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Monday, July 30, 2007

Kevin Rudd, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ethics of State

Martin Flanagan has to-day questioned Kevin's Rudd ethics particularly in the light of his admiration for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Miss Eagle is reflecting on this issue here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A CDEP view: from someone who speaks the language

Miss Eagle was pleased to read Jane Simpson's post on the abolition of CDEP. Jane and her partner David Nash are distinguished linguists with a lot of experience in the centre, particularly in relation to Warumungu, the language of the traditional owners of the Tennant Creek area. Jane and David have spent extensive periods of time in Central Australia and the Barkly region over decades. Miss Eagle got to know them in Tennant Creek and has had the privilege of a guided tour of AIATIS with David since leaving TC. Through their experience of living for big chunks of time in the Centre, they have experience not only of the languages of Aboriginal people but their culture as well.

Turn off the grog tap - and then what?

Former Territorian with a wealth of experience in alcohol and its relation to public health Peter d’Abbs - who is now Associate Professor, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences at the Cairns campus of James Cook University - said yesterday in Crikey:

Only time will tell whether the Commonwealth’s moves to cut off alcohol supplies to Aboriginal communities in the NT will restore order. In the meantime, they have exposed another, equally important need -- for better programs and more $$ to reduce demand for alcohol among Indigenous drinkers.

It isn’t surprising that governments generally have much less to say about this. There are no quick fixes, no comparable options to sending in the troops. So what are the needs, and the options?

First, the needs – and let’s begin by laying one misconception to rest. Banning alcohol in communities will not fill the streets with hundreds of deranged alcoholics tortured by withdrawal symptoms. Much Aboriginal binge drinking is opportunistic, and some of the heaviest drinkers periodically go for long periods without a drop.

The real needs are for services to help those drinkers who choose to set out on the long journey to sobriety. A few make it more or less on their own. Some come to sobriety through Christianity. But for many drinkers, trapped in cultures saturated in booze, the road out has to be just that – a road out.

But where to? A few remote communities have their own outstations where drinkers can at least dry out and enjoy some sort of cultural recharging. Most, however, will head for one of the Aboriginal-controlled rehabilitation centres scattered around the country. Some of these offer outpatient services, most are residential. Their hardworking counselors are unlikely to be highly trained, and clients probably won’t be offered the range of therapeutic interventions (including pharmacological therapies) available in more ‘mainstream’ services.
Aboriginal alcohol rehabilitation centres are the unwanted child of alcohol and other drug services. Most of their funding comes from the Commonwealth, which has been trying to back out of the role, but no state/territory government is willing to step in. So the Commonwealth is stuck with them, but lacks the expertise to embark on the kind of long-term capacity building they so badly need.

What would this entail? First, a Commonwealth/State cost-shared program is required to fund and support Aboriginal-controlled rehabilitation. The Commonwealth should use its fiscal power to make the States/Territories pay their share. The program should pursue five objectives:
  • Combine evidence-based best practice with cultural acceptability;

  • Enhance, through workforce development, the clinical skills, management capacity and directors’ skills of Aboriginal-controlled services;

  • Break down the current walls between Aboriginal-controlled and mainstream AOD (alcohol and other drug) services

  • Strengthen links between Indigenous alcohol treatment services and mental health services;
  • Foster after-care services in communities, in order to provide support to ex-treatment clients on their return. At present these are conspicuously absent.

None of these measures are easy or cheap. Nor do they obviate the need for diversion and other preventive measures. But simply turning off the taps is not enough.

Make Indigenous Poverty History - and the Anglicans

St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne


The picture of the eagle on the title of this blog is by Denis Wilson (here he is on the banks of the Murrumbidgee), an amateur naturalist and environmental advocate who lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Denis blogs at The Nature of Robertson. He has been at it again - taking pictures of eagles, I mean. Have a look here. BTW, all references to this correspondent and obsession are completely and utterly refuted.

Re-birthing John Howard?

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday,
Mean Prime Minister
Happy Birthday to you.
Pop over to The Sydney Morning Herald to see birthday cards from readers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amazing Grace and amazing activism

Last night, Miss Eagle flew into Carlton to the Cinema Nova where - a preview screening of Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace was co-hosted with Liberty Victoria. Amazing Grace gives a portrayal of the adult life of anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce.

The movie has a star-studded cast:Ioan Gruffud as William Wilberforce, supported by - among others - Michael Gambon, Ciaron Hinds, and the brilliant and indefatigable Albert Finney. Miss E confesses, dear Reader, that in each of the three scenes in which the inestimable Mr Finney appeared as John Newton, leading Evangelical Anglican minister and hymn writer, that she was reduced to tears. Finney's power and longevity - 47 years of making movies with the three score and ten years already notched up - are impressive.

After the movie - which received much applause from its audience - there was a Q & A with a distinguished panel of social and political activists. The panel was led by prominent QC and civil libertarian, Julian Burnside. (After the show, also spotted his magical spouse Kate Durham.) Burnside was ably assisted by Keryn Clarke, Mordy Bromberg SC, and Kon Karapanagiotidis.

Keryn Clarke works for the Uniting Church of Australia as a Social Justice Officer. Her prime involvement is with Just Act. However, last night Keryn was speaking for Stop the Traffik which campaigns against human trafficking in its modern form.

Mordy Bromberg SC is a barrister working in the area of human rights specializing in labour rights.

Kon Karapanagiotidis is CEO of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Australia’s leading asylum seeker aid, health and advocacy organization.

The tenor of the evening was how an individual or group of individuals working together can, with determination, over time bring about change. The lesson of the evening was to go out there and do something to make this world a better place.

Andrew Bolt says Howard must quit

Well, whoda thunk it. That arch-conservative and all round verbal brawler and unattractive man, Andrew Bolt, says Howard must quit. Bolt reckons that even if there were to be another terrorist attack, God forbid, the public is now so cynical it's as likely to blame Howard for provoking it as it is to admire his firmness in handling it.

Miss Eagle thinks Howard should hang on a bit longer.
You, dear Reader, will recall that this blog has not been anxious for John Howard's resignation. She is anxious for Howard to go away and take his meanness with him. But the policy of this blog is that Howard should not go until all the chickens come home to roost.

There is a sound of roosting chickens in the air - but there are still some out in the barnyard.
If Miss Eagle could have her druthers, she would serve Howard the Bruce option. Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister from 1923-1929, is the only Prime Minister to lose his seat. And who better to administer the coup de grace than Maxine McKew in the Prime Ministerial seat of Bennelong?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Scrapping CDEP is dumb says Jon Altman

Scrapping CDEP is just dumb, dumb, dumb
Professor Jon Altman from the Australian National University writes in Crikey:

Ministers Joe Hockey and Mal Brough's decision to abolish the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme in remote Indigenous communities in the NT will have marked impacts on the arts industry, the management of Indigenous Protected Areas, and community based Caring for Country ranger projects. And it's not just these success stories that will suffer; it's likely that there will be wider local, regional and national costs from this myopic, ill-considered, policy shift. Hockey and Brough should have taken a history lesson before they made the announcement yesterday. If they'd bothered to look back, they would have learnt that unemployment was created in remote and very remote regions of Australia in the early 1970s when below-award training allowances were replaced by award wages. This unemployment in turn led to the establishment of the CDEP scheme by the Fraser government in 1977.

CDEP was first introduced to remote Indigenous communities as a progressive and mixed community development, employment creation and income support scheme. I noted then that its part-time characteristics might suit Indigenous people who may want flexible employment with the capacity to enhance income through additional market engagement like arts production and sale; or through participation in the customary (non-market) wildlife harvesting sector to generate livelihood benefits. In reality, most of the 5,000 Indigenous artists in the NT, as well as 400 community-based rangers in the Top End, are all CDEP participants. The beauty of the scheme is that it maximizes individual choice, participants could work part-time for a minimum income or work full-time and overtime if they were income maximisers. Now, as in the early 1970s, Indigenous people’s choice is being unilaterally and heavily circumscribed: they can participate in the mainstream ‘real’ economy or be welfare recipients.

The Hockey/Brough focus on award-based ‘real jobs’ at the expense of CDEP jobs and CDEP organizational support could have the perverse effect of increasing unemployment at these communities. This is partly because those on CDEP are classified as employed. But it is also because National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSISS) data collected in 2002 by the ABS shows that one in five CDEP participants already get full-time work through the efforts of their organizations. Altogether, between 85 and 90% work more than the funded CDEP hours in remote and very remote Australia according to NATSISS 2002.

Brough and Hockey should also have looked at the ABS publication Labour Force Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians 2006. The ABS figures for the NT for 2006 show that the NT unemployment rate for Indigenous people was estimated at 15.7%, more than three times the Australian rate of 4.9%.

But this rate includes an estimated 8,000 CDEP participants as employed. If the total number of Indigenous people employed in the NT (15,300) is reduced by 8,000 and between 1,655 and 2,000 ‘real jobs’ are created (there is some inconsistency here between the Joint Media Release and data in the attached CDEP in the Northern Territory Emergency Response documentation) by replacing all non-Indigenous employment with Indigenous workers, then the unemployment rate will still increase to at least 50%. The ABS itself notes the labour force participation rate (at 44.8% in the NT) is particularly low in remote areas as these are regions ‘which generally have an underdeveloped labour market and this is reflected in the low number of Indigenous people actively looking for work and therefore not in the labour force’. The employment to population ratio in the NT is the lowest by far in Australia at 37.8% (and 61.8% for all Australians).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Economy where, employment when??

It comes as no surprise - the Minister's announcement regarding the abolition of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP). CDEP schemes operating in Aboriginal communities in various regions across Australia were precursors of Work for the Dole schemes in mainstream communities.
Miss Eagle has made her suggestions previously on economic participation in and by Aboriginal communties:
  1. All weather roads to Aboriginal communities. Without this basic lifeline of transport and communication no community, black or white, can begin to build an economy.
  2. Air strips - for similar reasons.
  3. Building communities which specialise in the delivery of community services. Employment classifications for Tennant Creek are dominated by the number of people employed in community services. This is duplicated across the nation in rural Australia. With investment, intentionality, mentoring and direction, Aboriginal communities - just like white communities - can build themselves up economically as a service centre. Services can be commercial, health, educational, or tourism.
  4. Such participation should go far beyond the Work for the Dole schemes. Work for the Dole schemes should be seen as transition schemes of basic economic participation - not as ends in themselves
The Minister says the CDEP will be progressively replaced by real jobs, training and mainstream employment programmes, complementing the work already in train to lift remote area exemptions.
Radio interviews with the Minister earlier this evening indicate that the Government plans have an initial focus on local indigenous replacement in local positions where outsiders (can one read hear non-indigenous outsiders rather than indigenous outsiders?) are presently employed.
This, in principle, is a reasonable idea - but it is clearly one that has been implemented as far as possible by local indigenous organisations. Aboriginal organisations have been active in or actively managing and sponsoring training schemes for many,many years. Is the minister merely re-branding previous ATSIC-funded programs? Is he going to stand up and take credit for operational modes currently in place with strong indigenous organisations?
But, the question to be asked above all is this:
Is the Howard Government going to fund basic economic infrastructure such as transport and public utilities as well as the buildings and staffing levels for public service provision regarded as the norm in mainstream communities?
The Howard Government has been a poor steward in provisioning infrastructure replacement and development in mainstream communities preferring to fund endless tax rebates and refunds to individuals for personal spending rather than stewarding (or should one say quarantining?) the money and channelling it into economically productive infrastructure.
Governments, Federal and State, seem to be establishing public projects which can be built by Thiess and privatised by Macquarie Bank.
If the Howard Government does not come to the party with funding for economic and service infrastructure will it turn to the Mac Bank and the BOO (build-own-operate) schemes to establish infrastructure in regional and remote Australia?
But if none of this happens and people who cannot be placed in meaningful work end up on Work for the Dole schemes rather than the abolished CDEP schemes (as the Minister's media release seems to indicate) what will all this mean? Just more venal grandstanding by Howard and Brough?

A royalty, a river and a ripoff

But what's the cost when compared with what is lost - the river!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cheezburger justice

We at The Trad Pad love this. Below is an excerpt that is worth passing on.

Scoring National Security, Howard, Rudd and Public Opinion

There are two areas of public policy which conservative parties are usually held to do better than the social democratic side of politics. These are the economy and national security. The Liberal-National Party Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard is suffering from its implementation of draconian wages policies, an integral part of the economy. Now, in to-day's The Age, the Coalition's management of security issues and even Howard's reputed personal rapport with servicemen and women is called into question.

While 77% of Australians were supporting the Prime Minister on "border security" and the children overboard affair in the lead up to and at the 2001 Federal election, the 77% were actually supporting the oppression of sailors who didn't sign up to be cruel and heartless to women and children while being forced to be away from their wives, partners and children for unhealthily long periods of service.

So where are the 77% now? The polls favouring Labor seem likely to be garnering a host of the "border security" proponents of 2001. But then Labor itself under the slack leadership of Kim Beazley was in there supporting the government too. This is why Miss Eagle is insistent on knowing the quality and firmness of Kevin Rudd's backbone. X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, PET scans, lumbar punctures - but give us something Kevin!
Because you see, dear Reader, Kevin is right behind the Prime Minister on the Haneef Affair - every bit as much as Beazley was behind Howard on the children overboard affair. And look where that is going and what a laughing stock that is making of our national security and the powers the Federal Government has taken to itself. National security - heading downward. Mos Australian's wages - heading downward. Roosting chickens are in the offing for John Howard and the wood is on Maxine McKew to defeat him in his seat of Bennelong. It's your national duty, Maxine. National security and the economy depend upon it.

But, Maxine, can you ask Kevin to show us the colour of his money?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rumi and The Right Work

The Essential Rumi - Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A.J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson. Published by Castle Books, 1997.

The Melbourne Writers Festival program is out to-day. How can one ever get to everything that sparks attention! How can one ever afford it! Over at Barnabas quotidian, Barney has used a quote from Rumi. Top of Miss Eagle's list are two Rumi events. Check the information here and here. It is a challenging quote and gives much to ponder:

The Right Work

There is one thing in this world that you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about, but if you remember everything else, and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.

It’s as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come to this world to do particular Work. That Work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don’t do it, it’s as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It’s a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It’s a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on.

You say, “But look, I’m using the dagger. It’s not lying idle.”

Do you hear how ludicrous that sounds? For a penny, an iron nail could be bought to serve the purpose. You say, “But I spend my energies on lofty enterprises. I study jurisprudence and philosophy and logic and astronomy and medicine and all the rest.” But consider why you do those things. They are all branches of yourself.

Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be exactly like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You’ll be wasting valuable keenness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Howard's Shock and Awe Campaign: planning and evaluation

The days when organising anything from a street stall to the implementation of The Grand Plan, there are two key axes: planning and evaluation. In to-day's Crikey: Bob Gosford from the metropolis of Yuendemu writes of LGANT's concerns about plans for local government in small communities:
Local Government in the NT – Howard & Brough’s plan for privatisation by stealth?

Local Government in the NT has been in a mess for decades and Howard and Brough’s intervention is about to make it a lot worse. The six "municipal" councils of Darwin, Palmerston, Litchfield, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine are the subject of separate parts of the Local Government Act to the 57 or so other small remote Councils. These small Councils are mostly on Aboriginal land and vary from well-run and effective local administrators to grossly dysfunctional centres of corruption, nepotism and benign neglect and it is they that are in the sites of Howard and Brough’s intervention.
Clare Martin’s Labor administration inherited the legacy of poorly-run local government from the 26 year reign of the Country Liberal Party. To her credit she has decided to bite the bullet and implement long-overdue reform of the sector. Whether Martin’s
reform proposals are appropriate or not will be left for another day.
What is of greatest concern at the moment is the cumulative effect of a number of recent decisions by the Howard and Martin governments that have and will negatively affect the administrations of local government in the NT. Of particular concern are a raft of recent decisions relating to the Howard & Brough intervention in the NT.
Crikey spoke to Kerry Moir, a current Darwin City councillor and President of the NT’s Local Government Association (LGANT) – the peak-body for all NT local government authorities. Alderman Moir has lived and worked extensively throughout the NT and she is intimately familiar with and concerned for the future of many of the small councils scattered across the NT.
Moir is particularly concerned that the Commonwealth intervention has been so poorly thought out that it will only worsen the current situation. She is particularly concerned that there appears to be no effective coordination between the NT Government’s Local Government Reform program and the elements of the Commonwealth intervention that will affect local community administrations:
I don’t believe that the people the Federal government will send up here will have any idea of what they are going to do or where they will be going. It won’t be like working in their nice air-conditioned offices down south. I don’t believe they will know anything of how remote community Councils work and the constraints they work under. They will have no understanding of local Aboriginal cultures.
Moir and LGANT
argue that the formulae used to calculate the Financial Assistance Grants that the Commonwealth provides to all local governments have particularly disadvantaged small community Councils in the NT:
There’s never been enough money provided to communities to do the sort of jobs that have been expected of them. Some communities are dysfunctional, but there are others who struggle, with good people in charge, to try and do something about the housing, do something about the infrastructure. They’ve just never had enough money to do so.
Moir has grave concerns about the uncertainty created by the lack of information provided by Howard and Brough:
Have you seen a plan? No – there isn’t one, at least that they are releasing to the public and my members. At least the NT government has prepared some information on its
website about its role in the intervention. My members are fearful for their jobs, they are incredibly worried about their own circumstances and for their communities. I mean, imagine how you would feel if you saw a statement from the NT government that it ‘…will seek to use the Commonwealth appointed administrators to deliver its programs’ – that is the jobs of my members that the government is talking about. Of course there is fear and uncertainty.
But her biggest concern is for the continuing existence of LGANT’s member communities. She is particularly concerned that services currently provided by remote councils will be contracted out to private service providers and that Howard and Brough’s intervention might be an attempt at privatisation by stealth.

And then there's the process for evaluation so that an assessment can be made about how things have gone, how effectively policy has been implemented:

No signs of benchmarks in NT intervention
Health journalist Melissa Sweet writes:

Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the Federal Government’s foray into the NT is more about achieving policy goals rather than political objectives. In which case it’s timely, four weeks after the Government announced its "national emergency response" to s-xual abuse of Aboriginal children, to ask: how will we know what difference the initiative has made? More importantly, how will we know that any potential harms -- and it’s hard to think of a health or social welfare intervention which doesn’t involve risks -- outweigh the benefits? Harms are particularly likely when policy is being made on the run and without consultation, careful planning or drawing on the evidence base about what interventions are most likely to be helpful. (If you doubt that’s what’s been happening in the NT, check the Government’s statement of June 21 announcing plans, which were quickly shelved, for "compulsory health checks for all Aboriginal children.") These are important questions, deserving serious attention. But there are no signs the Government has any intention of putting in place an independent, credible evaluation process. Professor Ian Anderson, Director of the Centre for Health and Society and the Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, is one of the country’s gurus of Indigenous program evaluation. If any evaluation was planned, he would likely know about it. But he hasn't heard a whisper. Anderson supports some of the Federal strategies, including ensuring a police presence in remote communities, but worries that pressing children to disclose s-xual abuse without providing long term follow-up may lead to harm. "Any focus which brings a child to disclosure without having in place adequate and sound referral and follow-up services is quite risky," he says. "Children are at risk of suicide for some time after disclosure. "Suicide is one of the extreme consequences but there is a whole range of possible emotional harm that results from well-intentioned interventions by people without the appropriate experience." Anderson says enforced alcohol bans are "bad policy" when they are not linked to a more comprehensive strategy and are likely just to transplant problems -- he has already heard of groups of people moving across the NT border -- rather than solve them. They also encourage sly grogging and more risky forms of drinking, and many also encourage the use of other drugs, such as cannabis. Evaluating the initiative wouldn’t be easy -- an increase in child s-xual abuse notification rates in the NT might be a positive development if it means, not a real increase in cases, but an increase in children and families getting help. But Anderson says there are plenty of existing health and criminal justice data systems to provide a basis for evaluation. The main problem in evaluating the initiative would be its lack of forethought, he says. "In evaluation we identify program logic and the over-arching goals of a program," he says. "This is a policy initiative that doesn’t necessarily have a coherent program goal." If the Government really wants to understand the impact of its initiative, it should be speaking to people like Ian Anderson. But he’s not expecting that call anytime soon. "There’s been no talk of evaluation at this stage and, to be frank, I’m not sure the Australian Government is that interested in it," he says. Which suggests that the opinion polls may provide the only measure that really counts in the current political climate.

So, dear and gentle Reader, had Howard and Brough any idea what they were going to do and where they were going to go? And will they be able to recognise when they have done it and when they have got there?

Moriarty's view

Photo by Ben Rushton for The Age

John Moriarty - an Aboriginal traditional owner originally from Borroloola in the Northern Territory and now a very well-heeled businessman - gives his view of Howard's Shock and Awe intervention.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lives: radical and changed

Christian mystics do not dabble in altered states.

They seek radically altered lives.

From an interview
with Bernard McGinn
by Sarah Miller,
The Christian Century, 2003.
Discovered this posted at

Brenda Niall: Witness and Advocacy

This week on Radio National's First Person, biographer Brenda Niall, is reading from her autobiography, Life Class. This morning she discussed the biography she did of one of Australia's great artists, Judy Cassab. Miss Eagle feels a sort of affinity with Cassab - on two occasions in her daily life she has gone to work each day to come face to face with a Judy Cassab. When Miss Eagle managed the Mount Isa Public Library, it was a very large portrait of Sir James Foots, a former Chairman of Mount Isa Mines Limited. Many years later, Miss Eagle worked in the Darlinghurst offices of Leon Fink, the well known Sydney art patron. Her desk was directly below a Cassab nude.
Niall told a story of an 80 year old Holocaust survivor coming up to her at the Brisbane Writers Festival and asking her if she thought it possible that by writing a book one could help people to understand what happened. The woman said "I was in the camps and I don't understand." Niall said that she thought it was possible to give people some knowledge of what had happened. Niall said - and I might, dear Reader, not have this exactly correct but you will get the idea - Nothing comes from nothing.
This could be Miss Eagle's motto. This blog's main theme is on justice advocacy placed in the context of the Kingdom of God. In other words, justice advocacy through a Christian lens. A lot of the time, it feels like spitting in the wind. Speaking out on causes which a lot of the population don't care to think about. Speaking out - and seeing little return in terms of success, or items ticked off as complete. But, Miss E reasons, what is the alternative? Saying nothing in the face of great wrongs? Saying nothing and by default refusing to bear witness? Saying nothing and having the silence construed as consent?
Over at The Nature of Robertson, Denis is rejoicing in some success. Denis is an environmental advocate. He is not a professional but a highly dedicated and knowledgable amateur. In the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, a David and Goliath struggle is going on between the locals and Sydney Water as Sydney Water seeks to raid the Kangaloon Aquifer for Sydney. Read all about this on Denis's blog. The battle has been going on for some time.
Denis has not carried the battle alone, as he points out. But Denis has made a significant contribution. His environmental knowledge of plants and his willingness to investigate on a scientific basis has led to interesting discoveries on which to build sound argument. His public sector administration background has been helpful in putting together documents to assist in the campaign and in preparation for public, professional, bureaucratic and ministerial meetings. And not least of the tools in his kitbag has been his blog. Through the blog, photos, stories, and news have been published. Through the blog, information and social networks have been built. Through the blog, the communities involved have been kept informed. Congratulations to you Denis and all of your campaigning colleagues. A major battle has been won. Now on to winning the war!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bev Manton: Remembering the silence

Bev Manton received national attention with her recent NAIDOC Week speech in her capacity as Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSW ALC).

Bev Manton, a member of the Worimi nation, is a strong and respected advocate for community development, particularly in relation to employment, housing, health and education. Involved with the NSWALC since its inception, Bev is a founding member and co-ordinator of the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council and worked as the LALC Co-ordinator for four years before being elected to NSWALC.

Karuah is a small township on the banks of the Karuah River. Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council started up a boat building project a year or two ago for young Aboriginal people. The project has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the New South Wales Department of Education and Training under the Elsa Dixon employment program. This will allow the project to target Aboriginal students in high schools.

As Chairperson of NSWALC, Bev Manton represents her people on a number of Boards including the Worimi Conservation Lands, Aboriginal Community Environment Network and the Northern Alliance.

Bev concluded her NAIDOC Week speech with a quote from Martin Luther King:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Miss Eagle takes these words to heart and examines her conscience.

Miss Eagle has had periods of examination of conscience since Howard's Winter Solstice (the winter of our discontent?) Shock and Awe Campaign began. As readers of this blog know, John Howard comes in for a great deal of criticism here - and the most vehement criticism has been for his military intervention in the Northern Territory.

But - if one tries to stick to the teachings of Jesus Christ - one cannot overlook self-criticism. Howard is Howard but what about me? Every week in a little Anglican church in Upper Gully, Miss Eagle - along with her community of faith - says these words:
Merciful God, our maker and our judge,
we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
and in what we have failed to do:
we have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves;
we repent and are sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Miss Eagle doesn't get too deeply into the sins of thought, word and deed. Not that brave. She absolves herself re the criticism of Howard because she recalls how Jesus referred to Herod as an old fox [Luke 13:32]. This was real political comment from a man whose family had long had no reason to think kindly of Herod: they had been forced to flee with their lives from his forebear's military and a family member had been murdered by Herod as well.
But what about those sins of omission? Miss Eagle is not one of those brilliant, compassionate souls like John Boffa, formerly of Anyiningyi Congress in Tennant Creek and now with Central Australian Congress in Alice Springs. She is not as brave and persevering as those brilliant talented teachers, mainly women, that she remembers teaching at outstations and communities across the Barkly Tableland.
Miss Eagle has tried to listen, to learn, to befriend, and to support and just generally putting herself in the way of things so that she might help if the occasion arose. Now, she is older and finds herself living in the outer suburbs of Melbourne in a predominantly white and anglo society. She hasn't got what it takes to commit to continuing activity in an organisation. For the first time in her life, there are no Aboriginal people just around the corner or up the street - not that she knows about, anyway. So, here she is, in splendid isolation sitting on her backside hitting the keyboard to make her protest, to demand justice. Has it all been enough? Is this enough? Will one day the list of those sins of what might have been done - but wasn't - rise up to haunt her? Will one day the list of omissions haunt us all?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fitzroy women don't want grog: whitefella vacillates

Michael Byrt's mural in Redfern, Sydney featuring Aboriginal children
The majority of Aboriginal society is willing to come to terms with alcohol - but mainstream Australian society doesn't want to talk about it.
In major centres across the island continent, there is extraordinary access to alcohol. In spite of the abuse of alcohol in white dominated society causing great suffering - road trauma and deaths; illness, hospitalization, and deaths; child abuse and deaths; domestic violence and deaths - we refuse to talk about it.
We refuse to consider limiting the extraordinary opening hours of alcohol retailing outlets. In fact, time and again Australians have been told that an increase in the availability of alcohol at extraordinary times through retailing outlets (and I mean not just outlets attached to food retailing outlets but pubs, clubs, and nightclubs etc) will lead to more civilized drinking practices - just like Europe. Mmmm...!
But in Aboriginal communities the majority of women - particularly the grandmothers - are quite clear about what needs to be done in about the availability of alcohol. Now the women of Fitzroy Crossing have added their voices.
Not that all women are stone-cold sober but the brunt of picking up the pieces goes to women, particularly older women, the grandmothers.
But whitefellas can be relied upon not to be reliable on this issue. Police may well be supportive - but those reliant on public opinion like politicians seldom are. Whitefellas vacillate in the same way Brough did recently at Santa Teresa when there appeared to be some move away from the previous public statements by the Howard Government that alcohol would not be available at Aboriginal communities.
Of course, the topic of ready availability at all hours in mainstream communities doesn't get a guernsey - with the exception of Tennant Creek.

Let there be light: trustworthy and knowledgable

Many Australian's are suffering shell-shock in trying to comprehend the Howard Shock and Awe Campaign of intervention in the Northern Territory. Those who have never been to the NT or only done the tour up The Track have difficulty understanding why there is an uproar about the Howard/Brough activity.

The nub of the problem is that Howard and Brough have not been there - except in an adverse manner - to achieve outcomes in the very deep concerns of the Aboriginall people and those who work side by side with them. So who to believe, these people ask?
To-day's The Age carries two articles which fall into the category of :
Here's another point of view which is different from the Government which is trustworthy and knowledgable.

The first is from James Ensor, Director of Public Policy at Oxfam. James is well-known for his articles contributed to On Line Opinion. To-day he explains about the need for solutions implemented over the long term and points us to the Close the Gap Campaign.

The second is from the distinguished John Fogarty, former Justice of the Family Court of Australia. His article seeks to bring some rationality to the debate about parents having social security benefits quarantined in relation to child abuse.

The Howard Government has always been free with its abuse using the pejorative term political correctness slander and/or shut up its critics. Miss Eagle, dear Reader, has seen some funny sights when the ultra-conservative sector of the population seek to prove that they, too, know how to be non-discriminatory. Howard's extension of the quarantining idea to all parents - not just Aboriginal ones - is an example of ultra-conservatism tipping its lid to a heavy hitting policy implemented, in its view, in a non-discriminatory way. Crikey to-day has a good critique of Labor's me-tooism on this matter.
So Miss E's advice is to remember two things:

Possum skin cloak - can you spare one?

Can I have what he's having?

John So, Lord Mayor of Melbourne in a traditional Wurundjeri possum-skin cloak (Jiawei Shen, 2005 Archibald Prize Finalist)

In south-eastern Australia, where winters can be very cold, Aboriginal people kept warm with possum-skin cloaks. Check out this ancient craft here. After a life-time in tropical and sub-tropical climes, Miss Eagle still feels the cold in Melbourne even though this is her third winter here. So she could really, truly do with a possum skin cloak.

Will this be what it will be like up the road in The Dandenongs this afternoon? Last night, here at Upper Gully, it was like sleeping in a wind tunnel. Cocooned from wind with an electric blanket, a doona, a minky, a Rose and a FootFoot maybe - but oh the howling, noisy wind.

A little while ago it started to rain.

The Age carries this story. They are calling it a cold snap! What do they think we have been having for the last ten days! A fortnight ago from last Friday this was the scene as I breakfasted beside Lake Wendouree. My weekend in Ballarat was oh-so-cold. But here is the picture in The Age to-day just a short step away from my breakfast place:


Monday, July 16, 2007

Dignity of work forum at Mitcham

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

PolMin, along with the Victorian Council of Churches, the Uniting Church’s Commission for Mission and Anglican Church’s Social Resposibilities Committee is sponsoring a forum about Dignity at Work.

The guest speakers will be three minimum wage workers from the USA who are in Australia on an ACTU sponsored tour.

The forum is being held in the marginal federal seat of Deakin and forms part of PolMin’s Just Work campaign.

Dignity at Work Forum - Minimum Wage Workers from the USA speak out

Thursday 26 July 2007
St John’s Catholic Church
494 Maroondah Hwy Mitcham

If you require a *pdf file for printing out the poster, please email Miss Eagle

Pearson, crabs, and crab-pots

So much is heard of Noel Pearson in relation to solutions for problems confronting Aboriginal communities that, to the casual watcher, it might seem that there are no Aboriginal leaders other than he - and, if perhaps there were, certainly none with anything intelligible and intelligent to say. The reason for this is not only Pearson's own self-promotion. Here is an Aboriginal leader saying what certain powers that be want to hear. A man who speaks their language. Pearson's ideas fitted the economic rationalism [sic] of certain whitefella ideals. What a meeting of minds.

The senior indigenous leadership of the nation - including Pearson - though having individual differences have always endeavoured to provide a united front. This has been an admirable effort. Reflect now on what is happening with Pearson. Walk a mile in the moccasins of the national Aboriginal leadership. Miss Eagle's guess is that they are saying to and among themselves: Great, Noel. You've put Aboriginal policy issues on the front pages of the newspapers and in the forefront of the Prime Minister's mind. But, real-ly great, Noel -irony, irony- look what you have brought about.
In Miss Eagle's former employment as a union official it used to be known as bringing on the crabs. In other words, the crabs don't always stay in their crab-pots and once they get out they can crawl all over you and nip and bite and tear you to shreds.

Guess what, Noel? My bet is that the senior indigenous leadership of the nation are thinking that you have brought on the crabs. You've lifted the lid of the crab-pot, Noel, but it's not been good news.

Aboriginal leaders are now speaking out: Pat Turner, Mick Dodson, Bev Manton, as well as the man who is, arguably, the most senior of all the indigenous leadership, the Father of Reconciliation, Patrick Dodson. Here is Patrick's latest press comment.

And now that it is quite clear that the crabs are out and about, we appear to have Pearson himself backing away from what he has unleashed. Here he is on 27/6 attacking critics while maintaining some reservations. Here he is less than thirty minutes ago as my fingers hit the keyboard. To-night Four Corners on the ABC at 8.30pm, Pearson's own program of solutions for Cape York communities comes under scrutiny.
And, in case, you think that Pearson saying one size does not fit all is quite generous of him. Miss E recalls when Linda Burney, Aboriginal leader and a minister in the NSW Government, and Rick Farley appeared on Late Night Live with Phillips Adams on 13 May 2006. Adams asked Linda what she thought of Pearson's policies. There was a slight hesitancy and Linda said that what needed to be remembered is that one size did not fit all communities. This, Miss Eagle believes, was the first time this phrase was used in relation to Pearson's policies.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Risky ratings!

Free Online Dating

Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

Read on, dear and gentle Reader, at your own risk. This program rates your blog and it has received an R rating because of the following:

death (5x)
pain (4x)
dick (3x)
torture (2x)
dangerous (1x)

And they complain about censorship in China?!?

Non-violence: a canonized cause?

Non-violence is not an airy-fairy ideal. It is and has been practised by real people. Undoubtedly, at great cost - at times - to the significant individuals struggling against violence in a non-violent way in significant causes. Pop over to Ponder This and see this wordless comment on the practitioners of non-violence.

John Howard's arresting case...

Will someone please arrest John Howard? Where are the AFP when you need them? I hear you ask, dear and gentle Reader, on what charge? Disturbing the peace, and - in particular - my peace.

Between Howard and Keating competing in the Shock and Awe Eisteddfod, it's enough to make one want to reach for the valium

But I only want Howard arrested. He is the one who is threatening to invade the lives of the undeserving poor. With the armed intervention of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and the fiscal intervention of Centrelink in child raising, Miss Eagle's blood is on a semi-permanent simmer.

I'll let Denis over at The Body Politic is ill say it for me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Can Australia build a netroots nation?

Australian politicians - at least on the left of the political spectrum - are making it across to My Space. But do Australian pollies want to build a netroots nation? That icon of left-wing blogging, Daily Kos, has an annual festal gathering in The DailyKos Convention which will be held this year in Chicago from August 2-5. Last year it was Vegas - so it gets around.

This year's convention will be of major interest as the American political cycle heads into the primaries. Next year's, of course, will be vital as the cycle comes full circle to the Presidential election.

Now Australia has a smaller population base than the USA and the take up rate of blogging has not been as penetrating as the take up rate of the mobile phone and colour television. So Australia may be a while away from organizing its own serious, full-blown, politician-laden political convention.
And who in the blogosphere would take on the job of organizing such a gathering? Miss Eagle suggests Larvatus Prodeo with that eminence gris, John Quiggin, as conference patron. Any other suggestions?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tony Abbott, WorkChoices and The Communion of Saints

There's little doubt about it - but PolMin's campaign against Howard's workplace relations laws is hitting home if Tony Abbott's rave to-day in The Oz is anything to go by. Abbott might be on message with Cardinal George Pell but he doesn't seem to be with Bishop Kevin Manning. Surprise, surprise!

And - since when did Tony Abbott have an aversion to pre-Vatican II intensity... with its invocations of authority, dogmatic pronouncements and references to the natural order even if it did manage to apply to PolMin. Abbot says he's nostalgic as anyone for the church triumphant but wonder about this application of pseudo-theological rigour to political rather than to religious faith.

Miss Eagle got the giggles at that last quote. Abbot doesn't seem to have an understanding of the ancient Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints. He should be referring to the Church Militant (those of us still on Planet Earth). Tony, it's not only trade unions who get militant - the church does too!

The Church Triumphant is all those in Heaven so I'm not sure whether all those nuns and brothers have managed to co-opt them to the PolMin campaign at this time - but I'm sure if there was a late Nov/early Dec election and a concerted appeal was made by PolMin to the Church Triumphant on 1 Nov celebrations (All Saints Day) then anything might be possible.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kevin Rudd goes a price watching - ACCC and all!

Kevin, didn't know you cared. Fancy you referring to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) a price watch mechanism on grocery prices.

Fresh from the support of Howard's Aboriginal Shock and Awe/Blitzkrieg, via an appearance at the Lowy Institute for International Policy explaining how to tidy up the nether regions surrounding the island continent, your positioning yourself as the consumer's best friend. A-a-a-h, Kevin.

Sorry, don't see you as either Ralph Nader or a re-incarnation of Gabby Horan. However, there are a few things, Kevin, that Miss Eagle would like to know:

  1. When Woolworths campaigns on rolling back prices what does this mean for a) employees and b) the farmers who supply Woolworths. Perhaps these questions could be directed to Roger Corbett AM (for Woolworths) and Donald McGauchie AO (for the National Farmers Federation and all farmers) who are each members of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia?
  2. Does rolling back food prices or depressing prices through monopoly/duopoly market share mean depressing the income of workers and farmers?
  3. If this is so, doesn't it mean that consumers ought to be told the truth about how cheap food at the hands of a retail oligarchy can mean a lower livelihood for many Australians? Y'see, Kev, some of us are a bit scared of the Wal-Mart syndrome - and even an invasion of Wal-Mart itself (what with Wal-Mart's mascot of The Rollback Man 'n' all).
  4. Would you run this by Warwick McKibbin, another RBA Board member, next time you are over at the Lowy Institute - particularly when, in a globalized economic environment, governments in higher waged western countries are looking at ways of depressing incomes to compete with low-waged Asian countries providing huge numbers of cheap imports.
  5. Oops - after the last part of Q.4 Miss E recalled how we have an almost open slather - due to the lessening or elimination of tariffs and quotas - for imports irrespective of the Current Account Deficit. But perhaps you and Warwick can nut this one out as well.
  6. While you're at it, could you run over and have a chat with Ian Harper at the Fair Pay Commission? You might take Warwick with you. Professor Harper made it plain in his recent speech at the National Press Club that, other than the RBA, his was the only organisation with such economic and decision-making independence and that it was the RBA that the FPC should be most logically compared with. With the RBA's role on interest rates and the FPC's role for the lowly paid, this is of cold comfort to the recipients of the low wage rise just given in an economy said to be booming and whose high-end recipients could pay the annual wages of numerous low wage earners all on their own.

So Kevin - more and better information please, otherwise this is merely window-dressing and a very poor attempt to look like a man of the ordinary people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trial by Jury - it's no operetta

The following statement was published in Crikey to-day.
Last year, twelve jurors found three Western Australian men guilty of the murder of Phillip Walsham nine years ago. The men were at the centre of last year's controversial Australian Story three-part series "Beyond Reasonable Doubt". Last Friday, the Western Australian Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of the men who were serving life jail terms. The following statement was released yesterday. It represents the opinion of the majority of the jurors:
Every stakeholder in this case has been allowed to express their opinion in the media with the exception of the twelve people who were charged with the responsibility of making an extremely difficult decision.
As a jury, the justice system forbids us to have a public voice on what occurred within the jury room during the trial. This we respect.
We would, however, like to express our deep frustration at a number of things that have occurred since our decision was handed down.
There are a number of issues that we would like to address, along with our concern and disgust at the obvious bias and inaccuracy of much of the media representation.
We did not choose to be jurors on this trial. We were initially selected by means of a ballot system, with final approval by the defendants, the defence and the prosecution. Once selected we all acted professionally throughout the trial.
We all took the role of juror very seriously. We are all intelligent and professional people who were prepared to listen to both sides of the case and were more than capable of analysing the evidence presented to us.
When we went into deliberations we did so carefully, thoroughly and did not allow emotion to enter into our decision-making process. Our decision was based purely on the evidence put to us.
We all support and recognise the need for, and right of, appeal.
We recognise that it is the prerogative of the appeal judges to overturn a jury’s decision.
Unfortunately, a decision that took many days to reach has now been ruled as “unsafe and unsatisfactory”. What part of our decision was “unsatisfactory”? We made the only decision we felt possible on the evidence presented to us over the ten weeks. Does the decision of the appeal judges undergo the same thorough scrutiny?
We are disgusted with the subsequent public attack on the jury – specifically, our integrity and ability to make reasoned decisions. It is easy to blame and speculate about the jury when their decision does not suit. Remember, the system chose us. We did not choose to be on the case.
Our experience has led us to believe that the jury system is a farce. If the judicial system deems that a jury is unable to make reasoned decisions in a high profile and/or prolonged case, then surely those cases should only be heard before a panel of appeal judges. Why do juries even exist? Criticism of the decision we accept, what we object to is the public maligning of us personally. Again, the system chose us.
The media reporting of the case has been scandalous. Certain commentators have stated they heard all ten weeks of the trial. Not one media representative heard all the evidence presented – the evidence on which the jury based their decision. Much of what has been put in the public domain by so-called commentators, both in newspapers and on the internet, has been biased, speculative and factually inaccurate.
One constant criticism leveled at the jury has been the amount of speculation allegedly made by them in the process of them reaching their verdict. How ironic it is that those same people are now speculating themselves about the alleged prejudices of the jury and their ability to make decisions without emotion.
Do those charged with the responsibility of informing the public have an obligation to be factually correct and unbiased? Unfortunately, it appears not. Some, it appears, align themselves with one side and present only the information beneficial to their case. Sadly, the West Australian public in general have not been given an unbiased account of the facts and as such go on believing that another miscarriage of justice has been averted.
This was a legitimate trial by twelve peers. Is this really justice?
Have you come to the end of this statement, dear Reader, feeling slightly troubled, perturbed? Miss Eagle has been concerned for some time about erosion of the principles surrounding and undergirding trial by jury. For nations whose law is founded on British common law, being innocent until proven guilty and trial by jury are foundations of our freedom.
When there are outcries about our judicial system, it seems to Miss E that large sectors of the community have forgotten, if they had ever learned it in the first place, that - in our system - it has traditionally been held that rather ten guilty people go free than one innocent person is condemned.
Scotland has, by tradition, had majority verdicts - but do we really need majority verdicts? The cost of running the judicial system means that major trials which are expected to be lengthy frequently carry "understudy" jurors. Queries frequently arise about where jurors are equipped to make decisions based on highly specialised or abstruse expert opinion. We are seeing moves to remove the principle of double jeopardy. We see the possibility of jury interference - particularly in the dramatised documentary, Joh's Jury, which told the story of a widely held view of interference which resulted in a hung jury.
All these factors and more lead to consideration of more widespread use of judicial rather than jury trials. Judicial trials are more common in civil cases than criminal cases in higher jurisdictions although one has to be alert to changes which allow more power to the summary jurisdiction of Magistrates without referral to higher jurisdictions.
We hear a lot to-day about requiring of new immigrants seeking citizenship a knowledge of Australian values. Miss Eagle hasn't noticed that any of these values make reference to being innocent until proven guilty, to the right of trial by a jury of one's peers.
And, on the topic of a jury of one's peers, one wonders whether this could be streamlined. Juries are not publicised under our system - that is why the statement above is highly unusual. Miss E - along with most Australians - would not advocate the way of the U.S. where individual jurors speak to the media soon after a trial. But Miss E is not aware how many Aboriginal people were on the jury in the recent Chris Hurley trial following the death of Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee. Would an all white jury verdict differ from the verdict where Aboriginal people were included in such a situation?
Plain and simple - Miss Eagle believes that Australia waters down or over-rides the trial by jury system with great caution. However slight the erosion, this might pose/or already poses a threat to the entire principle. Judicial oversight cannot, in Miss E's view, become the 100% decision making process at law. There must be room for authentic peer review.

Monday, July 09, 2007

No investment - nor roads: No intentionality - no direction in Aboriginal Australia

Geoff Robinson, political historian and lecturer in Australian Studies and Politics at Deakin University, has chipped in at Crikey to-day with some words of wisdom. Geoff says:-
Who would be surprised by the problems in remote indigenous communities?
Back in 1970 Charles Rowley predicted the emergence of endemic pauperism if rural and regional indigenous people did not gain a foothold in the real economy.
What have Australian governments done to assist economic activity in rural and regional Australia? Plenty for white farmers; rural adjustment schemes are set to persist longer than the agrarian socialism that they were supposed to bury and we have drought relief designed to compensate for the surprising fact of drought in Australia.
According to the 2007 budget papers the Commonwealth has spent $1.4b in drought relief since 2001. For 2007-11 the adjustment scheme Agriculture Advancing Australia is planned to cost over $360m. The 2004 sugar industry support program promised $444m. What is there for the support of economic activity by indigenous people to support economic activity, as distinct from making it harder for them to access welfare in the hope this will encourage them to find jobs somewhere or somehow?

The 2007-08 budget offered $23m to apply activity tests to welfare recipients. More jobs for white public servants here. There was only $0.6m for an actual jobs program for indigenous rangers to detect illegal fishing. There is a program to build an indigenous workforce in government services delivery but it amounts only to an increased funding of $31.3m over four years and most of these will just be shifted from existing work for the dole programs.

The recent Northern Territory crisis package offers community cleanups on a work for the dole basis. Will struggling storekeepers in country towns have to sweep streets to get drought assistance? The government has established a taskforce to investigate options for irrigation agriculture in northern Australia but is it addressing indigenous employment? Isn’t it time that indigenous Australians and white farmers received equal concern?

Miss Eagle's suggestion for economic participation are:
  1. All weather roads to Aboriginal communities. Without this basic lifeline of transport and communication no community, black or white, can begin to build an economy.
  2. Air strips - for similar reasons.
  3. Building communities which specialise in the delivery of community services. Employment classifications for Tennant Creek are dominated by the number of people employed in community services. This is duplicated across the nation in rural Australia. With investment, intentionality, mentoring and direction, Aboriginal communities - just like white communities - can build themselves up economically as a service centre. Services can be commercial, health, educational, or tourism.

Such participation should go far beyond the Work for the Dole schemes. Work for the Dole schemes should be seen as transition schemes of basic economic participation - not as ends in themselves.