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June 19, 2007



I like your reading of Rundle's piece. I think that it's probably not a call that he can make - for more a militant Abl politics. It's a nice idea, or perhaps just a nice image, but I think I'd prefer it if it were taken to Canberra as opposed to down the road from your place. That's where there's some genuine complacency that needs to have the fear of god put into it. Still, not my call.

I think there is a fair bit of viable leadership around the place, but the problem that you identify about the lack of recognition from government is a huge one. I mean, communities can hold out on agreements or 99-year leases, but if that's all that's being put on the table, the strength of that gesture quickly subsides into survival, patience etc.

I noticed that Noel Pearson was getting air time on the ABC tonight. Plenty of footage of him and Mr Brough. There was some talk of suspending welfare payments, or something, I think. It's only a matter of time before it gets punitive, I guess.


Later, watching the 7.30 Report, I'm struck by how WASPish Noel Pearson's language and preoccupations are in his sales pitch for his own 300-page report, released this week. He speaks of getting off the grog (again), ending passive welfare (again), and now establishing a family commission to make sure parents parent properly. My Presbyterian forbears couldn't have put it better themselves, but then, Pearson *was* a Lutheran mission boy.


Driving through country at Y-community with S a couple of months ago, S painted a fairly *functional* picture of life during the mission times out in central Australia. People were fed and clothed; they were gainfully employed to some extent. They were able to go bush and participate in cultural practices -- to a certain extent.

'So, what did the missions have going for them? What was the vital element they had that we don't have now?' I asked.

'Coercion,' S said wryly.


The idea of using force, whether soft or heavy-gloved, is implicit in Pearson and Rundle's solutions: coercion; provocation; violence. Doesn't anyone have any better solutions?

At the end of the 7.30 Report interview, Pearson says, 'Some day we're going to get a convergence of Mabo and welfare reform.'

I don't believe that Pearson won't already have articulated for himself what that convergence will be. I imagine that one day at some politically artful moment, he'll unveil whatever his 'solution' might be, in accordance with the peccadilloes of the political leardership of the day.

Myself, I'd be guessing that the linkage would be self-government, but even that's a dirty word these days.

nick cetacean

Well, I must admit to coming to your blog to find a potted solution to Australia's most difficult problem...

"There's no doubt, as Rundle suggests, that new, less cautious leadership is needed; goodness knows, what hasn't the government done to suppress the Aboriginal leadership over the past ten years, with the exception of those who followed its tune?"

But didn't Abl leadership throw up the likes of GC?

"One of the reasons why I left the public service, and then community organisations, was because of the slowness with which they moved on these issues."

But when the PS 'moves quickly' isn't that more likely to result in top-down solutions and even coercion?

"But if the Report's findings seem repetitive, it may well be because like many things in Indigenous affairs, the solutions are outstanding; they have been known for years and have not been acted upon. In the meantime, things are deteriorating... you'd be left with the same ol', same ol' story about why action hasn't been taken, why discriminatory treatment of Aboriginal people still exists when it comes to the delivery of various services, etc."

What are these solutions and why haven't they been undertaken?

I'm not being provocative -- genuinely asking your opinion here because I don't get it...


"The idea of using force, whether soft or heavy-gloved, is implicit in Pearson and Rundle's solutions: coercion; provocation; violence. Doesn't anyone have any better solutions?"

I mean, there is an argument that violence is already substantively in the system - both epistemic and physical. Not that I think anyone should be picking up AK47s, but I might understand* it if someone did.

*Note: 'understand' not meaning 'support'.


Yes, true -- there is a history of bureaucratic and psychological violence implicit in the system.

>Well, I must admit to coming to your blog to find a potted solution to Australia's most difficult problem...But when the PS 'moves quickly' isn't that more likely to result in top-down solutions and even coercion?But didn't Abl leadership throw up the likes of GC?<

Um yeah, ATSIC was a bit like the Sopranos without the guns (an insider speaks -- and just as funny). The ATSIC Board was unwise to vote GC in as Chair; and they let Sugar maintain a stranglehold on things he shouldn't have been allowed to have.

But ATSIC was also unfairly vilified by the media. Lower down, away from the showpony level, at the Regional Council level there were many quiet achievers and solid performers who wanted to make a difference to their communities (and in the case of Victoria, set up men's groups and anti-FV programs -- there's a lot of unrecognised work).

Every government/institution throws up a few bad eggs -- after all, didn't the American electorate vote for the likes of George Bush? Didn't the Australian electorate vote for the likes of John Howard? I don't think what happened to ATSIC is reason enough for Aboriginal people to be denied democratic rights in appointing their own leaders, developing their own governance systems.

Since getting rid of ATSIC, the government has just appointed their stooges in other positions. It's all been part of a long-term agenda. There's only space for dissident voices these days. Interesting to see if Ruddy will leave as is or change things.

have to run...
our internet's been down all day, I've only gotten in just now


Actually, there's more...Typepad must have a word limit on comments as it cut this out of the original:

Nick, I don't really have the space/time to reply to your questions in detail (and i can understand your frustration). But what i was trying to get at is that many of the solutions listed in documents like the latest NT and Cape York have been repeated ad nauseum in other state and national level reports but (as Rundle is saying too), attempts to implement them have been piss-weak at best. I mean, you can look back at reports from the 70s and 80s and find what would seem to be cutting edge discussions of education and employment, for example, and still find their recommendations quite valid for now, because only fairy steps have been taken since then.

I think that documents like Recognition, Rights and Reform produced by CAR, ATSIC and the Social Justice Commissioner in 1995 do set out a good proforma for 'meaningful reconciliation' at symbolic and practical levels in this country. (You could go to the ATSI Social Justice Commissioner's report for continued reporting in this vein: But to take 'practical reconciliation' issues as an example (tho these inevitably intersect with what might seem like more 'symbolic' issues such as preservation of languages in relation to education) -- there are access issues in relation to education, employment, housing and health that need to be addressed to ensure equality. These things are also basic citizen entitlements. There has been much ink spilt in reports and program design on these. But in many cases, progress has been sytmied by the recalcitrance of various levels of government to act on these things -- here in Alice, the housing issue isn't only held up by Mal Brough's gaffes and blunders; it's held up by a local council that panders to the racist views of some of its constituency, so that it will continued to be re-elected etc. (You see, this is why I need to write the book -- not enough space in these posts for anything to make sense.)


Speaking of top-down interventions, I hope y'all saw this:

I'm divided; I think the NT and local govts have been piss-weak on these issues because they're too enmeshed in the politics of the context.

It is a situation that demands a response. But aspects of this
do sound like finding a backdoor entry for rolling back land rights.


It scares the shit out of me, to put it frankly. A lot of talk over at LP about this one. It's not just about rolling back land rights either, there's a lot of civil rights rollbacks there as well. I don't know how some of it is going to be legal, and I hope there are challenges.


Elsewhere, I thought I should let you know, I do read these posts (sometimes several times) I just don't know what to say so I never leave a comment (except that I am now, but you know what I mean).


That's ok, in fact, it's very nice of you. I'm probably writing these posts to work out my own thoughts on things, as much as anything else.


I'm reading too - thanks for doing your working out i public.

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