Fred Chaney

The Australian April 2, 2011

 THE 1960s equal wage cases relating to Aboriginal pastoral workers unintentionally helped precipitate substantial movements of Aborigines away from their traditional lands on cattle stations to the fringes of desert towns. The results were socially catastrophic.

 The purchase of cattle stations in the 1970s to enable people to go back on to country was a response to the social and economic misery that resulted from that would-be step forward to wage equality.

 Discussion on serious social problems in Alice Springs seems to overlook that there is an interlocking debate about support for people on outstation and remote communities and substantial policy revisions based on normalisation of selected large centres and withdrawal of support from outstation communities.

 Part of this second debate involves assertions that remote settlements should be closed down so people will go to those parts of Australia where there are established economies.

 These are real issues for Australia and for policy-makers. Should we maintain a network of Aboriginal settlements across the continent where people can be close to their country and live lives still connected with their traditional culture, however altered that has been by the provision of goods and services that have no relation to traditional life and practice?

 Some argue the case from a purely economic perspective, some from a concern for the social wellbeing of remote dwellers. There are voices defending the rights of Aborigines to live on their country and preserve their culture and traditions.

 Behind the debate, what is actually happening?

 In the Northern Territory the combined effect of the Territory’s local government reforms and the intervention under the previous and present governments has been to diminish the agency of Aborigines, leading to demoralisation and alienation from what governments are trying to achieve. One senior Northern Territory public servant with decades of experience in Aboriginal communities described the communities he visited as being in a state of torpor.

 Successive government approaches have substantially ignored the identified success factors in advancing Aboriginal people and communities.

 The steering committee for the review of government service provision chaired by Gary Banks (who also chairs of the Productivity Commission) identified four success factors. These are co-operative approaches between Aborigines and government, community involvement in program design and decision-making, good governance including at the government level and ongoing government support.

 Unfortunately, the gap between acknowledged principles and actual practice is vast.

 If the present state of affairs continues, the exponents of emptying out the remote settlements will have their way. The problem is that the towns in which these refugees would settle are not equipped to handle thousands more fringe dwellers ill-prepared by education and life experience.

 There is not the housing, the educational facilities or any of the requisite government services for such an influx.

 Writing in this newspaper last year (Focus, December 18, 2010) Noel Pearson explained the importance of sequencing the changes needed on Cape York. First, alcohol abuse and consequent dysfunction had to be tackled, then welfare reform, then higher quality primary education with an emphasis on high school retention.

 It is this kind of practical and intelligent sequencing that is required of governments across remote Australia in their dealings with Aboriginal people and communities.

 The priority must be to stabilise the situation, to stop the drift of mostly unskilled and inadequately educated remote-living people to the misery and chaos of fringe-dwelling life.

 What this requires will differ from place to place as circumstances vary, but the move away from Community Development Employment Projects to unworkable Centrelink and job search arrangements must be reconsidered as a matter of urgency.

 It should not be government policy that any Aborigine should be encouraged to move off country unless that person has the education and training that enables them to live in dignity in new circumstances.

 A second priority is to ensure civil order in those communities, a requirement for any community in Australia.

 Third, we have to find ways of making the education system work so that remote Aborigines are literate, numerate and able to speak good English. These are the basics for economic and social mobility. Fourth, we need to continue to provide additional real jobs in remote communities and transitional jobs that will equip people to work in real jobs locally and across Australia.

 There are severe impediments to governments doing what is required well. The lack of trained personnel equipped to turn proven theory into practice needs to be tackled urgently. This has been drawn to the attention of relevant departments for a prolonged period with no sign of an active response.

 It also requires recognition that this is an important national priority that requires greater leadership and responsibility being vested in central agencies including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and state and territory equivalents. Only they have the authority to keep agencies up to the mark.

 There will be no long-term solution unless underlying structural issues are also addressed, including reforming Grants Commission funding arrangements to add a remote area category that ensures sustained investment in remote townships.

 The provision of normal services, which in turn requires a robust and informed approach to township land reform, would also help arrest the present need to travel to towns to access services.

 Finally, we need the bipartisanship recently offered by Tony Abbott. These are not issues that can be dealt with in a parliamentary term. What is urgently required is agreement on shared objectives and approaches that will be maintained across election cycles. Anything less will result a continuance of the incoherence of government policies, ensuring we will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis

 Fred Chaney is a former minister for Aboriginal affairs in the Fraser government and is chairman of Desert Knowledge Australia and a director of Reconciliation Australia.


From the article below: “Announcing the settlement Friday morning, attorneys for the abuse victims — nearly all Native Americans and Alaskan Natives abused at the mission schools in Washington and around the Northwest — described the settlement as the largest in U.S. history.”







Levi Pulkkinen /

Clarita Vargas, a Colville Tribe member and Yakima resident abused at an Omak boarding school, and attorney Blaine Tamaki speak to reporters Friday after announcing an $166 million settlement with the Northwest division of the Catholic Jesuit order. Pending court approval, the settlement will be paid to about 470 people abused as children at boarding schools operated by the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, including the Omak school where Vargas was victimized.


A Catholic order has agreed to pay $166 million to nearly 500 survivors of sexual abuse at Jesuit-run reservation boarding schools.

Announcing the settlement Friday morning, attorneys for the abuse victims — nearly all Native Americans and Alaskan Natives abused at the mission schools in Washington and around the Northwest — described the settlement as the largest in U.S. history.

In a statement, the attorneys said the Society of Jesus’ Oregon Province and its insurer agreed to make the payment and issue a written apology to the victims, who were sexually and psychologically abused from the 1940s through the 1990s.

The abuse was alleged to have taken place at Jesuit operated mission schools and boarding schools on Indian reservations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Montana. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have said the suits forced the order to apply file for bankruptcy protection.

“This settlement recognizes that the Jesuits betrayed the trust of hundreds of young children in their care, and inflicted terrible atrocities upon them. These religious figures should have been responsible for protecting children, but instead raped and molested them,” said Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney whose firm represented about a third of the non-Alaskan plaintiffs in a suit filed in 2009.

“Although the abuse they suffered was horrific, my clients are hopeful that, with the Jesuits’ acknowledgement of wrongdoing, changes will be made so that that this type of abuse can be prevented in the future,” Tamaki continued in a statement. “In other words, the church needs to correct flaws that have allowed this to happen.”

Plaintiff Katherine Mendez, a Yakama tribal member abused as a child at St. Mary’s Mission boarding school in Omak, said she was relieved on hearing of the settlement, according to the statement issued by Tamaki. Mendez was 11 when she was sent to St. Mary’s Mission by a state foster worker, and was abused during the year that followed.

“I kept the sexual molestation hidden in the dark, in my soul, for years and years,” Mendez said in the statement. “Finally, when I came forward and saw that others did too, it was as if the blanket that had hidden our secret was pulled off and we could move into the light again.”

The cases were filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oregon and elsewhere. A final order is expected in coming weeks.

Visit‘s home page for more Seattle news.

[ENG] Africa: Declaration Of Indigenous Peoples At The Second International Forum Of Indigenous Peoples Of Central Africa (FIPAC 2) Impfondo, 15 to 18 March 2011 We, Indigenous Peoples of Central Africa, specifically the Republic of Burundi, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, Republic Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad welcome the participants of the 2nd International Forum of Indigenous Peoples Central Africa, and thank the Government of the Republic of Congo and development partners who have contributed to the maintenance and success of this event.

This second edition of FIPAC is an opportunity for us to learn from experiences of implementing the recommendations of the first edition, and to raise the attention of policymakers, partners, and non-Indigenous communities to changes in the institutional, economic, political and global environmental context and to formulate again to their attention a number of expectations and suggestions for the sustainable management of natural resources and Central African forests and the promotion of rights and culture of indigenous peoples.

Preparatory meetings for our participation in FIPAC 2 gave us the opportunity to assess progress and to identify bottlenecks, constraints and challenges that continue to influence our lives.

1. Concerning the classification of Indigenous Peoples, we observe that generally, we are still very often described by fuzzy concepts and placed in very ambiguous categories:

a. We do not consider ourselves necessarily as a social minority, because in many regions and in many circumstances, we are demographically the majority;

b. Similarly, although we are quite vulnerable due to our cultural, economic and political situation, we consider that it is wrong to classify us at the same level of vulnerability as other vulnerable groups of society. Ours is specific and requires a special treatment;

c. The other aspect is the classification of certain indigenous members in large social groups that have components which have nothing to do with the IP. This is the case of the Mbororo in Cameroon, CAR and Chad, who are classified as large category PEUL. This classification is an injury to the Mbororo community which is very fragile, vulnerable and more a minority compared to the Peul who are themselves a majority, politically installed in positions with responsibilities at all levels, both intellectually and economically stronger than Mbororos.

d. Policies and official statements of the Government of Rwanda still constitute a real constraint on free expression and promotion of indigenous identity in this country. We call the Government of Rwanda, COMIFAC and partners to take into account the special situation of the PA in the Great Lakes countries and to grant them a special status to enable them to join together and express themselves freely as IP;

2. Given the low participation of indigenous peoples in national and international decision making, we ask States, projects and programs to develop various levels of effective mechanisms to ensure the presence and active participation of IP downstream and upstream decision-making bodies on issues and concerns affecting them. It would be useful to apply, at least for a while, a policy of affirmative action, which will ensure the integration of representatives of IP in various decision-making and concerted national and subregional concerntation bodies.

3. The IP consider FIPAC and REPALEAC as the most able bodies to make their voices heard, to promote a dialogue with others and to coordinate the actions and contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Central Africa in order to join the indigenous world movement. We invite COMIFAC and partners to address seriously and on a voluntary and generous manner, on the issue of the institutionalization of FIPAC and the restructuration and organisational strengthening of REPALEAC. It would be a mistake to let those two bodies die. However, we emphasize the need for this institutionalization and restructuration process to be participatory and not imposed by policy makers or partners.

a. The institutionalization of FIPAC must first evaluate the benefits and constraints on the IP and consider the role of an institutionalized FIPAC taking into account the role and responsibilities already devolved at REPALEAC;

b. We promote the institutionalization of FIPAC with an REPALEAC playing a central role in it. We strongly suggest that the question of how the institutionalized FIPAC will function and how the IP will be represented within its leadership should be discussed and decided on a participatory basis with all national networks of REPALEAC.

4. Regarding the land issue, we continue to face the denial of our rights. We are aware of the changing contexts and know that we can not live the full dimension of our culture any more. There is a need to adapt. But this adaptation should be gradual and accompanied, to avoid the disappearance of our cultures and the extinction of our peoples. The issue of land rights is fundamental to this process of adaptation and promotion of our culture; a. The issue of land rights of IP goes beyond the simple issue of land ownership. Land ownership is essential for our ties to the land, considering the forced settlement we face and to secure our space in a context of settlement. However, land ownership is only one element in the IP’s issue of land rights. Our rights include, in addition to the issue of land:

i. The rights to use transversal spaces to meet our cultural and economic needs;

ii. The rights to cross-border movements and through the entire national territories;

iii. The rights to draw on special resources for cultural and religious needs;

iv. Etc. 5. With regard to the emerging issues and challenges such as climate change and the REDD mechanism, we suggest that an emphasis should be placed on IP to adapt to Climate Change because there is a risk that REDD constitute once more a burden for the IP, and a factor of land theft by the politico-economic interests, whose impacts on the IP are likely to be disastrous. We will never accept REDD and other mitigation policies and adaptation that ignore the basic rights of the IP.

In conclusion, we note that, despite efforts and the progress already achieved, the status of IP continues to be that of marginalized and excluded peoples, which are unfairly treated and shamelessly exploited by our neighbors, traders and even development and conservation partners.

Considering all this, we ask the decision makers and partners to accompany us in our process of integration into the global society, in order to be considered equally to the other citizens.

Thank you. Made Imfondo, March 15, 2011

The participants

Western Australia: Caught Red Handed – Video Report On FMG And Attempts To Destroy Yindjibarndi Unity.

Dr. Anthony Reddie, a Yorkshireman -and black. Growing up in a Caribbean family, in the heart of brass band country provided Anthony Reddie with a certain perspective on the world. Today he is one of Britains leading black theologians.

 MEDIA RELEASE 24 March 2011                                       For Immediate Release
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

World Council of Churches voices its concern over the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People


The World Council of Churches (WCC) has voiced its concern about the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples at its recent Central Committee meeting in Geneva.

The WCC statement follows on from a visit to the Northern Territory by a WCC “Living Letters” Team which visited several Aboriginal communities and heard stories and experiences of the Intervention. The Living Letters team expressed concern about the discrimination, oppression and racism they observed and which many Aboriginal people experience on a daily basis.

The WCC, in its statement, expresses solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Australia and recognises the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to live in traditional lands; maintain and enrich culture and ensure traditions are strengthened and passed on for generations to come.

The WCC urges the Australian Government to engage in proper consultation and negotiation processes which are genuinely inclusive of Aboriginal Peoples, which will better empower and enable them to identify their own aspirations, issues of concern and which will involve their full participation in creating and implementing solutions.

The statement also recognises that Australia has been criticised for Intervention measures by the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and requests the Australian Government ensures that policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples comply with international conventions.

The Reverend. Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and an advisor for the WCC Central Committee said “This statement is very significant as it is in response to the Living Letters visit to Northern Territory communities. Members of the WCC Central Committee were shocked to hear what has happened in Australia in recent years. One leader said ‘Surely this isn’t happening in Australia? I thought Australia was better than this!'”   

Last week the NCCA Executive welcomed the WCC report and statement, the churches hope that Australia will adhere to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and continue to urge the Australian Government to end the Intervention.

The full statement is available at

The Living Letters report is available at

Eva Cox writes:
Mal Brough, creator of the Northern Territory intervention, declared last Saturday that it was a failure, Jenny Macklin, not surprisingly, denies failure and claims it is both proceeding and succeeding.I agree with Brough that the intervention was a failure but not for the reasons he has stated. He claims the ALP government has gone soft and failed to follow up, which is odd because the enthusiastic Macklin has fairly faithfully followed his plan but adding even more prescriptive constraints.

Except for the income management re-design, to allow the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act, the current policies retain the basic assumptions that Aboriginal communities need paternalistic controls over their lives and institutions. This top down approach of infantilising welfare recipients/communities is oddly assumed to create individualistic “responsibility”, despite no evidence from here or elsewhere that it works.

The intervention has failed because of what was done and the way it was done, and it did not consult or engage with local people or, in many cases, address their problems. More police were often useful, but not more Canberra bureaucrats and business managers. Lots of money went on managing incomes, not improving the services. Reform of the stores was useful but did not need to part of the other processes. Land grabs, embarrassing signs and many other offensive parts of the process cause other problems, some of which led
to people moving away.

Unemployment increased. Unwinding CDEP reduced local activities, adding to boredom and so on. The whole process was fatally flawed by the top down processes, the lack of effective consultation, either initially or in its more recent redesign.

So an argument in the media about whether Brough or Macklin got it right is not the point. One major error is the NT and Canberra support reducing housing and services to outstations and some smaller settlements to pressure their residents to move to urban hubs. This ignores evidence of better health and other benefits in these settlements and the current Alice experience of what happens when people are moved into hubs. The displaced drunks and disruptive footloose youth who have moved to Alice show how flawed that idea is.  

Nicholas Rothwell is responsible for putting the local problems that some claim are being addressed, into current national interest in his article in The Australian, which is more diatribe than journalism. He claims:

Alice Springs is a township fast spiralling out of control. All the elements for turmoil are present: deep, cold fury among the mainstream population, a reckless gloom among the young bush people loitering here, vast demand for marijuana and a limitless supply, bad, reactive politics, a lack of new ideas, a need for drastic measures and a refusal even to debate the reforms that might have a chance.

… The interesting question today is not whether the authorities charged with the town’s stewardship can manage or suppress the tensions so sharply in the air. It is rather this: will Alice Springs survive in its present form for another 10 years?

Does this type of exposure serve well the distressed victims, black and white? There are problems that need to be addressed but there this type of moral panic style of revelations does not serve to solve problems well. It leads to facile political acts or maybe encourages local vigilante actions and more divisions as people posture for a national audience.

Rothwell’s dramatic and dire warnings, scenes of despair, degradation and incompetence make it a major issue. Brough steps in and we have the basis for more knee-jerk politics. Do classic media based “moral panic” serve the needs of any of the affected groups? Rothwell almost acknowledges this, way down towards the end of his dramatic prose:

In many journalistic reports on the modern frontier, and the nation’s persisting remote area crisis, there’s a tendency to paint things dark: to reach for shock effects, the better to highlight the need for action. But he goes straight on the say In this case, exaggeration’s not even an option. The town is on the brink — of who knows what?

This dire tone may reflect his personal involvement in this, as his partner, not mentioned in the article, is a dissident member of the NT parliament and deeply involved politically. However, we need to learn from other experiences of moral media panics on the NT.

The current shock horror reminds us of what started the original Howard intervention. In an election year he used the media stories and an NT report on possible child s-xual abuse as triggers for action. There is limited evidence that child s-x abuse was the problem in 2007 and nearly four years later, no evidence that the intervention has reduced child s-xual abuse or protected the children in any significant way. The implicit conclusion of a recent report to the NT government on their child protection situation failed to mention the intervention either as a factor in alleviating problems or as a partner in future activities.

There is also no evidence from the various statistics that the NT government and AIHW produce about the NT that there has been any significant reductions in relevant crime statistics or health admissions relating to this areas. On Monday, The Australian continues its tirades by claiming child pr-stitution trade in Alice but ends its article with a quote from the mayor Damien Ryan. On Sunday, he was arguing that the intervention had been detrimental to the city — even though it is not one of the prescribed areas.

“You have to understand that Alice Springs is the centre for 260 remote communities,” Ryan said. “A lot of people living under the conditions of the intervention have decided to move into areas like Alice Springs — that puts immense stress on all of our services here.”

This statement does not suggest success for the intervention and supports the calls from many, including many Aboriginal elders and the UN, for serious change not gut reactions to bad media.