Greens ignore Indigenous despair

Atrocities in remote Aboriginal communities aren’t the dark past of history. It’s here and now and a national shame. Politicians should stop making excuses and take action.

by Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, Executive Chairman of the Yaabubiin Institute for Disruptive Thinking

There’s a video on social media everyone should watch. It features CCTV footage of the raw violence and drug- and alcohol-fuelled dysfunction gripping many Aboriginal communities in regional Western Australia. The most disturbing scene is footage of a man stamping on a child before dragging its limp body by the hair into a supermarket trolley.

The video quotes alarming statistics. A town of 500 children, of which 184 of them have been sexually assaulted. Another where 36 men face child abuse charges and 124 more are suspects. Another where six children committed suicide in 18 months.

The video was put together by mining magnate and philanthropist Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, local councils, Aboriginal elders and police in the hope of jolting government into expanding cashless welfare cards to these communities.

Of course, the circumstances that bred the dysfunction shown in the video are no mystery. They’re due to decades of chronic, intergenerational welfare dependence.

Aboriginal communities survived for thousands of years with clear social structures, in which people worked and learned and took care of themselves, their families and communities. We survived two centuries of dispossession and colonisation and segregation, our social structures and families under constant attack; but still we worked, learned and took care of our families and communities as best we could. Most of us still do.

The problems in this video aren’t the product of dispossession, colonisation, segregation, the stolen generation or even intergenerational trauma from those past injustices. The problems have arisen since the 1970s when Aboriginal people, particularly those in remote and regional Australia, moved en masse on to what our elders called “sit-down money”. That one change caused complete social and family breakdown and dysfunction in Aboriginal communities across remote and regional Australia.

Today we talk about moving Aboriginal people from welfare to work. But we forget that 50-odd years ago, socially progressive governments (both Labor and Liberal) transitioned Aboriginal people from work to welfare.

This video shows the appalling results. Over generations, people in those communities lost all sense of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. They no longer learn it from their parents and elders or see it demonstrated around them. Instead they grow up in a world where people don’t work or take care of themselves or their children, where drug, alcohol and gambling abuse are all around them, and sexual atrocities have become the norm in some families and are repeated with each generation.

It’s not only Aboriginal people who are suffering this cancer. There are non-Aboriginal families and communities with the same problems. That’s why I’ve always advised government that cashless welfare shouldn’t be targeted at Aboriginal people but trialled, and later rolled out, across the board. Which is what is happening.

Forrest described the Greens as the “party for paedophiles” for their strident opposition to cashless welfare and their refusal to even attend a showing of the video in Parliament House recently.

Greens indigenous affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert responded that the video was PR and propaganda designed to scare people into supporting cashless welfare. Her dismissiveness would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive. She said, “I feel so deeply for those who live in these communities who are labelled like this and have deep concerns for the Aboriginal people who are collectively painted in this light”.

But this video isn’t a movie or a work of fiction. It’s real footage. Aboriginal people aren’t being “painted” or “labelled”. That’s a real man stamping on a real child.

On Sky News last Sunday, Alice Springs councillor Jacinta Price offered to take Greens politicians to communities to see the problems first-hand. She even offered to arrange for Greens leader Richard Di Natale to stay in a town camp.

It’s a good idea. And here’s another. Will any Greens politician stay in one of those communities with their own children? It’s not whale-watching, it’s far more instructive. If the answer is “no”, my question would be: if it’s not an acceptable environment for their kids, why is it acceptable for Aboriginal children?

The Greens claim cashless welfare doesn’t work. That’s false. Community trials showed it has reduced alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling, and had a positive impact on social stability.

No one is saying cashless welfare will solve entrenched dysfunction by itself. The only way to get these families on track is getting them into education and work and off welfare altogether. That takes time and effort and other initiatives (most of which the Greens also oppose).

The Greens’ policy, entitled “No to the Cashless Card”, claims cashless welfare takes away “choice, control and dignity”. But the child being beaten by an out-of-control substance abuser has no choice, control or dignity to take away. This ideological nonsense ignores reality and common sense.

The video shows the cold, hard facts of many Aboriginal communities today. It’s not the dark past of history. It’s here and now and a national shame. Politicians should stop making excuses and take action.

This article was first published in the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun on 17 August 2017.

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  1. What a croc………………. Its very easy to make a film that shocks people when you ate rich from plundering peoples homelands. When actually you are the ones creating the poverty that causes these things. I could just as readily have filmed a party at Parliament house that shows destruction of govt property by Government reps who partied till they trashed the place and caused thousands in damage because they were drunken bums. Why is it you attack the poor to continually make yourselves richer………….yet the poor are always the bad guys. I live in Ceduna and the card has created more unrest in the community than ever before. Sexual crimes up and through the roof theft up assault up. The media are responsible because their articles are one sided and that is a fact.

  2. Dennis Cutting says:

    What a wonderful article , full of truth and no political crap. This change is now happening and we can only hope that The Greens and other Leftists can see the damage that has been caused by a welfare mentality . there are many families in this Nation of all backgrounds that have three generations where not one family member has worked . It is not only an indigenous problem.

  3. Yes its easy for anyone to make a video and edit out this and that. Can you show me anything good. Well no not with this video that is purely hype made particularly for people like you to use as manipulative tools in the media. Show me something good………… you cant because the whole thing was designed to make people look bad.

    Riots come when people are disenfranchised. Not only land but now ration cards as well.

    For an indigenous person you seem more like Idi Amin

  4. Patricia Groizard says:

    I have read and I have watched and I have listened. What is happening in this little town is
    absolutely disgraceful. These children need to be helped how any person can sit back and not do anything I cannot believe. The Government need to look into this immediately, and help immediately, listen to what is being said , We should all be shouting from the roof tops for help for these children and the town.

  5. I spent 6 months in the mid-eighties working with the Army corps of Survey with the time spent equally in Gunbalanya and Kalkiringi. I saw many settlements in that time. I was frustrated that we had in some cases 3rd world living conditions for people living in a 1st world country

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