because the racism and white supremacy was inspired by the church.

I have related these stories on this or other blog sites over the years, but feel the message behind them would be more powerful grouped as one into a post.

The first involved my friend George.  George isn’t his real name, but being a shy bloke who might well be reading this, I don’t want to cause him any embarrassment.

George lives in country South Australia and has done all his life.  Until a few years ago he’d never ventured beyond the borders of SA apart from the annual trip to Alice Springs to play in the Imparja Cup; a national Indigenous cricket carnival.  It was thus with much great excitement that he had the opportunity to visit Canberra recently – his first big interstate trip.

One day we were at a busy bus stop in the city.  I was looking at the direction from which the bus would approach but kept talking to George, who stood behind me.  After a couple of minutes a bus came into view and I turned to George to let him know this was our bus.

He wasn’t there.

A line had formed behind me and there he stood at the very end, letting a dozen or so people move ahead of him.

I beckoned him to come up the front with me.

He refused.

I beckoned again.

Still he refused.

I walked up to George and asked why he wouldn’t come to the front of the line – a spot he had earlier occupied.  I was not prepared for his answer.

“Aren’t I supposed to let the white people on first?”

It’s very hard to relate the emotions that ran through me.  I can say that I felt like crying.  The sadness turned to anger when he told me why he thought he had ‘to let the white people on first’.

George was raised in a mission.  The Christian Father – apparently God’s representative – taught the Aboriginal kids from an early age that as black people they weren’t as good as white people, though assured them that “God still loved them”.

Wow. Kneel before the great white god.

The second incident was told to me by one of my greater inspirations in life, Dr Maryann Bin-Sallik.  From humble beginnings, Maryann spent part of her early life in a mission in the Kimberleys.

One year the mission sent a teenage girl to work on a nearby pastoral station for the summer break.  Upon her return to the mission she was frightened, distraught, crying.  She told one of the nuns that the ‘big boss white fella’ had raped her.

What did the nun do?

She whipped the girl for telling lies.  “You mustn’t tell lies about a white person”.

The following year she was sent to the station again, despite her please not to go.

Again she returned frightened, distraught, crying.  Again she told the story of being raped.

Again she was whipped for telling lies.  Black people, apparently, tell lies about white people.

Three months later it became evident she was pregnant.  She was carrying the rapist’s child.  What did the nun do?  She whipped her for being pregnant.

All kneel before the great white god.