Me? Sit down

I am a Gamileraay woman who wants to leave this world better than it was when I arrived but we are going backwards which makes me angry and the result is I have a lot to say and sometime, the truth makes me unpopular.

I am also a suffering optimist, I try to see positivity in things but find that is generally only my family that provides the positivity in an otherwise politically depressing world.

Stick around and nod your head, join the discussion and give me a piece of your mind.

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Friday, 17 July 2015

Abbott Governent: Incompetent, Sinister, Immoral.

I DON'T know anyone that voted for the current government – perhaps I do and they’re too ashamed to admit it – but in any event, it feels as though every person I speak to is either in a haze of confusion or in a state of irate contempt. One thing is for sure, there is consensus among those I speak with that this government is not fit to represent us.

At best, it is the most incompetent and intellectually void example of elected government and at worst (and perhaps more accurately), it is the most sinister and immoral group of individuals banded together in a common goal of individual wealth accumulation (theirs) at the expense of the Australian people (us).

Read more here.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A Brighter Tomorrow?

Amnesty International released their report, ‘A Brighter Tomorrow’ (the Report) on 3 June 2015 at the National Press Club in Canberra.

The Report details the glaring statistics including the fact that youth incarceration is at its highest rate since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody some 20 years ago.

The report was launched by Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Salil Shetty who said:

Australia locks up Indigenous children, from as young as 10 years old, at one of the highest rates in the world. Overrepresentation is rising, with Indigenous children making up less than 6% of the population of 10–17 year-olds yet more than half (58 per cent) of young people in detention.”

The Report commended the numerous programs that are being initiated by Aboriginal communities, including the Justice Reinvestment Program which is part of the Maranguka initiative which is a grass-roots justice reinvestment project that aims to empower the Aboriginal community in Bourke and means ‘care for others.’

This strategy is a community led strategy where the money spent on incarceration is redirected to rehabilitation and education, in addition to, community programs which determine why the crimes occurred in the first place and addressing the individual and community issues which lead to crime. This multi-disciplinary approach not only addresses the issue of crime but it improves outcomes of the families of those assisted and the community at large because the educational opportunities undoubtedly assist in achieving a higher standard of living which flows through.

The intent is to stop youths from offending before they become part of the justice system and to find more appropriate ways to rehabilitate and educate to avoid reoffending. It may be that a youth involved in theft would be given an opportunity for further education or employment; a driving offender given assistance to obtain a legal license with safe driver training or perhaps a realistic plan for bail reoffenders from breaching their conditions.

Mr Shetty experienced this work in Bourke first hand when he visited and said:

I’m inspired by the innovative work Indigenous communities are doing across Australia to bring up a new generation of young people, but the Australian Government needs to catch up, and fund the programs that have been shown to work in keeping Indigenous kids out of prison, and making communities safer - it’s a win/win for all Australians.”

The Indigenous communities that are trailblazing in this new area of community based justice reinvestment are doing so for the benefit of their communities, however, there is the additional benefit that education and rehabilitation ultimately costs less than incarcerating.

Mr Shetty confirmed that:

In Australia it costs $440,000 per year to detain each child, meaning the cost of just one year of detention could instead put a young Indigenous person through an entire undergraduate medical degree.”

Mr Shetty confirmed that the Report makes a number of recommendations to the Commonwealth and state governments, including:

·                To conform with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for any person up to the age of 17 detention must be a measure of last resort

·                Any state of territory laws that treat persons below the age of 12 as criminally responsible should be declared invalid

·                Australia should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and allow inspections of youth detention facilities to ensure standards are being met

·                Australia should recognise Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders as a disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Mr Shetty reiterated the criticism Australia has received international with respect to its breaches of international obligations with respect to children, particularly Indigenous children, and affirmed a further recommendation of the adoption of the Indigenous Justice Reinvestment strategies:

Australia must seize this once-in-a-generation chance to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children out of prison and make communities safer.

The Sydney launch of the campaign took place in the Redfern Community Centre on 12 June 2015 where a number of speakers were empanelled to discuss the vast work ahead in combatting the numerous issues facing the Indigenous community, particularly the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in our justice system.

Shane Phillips, a Bunjalung, Wonnarua and Bidjigal man and CEO of Tribal Warrior and Program Coordinator of Clean Slate Without Prejudice spoke of his experience with the criminal justice system and the fact that there is a need for community driven change.

Mr Phillips having the experience of an uneasy relationship with police, following contact with the police to come to solution, set out to effect change to the lives of the Indigenous youth of Redfern who were mentored and provided with guidance to achieve success by using their time productively which has seen a reduction of criminal activity and success for the youths involved in the program.

Mr Phillips is proud of the Indigenous youth that he has mentored over the years and considers the positive change of one Indigenous child to be a success. Mr Phillips said:

“the success is plain to see, all you need to do is come down to the gym before school one morning to see the kids and how they are making healthy decisions.”

Mr Phillips said that his formula is not complicated:

“all you need to do is help them with setting up a routine from reasonable bed times to ensuring attendance at school and healthy physical outlets and their pride follows when they can see the results for themselves.”

Mr Phillips says that it is rewarding to see the sense of self and pride in them as they succeed in their goals.

Kerry Graham, a social justice advocate with Just Reinvest NSW, spoke of her experience in children’s justice and how the situation is complex but the answer to addressing this injustice is so simple. Ms Graham says, “the answer lies within the communities, the elders and the cultural teachings are what will make a fundamental shift.”

Elizabeth Wymarra, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander from the Wakaith people from Badu Island in the western Torres Strait region of far north Queensland and the Gudang Aboriginal people from Injinoo and Mapoon community in Cape York; is a writer, performing artist and youth worker who was most passionate in her discussion during the launch.

Ms Wymarra spoke of the importance of speaking about the reasons why there are such atrocious statistics; racism. Racism is at the heart of every policy and governmental decision which has subverted Indigenous people over the last 227 years and Ms Wymarra is passionate about the education system getting a shake up to ensure future generations of Australians don’t continue the racist policies.

While Amnesty International is committed and passionate to contributing to a brighter future for Indigenous people, at the heart of the problem is the fact that change will always fail where the community is not consulted and/or the drivers of change.




Friday, 3 July 2015

Inspiring Wiradjuri Woman!

Sue Townsend (nee Green), a Wiradjuri woman and Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales has graduated with her PhD in Social Work and was further awarded the Dean’s award in the form of a grant to publish her thesis.

The PhD thesis examined how Aboriginal welfare policies were formulated and implemented within the colony of New South Wales, through an examination of key colonial documents, such as governor’s instructions, correspondence between governor’s and the Colonial Secretaries Office including a number of inquiries into the conditions of Aboriginal people that occurred prior to 1860.

This research will be quite pivotal to understanding of the social aspects of policy formation and the effects of such policies and there can be references made to current policies and their success or failure may be more readily predicted.

Mrs Townsend, before taking her teaching role as Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, was the Director of Nura Gili Indigenous Student Centre for 8 years. During this time she commenced the ground breaking Winter Schools and Pre-Programs which exposed High School students to the university and inspired them to continue on for further studies. She was also instrumental in not only an increased presence of Indigenous students at the university and raising awareness internationally of Indigenous Australians; the culture, the history, the social policies and ramifications of such social policies through her teaching.

Mrs Townsend was very hands on in her role as Director of Nura Gili and would engage with students and staff alike to ensure the needs of the students were addressed and all assistance provided to ensure ultimate success with studies. Mrs Townsend instigated the academic skills assistance to ensure students who were having difficulties were taught strategies to overcome learning difficulties and flourish throughout their studies.

Mrs Townsend, until recently marrying, was a single mother of three children while working and completing her studies and attending hospitals for extended stays for her eldest son who was battling leukaemia for a large part of his childhood.

The academic heights being achieved by Mrs Townsend would not be possible for ordinary people, Mrs Townsend is quite simply every bit the warrior woman that Wiradjuri people personify and she is a most deserving recipient of academic accolade. Her colleagues, students past and present and her community are most proud of her success which continues to inspire.
I know Sue personally and cannot express how honoured this makes me. I have been mentored and believed in by a woman who I respect more than I can ever say. Sue took th time to get to know the students that attended UNSW and came to Nura Gili, she considered them under her care and anything we were going through - she would want to help. At the tender age of 18 I left everyone I knew to move to Sydney for University and Sue assisted me in finding accommodation, showing me where to shop, gave me her personal mobile number and always had her office door open for me. I would often stop by just to chat with Sue because I felt like she was a great sounding board for me and always made me consider angles I hadn't previously thought of. She taught me a great many things in her classes that I took and outside of class in her manner and conversations. I developed a love for her children who became friends I still see today because, like their mother, they are tender hearted but strong beyond compare. Their mother taught them well.
Sue, thank you - for all that you have done for me personally and all that you continue to do for our people. You inspire me and I am so proud to have had my character and outlook on life shaped by you.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Why we should all be worried about Recognise.

As we know, the constitutional debate is heating up with the government's constitutional summit scheduled to be held in Sydney shortly. The venue and participants are a secret, but one thing is for certain, dissenters and those that are asking questions are certainly not on the guest list.

There is a massive amount of confusion and debate within the Indigenous community regarding whether you are for or against constitutional recognition and, more specifically, the Recognise movement.

The major issue I have with Recognise is that the campaign started to garner support before the substantive wording and legal ramifications were put to Indigenous communities for consultative discussions. The fact that this is a campaign championed by Abbott himself and for us to be suspicious, we need only look to the bread crumbs he has already left us.

The Liberal policy document says:

".....the ordinary law of the land is observed – in indigenous communities no less than in the general community

... The key objective of a referendum will be to achieve a unifying moment for the nation, similar to that achieved by the 1967 constitutional referendum."

What is important is not what is said in the policy document, but rather what is not said. The government does not consider that the constitutional recognition will be anything more than a unifying moment for the 'nation.' This means that white Australia can pat themselves on the back for something.

There is no mention of sovereignty, there is no mention of addressing social and cultural injustice, there is no mention of reparation for historical injustice and genocide.

The intent of the government is clear. If the above breadcrumbs were not clear enough, let us consider the conduct of the government with respect to Indigenous Affairs since being elected:

Here is a quick summary of the cuts we know about so far:
Now, here is what the Government is actually doing:
  • Building more police stations in Aboriginal communities;
  • Initiating the following ‘programs’:
    • jobs, land and the economy;
    • children and schooling;
    • safety and wellbeing;
    • culture and capability; and
    • remote Australia strategies
What these programs actually entail, is the opposite of what the rhetoric suggests; in essence, it is the continuation of assimilationist policy through completely destroying Indigenous communities through closures, child removals, incarceration and disenfranchising people and communities.

The supposed 'Indigenous Advancement Strategy' has lead to numerous further funding cuts to essential Indigenous services, including the telephone service for Aboriginal people who find themselves in custody. It has lead to very profitable businesses for certain organisations that are willing to capitulate to LNP party policy (support for Recognise is on the application forms).

The more disappointing outcome of this debate is perhaps the underhanded behaviour of many of those involved with Recognise.

IndigenousX recognised a theme on social media among the Indigenous community, and the theme was that there was large pockets of opposition to Recognise or suspicion of its motives given that there has not been any official wording provided for community consideration. A community based survey then did the rounds and the findings were analysed by Celeste Liddle and demonstrated that the majority of those surveyed were against constitutional recognition as it stands.

Rather than recognising (pun totally intended) that the Indigenous community affected by the proposed changes were in large part opposed or undecided, and informing the community and allowing consultation. Recognise came out and attempted to undermine the credibility of the community run and analysed survey.

Let me be clear - this government and Recognise do not want dissent. They also do not want a treaty where they will be held to agreed standards of policy, reparation and land rights.

This means to undermine us and if you are in doubt, follow the bread crumbs left for yourself.
I will leave you with this pearler:

“… nothing but bush … the Marines, and the convicts and the sailors … must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon…. Everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw…”