Tuesday, June 26, 2007

noel pearson on the national emergency response to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory

Politics aside, an end to the tears is our priority by Noel Pearson

Howard's motivation is not the most important thing.
But what do you do when a child is being subjected to abuse this very day? What do you do when a child is likely to be abused next week? What do you when the abuse is going to happen the week after next? What do we do when there are scores of children involved across the communities, the states and territories? If it were your child at risk of this suffering, would you think this a matter of emergency?

This is not a moral panic. The abuse is real. This is not a media or political beat-up. The report from Pat Anderson and Rex Wild confirms a reality of suffering. Something has to be done to relieve the suffering now, not in six months, not in two years. Now.

We can’t rehabilitate people from alcohol or drug dependence immediately. We can’t fix the poor education immediately. We can’t fix up the poor health immediately. But we must stop the suffering straight away. Everyone, from the Prime Minister to his bitterest opponents, centres their preferred strategy or response on the fate of the children. No one can escape this fact: the fate of the children is the bottom line. Whatever one thinks of Howard and Brough, their strategy is justified on the basis of the fate of the children. If not Brough and Howard’s plan to stop the suffering, then what alternative plan should be pursued? Here most of the critics fall into a deafening silence. They have vociferous views about what will not work, but they are silent about what will work. So the sum total of their response—“we don’t need missionary paternalism again”, “prohibition doesn’t work”, “indigenous people must consent to the changes”, “we need more government services”, “we have to provide rehabilitation”, “we have to deal with intergenerational trauma”, “we have to deal with things in a holistic way”—is inaction and procrastination while children’s lives continue to be ruined. It is not that the points made by the critics are wrong—they are often correct—but their criticism does not translate and often cannot be translated into action.
Read the whole thing.

I wrote another article about noel pearson's analysis of aboriginal issues here


Bill Kerr said...

Here is one of the comments (there are more than 180 so far, this one is from page 7 of the comments) on The Australian site, in response to Noel Pearson's article:

qualified to comment of remote aboriginal community (24 June at 04:01 PM)

I have been frustrated by all these issues for a long long time now. Having lived and worked in remote Aboriginal communities for the past 13 years I would often cry, yell, hate, love and frequently throw my arms up in the air saying “I don’t know what the answers are”.

Many times I have come close to blowing it all out of the water, spilling the beans about what I see and am involved with. Sexual/physical abuse of children, physical abuse of old women, a frustrating welfare mentality, despair, terrible housing conditions and overcrowding, sick kids, scabies, nits, lack of resorces, lack of law and order and a general feeling of helplesness. The ocean of grog that floods our communities results time and time again in our own state of emergency which we deal with ourselves, white workers are then expected to become doctors by treating the wounded, rescue and recovery units removing people from danger and relocating to safe areas, policing, stepping into grog-fueled situations trying to remove the axe from a drunken angry man, making sure the safe areas have food and blankets and bedding. If the area does not have the above we than have to re-enter the grog-filled danger area to collect everyone’s belongings.

A very frustrating issue is the corrupt white people who come into these communites who bully and intimidate community members and white staff and than take all they can in the form of money. I have seen this happen in every community I have worked in. Local government are fully aware of what these people are doing and their course of action is to move these corporate criminal CEOs out of community and place them in another! While knowing this is happening I’m left to look at 15-20 Aboriginal people living in one, two or three-bedroom houses (which has no running water and no sewage system) people occupying the bathroom, laundry, kitchen to sleep in. I have been told on many occasions that if I went public with these issues I would lose my job and would have to leave the community. I am so happy that something is being done!!!!!!!!!!!

To all you critics out there, shut up and let this problem be addressed, or come and live in community for three months before you knock this action plan. Mal Brough has had a peek through doors that most non-Indigenous Australians will never. His heart is breaking for these kids.

I would just like to add: we need to think a bit about these children that have been sexually/physically abused, I have had such children in my care and they need special attention. These kids are damaged and quite simply have not experienced a safe house. I was absolutely at a loss with these children. They were and are so dysfunctional, which impacts a “normal” family unit. We really needed advice of a child psychologist to deal with the behavioral issues that come along with these children. We need to think about how we can help the kids after the abuse has stopped and they are in a safe environment.

In closing, I am not a fan of John Howard but he sure has stepped up a few levels in my book. And Noel Pearson, I love you, you are the voice and the way of the future, I hang off every word you say!

Bill Kerr said...

Some dialogue, discussion, argument about this topic at TALO (Alex, Leigh, Janet, myself)

Fear Mongering thread

extract (one of my posts)

hi janet,

you raise important issues about
- hope
- about alcohol being a symptom as well as a problem in its own right
- take exception with aboriginal leaders like Pat Dodson saying things like
"too much sorry business"

all these issues have been comprehensively and eloquently addressed by


eg. I just read a couple of recent Pearson articles from the CYI site
When hope is lost we must imagine a future

*Where there's life there's Hope*

I did summarise one of his earlier articles here:
Charles Perkins Memorial Oration, On the human right to misery, mass
incarceration and early death (October 2001)

From my reading I think he would
- agree with you about hope
- describe symptom thinking as part of the problem because it is too vague
and causes despair and paralysis, he is very clear about this point
- say that saying sorry is important but that action is more important

Before you say that you understand these issues better than Pearson and
Dodson then I think you should spend some time reading what they have said
in detail - these are very smart people who spend 95%+ of their thinking
time on these problems

So how do we account for the fact that Pearson has given qualified support
for the recent Howard intervention?

- Bill