Sunday, March 31, 2013

indigenous welfare reform will continue in Queensland

As reported a couple of days ago Queensland's Campbell Newman government, through the Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes, was planning to withdraw its share of the funding from the indigenous Family Responsibility Commission (FRC).

The role of the FRC is to help achieve these goals for indigenous people:
  • Send your kids to school 
  • Protect your children from abuse and neglect 
  • Obey the law 
  • Look after your house
After widespread protests from people such as Jenny Macklin, Noel Pearson and Tony Abbott this decision has now been reversed and so the funding will now go ahead.

Noel Pearson has pointed out that the two core indigenous nose on the face issues facing the two new governments in the Top End (Country Liberal in the Northern Territory and Liberal National Party in Queensland) are alcohol abuse and welfare dependency. (Noel Pearson's Cape York trial 'changing lives')

The Liberal brand in those Top End state governments is wavering on these issues whilst Federal Labour (through Jenny Macklin), at this point in time, is being far more consistent.

These moves indicate how fragile indigenous reform remains. Noel Pearson has said that we are half way up climbing a difficult mountain and suddenly against compelling evidence a "cowboy" Glen Elmes arrives on the scene and attempts to pull the plug.


Is the money being well spent and what are the alternatives? There was an implied suggestion from Queensland Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes that the goals of the FRC such as improved school attendance could be achieved at less monetary cost.

Glen Elmes:
" ... in places like Cherbourg and Mornington Island, they are getting kids to school in other ways that don't cost as much"
- Noel Pearson's Cape York trial 'changing lives'
(the alternative policies of Chris Sarra probably lie behind this assertion)


I'd like to see the yet to be publicly released independent evaluation report of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial that has been referred to by both sides of this latest argument about funding. Watch this space: Cape York Welfare Reform

Here are some pointers about the contents of the current report from a report in The Australian:
An independent evaluation report into the trial, obtained by The Australian, says individuals and families are beginning to gain respite from daily living problems and people feel that life is "on the way up". It finds that, since the trial began in July 2008, the Cape York communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hopevale and Mossman Gorge in far north Queensland have experienced improved school attendance, care and protection of children, and community safety.

It says people in the four communities are taking on greater personal responsibility and raising expectations, "particularly in areas such as sending kids to school, caring for children and families and their needs, and accessing supported self-help measures to deal with problems". After only three years of the trial, the report says there has been a "level of progress that has rarely been evident in previous reform programs in Queensland's remote indigenous communities".
- Noel Pearson's Cape York trial 'changing lives'
For further perspectives from Noel Pearson see this recent ABC interview: Noel Pearson confused by Minister's 'pre-emptive strike' (7 minutes)

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