Aboriginal employment

whilst twiggy forrest is running around the country attempting to sell his master plan to ‘save’ we aborigines from our 60 000+ years of culture and history. to, in a sense, to save us from ourselves. apparently there are thousands upon thousands of well paid jobs if we only become romany-like and travel around the country picking fruit. we just need to leave our ancestral lands and become full-time itinerants. that then leaves our lands wide open to exploitation by twiggy, gina and the rest of the mining companies and, dependant on the location, tourism, among other capitalist intrusions.

noel pearson backs twiggy as does warren mundine and some others with that mean and hungry look. i’m not sure about noel but warren and wesley aird, among others, have set up companies that are very keen to become active to play the role of the middle-man or negotiator between the traditional owners and the mining companies and charging a management fee from both entities. the operation of such a role can increase one’s wealth immensely as it proved to be for the late charlie perkins years ago.

but that is bye the bye. to return to twiggy. pundits such as gary johns, the bolt report and others have backed twiggy in their collective zeal to save us. but there is a new voice on the block who emanates great knowledge on aborigines and how they should live in an assimilated world. that voice is none other than henry ergas. who?, i hear you ask. such an expert on aboriginal issues, like nugget coombs perhaps, would surely be known for his good works with aboriginal communities and their elders. well, the short answer is no. henry, you see, is an economist. yet another voice joining the thousand or more voices telling us how to live our lives and how to improve our lives when it is more than obvious that our current situation is just all our fault.

so along comes henry on his fiscal, compassionate-conservative white horse to tell us how it should be done. his cv that i found follows but i cannot find any information that henry has involved himself with aboriginal issues or even spoken to an aboriginal person. perhaps he has conversed with warren or noel. herewith a small part of his qualifications that gives him the right to tell us what to do.

Henry Ergas is a regulatory economist who has worked at the OECD, Australian Trade Practices Commission (now the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and the Australian Centre of Regulatory Economics (ACORE) Advisory Group. He chaired the Australian Intellectual Property and Competition Review Committee set up by the Australian Federal Government in 1999 to review Australia’s intellectual property laws as they relate to competition policy. He is Adjunct Professor of Economics at the National University of Singapore and has taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Centre for Research in Network Economics and Communications at the University of Auckland, Monash University and at the Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Economique in Paris. He was an independent contributor to a paper submitted to the U.S. FCC which cautions against imposing regulations that, while aimed at net neutrality, may cause costs that exceed the expected benefits.

henry begins his advice to us by looking at the ridiculous statement made by the foul abbott that the british invasion was the “most defining moment in the history of this continent.” (absolute and utter colonial blindness). henry then makes an equally stupid faux pas that in some way the invasion was required to make for a prosperous australia! without any shame, apparently. no mention of the genocides against the traditional owners of the lands that were then more easily stolen. when you steal the lands and resources of another people of course you become rich. when you practically use slave labor of the aborigines and kanaks then, naturally, more money rolls in. when they did pay a pittance in wages that then also gets stolen, why, more profits still.

yes henry, white australia is now super-rich whereby we even have our own billionairs, one a politician even, but should you not, as a good economist, tell us where that prosperity came from? silence on this true economic point, henry, does not become you.

henry then moves on to the nter, the northern territory emergency response, and bemoans the great sums of government dollars that have poured in to the selected communities to no avail. what went wrong? why are not our aboriginal brethren in the nt now all living in white-picket fenced houses, all running our ‘cottage industries’, conservatively sober and drug free. just like the white population! oh fraptjous joy, if only we would listen. as an all-knowing economist, henry does not mention where all this wealth is going to so i will raise a few fiscal signposts for, maybe, his future interest in this area of waste management.

look firstly henry at how much money is allocated then deduct from that the public service costs, then add the fantastic costs of the umpteen consultants that tell the bureaucrats everything they need to know such as where the nt is, what to wear, how to get there, etc once actually in the territory deduct the costs of five star hotels/motels, at least 10 land rovers as you are in desert country after all. repeat this exercise six, seven, eight or more times and then come the reports from on high that consultants again fly in to ascertain if the final reports can be successfully implemented. when they can then in come the rapacious construction crews who charge the most outrageous amounts to do the most shoddy work possible. some teams are good but most are in for what they can get and not for what they can do.

henry, i say with all honesty and knowledge that very little government money gets to the communities who live in sub-standard hovels whilst the mission managers live in $300 000+ homes with 18 air-conditioners. all this comes from the nter budget so as an economist we ask that you sort it out please. oh, and all those mission managers receive a very large nt bonus but i don’t know why. could be the perks of office.

to further back-up this underwhelming article he invites in another expert in the form of criminologist, don weatherburn who works out of bocsar. don has been there for many, many years and like all experts he has produced some good reports and some bad reports, this in my opinion is a bad report. it is more than obvious that henry agrees with what don is reporting on and that subject is aborigines, men, women and children, who are in gaols or juvenile justice centres nationally. now i’m on equal ground!

don used to produce reports that pointed out the failures in the custodial system but now his aim, i believe, is squarely aimed at blaming the victim. that, however, must be for a future post.

don’s paper explains that whilst we are but 2.5% of the national population our gaol percentages are up the wall. on this point we agree. for the national gaol population we number 26%. both men and women together. over one quarter of the gaols are us! for adult aboriginal males only the latest figure i have is 27% to 28%, it fluctuates daily, very dependent on how the police are targeting their arrests. the court system has this bad habit, slowly changing, of believing corrupt police when they swear on a bible. it means nothing! for aboriginal women in gaols, nationally, the figure is roughly 34%. these figures are, of course, damned hard to accept and just cop it sweet. juveniles as a percentage of their population are a whopping 60% and i have been saying since the early 90’s that we as a people and australia as a nation are sitting on a juvenile time-bomb and regardless of all the experts and the governments mickey mouse schemes that continually fail, we are in for a hell of a social disaster. since 2001 our percentage of the adult gaol population has increased by 40% and all involved in this field agree that it will continue to rise. why and where to from here?

in don’s opinion, ably supported by henry, we aborigines are not treated harshly by the custodial system and in fact, says he, we are better treated by the court system than non-aboriginals facing court. this is fantasy stuff and to example how don argues this point he tells us that our gaol rates actually dropped after 1900 (yes, 1900) and only started to rise after 1960 to the present day, now i really see no value in this analysis at all. what is it supposed to prove? for 60 years it dropped (from what peak) and for 54 years it has exploded insanely. sorry, don, i have no idea what this means.

the reasons for this particular phenomenon , according to don and henry, are that during the 60’s aboriginal employment collapsed due to the equal wage case, (nothing here about the racism of the employers), the freedom to buy alcohol (legally rather than illegally) and the massive rise in welfare payments. so don’s research shows that we are now all dole bludgers and wont work and we get pissed everyday on our ‘sit-down’ money. there is some truth to this outlook but what don and henry both ignore is the absolute racism shown by employers in the main, added to over 30 years of government indifference to our housing, health, education and employment. yes there were and still are major problems with our people and governments cannot be absolved of their lack of duty of care to the aboriginal people that in the 1967 referendum power was given to the federal government to act positively for aboriginal people but they abrogated that power back to the states and territories and we rotted.

both then declare the 339 royal commission recommendations to be, in don’s words, “a spectacular policy failure.” now this sort of spurious chat from don only feeds yje racist trolls, the verbal vomit out there to use this ‘authoritive’ alleged fact to beat-up on aborigines as they distort even more what don said. whilst, perhaps, henry might not have followed the royal commission and its recommendations, but i’m certain that don and i both did with a serious and judgemental eye and don knows as well as i that the ‘policy failure’ (yes, it was/is a failure) had absolutely no input from aborigines into that failure.

the hawke government accepted 338 of the 339 recommendations and stated that his government would properly implement the recommendations where possible. he fully implemented rec. 339 that called for a reconciliation process that eventually withered on the vine because sovereignty, treaties and social justice were not included due to the ongoing hostility of the federal governments. of the 339 recommendations, half plus one dealt solely at changing a harsh penal system and saving lives after the royal commissioners investigated 99 plus 1 deaths in custody. the nt, qld., and i think wa said no as their systems worked well but they later said they would.

nsw gaols accepted some and made some changes but the recommendation on the removal of hanging point was ignored. the courts also adopted some and minimal changes were made. the coroners accepted all the relevant recommendations to their area of responsibility. juvenile justice tried to make some changes but were thwarted by the government of the day. now comes the police. the police around australia had meetings at all levels, the police commissioners around the country holidayed at the alice springs resort motel for some weeks and came up with a one page list that they did nothing with anyway. during the time of peter ;thumper’ ryan by an assistant commissioner ‘ that the recommendations would never be accepted by them as they were only for the politicians. their job was to catch criminals, especially black ones!’ that is still the attitude of the police in this country today. conversely the recommendations relative to deaths in custody are now in force around australia. yes don, it still is a failure but only because weak-kneed governments would not enforce their implementation as required and necessary and cowardly would not order their force to adopt all the relevant recommendations.

a failure indeed, don and henry. a mortal failure that brings much shame on all state and territory governments for their failure. it has been estimated that had the recommendations been properly put in place from 1991 when they were handed down then over 100 of our brothers, sisters and children would not have died. a deadly failure however you look at it.

don and henry continue on blaming us for our own ills without one hint even of looking at the real underlying causes of government ineptitude and a racist australia.

one unbelievable suggestion made by twiggy and supported by henry is that accommodation rents go up on aboriginal housing in the communities to force people off their land. all i can say to that horror is go and see ‘utopia’ by john pilger then talk about fixing the totally sub-standard housing and then recommend the rents go down.

even the foul abbott has shied away from the twiggy report but only for non-aboriginal australia where some suffer the same disadvantages of unemployment, homelessness,health problems, substance abuse issues, etc., etc. we are a rich country thanks to the loss of our lands and its resources and other things as pointed out above. there is enough to fix all our social ills. the government could repeal the diesel subsidy to the miners and others; replace the super profit tax on mining; levy 1/10th of 1 cent on all financial transactions daily. just these three i am informed would pay off the debt and allow for surplus budgets. but of course that would mean taxing capitalism instead of the bulk of the population, the 99%.

to don and henry i say go and really investigate our black and white history from the invasion on. 226 years of colonial oppression certainly leaves it mark. if you truly have concern for our plight then may i suggest to both of you that you join with us in our struggle for sovereignty, treaties and social justice. we need empowerment and self-determination not paternalism and assimilation


ray jackson
indigenous social justice association

prix des droits de l’homme de la republique fraincaise 2013
(french human rights medal 2013)

1303/200 pitt street, waterloo. 2017
61 2 9318 0947
0450 651 063

we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people

IT is not easy to imagine a less controversial statement than Tony Abbott’s claim that the arrival of the First Fleet was the “defining moment in the history of this continent”. Nor could it possibly be contentious that British settlement provided the foundation for Australia to become one of the most prosperous societies on Earth.

The howls of protest that have greeted those statements confuse matters of historical record with judgments about consequences. And even as judgments about consequences, they are poorly based.

But that in no way diminishes or excuses the enduring disparity between the life chances of indigenous Australians and those of Australia’s non-indigenous population. The Northern Territory intervention focused attention on the unfolding disaster in indigenous communities; yet a massive expenditure of public resources has yielded little progress.

Don Weatherburn’s just published “Arresting Incarceration” is required, if deeply depressing, reading in that respect. Weatherburn, the head of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and one of Australia’s most distinguished criminologists, diagnoses the factors that have led to a situation where indigenous Australians — who make up 2.5 per cent of the adult population — account for 26 per cent of all adult prisoners.

Far from shrinking, that disproportion, which is already far greater than that for black people in the US, indigenous Canadians and New Zealand Maoris, has been widening, with the ratio of indigenous to non-indigenous imprisonment rates rising 40 per cent since 2001. The gap in imprisonment rates is even larger for women than men, and also growing.

Weatherburn gently demo­lishes the claim that those outcomes reflect indigenous disempowerment. As he shows, the differences in incarceration rates actually declined after 1900, with the current gap only emerging in the 1960s.

Nor does Weatherburn’s exhaustive analysis find any evidence that indigenous Australians are treated more harshly by the justice system than their non-indigenous counterparts. On the contrary, taking account of the factors courts consider, they are both less likely to be imprisoned, and when imprisoned, receive shorter ­sentences.

Rather, the rise in imprisonment rates reflects the changes the 60s brought: the equal wage decision in 1965, which accelerated the collapse in indigenous employment in regional areas; the dismantling of laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to indigenous Australians; and the explosive increase in welfare payments.

The misguided changes recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, such as the decriminalisation of public drunkenness, then added fuel to the fire, with Weatherburn describing the commission’s proposals as a “spectacular policy ­failure”.

Together, these factors devastated one community after the other, unleashing an epidemic of violent crime in indigenous communities. Reflecting that epidemic, 60 per cent of indigenous prisoners are in jail for violent offences. and the victims of those offences are other indigenous Australians, with indigenous women having a hospitalisation rate for assault 38 times that for other women.

Aggravating the extent and severity of the violence is widespread substance abuse. Even correcting for differences in the age structure of the population, the rate of ­alcohol-induced deaths for indigenous Australians is 7.5 times the non-indigenous rate. And there is a direct link between drunkenness and crime: indigenous prisoners are nearly three times more likely than non-indigenous offenders to have been intoxicated when they committed their offence. But alcohol abuse is a symptom, not an ultimate cause: a symptom of ready access to cash without any real requirement to work, with that cash being spent on goods such as alcohol and drugs that dull boredom, are consumed in social groups, and can be enjoyed by the barely literate. And once entrenched, the cycle of substance abuse, violence, imprisonment and reoffending perpetuates the labour market exclusion that served to justify the welfare hand-outs in the first place.

Nor is there an improvement in sight. Rather, with up to one in four births in remote indigenous communities now suffering from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (as compared to less than one in 1000 for the Australian population as a whole), the cycle of despair risks repeating itself for generations to come.

Andrew Forrest’s report, “Creating Parity”, released last month, seeks to break that cycle. As Forrest says, the difference in labour force participation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians has risen since the “closing the gap” strategy was adopted in 2008. Even more worryingly, the indigenous employment rate in major cities has fallen sharply, despite governments spending $2.38 billion per annum on indigenous employment and training.

The result is that nearly half of all adult indigenous Australians are now primarily reliant on welfare — and many of those who are not are in protected or heavily subsidised jobs.

Most of Forrest’s recommendations make excellent sense, including raising social housing rents, in remote areas, to levels that better reflect the high cost providing housing in those areas involves. As Forrest says, it is unrealistic to believe people living in places without viable jobs, where supplying basic services is prohibitively costly, will ever lift themselves out of welfare dependence.

Yet it takes enormous optimism to believe Forrest’s prescriptions will solve the problems. As he so compellingly shows, virtually all the current policies aimed at specifically reducing indigenous disadvantage are poorly designed and even more poorly implemented; but that is scarcely for want of trying. The sensible conclusion could be one Forrest never contemplates: that the whole notion that government assistance, targeted at benefiting one group in the community, can erase the dependency it creates and legitimates is deeply ill-conceived. It would surely be better to be rigorously colourblind than to repeat what has failed time and again.

What is clear, however, is that those failures cannot be blamed on the arrival, more than two centuries ago, of the First Fleet. They are our disaster and our shame. And they are ours alone to address.


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