The ABC Lateline program has exposed child prostitution in some Aboriginal communities catering to passing truckies. The federal opposition leader, Brendan Nelson has called for an extension of the Northern Territory intervention into these communities.
“The Intervention” has come to mean nothing. John Howard and Mal Brough’s plan is being dismantled, although much slower that N.T. Aboriginal people would like.
“The Intervention” has come to mean an ideological, non-specific plan for urgent action. It seems the Howard/Brough plan was never much more than this, but now that a new regime is redesigning policy and programs, “the Intervention” is just an illusion of recent history, not a real policy framework.
Brendan Nelson has called for “the Intervention” in W.A. and Qld. as well as communities on trucking routes.
There is still a strong backlash, including protests, to the N.T. intervention, which has no doubt strengthened people in N.T. communities in their negotiations with the new government. However there has also been opposition to extending “the intervention” into W.A. and Qld.
I don’t know anything of the W.A. situation but I have been following Cape York politics. Brendan Nelson has called for a Cape York Intervention. Protestors have protested against the Cape York Intervention. But the trial of welfare Quarantining in Cape York has nothing to do with “the intervention”. The Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, in particular Noel Pearson has been lobbying for a range of reforms including welfare reform for a decade, a long time before Mal Brough dreamed up the N.T. Intervention.
The Cape York trial is an Aboriginal initiative, which has been developed over a decade. It does not impose a blanket welfare quarantine as the N.T. intervention did; it is only for people who are referred to a “Family responsibilities commission” by community agencies for such things as child neglect. The communities have volunteered to be part of the trial.
The trial is certainly not unanimously embraced in the Cape, but a particular leadership, including traditional elders, has done the black business over the last ten years and now managed to get some government support for their program.
Most importantly, unlike the N.T, intervention, welfare quarantining and the Family Responsibilities commission in Cape York is part of a broader program of housing, education and economic development.
Just as John Howard, Mal Brough and now Brendan Nelson see “the intervention” as a one size fits all program for all Aboriginal communities, there has been a one size fits all opposition to “the intervention” including opposition to local Aboriginal initiatives such as the Cape York welfare quarantine trial.
Brendon Nelson’s call for “the intervention” to deal with child prostitution on trucking routes is a clear example of blaming the victim. The child prostitutes have broken no law; it is the truckies who have committed the crime, yet Nelson sees Aboriginal communities as the focus for action.
Noel Pearson and others from the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership have also been accused of blaming the victim in calling for such things as welfare quarantining. However I believe such accusations do not take into account the desperation in communities such as those in the trial and the willingness to take drastic action, anything to change the way things are. In the news today elders from Aurukun are calling for their children to be taken off the community to go to boarding school because they are not safe in the community.
There is a big difference between blaming the victim and people, especially the victims of history, deciding there is something that they must do, a change that they must make happen on their own, by any means necessary.
Pearson is not blaming the victim. He, like the radical black power movement, proclaims that the white man will give you fuck-all, its no use appealing to them for salvation. This is not blaming the victim.
Even if there is a police intervention into the trucking industry to stop child prostitution, the communities on the trucking routes still must deal with questions of drugs, women’s business, poverty etc. as a community response to child/truckie prostitution, this includes changing the consciousness and behaviour of the victims. This is not blaming the victim, only a recognition that the forces of oppression still exist and the only people who can really do anything about it are the oppressed victims themselves, not the vigilance of the police or the repentance of the truckies for both will never occur.
I disagree with Noel Pearson’s plan but I am not a traditional owner of cape York. I believe there is indeed a one size fits all policy for indigenous issues – self-determination.
Self-determination relies on the capacity of local leaderships to lead. It is the process of growing leadership that is the priority for Aboriginal Australia and that will take on many different and conflicting forms in different communities. The essential issue is the social cohesion and functionality of a particular community or family to govern itself. Questions of the ideological correctness of this or that particular government policy are irrelevant.
Policy illusions of the white government such as “the intervention” or the new one “close the gap” have nothing to do with hope in Aboriginal communities. Only the re-emergence of a cohesive social order and leadership can provide hope.
Malcolm X’s notion of “by any means necessary” should be considered in weighing up the ideological correctness of such things as welfare quarantining Cape York style.
The success of failure of the Cape York trial will depend on who is in charge. What is the entrenched authority of the process? The Devil is always in the detail.
If Cape York elders, men and women are empowered, including by the power of the local police, school and hospital to enact their will in their community, then the trial will succeed. If bureaucrats and police are in charge, by way of “consultation” the whole process will fail.
Keeping control of the process, keeping it out of the control of the government, will be the test of the leadership for Noel Pearson and his associates in Cape York.