Posts Tagged ‘land rights


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.”


An educational fund negotiated from land rights

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has proposed a new way of conducting land rights negotiations:

If the landowners [north-west of the Territory] are prepared to establish an educational trust fund, which benefits children across the region and allocate at least 90 per cent of the projected benefits into the fund, the Australian Government will match them dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $10 million.

I posted a comment about this policy in November last year, located here.

During its first year of governance if the new Federal government can demonstrate a policy paradigm shift in this direction then it will be an important achievement. 

The potential benefits include: 

  • It can reduce the need for dependance of governments.  Funds and trusts have the capacity to generate new wealth where the interest gained is put towards opportunity (as opposed to regular deducations from the taxation pool);
  • by reducing dependence of governments the policy can influence political capital.  Reducing dependence of government expenditure helps diffuse a sense of division that results from over-stretching affirmative action and positive discrimination programs.  The proposed fund is a result of land rights negotiations.  Australians are generally comfortable with the fact that indigenous peoples have distinct rights to land but there is division as to the application of government-sponsored policies that divide on the basis of race.  This policy helps placate that division.  Electors also want to see more positive outcomes resulting from land rights negotiations.

This policy binds the nominal left’s ideals of positive value of identity, the emphasis of education and the nominal right’s ideals of economic responsibility and contemporary notions of equality.

April 2019
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