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Thursday, 22 April 2004

Deadline?

As I mentioned, I read Australia Said to Push Aborigines' Plight to the Sidelines in the NY Times on Sunday. The reporter was in Walgett, N.S.W., where a boy named TJ Hickey grew up, telling me that many aboriginal kids in the region have left school due to severe health problems and bullying. (TJ Hickey was an aboriginal teenager whose death sparked a riot in Sydney's Redfern earlier this year.)

This was a very different article from the ones I found in further reading. I went to some Australian news sites, where the announcement wasn't even front page news. The articles I did find all made reference to the troubles of Geoff Clark - the first elected chair of ATSIC (suspended in 2003), and very little mention of any of the good works and progress which ATSIC has made in its young life.

I was surprised to learn more than a few interesting things from the last ATSIC Review, released November 2003:
I also read (yet) another review published in March 2003, written by Bill Gray, the innaugural CEO of ATSIC. Gray pointed out that ATSIC was the third attempt by Goverment to create a structure within government to represent indigenous interests. Many argued at the time that a statutory authority would be more effective, as opposed to a stock-standard government department, mainly due to the fact that its structure and design could be more flexible than a traditional department. Thus, Gray was given the task of leading the creation of a new framework for ATSIC, which just happened to be built on a foundation of human rights and the right to self-determination.

Now, I was going to write more of a review of my own findings, but thought that was a bit governmenty, and not in the spirit of this blog. The last review I mentioned is a good read -- it makes several very useful and constructive recommendations about how to continue to improve the service ATSIC provides, and i'm not sure why this is just being thrown out. .So, apart from all that stuff, here's the deal.

Expecting accountability of an organisation which receives government funding is FINE. Training indigenous staff (or anyone!) to work in new and better ways is GOOD. Having elected Aboriginal representatives provide the link between their communities and the Government is GREAT. Violating human rights is BAD.

ATSIC should not be closed down. It is good for all Australians, and i'm pretty sure the wider Australian community agrees with me, except for idiots who can't see past all the mud sticking to Clarke.

I think, it's fair to say, the Howard Government was weakening the organisation to push it over.
Mark Latham, Leader of the Opposition

Once again, white Australia has deleted Aboriginal Australia's concerns from the governmental field of vision, when there is ongoing, fundamental human rights abuse going on in our backyard. Apart from attracting the attention of the world, which sees us as an overtly racist nation, this is a BAD DECISION and a move BACKWARDS.

Here are few references sites I found in my travels if you're interested...

. ATSIC faces a leadership test (26 Feb 2003)
. Government attempts coup d'etat at ATSIC (30 April 2003)
. Billion Dollar Babies (16 April 2004)
Posted at 12:38 am
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