Media report:Billions spent but Aboriginals still live in the third world

Alison Anderson NT Minister for Indigenous Advancement Darwin

Below is an extract from The Australian covering Alison’s  Address in Reply to the NT Legislative Assembly 23 October

DOWNLOAD the full transcript here

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

Article from The Australian 25 October 2012

FOR the first time in Australian history, we have a parliamentary majority shaped by the votes of the electors in Aboriginal communities across the bush.

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.

We are in this together. We are one Territory and we should dedicate ourselves to debate, to policy-making, to discussion, to the highest values we can summon.

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 that were offered to them. There are a few heroes in this story.

The laws to return land to us and encourage independent development were fine achievements that grew out of the best intentions. Yet they produced the twin corruptions of welfarism and the belief that Aboriginal people ought to live forever in a cultural stone age.

As 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.

I suggest the past 40 years of Aboriginal policy have 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 jail and in cemeteries. It was a great experiment, perhaps even a necessary one, but it has failed.

Too much of the public discussion about indigenous people has assumed, whatever the problem, government is the answer. It 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.

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.

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 a school in Darwin or Sydney. There would be at least one full-time teacher with a university degree and five years’ experience. 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.

In other parts of Australia, the parents do those things. It is a sad fact: many indigenous parents are like children themselves. 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.

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.

In that way, education can set us free. It can make us independent for the first time of all the non-indigenous advisers 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.

I believe the rest of Australia cares about what happens here and is just waiting for us to take the first step. 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 21st century. Alison Anderson is Minister for Indigenous Advancement in the Northern Territory.

This is an extract from her Address in Reply to the NT Legislative Assembly