Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blaming the victim

Spurred by recent reports of appalling conditions in remote Aboriginal communities, Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott is calling for a "new paternalism" to improve Aborigines' living standards. He begins his call to take up the White Man's Burden by claiming that

The fundamental problem here is not lack of spending...

I'm sorry, but a large part of the problem is a lack of spending. In health, education, and basic infrastructure, Aboriginal communities receive less per capita than white Australia, and certainly far less than they need. For example, in the Northern Territory, the government spends only half the amount it should on "Service to Indigenous Communities". It spends less than half as much per-capita on basic education in Aboriginal communities as it does on average - and its closer to a twentieth when the comparison is made with large urban areas like Darwin. And when it does spend money, typically at the behest of the Federal government, it is spent on bureaucrats rather than service delivery - assuming it is spent at all. According to a recent study, practically every state underspends Federal money allocated for improving housing in Aboriginal communities. The result is that Aborigines are left to languish in substandard housing, because "their" government is simply uninterested in helping them, despite having money allocated specifically for the purpose.

Not that the Federal government is immune. According to Oxfam, the Australian government grossly underfunds indigenous health, allocating less than a tenth of what is required. The result is catastrophic: infant mortality three times higher and a life expectancy seventeen years shorter than the Australian average.

Then there's the law enforcement issue. I was appalled to read recently that Aboriginal women wanting to report domestic violence and sexual assaults - exactly the problems that have sparked Abbott's call for paternalism - were being locked up on outstanding warrants for minor crimes, while their complaints were ignored and their abusers allowed to walk free. Which just does wonders to encourage victims to come forward and report crimes...

Many of the problems of aboriginal communities - the poor health care, the squalid housing, the lack of jobs or education, the culture of lawlessness - are the natural consequence of the Australian government's longstanding policy of neglect towards its indigenous people. But rather than address that, Tony Abbott would rather talk about a "culture of directionlessness". I guess it’s just easier and cheaper to blame the victim than actually try and do something about it...


i remember interviewing the CE of an aboriginal organisation in melbourne. they hired a consultant to try and source money for them to conduct alcohol and drug rehabilitation, and he found a number of places, including a melbourne university, who were allocated funding, but did not extent this funindg to aboriginal people.

the contacted the university immediately to ask for the funding. the university was of course shocked that anyone had come forward at all.

this is not uncommon.

Posted by che tibby : 6/24/2006 08:49:00 AM