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HomeIssue 18Life's basic questions prompt answers to the hard ones

Life's basic questions prompt answers to the hard ones

Where do I come from? What do I stand for?
Answering questions like these can be the beginning of unravelling the problems for Aboriginal men today, says Michael Liddle (at left, centre), who runs Codes 4 Life.
Our hos­pi­tals are filled up; our cour­t­hous­es are filled up; our jails are filled up,” he says.
“The one place not being filled up is our schools. We need more police­men; we don’t need more foot­ball heroes.”
Codes 4 Life is headquartered in the Desert Knowledge Australia precinct and was recently boosted by a $1.36m grant from the Nation­al Indige­nous Aus­tralians Agency, for­mer­ly the Depart­ment of the Prime Min­is­ter and Cab­i­net, enabling it to expand its service.
Codes 4 Life recently deliv­ered two work­shops includ­ing one in Alpurru­ru­lam (pictured below) and one at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct in Alice Springs. They had a com­bined par­tic­i­pa­tion of about 70 Abo­rig­i­nal men aged 16 to 58.
Senior Abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers Andrew Davis (Aran­da), Peter Wal­lace (Aran­da), Ron­nie Webb (Aranda/​Allyawarra), Robert Hoosan (Pitjantjatjara/​Luritja) and Mar­tin Hagan (Anmat­jere) were present at the work­shop held at the precinct, providing their guid­ance and support, says a DKA spokeswoman.
Codes 4 Life also works close­ly with the Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Pro­gram, Drug and Alco­hol Ser­vices Aus­tralia, Cen­tral Aus­tralian Abo­rig­i­nal Alco­hol Pro­grammes Unit, Depart­ment of Social Ser­vices, the Police, NT Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tors and lawyers.
Police Sergeant Amit Singh from the Camooweal Police trav­elled to Alpurru­ru­lam to speak at the work­shop, explaining that arresting someone was a last resort.



  1. I have been engaged in the delivery of education in remote Indigenous communities across Australia for about 25 years.
    In that time, I have witnessed, as have communities and governments of all persuasions, the low standards applied in these areas in regard to attendance rates and behavioural issues of students.
    We see the manifestation of these issues perpetuate the illiteracy of many Indigenous people which then places Indigenous people into a socio demographic of abject poverty.
    This leads to community dysfunction, high unemployment rates, violent levels that appal even the most experienced police officers and that then leads to incarceration that some Indigenous people prefer rather than the violence in the long grass or river beds.
    A very sorry circumstance.
    One can perpetuate greater numbers of examples that are consequential of an upbringing of progressive or limited education.
    This is not the what a civilised society should acknowledge as normal. It is what our forebears warned that lack of education creates unrest and violence in society, yet as of late we have forgotten these time immemorial dictums.
    In 1880, the Education Act was promulgated in the British Parliament in England to make education for children compulsory and to end child exploitation in factories of the industrial revolution. This law then saw the rise of the standards of living in England and indeed Great Britain to what today is a high level of both education and living standards as well as community harmony.
    To the point, who is willing to stand up and demand innocent Indigenous children be given the best chance in life by achieving a good education? This issue cannot be resolved by government alone, it is at best holding the line.
    We must ask some serious questions that may cause shame: How did we get to this point?
    We must acknowledge that this is the most fundamental problem facing Indigenous people in Australia today; that education needs to be embraced by Indigenous people in particularly in remote communities.
    Education will raise any people out of poverty and must be a priority.
    The goal and challenge is clear; let us work together to bring about education as a normal and habitual process for all Indigenous people.
    It will take patience, determination and time to see the fruits of a concentration of education in Indigenous Australia; Indigenous role models are critical. It should be acknowledged that this issue is not without many Indigenous success stories via education; we see Indigenous people participate very capably in our society every day.
    We need then to stand up and celebrate their success as well as voice their views on the great benefits of a good education for all Indigenous people – our kids’ future depends on this being the norm.

  2. Wonderful work Michael. Keep it up.
    Don’t be disheartened by the Australian Government’s supply of free money in the form of passive welfare assistance, generation after generation.
    One day there will be a reckoning of the disastrous social consequences.
    A recent report mentioned a location with a school attendance rate of 29%. What hope have these kids got of competing in a cruel world?
    They are destined to be second class citizens for life.
    A prominent Aboriginal academic described a failure to send your kids to school as another form of child neglect.

  3. The men Michael brings together through Codes 4 Life are strong cultural sober leaders in their community.
    One would think through Codes 4 Life there would be engagement with these men by Police, Councils, Governments (NT and Federal) and non government bodies to work together on finding solutions regarding criminal and anti social behaviour in Alice Springs and other places.
    All is heard is a lot of whining about all the issues, yet here are the very people to engage with who could help find ways to deal with rampaging youth in cultural ways.


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