Thursday, October 25, 2012

Alison Anderson's vision

Alison Anderson, Minister for Indigenous Advancement
Address in Reply to the Northern Territory Assembly.
Darwin 23 October 2012

I speak on this great occasion as we mark the opening of the new parliament with the majority shaped, for the first time in Australian history, by the votes of the electors in Aboriginal communities across the bush. This is a day we will always remember. I give thanks to my constituents and electorate of Namatjira and to the voters of Arafura, Arnhem, Daly and Stuart who together chose to change the course of government in the Territory and to write a new chapter in the story of the north. I acknowledge them all in tender affection and with the deepest respect. I give my thanks to all the Territorians and pledge to work for the good of the whole Territory.

I see people, not categories, divisions, or races. I see people and the potential for us all to work together to bring clarity and progress into the world we share. Our task as politicians is to represent the whole community, and that I pledge to do. This is a moment of hope, a hinge in time. It is a long delayed day of promise for all Territorians and for all Australians. The nation is watching us today and it will be watching in the months to come as we chart the course ahead. We will bring resolve and advancement to the bush and knit the different worlds of our Territory more closely together. We are in this together. We are one Territory and, at the outset of this parliament which will be much more stable than its fractured predecessor, I believe we should dedicate ourselves to debate, to policy making, to discussion, to the highest values we can summon.

With that, I turn to a brief account of the landscape I see and what must be rethought and done anew in the years ahead. There is a weight on the shoulders of all of us today. It is the weight of the failure of most of those who have sat in these seats before us. They failed to educate most of the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory; failed to make them healthy or create jobs for them. It is a failure shared by both parties here and in Canberra, and shared by people outside of politics. It is a failure of Australia. I include in that all Indigenous people who have not taken up the opportunities which were offered to them. It will be hard for some of my friends, for members of my family, to hear that but it has to be said. There are a few heroes in this story.

I mention these things not out of despair but to remind all of us there is no point in being in this place unless we have something new to contribute. Much of what has been done before has failed and it is our job, the one for which we were elected, to do things differently. The first step is to think differently. Behind most failed actions are failed ideas. Often it started life as a noble idea and become corrupted along the way.

This is what happened in the way Australia have treated Aboriginal people. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a great moral awakening when white Australia realised what it had done to us and began to make amends.

That move to acknowledge our sufferings and our disposition was a noble one. The laws to return land to us and encourage independent development were fine achievements that grew out of the best intentions. Yet all this produced the twin corruptions of welfarism and the belief Aboriginal people ought to live forever in a cultural Stone Age. It did not happen quickly; those corruptions crept up on us over time and became entrenched. They have proved almost impossible to change. Now we have the sicknesses and abuse, the ganja and the crowded gaols, the empty schools and suicides. How did all this happen? For the usual reason: because we continued to judge our ideas by their noble intentions instead of by their results. We did this for many years after those results proved the ideas had failed. They also became entrenched because government passed laws and set up agencies and funded them to create jobs. Those jobs were filled by people who build careers based on ideas that separate development was the way forward for Indigenous people.

As the American writer Upton Sinclair wrote: ‘It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on not understanding it’. That is true everywhere and it is true in the Northern Territory. The idea that separate development was the answer provided hope for many and jobs for an increasingly powerful few. However, it has failed. I suggest the past 40 years of Aboriginal policy has been a sort of experiment; an experiment with human lives costing billions of dollars. Walk through Alice Springs after dark or visit Papunya and speak with my relatives, the people are sick in their bodies and in their souls. They are uneducated, orphaned and widowed. They are in gaol and in cemeteries. It was a great experiment, perhaps even a necessary one, but it has failed.

I said earlier, we have not been elected to this House to despair. We have been put here to face the facts of the past failure and propose solutions and try to put those solutions into practice. We do this humbly aware of how many good people have failed in the past. However, we do it with determination. We know there is no alternative. We know there is no time to be lost.

I am a desert woman from Central Australia who is a grandmother, an artist. I have the richness of traditional Aboriginal life in my bones and in my imagination. I am closely linked by blood to the joys and suffering of many people in Indigenous communities in this nation’s centre and its desert. I attend their baptisms and I go to their funerals. These are the people of my heart, the ones for whom I speak today.

I have been a leader for a long time and, in all that time, I have been learning - always learning. I have held positions at the local council level and I have been an ATSIC commissioner. I have been in parliament for seven years and served as a minister before, always learning. I am proud of what I have learnt and what I have done. However, I am fully aware how much remains undone. This is why I stand here today and give you my honest view of our situation. It is complicated, of course. Everywhere you look there is something that is broken and needs to be fixed. I have learnt what we need to focus on.

There are two goals I will strive for. I will be doing everything I can to deliver these things - real education and real jobs. I am not the education minister and I am not the employment minister, I am the Minister for Indigenous Advancement. Those are the two areas, in particular, where I will be throwing my weight behind the efforts of my colleagues. Let me tell you why.

Too much of the public discussion about Indigenous people has assumed, whatever the problem, government is the answer. It has been assumed that any problem can be solved with the right policies and the right amount of money. I would have no issue with that if it was correct but the history of the past 40 years, including the Intervention, shows it is wrong. I believe it failed because it came over time to treat Indigenous people as passive and, by treating us as passive, it helped make us passive. It also treated us as different and encouraged us to live in a parallel world that was supposed to be a dreaming but became a nightmare. The time has come to reject those beliefs and say that Indigenous people need to engage with other Australians. In particular, we need jobs and, for jobs, we need education. I mean real education and real jobs. Any policies that interfere with these two goals need to be thrown into the scrap heap.

Of course, we will need government to help achieve this but it needs to be help designed to liberate us, to make us independent human beings and this is possible. Governments can do bad things - we have seen enough of that in the Territory - but can also be a force for good. We Indigenous people need to be more like other Australians. I do not mean we should abandon our beliefs or our language but, like dozens of other cultures in Australia, we must learn to combine our own identities with participation in the broader society that will not weaken us. It will make us stronger in who we are. To preserve the old ways, we must embrace the new ones. There are plenty of jobs in the Territory, in the communities and in government, in tourism and national parks, and mining. My dream is simple: to see Indigenous people filling more of those jobs in the future because of the quality of our education and because we make ourselves the best people for those jobs. Having a job is not mainly about money. It is about getting up in the morning and looking after yourself. It is about staying in the same place for five days a week. It is about wanting your children to be educated so that they can get a job one day. It is about pride and respect but we cannot put the cart before the horse. Many people who have been to Indigenous schools in the past generation are so poorly educated they have never had a real job. In employment terms, they are the lost generation. Our schools stole their futures from them. All we can do now is fix the problem for the next generation. It is a huge challenge but I believe we can do it.

The problem is this: we have been treating education politically but a good school is not political. What is taught and how it is taught should not be determined by the local community. A good education is like good policing or good health care. It is something most people in Australia recognise when they see it. It is the same in Geelong or Townsville, and people are happy for the government to determine its shape whether in public or private schools. Like good health, good education is the same everywhere and we do not need to debate it. The people of Perth and Brisbane do not want to run their local school or tell the teachers what the curriculum should be. They just want to send their kids out the door in the morning and know they are going to learn to read and write and count, to use computers, and find out about the world. That is real education and many of the schools in the Territory are not providing it; in fact, our Indigenous schools are a continuing disappointment.

We tend to speak words of encouragement about the state of things and not confront the facts head on. In doing so, we patronise young Indigenous school students. We fail to tell their parents how poor the results really are. We fail to hold those parents responsible in a rigorous fashion for their part in schooling their children. We mask and soften the truth. At times, it seems as if we still operate a double standard of expectations. For remote communities, we are prepared to ask for, and accept, second best.

I want to draw, for a few moments, on the research done by Helen Hughes and her son, Mark, published by the Centre for Independent Studies. Professor Hughes’ family escaped the Nazis and came to Australia where she became an economist and worked for the World Bank and the United Nations for many years.

For the past five years, she has been researching Indigenous education and doing some work in East Arnhem Land and recently Mark and she wrote a paper about what the latest NAPLAN results were for year three pupils. They showed that the pass rates for Indigenous pupils in the Northern Territory are 47% for numeracy and 32% for reading. That means over half our eight year olds cannot do sums and two thirds cannot read. No other state or territory comes close to that level of failure. If we do not change that, we will never improve the lives of Indigenous people in the Territory.

So what is the problem? Is it that our kids are Indigenous? Obviously it is not. Most Indigenous kids in Australia live in towns and cities and do just fine in education. Is it because our kids speak a second language at home? No, it is not. Australia is full of kids who speak another language at home, but do well at school. Is it because there is not enough money? Unlikely. Indigenous kids here get 40% more spent on their education than other children. So what about remoteness? Are small remote schools the problem? Not really, according to Helen Hughes. She points out that while Indigenous pupils in remote areas have a reading pass rate of 25%, for non Indigenous pupils, it is 93%.

So what is the problem? Helen Hughes says, and I agree, that the problem is the quality of the schools, particularly the curriculum and the teaching methods. If we taught our kids the same way kids are taught in Newcastle and Fremantle, their results would skyrocket. The Hughes are not the only people to recognise this. Three years ago on Cape York, Noel Pearson and some colleagues did the report called the ‘Most Important Reform’ that came to the same conclusion. We need to fix our schools. A real education is a basic human right and it has been denied to Indigenous people of the Northern Territory for too long. The beauty of focusing on education is, it is one of the few things governments can actually do. At least if it has the will, there is a way. With the right curricula and policies and funding, we can get properly functioning schools with proper teachers. If you get the schools right other things will gradually fall into place.

Take truancy, which is the curse of good education in the Northern Territory. At the moment we try to fix it with carrots and sticks, by trying to force parents to send their kids to school or by bribing the kids to come, but the Hughes’ research shows that once schools start to provide a real education, the pupils will come anyway. Not all of them, but most of them. Most people are not idiots, they want the best for themselves and their children.

Let me describe how a remote community of the future might look. At its heart would be a proper school, just like a small version of school in Darwin or Sydney. There would be at least one full-time teacher with a university degree and five years experience. We would attract those teachers by paying them well and providing decent housing and community support. There would be a community committee to support the school. Not by telling it what to do, but by helping it run like other schools in Australia. The committee would help the teacher settle in, help care for the school grounds, help feed the kids and take them to the clinic if they were sick. Help make sure they come to school in the mornings.

In other parts of Australia, the parents do those things. It is a sad fact; many Indigenous parents are like children themselves, which is something we have to face up to. For a while we are going to rely a lot on the grannies of the community to make our schools work. We need to ask the grannies who have already done so much, to do some more. To help us make our schools normal.

I hope that one day, parents will start feeling ashamed of the situation, start looking after their kids a lot better, but that day is a long way off. We have to be realistic. I am hoping, if we start to turn our communities into places that welcome education, young teachers from other parts of Australia will want to come here for a few years. Look at the old missionaries and the American Peace Corps. Look at all Australians today who volunteer in third world countries. There have always been people prepared to lend a hand.

The Northern Territory is Australia’s own third world. It is the nation’s internal colony. We have to ask other Australians to help us change that; we cannot do it alone.

One of the things we have to do to make schools normal is introduce normal curriculum just as they have in Melbourne, London, or New York. I am not suggesting we abandon our traditional culture or language, but teaching them should not be done in schools. It should be done after school and on weekends and during the holidays. That is when most of the other cultures in Australia teach their children traditional ways. The job of the teachers in our schools will be to teach what is taught in normal schools around Australia. You can buy the curriculum off the shelf from any state you like. That is the only way our children will grow up to be able to compete for jobs and work alongside people educated in other places. Another thing we have to do to make schools normal is to stop holding events that take kids away - no more sports events that go on for days. Some people say these events are traditional, but I have my doubts about that. Some have traditional roots, but they have grown because of the welfare world, because people have had so much empty time to fill. We need to educate parents to see that a new approach to education will involve some hard choices. There will no more excuses for children missing school. There is something government and local councils can help with. There should be no more support for any type of event that takes children away from home during school term.

Let us imagine we can improve education; we can make it real. That will take many years even if the changes I am describing come in. It will be many years before the first group of kids to receive a real education leave school. However, let us imagine that happens. Where will they go? I see them going for interviews for jobs now automatically filled by non-Indigenous people who often come to the Territory from other places. I see Indigenous people starting to fill those jobs because they are well educated and, sometimes, because of their local knowledge. They understand this place and its people better than the other applicants for the position. That happens in many places; locals have an advantage. It should happen here. I am talking about real jobs, not blackfella ones.

My sister-in-law has been a teaching assistant for 25 years and, although she is a good worker, it is a dead end. She can never use that experience to move up or on. We need to phase out all the jobs we created for Aboriginal people: the teaching assistants and the special positions for Aboriginal police and healthcare workers, and all the rest. They imply that Aboriginal people cannot do normal jobs. We need to replace them with real jobs that require real education; jobs that are not dead ends but that could lead on to other jobs, including jobs in other places if that is what some people want.

In that way, education can set us free. It can make us independent for the first time of all the non-Indigenous advisors who have tried to control our lives. At the moment we are being advised into the grave by people better educated than us. This needs to change. We need education to set us free - free of dependence, unemployment, welfare and victimhood. Education has set billions of human beings free; it can do the same for us. Once we are independent we will have choices. Most 25-year-olds in Sydney can work anywhere in the world. They have the education and the work experience. I want our 25-year-olds to have the same choices.

Of course, many young people will want to stay in their communities, but even to do that requires education, if they are to take advantage of the job opportunities that exist. There are opportunities, both existing ones and jobs we can create, to grow food, make bread, and fix cars. For people who can read and write and use computers to keep learning there are plenty of job opportunities in the communities.

It always surprises me how hard it is to get fresh food in remote places. There has to be a potential to change that. We have the land and the sun, and we have the example of the old missions where food was grown successfully. I see hundreds of new jobs across the Territory in that one area. Again, we will need help. Again, I suggest we ask other Australians to assist us. Not bureaucrats or soldiers, but gardeners, bakers and mechanics to stay with us for six months and share their knowledge. However, that is a vision for the future. First we need to make our communities places outsiders would want to live in.

I know there is much to be done; however, I believe the rest of Australia cares about what happens here and is just waiting for us to take the first step. It has more to offer us than a view of Indigenous people defined by their victimhood - more than welfarism or the intervention. We need to convince it that the Territory is not a museum and is not a nightmare. Above all, we need to show our fellow Australians we want to be normal. We want the right to be just like them and keep our identity, but to live fully in the 21 st century.

Today I have been describing a dream, but it is not a romantic dream. I hope it is not an impossible one. It is a dream based on looking at the past and being honest about what has gone wrong. It is a dream that does not aspire to the creation of some Utopia of a sort that has never been seen on the face of the earth before. My dream is we should get real and, for the first time since Europeans came to this land Indigenous people should be thought of and treated just like everyone else. To someone in Melbourne, Shanghai or New York, that might sound like a very modest dream; however, as all of us here today know, it is actually a big one to suggest that Indigenous people in the Northern Territory should live normal lives with real education and real jobs. That is the most radical dream of all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the Territory's new Indigenous politicians made impassioned maiden speeches on the first day of the new parliament

Anderson calls for schools to be made equal

Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson says Aboriginal languages should not be taught at remote Northern Territory schools.

She says Indigenous schools should have the same learning requirements as those in capital cities.

Ms Anderson has told told the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly that Indigenous languages should be taught by parents during holidays and on weekends.

The call contradicts a commitment by Education Minister Robyn Lambley that a Country Liberals government would fund bilingual education in remote schools.

Ms Anderson says Indigenous children should be taught in the same way as students in Sydney if they are to compete for the same jobs.

"I am not suggesting we abandon our traditional culture or language but teaching them should not be done in schools, it should be done after school and on weekends, and during the holidays," she said.

"That is when other cultures in Australia teach their children traditional ways."

Ms Anderson says local schools must form the centres of remote Aboriginal communities.

"Let me describe how a remote community of the future might look," she said.

"At its heart would be a proper school, just like a small version of a school in Darwin or Sydney.

"There would be at least one full-time teacher, with a university degree and five years experience.

"We would attract those teachers by paying them well.

"We need education to set us free, free of dependence, unemployment, free of welfare and victimhood.

"Education has set billions of human beings free.

"It can do the same for us.

"My dream is that we should get real and, for the first time since Europeans came to this land, Indigenous people should be thought of and treated just like everyone else."

Meanwhile, the Territory's new Indigenous politicians made impassioned maiden speeches on the first day of the new parliament.

The Member for Arnhem, Larissa Lee, raised an issue few previous conservative politicians have backed.

"The Australian government never fulfilled the request for a treaty that was called for by our leaders," she said.

"We must never forget what they fought for."

The Member for Arafura, Francis Xavier, lamented the state of indigenous education.

"Many young Aboriginal people cannot read and write," he said.

"Why is this allowed?"

The Member for Stuart, Bess Price, defended free debate of Indigenous policy.

"I am tired of the racist notion that we Aboriginal people can't speak for ourselves and, when we do, should all speak the same like a bunch of brainless robots.

She said Indigenous people should be able to disagree without trading accusations of racism.

Ms Price also said English language skills are vital for Indigenous people in a modern world.

"We should keep our languages and those parts of our cultures that still work for us, but that should not stop us from making sure that our children get the best possible education," she said.

"They must learn English, as I have, they must learn to use mathematics and all the other knowledge that the rest of the World uses to understand the World and to prosper."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pielke snr summary of climate issues

I'm copying his summary here without the extensive links. Here is the original.

1) There has been global warming over the last several decades. The ocean is the component of the climate system that is best suited for quantifying climate system heat change. The warming has been less than predicted by the multi-decadal global model predictions.

2) The use of a global annual average surface temperature is an inadequate metric to quantify global warming and cooling. The documentation of the poor siting quality over land is one reason it is such a poor metric.

3) The involvement of citizen scientists to document the siting quality is a very significant achievement

4) The human addition to CO2 into the atmosphere is a first-order climate forcing. It is the largest annual-global averaged positive human radiative forcing

5) However, global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, could occur even without global warming or cooling.

I propose these definitions be adopted in our statement

“Global Warming” is an increase in the global annual average heat content measured in Joules.

“Climate Change” is any multi-decadal or longer alteration in one or more physical, chemical and/or biological components of the climate system.

6) The correct summary statement on climate, in my view, is that
Natural causes of climate variations and changes are important. In addition, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, these other first-order human climate forcings that are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation, the influence of aerosol deposition (e.g., black carbon (soot), and reactive nitrogen), and the role of changes in land use/land cover. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.
7) Natural variations and longer term change have been significantly underestimated. Also, climate prediction is an initial-value problem

8) Attempts to significantly influence impacts from regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose. With respect to CO2 [and for all other human climate forcings], the emphasis should be on supporting technological developments to mitigate these threats

9) Policymakers should look for win-win policies in order to improve the environment. The costs and benefits of the regulation of the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere need to be evaluated together with all other possible environmental regulations. The goal should be to seek politically and technologically practical ways to reduce the vulnerability of the environment and society to the entire spectrum of human-caused and natural risks including those from climate.

10) Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting multi-decadal changes in climate statistics on regional and local climate in hindcast studies

11) What we recommend in our Pielke et al (2012) paper in terms of an approach to mitigation and adaptation is, as written in its abstract,
“We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”
And finally:
When I return, I look forward to assessing further the above issues, and also invite readers on my weblog to submit guest posts to appear after I am back, which refute any of the above conclusions.

Friday, October 05, 2012

alcohol in aboriginal communities

UPDATE (10th October): Noel Pearson (see full article at the bottom):
The cultural dimension of Aboriginal people and alcohol - and by this I mean the way alcohol distorts the kinship system and vice versa - means it isn't as simple as envisioning the guy on the porch having a beer after a hard day's work. I have yet to see kinship and grog become friends anywhere in indigenous Australia.
In view of the problems of dangerous homebrew and sly grog the Queensland Aboriginal Affairs Minister Glen Elmes has decided to review and possibly relax alcohol management plans.

Where do people stand for and against lifting alcohol bans in aboriginal communities?

The Mayor of Hopevale, Greg McLean is FOR
Hopevale Mayor Greg McLean insists that a majority of the 850 residents favour easing the restrictions that allow drinkers a single carton of mid-strength beer or one 750ml bottle of table wine at a time, while banning spirits and fortified wine
- Noel Pearson's hometown of Hopevale divided over grog bans
The Mayor of Aurukun, Derek Walpo, is AGAINST
... local hospital admissions for assault-related injury fell dramatically from 22 per 1000 persons in 2002-03, when its plan was established, to 7.4 persons in 2010-11. School attendance has increased from 37.9 per cent in 2008 to 70.9 per cent this year
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Mal Brough, is cautiously FOR
"I think we need to recognise that nothing ever stands still in society and the alcohol management plan saw a reduction in violence and abuse," he said.

"We need to work with communities about normalising now. What I would caution against is that any changes made need to be monitored and they shouldn't be afraid of instigating immediate change and withdrawal of alcohol if it isn't working.
- Mal Brough backs end to remote alcohol ban
Jenny Macklin is AGAINST
any changes would need to be based on "robust evidence" and must not be made at the expense of "vulnerable women and children".
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Noel Pearson is AGAINST, he hasn't changed his 2007 opinion:
"Ask the terrified kid huddling in the corner when there's a binge drinking party going on down the hall. Ask them if they want a bit of paternalism. Ask them if they want a bit of intervention because these people who continue to bleat on without looking at the facts, without facing up to the terrible things that are going on in our remote communities, these people are prescribing no intervention, they are prescribing a perpetual hell for our children."
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Warren Mundine is AGAINST
"We know the history, the domestic violence, the rape, the murder, all caused by alcohol,"

"Has he (Mr Newman) ever been into these communities? There are no jobs, there's no work. As soon as someone gets beaten up because of alcohol, there is blood on his hands."
- Mal Brough backs end to remote alcohol ban
UPDATE (10th October)

Marcia Langton is AGAINST
"I just think this is unacceptable

"I know that everybody who has ever done any research in the field, and I'm working with several of the best, will tell Australians that this is wrong.

"This is causing severe endangerment to women and children in these communities.

"This is a cheap electoral trick for the big men in Aboriginal communities who want their cases and their slabs of beer, their cases of spirits.

"They want the unfettered right to drink, without regard for the victims."
- Northern push to lift grog controls draws fire
Sue Gordon, former Northern Territory intervention chairwoman, is AGAINST
"People are just not ready to have to face the onslaught of alcohol again"

"The effects that come out of it, the damage to women and children, to re-introduce alcohol is just disastrous. It's just ignoring the wishes of the people."

"My experience in the Territory is that only the louder voices are going to be heard and it's going to be the women and children and old people who suffer as a consequence"

"The extra part of it is that it's ok for the people who don't live in the community to say let people make their own decisions but if you live in a community and you don't have police you don't have a choice anymore, you don't get a decision, you are a victim.

"It's frightening actually because so much work has gone in, and it's not from outside people. It's Aboriginal people themselves.

"I've been up to Hopevale in the Cape and I've seen the difference there. The kids were healthy. They were happy. If alcohol is brought in it will take away the potential money that is going to buy food and all the other necessities of life for children and women in the communities.

"It's a disaster to bring it back now because there's been so many gains made."
- Return to grog 'a disaster for children'
Noel Pearson's 2001 article I believe is still very relevant to understanding this issue. I still remember clearly how it helped me overcome my liberal inclinations when I first read it years ago now.


1.1 The symptom theory is wrong

1.2 Addiction is a learnt behaviour that makes us powerless

1.3 Five factors involved in the outbreak of substance abuse epidemics

1.4 Grog and drug addiction is a psychosocial epidemic in our communities

1.5 Almost all of our other social and health problems are derivative of our grog and drug problem: we solve grog and drugs, we will solve everything else


2.1 Our people need to first properly understand the problem – the individual addiction, and the social problem

2.2 The fallacy of trying to “normalise” drinking when confronted with an epidemic

2.3 AA method as a starting point for a social as well as individual strategy

2.4 Development of a community grog and drug plan including an Aboriginal law and order strategy

2.5 Completely eradicate illicit drugs
UPDATE: Noel Pearson's piece from The Weekend Australian is excellent
Situation far from normal in communities
BY: NOEL PEARSON From: The Australian October 06, 2012

IF you hang around long enough in indigenous affairs not only will you think you are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, recycling old policies every five years, you will experience a genuine repeat of history. One such episode is under way with the Newman government beginning a review of alcohol management plans in Queensland communities.

During the April election campaign Campbell Newman announced the Liberal National Party's policy, saying: "Why is it that an Aboriginal worker cannot come home to a home they own and have a beer on their front porch and watch the TV news with their family? Why shouldn't they have that opportunity, sooner rather than later?"

Though the then opposition leader had made the point at a doorstop interview that his vision was for the longer term, and there would be no rollback of AMPs in the immediate term, I must say I shivered with concern.

This week Queensland Minister Glen Elmes started the review process with the mayors of Aboriginal shire councils in Cairns. The outcry from indigenous leaders across the country was immediate. University of Melbourne professor Marcia Langton told this newspaper, "It would be tragic to lose the momentum built up over 20 years in Aboriginal communities to tackle problems, such as violence inflamed and exacerbated by grog abuse."

Langton should know; as a Queensland government official she worked with women of Aurukun 20 years ago when they sought to arrest a spiralling grog problem.

Former ALP national president Warren Mundine said, "I've been up to some of these communities. If you look at the difference since before alcohol was banned to now, it is enormous they want to bring the nightmare back. It's a disgrace. We are on the threshold of actually starting to get commercial activity in some of these towns; we are on the cusp of moving ahead. This would be a retrograde step and a disaster for these communities, quite frankly. You would have to have a hole in your head to even consider it."

Perhaps most significant was the response of community leaders. Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo was one of several who refused to join those seeking to lift the restrictions. He told this newspaper: "We don't want to uplift our AMP. If we have more people working then eventually the AMP will fall away. We want to implement our law and order."

That there is now leadership by people such as Walpo is an important development. A decade ago there was none. While many supported restrictions, their voices were muted. It shows that ownership and responsibility for these problems has increased at the grassroots.

There is now grave danger this progress will be jeopardised. An episode of Queensland's parlous political history concerning black fellas may be about to be repeated.

When the Bjelke-Petersen government took over Aurukun and Mornington Island from the Uniting Church in 1978, they were transformed into shires under then local government minister Russ Hinze. Aurukun was dry, with male drinking of contraband limited, and hardly any women drank. The missionaries had bequeathed a socially and culturally vibrant community that was soon to be wrecked with the Queensland government takeover.

Hinze used the new shire council to push for a canteen. Without a rate base he saw canteens as a source of revenue for local government. It was a way of converting social security payments from the commonwealth to individuals into operational funds for the shire. Aboriginal livers across Queensland became funding laundries. However, Aurukun people strongly resisted the canteen. Numerous petitions and community meetings consistently voted against it. But the push finally succeeded and a canteen opened in 1985.

The ethnographer of the Wik peoples, Peter Sutton, laid out this miserable history in his book Politics of Suffering.

David McKnight, the ethnographer of Mornington Island, told of similar tragedy in his book From Hunting to Drinking.

Those proposing to unwind alcohol management should first be obliged to read these books. Sutton points out before 1985 there was only one suicide and one homicide at Aurukun. Following the establishment of the canteen scores of each of these tragedies started to happen.

Within five years of the canteen opening, David Marr's classic Four Corners report Six Pack Politics on the grog chaos gripping Aurukun aired in 1990. Langton featured with the women of Aurukun in Marr's report.

The legacy of these two decades of degradation will take more than a generation to subside. Too many young people were damaged in this period, and too many traumatic cycles started turning. The problems of imprisonment, neglect and abuse of children, juvenile crime and detention, removal of children into state care, the wreckage of health and the scars of violence will reverberate for a long time. Aurukun and other like communities are far from normalised but have made progress in recent years. Alcohol management has been key.

The editorial writers of this newspaper got the simple truth right: it is too early to relax alcohol bans. Harm levels are still off the charts compared with Queensland averages. The violence, the arrests, the convictions, the hospital injury presentations and the school absences are nowhere near normal. Compare Weipa north with Weipa south, Hope Vale with Cooktown, Yarrabah with Gordonvale. The gaps are gaping wide.

Former Howard government minister Mal Brough endorsed the relaxation of alcohol plans on the basis that the situation has been normalised, and provided that restrictions are reinstated if violence levels increase. As if the tap can be turned off and on at will. Brough's position has more to do with LNP solidarity than any wisdom he has gained. He is either not on top of the data, which shows the situation is far from normalised, or he has an uninformed view the gains can be improved by turning the tap back on.

My view is there are two drivers behind the strange thinking of too many conservative politicians on grog supply to black fellas.

First is the malignant motivation. There are those pushing the agenda of the liquor outlets who just don't care about the obvious misery. This is most pronounced in the Northern Territory but is not absent in Queensland.

Second is the benign but naive motivation, where people with no idea of indigenous culture and society think black fellas will suddenly adopt the mainstream culture of having a beer after a hard day's work. Yarrabah Mayor Errol Neal echoed Newman's vision but was honest about the problem when he told The Cairns Post, "We want to be able to have a beer, listen to music and go home to our family. But we accept alcohol is no good for our culture and, when a mayoral candidate ran on a platform of reopening the canteen and TAB, she got very few votes."

The cultural dimension of Aboriginal people and alcohol - and by this I mean the way alcohol distorts the kinship system and vice versa - means it isn't as simple as envisioning the guy on the porch having a beer after a hard day's work. I have yet to see kinship and grog become friends anywhere in indigenous Australia.

The tragedy of what the Newman government is doing with its first indigenous policy initiative is to focus on grog instead of the real priorities. Walpo had this week's best line: "We need to wake up and go to work. Not wake up and think about where we are going to get our next drink."

Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bob Brown exaggerated

Attribution of extreme climate on anthropogenic global warming
Remembering back to the Queensland floods and the attempt by Bob Brown to blame this onto the coal industry. IMO he tried to make something sound certain which was very, very far from certain.
GREENS leader Bob Brown has pinned the blame for the Queensland floods on the coal industry.

He says the sector's contribution to global warming is responsible for the extreme weather conditions causing the floods.

Senator Brown said yesterday the "coal barons" should be made to pay for the damage caused by natural disasters, with half of Canberra's planned mineral resources rent tax set aside for a repairs fund.

"Burning coal is a major cause of global warming," he said. "This industry, which is 75 per cent owned outside Australia, should help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in coming decades."

Scientists had concluded that the floods were caused by record high temperatures in the oceans around Australia.

"It is unfair that the cost is put on all taxpayers, not the culprits," said Senator Brown, who was stranded by the floods in Tasmania for two days.
- Coal barons must pay for flood damage, says Bob Brown
The problem is finding reliable scientific sources that you can trust wrt the global warming issue.

I am neither an alarmist or a denier. I did spend a reasonable amount of time a while ago searching for experts I could trust. It's very hard to describe that search process. So, of course it's possible that I have ended up trusting the wrong experts. My own opinion is worth little. I'm reliant on the experts and my only hope here is that I'm good at picking the right experts.

But FWIW the experts I have ended up with are Pielke snr, Pielke jnr, Richard Tol and Judith Curry. So, I'm just publishing a short summary by Judith Curry here on this question, since it seems to me to recognise the complexity of the subject and achieve some balance where balance is required:

Judith Curry, chair of Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences:
The substantial interest in attributing extreme weather events to global warming seems rooted in the perceived need for some sort of a disaster to drive public opinion and the political process in the direction of taking action on climate change. However, attempts to attribute individual extreme weather events, or collections of extreme weather events, may be fundamentally ill-posed in the context of the complex climate system, which is characterized by spatiotemporal chaos. There are substantial difficulties and problems associated with attributing changes in the average climate to natural variability versus anthropogenic forcing, which I have argued are oversimplified by the IPCC assessments. Attribution of extreme weather events is further complicated by their dependence on weather regimes and internal multi-decadal oscillations that are simulated poorly by climate models.

I am unconvinced by any of the arguments that I have seen that attributes a single extreme weather event, a cluster of extreme weather events, or statistics of extreme weather events to anthropogenic forcing. Improved analysis of the attribution of extreme weather events requires a substantially improved and longer database of the events. Interpretation of these events in connection with natural climate regimes such as El Nino is needed to increase our understanding of the role of natural climate variability in determining their frequency and intensity. Improved methods of evaluating climate model simulations of distributions of extreme event intensity and frequency in the context of natural variability is needed before any confidence can be placed in inferences about the impact of anthropogenic influences on extreme weather events.

- Climate Change, Extreme Weather Linked(?) at Last