PART THREE by ROGER STEELE and DON FULLER
Waste and incompetence are rampant. In Part Two we gave as an example Roebourne in Western Australia: With a population of just 1,150 it has 67 local service providers and more than 400 programs.
It appears that funding is being targeted away from remote Indigenous areas and is subject to high levels of inefficiency, ineffectiveness and potential fraud and corruption.
This is a completely unsatisfactory level of governance being demonstrated by Australian governments and little wonder that only marginal improvements have been recorded in attempts to “close the gap” between Indigenous Australians living in remote regions and other Australians.
There is also little understanding by Australian government of the importance of economic development for the social and human development of Aboriginal Australians in remote regions.
(This will be the focus of our next opinion piece.)
Australia is in no position to point the finger at other countries regarding their human rights record given the shocking living conditions Aboriginal people endure in many remote communities in Australia.
Currently, all of the main political parties show little interest or competency in working with remote Aboriginal Australians.
The ALP is supposed to be a party with the ideals of economic and social equality for all Australians. However, their political representatives appear voiceless and clueless when dealing with the substantive issues of economic and human development for those living within remote regions of Australia.
This is painfully ironic, given it was the ALP that suddenly introduced the abrupt change to Aboriginal self-determination and self-management, well before Aboriginal people in remote communities were in a position to take on such complex financial and organisational responsibilities.
Any focus on Aboriginal issues now appears to be in “progressive” areas such as whether a treaty or bill of rights should be pursued. Such considerations have little connection or relevance to solving the horrific living conditions within remote Aboriginal communities.
In the Northern Territory a Labor government is now in its second four year term. This government has done little to face the living conditions of Aboriginal people in remote regions.
This is despite the presence of a very large bureaucracy, many of whom are on relatively exorbitant salaries and benefits, particularly compared to those they are meant to be assisting in Aboriginal communities.
There seems to be an absence of belief or intention on partnering with Aboriginal people to develop employment and training opportunities in communities in the Territory, even though half the land mass of the Territory is owned by Aboriginal people. Many of these traditional owners live in remote Territory communities.
With regard to Coalition parties, the Liberal Party focuses increasingly on city issues and electorates.
The National Party, which is supposed to represent country and regional interests in Australia, has been particularly lethargic in recognising that elected members from regional and remote parts of Australia need to work for all Australians and not just established agricultural and pastoral organisations with large corporate and city based interests.
The charter of the National Party needs to extend to representing Aboriginal traditional land owners in remote areas where the development of a substantial amount of Australia’s potential wealth is currently caught in an immovable deadlock.
The significance of this is brought into sharp relief when it is appreciated that 50% of the land area of the Northern Territory and 85% of the coastline is Aboriginal land.
In addition, from an ethical view point there is a clear responsibility in a developed country such as Australia for a party in government to properly and forcefully represent the interests of Australians in regional areas to ensure that all Australians receive a similar level of service to that provided to city electors.
Related to this requirement is a need for the National Party to be far more effective in arguing for the decentralisation of city bound population and economic activities to benefit the regional development of Australia.
PAINTING by ROD MOSS, Families at Uleralkwe.