What do Aborigines want and what do policy makers think they need? There's more to those questions than meets the eye, says WILL SANDERS (at left) in this week's Alice News summer feature, Food for Thought. He is a frequent visitor to Central Australia and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University in Canberra.
To illustrate what he sees as "complexities of Indigenous affairs policy and practice which intrigued me thirty years ago and intrigue me still" Dr Sanders tells about this old lady (pictured at top). She lives on the edge of small open highway town in the Northern Territory. Within 500 meters of her camp, or walking distance, she has access to an old peoples’ day care centre, a health clinic and a roadhouse which sells food and alcohol – but only beer to "drink in" and only a couple of hours a day. At the national policy level, she would be included in government statistics as a homeless person and as part of the justification for building more housing in Indigenous communities.
But she wants to live right here, with her dogs, on public land, paying rent to on-one – getting some help with her water supply and meals on wheels from the aged care day centre 500 meters away.
"All I can really do is tell you what it has been like to work in Indigenous affairs for thirty years and how I have come to think of it in terms of balancing competing principles in both ground-level practice and high moral rhetoric," writes Dr Sanders.