Archive for the 'Indigenous' Category

15
Oct
09

An Early Childhood Literacy Project in Alice Springs

As a community service project of the ‘Rotary Club of Alice Springs Mbantua’ I’m working on a project to link sponsors that cover the costs of the Kumon literacy program with early childhood aged Aboriginal recipients (and families) in Alice Springs.  Interviews for the first available scholarship will commence soon.

As this proceeds I am in the process of seeking more scholarship sponsors.  If you live in a capital city in Australia and know how to tap into capital relevant to improving literacy for Aboriginal people in a regional/remote part of our country then this could be your opportunity. 

For more information please visit www.earlychildhoodliteracy.wordpress.com

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24
Sep
09

Marechal Rondon

RondonRecently I read The River of Doubt about President Theodore Roosevelt’s journey on an unmapped river in South America, also called the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition.  A friend lent me the book.  It is a fascinating account and coming from the desert the detailed explanations of the river, the amazon environment and its adaptive nature was intriguing given the stark contrast to my own environment.

My friend who lent it to me said that Marechal Rondon, the Brazilian Military Officer who led the journey with Roosevelt, was a remarkable figure so prominent in the history of South America.  In that region his name is recognised extensively.  The book gives account after account of Rondon’s philosophy and approach towards the indigenous peoples; how he refused to support confrontation despite being in the face of danger and hostility; how his practice was to leave food and goods as gifts; how his discipline and honour and strong sense of nationalism was highly regarded.  My friend asks why we don’t have similiar figures recognised by our own Australian history?  

Judging by our own account of history during the 1800s it seems Rondon’s philosophy and approach would have been quite a departure from accepted opinion.  His was progressive in the sense of accepting pluralism but different from many established opinions (such as responding to hostility with strength and force).  The fact that Rondon received such widespread recognition accounts to the fact that this position and philosophy was recognised as central to the development of general identity and recognition in South America.  My friends question opens up important thoughtlines!

09
Apr
09

Pluralism as a policy paradigm

In social policy there are no absolutes.  Broad labels such as self-determination, mutual responsibility, etc. describe broad policies subject to an integrated and complex web of forces, powers and circumstances.  Certain labels might be ideal in theory but in practice fall short.  Some may describe in a broad sense a set of policies but in fact lack the substance for an accurate description.  An unfortunate aspect of the political market is that such circumstances lead to a postering for position rather than an articulation of policies and how they can be improved.  By its very nature politics is continually at risk of becoming an equation between different interpretations and positions rather than a collective articulation of ways forward.

An example of a convuluted term is ‘self-determination’.  The opposite is seen as ‘mainstreaming’.  Both describe the tension between the way Aboriginal identity is integrated into the broader and more dominant parts of society and the way it is protected as a distinct and seperate position.  One train of thought, put to me recently by an Aboriginal person strong in traditional culture, is that Aboriginal people exercise self-determination through retaining their identity: language, relationships, etc, and nothing else.  I am told that ‘this is self-determination’, meaning not some formal policy construct.  Contrast this with the policy label of ‘self-determination’ which was, in effect, the creation of thousands of corporate structures providing services exclusively accessed by Aboriginal people.  The two interpretations of ‘self-determination’ are quite stark. 

Continue reading ‘Pluralism as a policy paradigm’

27
Feb
09

An Important Story

Excerpt from Alice Springs News

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Mark Lockyer says he began drinking at age 12.
At 17 he moved out of Hidden Valley, where he had grown up, so that he wouldn’t remain an alcoholic.
“I didn’t want to die from drinking,” he says.
But his aunty, to whom he was very close, did.
His mother, now an invalid, remained in the squalid town camp, and so he maintained a connection with this source of much anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.
As a kid he himself was an occasional player, roaming the town in gangs of six to a dozen kids, “from the camps, the bush and urban kids” – stealing hard liquor, “bottles of grog, rum, vodka” – and food from bottle shops and supermarkets.
Mark’s mother lives in an exceptionally neat house amongst the Hidden Valley mayhem.
It’s 3.30pm on Friday.
Most able-bodied adults in Alice are still at work, but across the road, in a freshly renovated house, painted in garish blue colours, the daily drinking party is getting into full swing.
There are about two dozen young men and women, many already under the weather.
The scene outside leaves little to the imagination about what the interior would look like, recently refurbished at taxpayers’ expense.
Says Mark: “There are already graffiti, smashed doors and windows.
“It’s almost back where it started, trashed.
“There are 15 to 20 people, beds, mattresses, beer cans all over the yard, 12 year old girls drinking and smoking dope.”

(continued here.)

04
Oct
08

The IK economy, trust, and integrating institutions designed for community safety

The 7:30 report conveyed a story (found here) about incorporating traditional methods of dispute resolution for the purpose of mediating a dispute between residents of a community and Police.  I participated in a similiar program some years back (designed for leadership/youth purposes) and was struck by its potential.  It led me to consider the importance of the IK economy and the nature of social capital.

It appears that the program reported in the story has been successful in building the stocks of trust between residents and the Police force.  More research/analysis would be needed to prove this point, but there is little doubt that this particular program was an option leading to this aim in circumstances where alternative options are limited.

More over the fold.

Continue reading ‘The IK economy, trust, and integrating institutions designed for community safety’

20
Sep
08

Re-instating permits in the NT

On Monday Alice Springs Town Council Committee unanimously passed the following motion:

That Council call on the Aust Gvt to reconsider re-instating the permit system on Aboriginal land on the proviso that it adopts a regional information and consultative mechanism to ascertain those communities that have a desire to remove permits.

The Centralian Advocate printed my letter on Friday:

As an urban Aboriginal person the most concerning aspect of the permit debate is the display of the race card.  A supporter of total reinstatement of permits said publicly ‘it is only non-Aboriginal people’ who favour removal.  Several Aboriginal people from communities have told me the direct opposite. 
One person told me it is not monitured so, on balance, it is unworkable.  Another said their community has significant potential in terms of eco-tourism ventures but that permits serve as a strong disincentive for tourists.  Expanding regional economies creates work opportunity.  Work opportunity is an essential pillar of effective welfare reform. 
Too often the alternative is substance misuse.  Some argue that it is substance misuse that undermines the survival of culture (a core argument in favour of retaining permits). 
We know there is opportunity to expand regional economies because of the tourist dollar, particularly the ‘spirited traveller’ and grey nomads.  We also know this because of the economic opportunities available to communities without permits (e.g. ntaria).  Town Council debated the issue because we felt it was important to give people choice rather than the single path of urban drift.
The removal of permits should not be imposed as an ideological measure across all Aboriginal communities.  Nor should total re-instatement. 
We need to move beyond the left-right ideological divide and develop new policy ideas. 
One idea is to establish a mechanism for CLC to enable Traditional Owners the right to prohibit access by individuals with a certain criminal history, or to require those dealing in art to register (with a subsequent right to issue injunctions).  Another idea is to remove permits in a community where the conditions favour removal and ensure that work (and enterprise) opportunities build wealth at the community level.  Different policy ideas need to be debated and the decision needs to come from the communities concerned. 
Playing the race card and adopting ideology ultimately does our people a disservice.
On October 15 The Australian reported the following comments of Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour:
“I know there were a number of communities in the Northern Territory that were wanting to have the permit system lifted, and wanted (Indigenous Affairs Minister) Jenny Macklin to provide a clear process in which those communities could nominate to have an open town,” Ms Scrymgour said.

“I’ve been told that communities like Papunya and Hermannsburg want their communities to be open towns. I think the federal Government needs to provide a mechanism.”

12
Jul
08

Rawls philosophy and contemporary equal opportunity

Wikipedia outlines philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) attempts to solve the problems of distributive justice by utilising a variant of the social contract.  He does this by two core principles of justice: liberty principle and difference principle, and calls it ‘Justice as Fairness’.

Writing in A Theory of Justice (1971) Rawls outlines a simple definition of the ‘first principle’:

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.

Contemporary equal opportunity policies generally conflict with this principle.  In attempting to solve class injustice contemporary policies recognise exclusiveness based on certain categories: race, gender, disability.  Information and data that pertain to these categories establish a scale where socio-economic outcomes can be readily defined. 

Where this principle finds conflict with components of contemporary policy is with the ‘compatibility’ requirement put by Rawls.  That is, basing policy exclusive to certain groups must find balance with the compatibility of enabling a ‘similiar system of liberty for all’.  I would argue that contemporary policy is inadequate.  

Take, for example, indigenous policy.

If we are to view positive discrimination and affirmative action policies then we can say that contemporary policy is based on opportunities exclusive to race: if you are indigenous you are entitled to certain educational, work and other opportunities.  Contemporary equal opportunity seeks to justify these policies by recognising that indigenous peoples, as a group, are lower across all socio-economic outcomes than the broader population.  The problem is that these policies are subjective – they do not account for individual circumstance.  An urban Aboriginal person who is entitled to such a program can have more opportunities prior to accessing such programs than the non-Aboriginal person living in the same community.  Such a circumstance negates the ‘compatibility’ requirement of Rawls principle.

I support a political direction that accommodates the pluralism of Aboriginality, and seeks a significant re-alignment of priorities in terms of access to opportunities.  Current policy appears to uplift the Aboriginal middle class whilst the lower class continue to face spiralling challenges.  This is a direct result of policies that categorise opportunities exclusive to race, as well as failures in other areas of policy.




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