Six years ago, Miss Eagle was working in Walgett in north-western NSW. The local whitefellas there had organised themselves to provide a scholarship for rural doctors. Medical personnel in private practice are in short supply in mainstream communities in remote Australia. People want to bring doctors to their communities and want to work hard to give them a good lifestyle and so retain them as long as possible. Whitefellas in the bush realise that their best chances are:
- Train doctors who have grown up in the bush and are likely to want to return to the bush - or at least have a good think about it.
- Encourage new doctors to the bush by doing part of their practical training in bush hospitals and situations and further encouraging them with a purpose-built bush scholarship.
In a difficult situation, this is reasonable thinking - but it does not absolve governments of their responsibilities - and it expresses the commitment of a local community.
Unfortunately, Aboriginal communities are not able to get together to raise the great wads of cash needed for medical scholarship funding. Even if those concerned gave up their grog and their drugs, the money would have to go to families first.
However, the best bet of getting medicos out into remote Australia is the same two points that have swung white remote communities into action.
More Aboriginal health professionals are coming through our universities. There has been good work done with the training of Aboriginal Health Workers (the original idea came from that of the Barefoot Doctors in Mao's China). A generation further on what are we doing to fund and build on the professionalism of Aboriginal Health Workers so that that from these ranks more Aboriginal health professionals can be put through universities and back into the areas of highest need?
The thing that has always sickened me in the language and actions of Howard and his lackeys is they carry on as if no one prior to their military intervention was doing anything of any value. They had turned their backs years before - meanwhile other parts of humanity, black and white and brindle, were carrying on through thick and thin, funding cuts, isolation, deaf ears and everything that the Howard lot found politically on the outer, politically incorrect. The deaf ears and detachment of the Howard crew cost lives and cost progress.
And Abbott says that self-determination breeds detachment!
WHAT! If self-determination breeds detachment, the only evidence of it is that Aboriginal self-determination was abhorred by the Howard Government and its lackeys and, as a consequence, THEY detached themselves from any interest in Aboriginal people, their situation, their communities.
Sure pay people good money - but pay Aboriginal people already in place and on the ground good money too. And money is not everything. If someone does not have the right spirit and attitude, money won't keep them there long and it certainly won't keep them there through the hard yards.
Will government provide professional development on the ground for all professionals: health, education, justice irrespective of whether of whether they are university or TAFE qualified? You see, governments are very good at doing the flashy stuff like toys and technology and the flash-in-the-pan stuff of big budget announcements. It is not good at the incremental building of solid foundations and structures which will last and which will deliver. Whitefellas lose interest and head back to their capital cities - and blame everyone else for any failures.
And, finally, how will government help to build and revive economies in inland Australia. The mining companies fly in and fly out and do not contribute to community building and localised economies as once they did. Corporate agriculture does not always contribute to local communities in meaningful and substantial ways - but then family owned farming enterprises don't always either. I always remember the quote from western Queensland "..as long as there's a post office to pick up the mail." But may be, in these days of email and digital phones and faxes, he can live without the post office. And then there's the shopping. Woolworths and Coles don't sprout in much of inland Australia. You go to major cities or regional centres for that and the dollar goes away from local communities and economies.
But this nation has made millionaires (including a Labor Prime Minister's wife) out of employment programs for unemployed people, so why can't the same fertile minds turn their attentions to the building of economies in remote Australia for both black and white communities. They would benefit. We would all benefit. Communities would be stronger and more cohesive. Tax coffers could get some additional input. Let's do some real nation building in the inland for black and white communities.