COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government this week has announced three decisions of providing public money to people selected on the basis of their race.
These are grants of up to $60,000 for “Aboriginal Territorians who want to pursue a career in education” (Minister Selena Uibo), $5.4m over four years “to recruit and support Aboriginal foster and kinship carers” (Minister Dale Wakefield – at left) and $10m “for the increased involvement of Aboriginal Territorians in the seafood sector” (Minister Ken Vowles – at right).
The government will have some explaining to do.
A rich country like Australia must look after its disadvantaged people, but they should be defined by their individual needs, not by the colour of their skin.
If we don’t have a bureaucracy capable of identifying need of that kind, and responding appropriately to it where it exists, then we must create one.
Is the NT Government drifting to a “one size fits all solution” as an easy way out?
Who in our community has not become aware of women – aunties, grandmothers – looking after a swag of kids whose parents are part of our 600-plus prison population, or are drunk or dead?
That is one group who deserve maximum support. And so do all foster carers, black or white.
Failing to target welfare to people in genuine need will reduce the services and cash they will receive from the limited resources.
Neither should we be labelling Aboriginal people as necessarily being in need of greater public support.
There is now a sizeable Aboriginal middle class in Alice Springs, in private enterprise as well as public or NGO employment.
How tempting would it be for them to hold out their hand, not because they genuinely need extra money, but because their race entitles them to it?
Meanwhile, the shoe is on the other foot in Canberra, with the Community Development Programs (CDP) a tool for punitive discrimination against remote-living Aboriginal people of working age.
Labor figures, in the lead-up to the Australian election, are now calling for putting the next funding round on hold and extending present arrangements “until the current broken CDP program can be fixed”.
Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon and NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and others say Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion “should stop CDP chaos,” claiming that he “is forcing new contracts on CDP providers, despite his legislation stalling in the Senate.
“The Government is pressing ahead with new funding agreements in the face of this uncertainty – leaving the community and providers in the lurch,” they say in a media statement.
“Without any certainty about the future of the Government’s CDP legislation, local organisations are being asked to sign a blank cheque.
“Around 80% of the people in the CDP program are Indigenous, and participation requirements are double those in Job Active.
“Remote communities need jobs and economic development, not another round of punishment based on who they are and where they live,” say the Labor Parliamentarians.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA