There have been quite a few columns in The Australian newspaper leading the ideological chorus trying to howl down anyone who critiques the detail (or lack thereof) of the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. So it’s always refreshing when some common sense on the issue appears in their pages.
Mike Steketee wrote in today’s edition:
The risk in the Government’s intervention in the Territory is that it will be another example, as former Aboriginal leader Charles Perkins described it, of ministers on white chargers, galloping into the fray convinced that this time, they really do have the answers.
If there is one lesson from the frequent failures and multiple reviews, it is that successful programs require indigenous involvement and ownership.
This observation would be unremarkable, were it not for the fact that so many Indigenous people and others with direct expertise on the issue have copped such a barrage of abuse every time they voiced any concerns about the implementation of the federal government’s plan, that one expects even statements of the to be dismissed as driven by anti-government malice.
Steketee goes on to note that a recent Productivity Commission report on key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage “includes many examples of things that work, and (Commission chairman) Gary Banks says they all have these factors in common: cooperative approaches between indigenous people and government, community involvement in program design and decision-making, good governance and ongoing government human and financial support.“
I spoke about this Productivity Commission report in the Senate last month. One of its merits, apart from trying to collate more solid data on which to base assumptions and actions, is the way it doesn’t just provide a litany of mostly poor statistical indicators, but also provides examples of current programs that are successfully improving the situation.
Supporting and building on things that are working is an important part of ensuring action will lead to improvements, whether it’s in the Territory or elsewhere. Another example is the publication by ANTaR of a booklet detailing some of the success stories in Indigenous health. This was released in the week before the federal government announced its intervention. I mentioned it in this blog post. Next week I’ll be travelling to Cairns and Townsville to help promote the ANTaR booklet, which include programs in those two cities amongst its examples.