Aboriginal Children III

Matt Price in The Australian talks some common sense:

Plainly, everybody is in favour of protecting children. It’s how to first patrol and then change behaviour in remote communities that’s problematic and it’s now clear that for all their good intentions, the PM and minister Mal Brough are making it up as they go along.

Earlier this week I was in Canberra to see a large group of Indigenous people, a number of them from the Northern Territory, and other organisations with expertise in service delivery, release a statement expressing concern that the government’s plan aimed at helping Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory was in danger of being ineffective – and potentially even destructive – if it was not implemented properly, in conjunction with Aboriginal people at community level.

I have received many many emails over the last week from Indigenous people and from others with expertise in working in child protection, health and substance abuse expressing concern about what they have heard so far about the government’s approach. The response to many of these concerns, predictably but unfortunately, is to dismiss them as being attempts to derail the Prime Minister’s plan, rather than attempts to make sure his plan actually works.

Even more unfortunately, many of these people have been attacked as putting politics before the protection of children – attacks which are offensive and unfair, and which are themselves very political in nature. It is unfortunate that Noel Pearson, despite expressing similar concerns himself, has joined in these attacks. I can only assume his passion for the issue has clouded his judgement in this case. As he himself said in his very thought provoking and well argued piece in the recent edition of the Griffith Review (‘summarised’ – if you can call such a long piece a summary – here at Club Troppo):

even where the right policies have been identified and adopted, their implementation is susceptible to distortion. The correct policy can easily sour because of incompetent implementation, because the calibration is lost.

To smear people who are not disputing the goal of protecting children, but querying the implementation is not only unfair, it hinders much needed debate about how best to calibrate what is a complex, multi-faceted problem.

After being unable to provide any answers to repeated questions from Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report about how the medical examination of children is going to be carried, Mal Brough’s response was to try to suggest that concerns about how it might be done were in effect saying “let’s do nothing”.

Tellingly, one of the co-authors of the “Little Children are Sacred” report, Rex Wild QC, has spoken out about aspects of the government’s approach. It’s a bit hard to attack him for “willing the government to fail” on this issue, given he wrote the report the government has used as justification for its action. You can read the full interview with him here, but this is one example:

EMMA ALBERICI: Army, federal police and Commonwealth officers today began arriving in five communities in Alice Springs. After your nearly year-long examination of the issues, in your mind, is that a welcome and necessary move to tackle the child abuse and neglect crisis in the Territory?

REX WILD: Well, there certainly are not recommendations that we made, Emma. I’m not sure whether the Prime Minister has had brought to his attention each of the 97 recommendations. But the very first recommendation provides that the matter of child sexual abuse be declared as a national emergency effectively, we have said. That’s happened. So that is good.

The second part of that first recommendation was that there be a collaborative undertaking between the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government in consultation with Aboriginal people and that has not happened. So to that extent recommendation one has not been given effect to.

EMMA ALBERICI: And how do you feel about that?

REX WILD: Well, we are disappointed with that.

EMMA ALBERICI: Well so what is the answer?

REX WILD: The answer is to – it is down to the people, work out what they need with them, provide them with assistance and support, which is both financial and personal, on the ground, people they can work with, people who spend time with them, people that come and stay with them, visitors that are regular and they know by now and not people who blow in for five minutes or 10 minutes here and there, descending from the sky like a swarm of locusts and then disappearing again.

That’s not what is required. We need long-term strategic work with people, building up trusts. We were able to do that in a very short time by, we think, sitting down with people under the trees in the gymnasiums or equivalents and talking with them. That doesn’t seem to happen when the bureaucrats arrive.

As this piece in The Age notes, concerns have also come from others with expertise who the government has asked to help.

Despite these signs that reality is actually starting to be engaged with on this issue, the uber-urgency regarding legislative amendments is still being talked up, with suggestions that legislation “for its radical welfare blueprint for remote indigenous communities ready within three weeks.”

Speaking in my role as a legislator for a moment, it is a bit concerning that there’s still no real details about what might be in this legislation, even though we will no doubt be urged to pass it instantaneously or else face being accused of being soft on child abuse. An amendment to the Land Rights Act is one that was mentioned at the start, although I’ve still seen no indication of how that is linked to child abuse or welfare for that matter. Frankly, if the government is wanting to demonstrate goodwill and reduce anxiety amongst the Aboriginal people in the Territory, it should put the changes in this area to one side, as even Noel Pearson has called them “clumsy and ideological”. Perhaps there will be other changes in there, but passing radical changes without proper examination is risking major problems in implementation, particularly if those changes are not based on the recommendations from the “Little Children are Sacred” report.

Hopefully, this report in The Age gives an accurate indication of how it will need to play out in reality in all the communities – a respectful encounter where people at local level are asked “how can we help you?”, and then given that help on an ongoing basis. That is one thing we will need to keep an eye on.

See previous posts on this topic here and here.

Like & share:


  1. http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/a-voice-from-the-heartland/2007/06/28/1182624080079.html

    I think this shows the terror. And Howard has made it clear again this am, that he will not promise to give the land back. It is a minerals grab for the mining companies pure and simple.

    Plain as the nose on freddies face. IN Mutijulu for example we finally saw the interview and facts on the ground for ourselves and I was on the phone talking to Paul Walter when we saw for ourselves.

    It is horrifying. The village people are terrified of the government’s shoddy attempt to steal their land but angry when they showed us the facilities Brough has had locked up for the last year.

    And let us never forget that this all started with a white woman many call a hero. A whistle blower they said she was.

    She was and is nothing of the sort. She had 12 years to scream blue murder about abuse of kids and not once in any of her interviews did she ever say that a substantial amount of the rapes are done by white fellas.

    Clare Martin was right to be sceptical because Mutijulu has been cleared of any wrong doing, no pedophiles, no abusers, no drunks. Just a small struggling community with all the jobs and funding taken away by Brough.

    He is disgusting and so is Pearson. Yesterday in Brisbane yet another pedophile priest was arrested and his church was not stolen was it? All the kids in the parish were not threatened with sexual abuse tests were they?

    I am so angry I am literally screaming, just like I did with the TAMPA.

  2. I notice the ABC news (is it a reliable source?) was very reassuring about consulting communities about their needs. The impression is that the locusts land and people from the community are heard before any action is taken.

    Mutitjulu is the easy one – close to air conditioned accommodation, home of Uluru, the familiar faces from Lateline stories who are also familiar with the media.

    If the media stick with this into the other communities we may see something good come of this including a back down on the land aspects. It’s very worrying to think that the senate majority could be used as a WMD on land rights and welfare.

    Unfortunately, it’s generated so much emotional heat that it’s difficult to stay level headed enough to make sensible choices.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    Have you seen the news on the discontinuation of government funding to WA’s CDEP program? CDEP employs (or, employed) people who would otherwise be on welfare to work in Aboriginal youth programs, and patrols and sobering up services. (I just blogged it here.)

  4. Thanks lauredhel, I hadn’t seen that. Although I did see a piece in today’s Crikey which said that

    “In the last few days, Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP) — a work for the dole program that has been operating on Aboriginal communities since 1977 — have received letters from Indigenous Coordination Centres threatening dire consequences if they don’t fall into line on the emergency.”

    and that “any failure to comply with any orders or directives under the “national emergency response” will result in withdrawal of funding to the CDEP project that disobeys.”

  5. Marilyn: ‘He is disgusting and so is Pearson.

    I don’t think that this kind of comment helps much personally. Pearson is obviously passionate about helping indigineous communities and has demonstrated nothing else but genuine concern. I wouldn’t call Brough disgusting either, I believe he’s sincere.

    At last we saw some reason in the pages of The Australian today. I doubt such a view will come from the editorial though.

  6. I agree Madd. Many people have strong feelings on this, but for the sake of grabbing the chance to make this work, I think we need to try not to flame people too much in the public debate (I’m trying to keep reminding myself of this as much as anyone else – I’m more likely to succeed if I do it publicly where people can call me on it if I don’t).

    I have said before that on this issue it should be assessment of effectiveness that mattersm not motive. I just can’t and won’t comment on John Howard’s possible motivations, but I will say that I’ve had a bit to do with Mal Brough and I have no doubt at all that he is genuine in his commitment on this, regardless of whether there’s also political opportunities or not. However, genuine intent doesn’t guarantee good results, and zeal can inadvertently slip over into zealotry, so there’s still every reason for close and critical scrutiny.

  7. Senator,I know your problem with Noel and Brough,and it isnt an easy one for you to solve by being pleasant about them. Just let all the news through when it happens,because sincerity is fine,but, there is some evidence you are being contradictory about those two,and frankly, fly higher than be birds of a feather,flocking together.It would appear the uniforms are behaving well as expected,but ,six months of this,and why when most of this isnt recommended !? If white fellas are the cause of this problem,what are the uniforms waiting for.!? A Schnapps with ice!? A bit like a very stiff drink,perhaps its outside your memory,and I havent ever drunk it. Surely it would be easy to assess the matter of grog supply by taking note of price,grog type, and the remains of. Drinking with people until they are really far gone means an understanding of set and setting!? Brough may have been right this morning about the NT. as pointed out on am. by an economist re the redistribution of monies from aboriginal matters,but what his government may, have done already, is to compound the problem. And I use the word compound in the senses of all its meanings.Looks like the ALP has copped out completely on this matter, just affirming Pearson,doesnt allow for differences really in communities,even if he speaks a word like that. And Mundine ,is continuing to be a very unusual Aboriginal to say the least.

  8. Pingback: Larvatus Prodeo
  9. I heard Aden Ridgeway on Jon Faine abc/vic during the week and he, at least, made a lot of sense, IMHO, on this issue, as well.

    Sadly, his wise thoughts seemed to drop into a pothole. I have been unable to get a transcript or heard anything else of his views in the media.

    Any suggestions, as to how to catch up with his inside say?

  10. Andrew says: “I think we need to try not to flame people too much in the public debate.”

    The beauty of this debate – and there is beauty in it – is that personal inflammation is greatly retarded by a genuine, potent, across-the-board realisation people are suffering.

    The realisation has long been there, but that it is now ‘potent’ is what makes it different.

    That said, we don’t need to retard our expression. Nor should we hold back when we wish to speak of what matters to us as borne out by precedent.

    One thing which (across-the-board) we need to establish right now, assisted by that potency, is a commitment to hold Howard to his original word.

    This intervention was not brought about quietly in consultation with the Aboriginal community, nor with the specialists who would make it succeed, nor with those otherwise politically involved. Perhaps our world doesn’t allow that – but real leadership may have proven the case for doing so.

    And this intervention began by no more than an announcement. Yes, an announcement. Through the media, to all involved.

    To thrust the nation down this path, this way, on that basis, demands of us all that we hold the progenitors to account on this.

    Lives are at stake. A stand-alone culture in the history of the world is at stake.

    Howard and Brough must be held to account on this. It is entirely acceptable to play the nation this way, if it is a guts effort for the long haul, regardless of success. But if the bluster is carried away unseeded in what it loudly shouted at the start, the very thing it seeks to assist is harmed all the more. And, alarmingly, other priorities take hold in the space it should have had.

    Support Howard and Brough, and Pearson on this, if you will – but watch them.

    They have not earned our unguarded respect in the way this has been shouted from that suddenly built roof.

  11. The problem with taking the lead from the authors of the report is that not only is the report deeply flawed because they propose remedial actions to a problem before providing conclusive evidence that it exists to the extent they claimed, but the remedial actions themselves do not fit the problem they claim is there.

    If there really was clear evidence of child sexual abuse then surely the first priority would be to immediately remove the children from harm’s way and arrest the offenders. The sort of broader long-term social engineering the report proposes would surely have to happen after the immediate safety of the child has been secured. This is the flaw in the report that enables Howard to dismiss its recommendations (which would cost money) and make his dramatic action.

  12. See p129 of the report for details on the Gurma Bilni "Change Your Life" program started by the NT gov in the late 90’s which might have been successful (it was had been evaluated rather than folded) based on results of NZ programs started in 1989 for child sex offenders, including ones designed with Maori cultural sensitivities in mind, and (since 1994) having approximately only a 5% recidivism rate.

    The report has got the links a bit muddled because of typographic requirements in their published PDF version, but the introductory pages on the programs are here (Kia Marama, Te Piriti) and the statistical evaluation studies (mentioned in passing, but without web addresses) are here: (Kia Marama, Te Piriti)

    BTW: These programs have apparently SAVED money because non-recidivists don’t need to be put back in expensive gaols.

  13. “across-the-board realisation people are suffering.”
    This is the key – it’s been there, on the public record in all the reports of the last fifteen years, and nobody gave much of a shit. Certainly not US – the people, because it all get swept under the carpet – who cares about a bunch of blackfellas?

    Well, it seems that we do, albeit suddenly, and in respone to a jackbooted reinvasion of aboriginal people’s lives and country.

    It is what Noel Pearson made abundantly clear in his Griffith review essay. He doesn’t care how much hoo ha this debate creates – he welcomes it, bring it on, hard and fast and angry in all its apalling detail. He has preempted the debate, and it is in his people’s interest for it to remain on the front pages for as long as possible to remind us ignorant self-satisfied preoccupied white fellas that we have a serious human rights problem lurking under our collective carpet.

    This is not a left-right issue, and discussion of it in those terms is ludicrous. This issue is about race, and land and marginalisation of indiginous people; it is a grab for land by a rapacious self serving white anglo government, eager for power and resources, same as it ever was.

    I am utterly ashamed by this latest hysterical, cynical stunt by the Howard government, as I ever have been.

  14. Robert: ‘One thing which (across-the-board) we need to establish right now, assisted by that potency, is a commitment to hold Howard to his original word.’

    That’s spot on I think Robert. So many proposed actions go by the wayside especially, if I may be cynical, after an election.

    The Piping Shrike: ‘If there really was clear evidence of child sexual abuse then surely the first priority would be to immediately remove the children from harm’s way and arrest the offenders.’

    I kinda agree. The offenders should be arrested most definately, but unless the offenders are their parents and they’ve no where else to go surely they’re better off with a loving family if that is what it they are. The reason I raise this is because many a Right wing ‘stolen generations’ denialist will try now to propose that this is precisely what was occuring back then, even though the documentary evidence clearly shows this to be false. But let’s admit it, the evidence has always show the ‘stolen gen’ to be true, though they still deny it.

    When some point to files of children with STD’s they claim without doubt that their removal was just, maybe by assuming neglect or family sexual abuse, but the real cause is never stated. I just can’t imagine how horrible it would be for a child to be abused by an outsider, contracting a disease, then taken away from your family forever because of this.

  15. it would be use full if the whites listen & have FUN with all, esp the kids.

    i saw two abc kids on the beach with HUGE smiles – great stuff, should be more of it.

    why not stART with that as an ‘image’ to start any & all abc people to use as a basis for education, across the planet.

    question firST lessON :+:

    what are they thinKING in pINK of any ink?

  16. That’s right, Madd.

    The government will be damned if they take the children away – and damned if they don’t as well.

    It’s clear that a long term plan needs to be put in place, with aboriginal people brought in to administer it, including aboriginal police officers.

  17. There is a two page spread in the Advertiser today showing the town of Amanga and Umuwa. In Umuwa there is a beautiful solar power plant and in the APY lands there is the new school and pool.

    What seems to upset the journo is that it is dusty. It shows how out of touch people in cities are. I grew up in the mallee where no sooner do you sweep the corridors than you have to do it again because of the dust. Deserts have dust. Wow. Get over it.

    IN Woomera Ruddock deliberately built a desert cage for people who had done no wrong but the plebs loved it. Keep those illegals in the cage, don’t let them out. They get more than us.

    Now back to Nanette Rogers – she was prosecuting case for more than 12 years under the CLP, why did she only say something when Clare Martin took control of the NT parliament? And why did Clare Martin immediately ask for help that the feds are required to pay?

    Because the libs. wouldn’t give any help. Read the story in the AGE today about Mutijulu, it is the Howard government that has caused the problem and now they listen to only one person about how to fix it. I haven’t heard Pearson condone stealing the land though have you?

    Not to mention the lumping of all the aboriginal people into the same pot when they still encompass over 400 tribes who don’t necessarily like each other any more than in any other community.

    Pearson opened an ugly story here and that is good, but he is not the first and not the last and he is flat out wrong.

    We think we can impose like we have tried in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomons Islands and we can’t.

    We don’t have the right.

  18. you realy have to ask the govt why did they not do something sooner in the northern teritory as it is in there own backyard soto speek . then rether than forsing the states to help out they could have used it as an example to follow .
    oh i forgot there mite not be some political advantage in that.

  19. Hi,

    On the 26/6/07 the Courier Mail ran a very small article by Margaret Wenham on page 7 entitled “Statistics show backgrounds don’t count” I haven’t found a link to it.

    That edition of the Courier Mail, like many recently, was running many headline stories about dealing with child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities. But this small article contained the following statistics from the Queensland Child Safety Department.

    “According to the data collected for 2005-06, 56 indigenous children were found to have been sexually abused, equating to a rate of 0.9 children per 1000 indigenous children aged 0-17 years. This compared to a rate of 0.6 children per 1000 non-indigenous children.”

    It seems that there is one third of one percent difference in the incidence of shild sex abuse in Qld Aboriginal communities and the mainstream.

    I draw this to your attention, not to say “it’s not that bad in Aboriginal communities” but to say that we have been ignoring mainstream child welfare and rape and incest workers who have been trying to draw attention to the problem of incest and child abuse for decades.

    It is not with any disregard to the urgency of realistic and serious healing in Aboriginal and mainstream communities that I say…… It is absurd to suggest sending the military into the suburbs of Brisbane to weed out child abusers, or to resume suburban backyards to protect the children. The Howard and Brough campaign of Shock and Awe is as absurd as it is racist.

  20. John Tracey – I take your point, but this is where statistics can easily lead one astray. Because the quoted figures indicate that rates of sexual abuse among indigenous children are 50% higher than they are among non-indigenous children.

    In other words, the likelihood of sexual abuse is very low regardless of race, but that it is markedly more likely among indigenous children.

    I’d have to say, though, that the rates look remarkably low to me, regardless of race.

    BTW good to see you back in these parts!

  21. Hi F.A.

    I dont take too much notice about statistics either, especially on this subject where there are many more incidents of abuse than those that make their way into the statistics. This is one of the most secretive of crimes.

    The point of my above post was that incest and child abuse affects us all, black or white.
    The media hysteria about abuse in Aboriginal communities is adding a great deal of untruth into the discussion (e.g.the recent N.T. report said there was no evidence of pedophilia in Mutijulu yet this community is the prime tatrget of this hysterical approach)

    This untruth conforms to the colonial myth that civilised society does not engage in such wickedness. Both Howard and Brough have spoken of the breakdown of civilisation in Aboriginal communities.

    I believe the single reason for a higher incidence of child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities, whatever the margin, is the widespread abuse that occured in orphanages, dormatories and pastoral homesteads by civilised white people including men and women of the cloth.
    This sexually abused “class” of people of course has a higher incidence of becoming perpetrators as is the case in maainstream abuse statistics.

    Like mainstream abuse statistics, the vast majority of Aboriginal victims of abuse do not become perpetrators.

    A very big reason for non-reporting of abuse in Aboriginal communities is because the end product of this is further trauma for victims during the court process which can take years. There is no healing comes from the process and because evidence of secret crimes is hard to get there is often insufficient evidence to convict and often not enough to even prosecute.

    Mainstream rape and incest workers have been telling us for years that exactly the same thing occurs with victims of abuse in mainstream communities.

  22. John Tracey – the highly emotive framing of Howard’s campaign disturbs me greatly. It recalls the lead up to the Iraq invasion, where Howard pitted Australians who held divergent views on what was best for Iraqis against each other, so that he could pursue his own objectives unfettered by public opinion. I see so many echoes of that period in the events of the last fortnight.

    I wouldn’t hazard a guess at the actual levels of child abuse in remote communities – I think people such as yourself, Sublime Cowgirl and Senator Bartlett have a much better feel for the situation. But I don’t doubt that it is a serious problem in both black and white communities.

    Its no secret that many indigenous communities are deeply troubled, and that attention to their problems is long overdue. My view is that, rather imposing bureaucratic solutions from Canberra, it would be preferable for the broader Australian society to support local indigenous communities in finding their own solutions to their particular problems.

  23. I wonder why Shane Castles has quit after the first week and why more and more village people are coming out and saying they do not have an epidemic of grog in the villages but they do need housing. In St Teresa and all the towns they went to the biggest fear is stealing the land and the kids.

    This will never work now that the people are terrified and the people on the ground have said it will take years and years.

    Something we all know.

  24. Feral (re 19.),

    Actually the rates looked low to the report’s authors (see p 272). But they put that down to under-reporting, without any data to back that up.

  25. If there really was clear evidence of child sexual abuse then surely the first priority would be to immediately remove the children from harm’s way and arrest the offenders.

    Of course it would be — especially since the evidence suggests that a great deal of this sexual abuse originates from the parents of the victims.

    Unfortunately, such action has been made politically difficult by the promulgation of the ‘stolen generations’ myth. In effect, creating this myth has contributed to the very real problem of child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities.

    This is a left-versus-right issue, with the ideologies and propaganda of the Left being a major contributing cause of the problem.

  26. Good old EP, even has to turn child abuse into a ‘left versus right’ issue. You should write for The Australian – come to thin of it, maybe you do.

    Seeing you keep deliberately spreading the malevolent propaganda/lie that the stolen generations is a myth, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, I don’t see why any other assertion you make regarding “teh evidence” of anything should be taken seriously.

  27. The stolen generation obviously happened because there is conclusive evidence. But how comfortable are you, Andrew, that there is widespread child abuse in the indigenous communities as you claim? Presumably you would have seen yesterday’s report in the Age. Recall that the NT report said

    As no attempt has been made to create a national study of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Australia, nor (more importantly for this Inquiry) to effectively estimate the extent of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities, the Inquiry has had to rely on the national (and NT) child protection datasets and NT criminal justice statistics. These can only provide information on reported cases of sexual abuse and are not able to provide an in-depth analysis of the nature and extent of sexual abuse in the communities.

    However, when taken together with the high rate of STIs in children, and the clear anecdotal evidence of children’s early involvement in sexual activity and of sexual abuse in NT communities (see Part I), the Inquiry has concluded that the prevalence of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities is a pressing problem that has been significantly under-estimated. However, a better estimate of the actual size of the problem is highly desirable.

    Yet The Age report quotes two forensic experts on child abuse that:

    Detection of STIs among sexually active juveniles says nothing about the level of abuse, or the perpetrators.

    Any thoughts?

  28. Piping Shrike (#23 & 26) – there are other data to consider, such as the much higher levels of child abuse reported by other studies conducted elsewhere, and the very high levels of domestic violence and chronic substance abuse in indigenous communities.

    My recollection is that higher levels of child abuse tend to be associated with high levels of violence and substance abuse. So there are good reasons to expect that abuse rates in aboriginal communities may be high. In the absence of any compelling argument explaining the discrepancy between this expectation and the child protection/criminal justice statistics, I think the report’s authors are correct in suspecting high levels of under-reporting.

  29. Feral, according to the report’s authors there is no other study as they say there has been no attempt made “to create a national study of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Australia, nor to effectively estimate the extent of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities”. You are right, however, that the report’s suspicion that there is widespread child abuse is based on living conditions and behaviour – but shouldn’t it be verified? Or is suspicion enough?

    Look what happened at Mutitjulu ( http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/news/2006/september/smh16sep06.html ) when false claims were made after the indigenous people made a mistake of calling a police (who did nothing) to sort out an outsider who was harassing their children. Look at the reaction of the Yuendumu ( http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/how-hard-is-howards-way/2007/06/30/1182624231809.html ) women to the government’s “obsession” (as they call it) with child abuse.

    Feral, accusing people that are letting their children being abused is a very serious charge! You need evidence before acting, not suspicions!

  30. Piping Shrike, when I wrote about other studies, I was thinking of work done overseas. I can’t point you to any right now, but a bit of hunting around should turn up at least a few.

    I’d have to say that I think there is enough evidence (court cases, community concern, reports from workers in communities) to justify action, particularly since the effects on the victims can be so damaging. It could easily take another year or two to gather more detailed data on the exact extent of child abuse, and I don’t see any value in waiting while that is done. It would be better to get some constructive programmes up and running while concurrently working on scoping the magnitude of the problem.

    But I think your point is important in flagging a caution against broadly-pitched punitive measures, and there are certainly punitive aspects to the Fed Govt’s proposals. This should not be about imposing guilt on entire communities, but about finding ways to circumvent the damage being done to children.

  31. Most of it is being caused by white men. White men get grogged up and go and get a black girl. It has always been thus and this morning we learnt that miners who have sex with teenage girls are sent home and not charged. What the hell is that all about?

    I just listened to an elder woman from Mutijulu confirming early last week what the report said – there is no long history of abuse in the community. There was one guy 3-4 years ago and they drove him out of town because the cops would not charge him.

    Now let’s get into the real world shall we.

    1 in 10 women do not report being raped because defence lawyers always question their clothing, their behaviour, their sex lives and treat them like criminals. If 90% of adult women are too afraid to report rape how could a child?

    Much has been made of children showing their private bits – folks that is called normal behaviour and has nothing to do with sex.

    Clamydia is the STD, it can be caught very easily in over crowding and is nothing to do with sex.

    Teenagers having sex is normal in every society so why is it being called sexual abuse when teenagers have sex in aboriginal communties?

    Talk about double standards.

    Now we read that a functioning community has had 45 young people abruptly cut off their community work payments. Why?

    This has nothing to do with protecting anyone, it is about destroying what Vanstone called the “cultural museums” so the mining giants can send in the bulldozers.

  32. I think there is one aspect of the problem, which is not being fully appreciated here. In the communities it is not just sexual abuse that is the leading issue but also serious neglect. Which is often a precursor to serious sexual misbehaviour but also a very pernicious problem in its own right.
    How many reports do we see all over the country of indigenous children, some of very tender years indeed, out wandering the streets at night? And the stories in so many reports of very youndf children ignored while thoose who should be caring for them are on the turps? This can have fatal consequences as the death of children playing on the railway line near Ipswich in Queensland shows.
    So lets not get to hung up about the statistics on sexual abuse and use those to down play the more serious issues of children being neglected. Because if the effort is focused upon reducing neglect then it be parents who have learned to truly value the children they make who will provide the best defence against the nonces who want to treat their children as mere play things rather than the police and the courts trying to pick up the pieces after the damage has been done.

  33. I’m not turning it into a left-right issue, Andrew. Merely pointing out the unpalatable fact that the dysfunctionality of Aboriginal communities has been a left-right issue for thirty years, and that the Left has been on the wrong side of that issue.

    What we are seeing today are the fruits of the left-wing approach — self-administration through ATSIC, hands-off by government authorities, unlimited sit-down money.

    John Howard is now taking a right-wing, interventionist approach: the end of separatism, enforcement of the law, and conditions for welfare. This course will see an improvement if it is pursued.

  34. get stuck into them ep!

    they deserve eveRY kilo – well, up to a POinT.

    still, u need to be a little more expansive in u comments & give some sort of option & evidence before u barbs take effect.

  35. I think post 31 is much closer to the mark here. People are using terms, particaularly the media and no doubt the government that hit the right buttons but about which they actually know very little.

    The issue to my mind is not so much classic child sexual abuse / incest, crimes perpetrated by men, in the main, with severe personality disorder and themselves a history of dysfubnctional parenting and confused power relationships, committed on their own children or close family memebers. This is more a generlasied descent into some sort of social chaos and retreat to a notion of ruleless breakdown of “what we know as social norms”.

    What Marilyn is talking about is not Child Abuse it is just disgraceful anti social pack rape type of behaviour, just as we see elsewhere in socitey, and classic literature fro hundres of years. Such perpetraotrs would generally, never even think of going home and touching up their daughters.

    So comparing rates of CSA between black and white communities is largely immaterial, as John Tracey has rightly pointed out in the past housing and poverty and neglect and issues like that are far more a contributor to this problem than inherehnt tendenceisd to child sexual abuse.

  36. Evil Pundit, you’re not really Paddy McGuinnis are you? Anyone who can call the evidence of the stolen generations a ‘myth’ has got to be writing for Quadrant.

    Found this letter and it is from ground zero, written by Andrew Biven, a doctor working in the midst of things. Worth reading.

  37. Ah! The SMH and Gittins!? I am sure Gittins regularly visits the Northern Territory,to reassure himself that the economic bean-counters have got it all right when it comes to the problems of health and life expectancy of NT. Aborigines. No doubt he will be able to answer Lola Edwards letter to the Editor, with absolute reassurance counting the beans,provides real answers to real people with real problems in real circumstances,that because they are real may never be effectively measurable,because last time I looked at myself,I didnt have to consider myself a finite number in relationship to other numbers. I cant be so certain of bean counters, so obviously he is only talking about the NT. football teams. And Lola may never had a chance to be in one!?Gee! I am naive,which means,if I was an NT. Aboriginal,and I asked a few simple questions about the issuing of statistics rather than anything that seemed tangible and real,I would be told ,it, the statistics issuing, is good for me! Good on you Git.!?

  38. We do not need more statistics, reports or inquiries. The problem is clear and well documented as are the reccomendations for remedy. Yet Federal and state governments continually sensationalise the problems and occaisionally do something big such as the Howard/Brough shock and awe or Beatties grog laws. The problem is that these big splash policies have nothing to to with the recomendations of the many reports into the problems that we spend millions of dollars producing.
    All the big splash campaigns manage to do is begin (again) the consultation process to extract the same information from the same people who get a bit sicker and a bit fewer in number everytime a new report is produced.

    Check out the list “30 years of reports into Aboriginal Australia”
    (I know the list is not exhaustive)

    “Too much consultation with Aboriginal communities; talk,talk,talk,talk,talk….”

  39. p.s.
    Hi E.P., I’ve missed you!

    Regarding a comment you made earlier,( which I think you were refering to another comment.)

    post 24

    “If there really was clear evidence of child sexual abuse then surely the first priority would be to immediately remove the children from harm’s way and arrest the offenders.

    Of course it would be — especially since the evidence suggests that a great deal of this sexual abuse originates from the parents of the victims.”

    A coupla points

    1/If I child is the victim of sexual abuse they should not be removed from the home, the perpetrator should be moved.

    Removing children into state custody is not removing them from danger

    2/The Qld. child safety figures mentioned earlier (.03% difference between indigenous and mainstream abus rates) was specifically refering to sexual abuse by a family member. Other statistics that show higher incidence of abuse in indigenous children through such indicators as S.T.I.s would suggest that this abuse is happening by people other than family members. The N.T. report refers to abuse by miners from outside communities – one of the few specific problems identified amongst the all hearsay and hysteria and “breakdown of civilisation”.

  40. So far as I can see, the sexual abuse is happening because of the on-going crisis in authority – aboriginal people can’t effectively enforce their customary law within their social groups and the European Law can’t be effectively enforced by the police and other officials. into that vacuum come the criminals and abusers who are very smart about how to operate and manipulate that situation.
    There has to be an effective fusion of the two systems or the situation will continue.
    If you try to just enforce the “balanda law” that will be resisted, and aboriginal people certainly don’t need any naive white lefty bleeding hearts to tell them how to do that.

  41. I had a letter published among these in the Oz but they omitted this last paragraph:

    “I also take comfort from the fact that The Australian is prepared to criticise aspects of the government’s initiative, signalling that it is now alright for the rest of us to engage in this debate, free from fear that we will be labelled as child-haters if we dare to suggest that there may be problems with the current government policy.”

    The reverse Political Correctness being played by those wanting uncritical support of the Howard plan is a worry. We need to overcome it by being vocal but also calm in how we present ourselves.

  42. How many of you have been to communities or are planning to travel to places affected? It seems that everyone is a little too comfortable debating and making decisions on this issue from a ‘safe’ distance.

    This is one of the main causes of the problem and the continued imperialist treatment of aboriginals. Everyone beleives that they can decide and debate these issues without actually being part of the community where the problem occurs.

    Any conclusions you come to without real contact with PEOPLE, not just framed and filtered data, will be meaningless. We cannot understand the problems from the comfort of your offices, in the cultural familiarity of western cities far from the real spaces of cultural interface.

    As the report constantly restates, give REAL power back to the communities to make decisions for themselves and given time they will have far more chance of dealing with these problems.

    Everything Howard and Brough are pushing is doing the opposite and disempowering people further. The saddest part is that they know it.

  43. Years ago in Tennant Creek Grog sales were banned on Centrelink paydays – Thursdays at that time. There was a start made on controlling the ‘rivers of grog” that if nothing else should point clearly to the level of dysfunction and deeper underlying problems in aboriginal (and other) sections of Australia. (Look at mining camps, if you want another dysfunctional group, or Kalgoorlie. Look at grog sales to the non-aboriginal population of the NT.)

    When Centrelink moved to allowing people to be paid on any day, instead of the predictable Thursday, the minister for indigenous affairs at the time(Amanda Vanstone) refused to make a special case exception for the improving situation at Tennant Creek. That was the end of an experiment that was working.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    Check the story here: http://www.artplan.com.au/BNP/T&E/04.htm

Comments are closed.