Poor bugger them

This morning’s SMH carries a special investigation into alleged large-scale multi-million dollar fraud and mismanagement in various NSW Aboriginal land councils. The scams mostly seem to involve deals and kickbacks with dodgy developers over valuable coastal development sites secured by the land councils by native title claims or given to them by the NSW government under State land rights legislation.

Whose fault is it? The corrupt or incompetent Aboriginal land council and association members? Their advisers? No, you guessed it, it’s the government’s fault!

Warren Mundine, the Labor Party’s federal vice-president and head of its NSW indigenous policy committee, said the state Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Andrew Refshauge, was partly to blame.

“If you were an X-filer and a bit paranoid about things, you’d say the system has been deliberately set up to keep us in poverty,” Mr Mundine said. “You are talking about millions of dollars for the most disadvantaged and alienated people in Australia. We can’t afford to lose a cent, let alone millions.”

Predictably, Mundine’s “blame anyone but ourselves” opinion is shared by other indigenous leaders (and, one suspects, the SMH):

Murray Chapman, the administrator of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, said the legislation was dysfunctional. Informed consent was not being given to some deals. “Aboriginal people live on the margins of our economy and to a lot of [them] the most substantial commercial transaction we have been involved in is the purchase of a motor car. Developers, on the other hand, have years and years of experience in the world of high finance.”

Poor bugger them.

But you can hardly say that the late Charlie Perkins or his accountant son Adam, both of whom seem to have benefited personally from one of the scams, were inexperienced in “the world of high finance”.

The story is a familiar one to observers in the Northern Territory, where this sort of massive fraud and mismanagement have been the norm ever since land rights was enacted in 1976. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in NSW that there might actually be some lessons to be learned from the NT land rights experience.

Pursuing a strategy of commercial schemes based on generating passive “sit down money” profits from Aboriginal land inevitably fails, and even more inevitably exacerbates indigenous welfare dependency. The only viable path to real self-determination requires work, effort, commitment and taking responsibility for one’s own actions. It involves getting a decent education, acquiring practical work skills and getting paid employment, like the Gagudju people in Kakadu are finally doing.

Does the NSW Labor government understand this? Not judging by this story from yesterday:

STUDENTS across NSW will be able to study an Aboriginal language under changes to the state curriculum.

Education Minister Andrew Refshauge said the changes apply to students in kindergarten to year 10 and are an attempt to teach and revive the state’s 70 Aboriginal languages.
“The new kindergarten to year 10 language syllabus means all students no matter where they live or what school they go to can now learn a NSW Aboriginal language,” Dr Refshauge said.

Good one, Andrew. Learning to speak an extinct indigenous language should be an enormous benefit to Aboriginal kids in getting a job in twenty-first century Australia. Your tax dollars at work

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

I quote from my site:

…This brings me back to my position on civil libertarians. Yes they have point. When bastard regimes like Apartheid need tearing down, there is a place for these activists to go forth and do their thing. But when the environment has changed so that all men are equal in the eyes of the law, the job of the activists is over. Their continued input only leads to the creation of ‘victim industries’ which produce anger, alienation and dispute.

No, when legal parity is reached, it is the responsibility of the formerly oppressed to earn respect. The path will be difficult and the timeframe probably generational. But I’m not saying this acceptance of responsibility is the best way to true equality, I’m saying it’s the only way…

Self righteous, sure. But the sort of nonsense you note, along with the SMH’s pandering goes a long way to proving the point.

Oh, if you’re interested, Mike Jericho posted on Refshauge’s latest brainfart as well.

John
John
2022 years ago

Ken,

Your objection to the teaching of ‘extinct indigenous languages’ seems a bit one-sided to me

Students have always been able to study extinct non-indigenous languages, and the employment value has been zero for at least the past fifty years (I did HS Latin, so I have some direct evidence). Even living languages have marginal employment value.

If there’s any justification for getting HS students to learn a language, it’s social and cultural rather than economic. On these counts, Aboriginal languages seem to have as much of a case as European, and a stronger case than Latin.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“the employment value has been zero for at least the past fifty years”

Wasn’t Latin a requirement for entry into Law Schools, more recently than 50 years ago?

Besides, there are writers in Latin and Ancient Greek worth reading in the original. You’d be hard pressed to say the same thing about Aboriginal languages.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Dave are you being a fuckwit on purpose? Although I find the whole lot hilarious – it might have a positive aspect and thsat would be akin to the luxury of reading ancient languages in the original it might give us a greater understanding of where we live. I’d be pretty interested to see it all in action. The language classes I’ve attended in the territory remote schools had an element of disconnection – teacher/elder up front telling all the names for stuff and showing pictures. The kids were ok – very bored – but there are more engaging ways to do it – You know I’ve just writen all this with care factor zero – who is a fuckn idiot – who is having a lazy unedited sat afternoon – you should have seen what happened to me last night – education? fuck off I hate yers all ya fuckn wanker fuckn teacher fuckn parasites fuck ya!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Well, Latin is the root of many European languages of course but very few HS students study Latin these days either. I think it’s essential for any Australian kid to have good English skills. There aren’t that many jobs that require fluency in an Aboriginal language and any that do are going to be incredibly restricted in terms of location and scope. There’s an important cultural element attaching to language in indigenous areas where language is still spoken and I would applaud any efforts to retain and nurture language capacity in those areas. It shouldn’t however be at the expense of fluency in English.

The great drawback in perpetuating indigenous languages is their multiplicity within a relatively small population, spread over a vast land area. Maori has enjoyed a renaissance over the last couple of decades in NZ but it’s great advantage over Australian indigenous languages is that there is one (with very minor dialectic differences) language for all 350,000 Maori. It’s also understandable to Cook Islanders and Tahitians and partially so for Samoans and Tongans. PNG uses Pidgin and Motu in the same way.
East Africa uses Swahili as a lingua franca. Refshauge seeks to revive “70 languages” – the majority of which are not commonly used – amongst a much smaller and far more dispersed population? Please….

It’s the politics of designer boutique ethnicity. If language is to survive it can only do so if there’s a critical mass of people who are using it on a daily basis – Latin has faded from the conscious western linguistic experience for that very reason.

Kev
Kev
2022 years ago

I’m with you all the way Ken. AT Nhullunbuy people were telling me of one lad who’s third language is English. They thought WOW! I thought in a first world country in 2004 that would be fine if the first two were french or German or Chinese or Indonesian etc but any ecessive effort learning local aborigine dialects used by a few hundred people is hardly going to help the kid get a job. Still, the lad was Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s
son and maybe he doesn’t need a job

jen
jen
2022 years ago

I know lots of people who speak ‘language’, kriol and good English. That ability to communicate is valuable in and beyond community life. It is informed with everything that can be expressed about culture through languages. The NSW policy is arse about by comparison as it imposes a language – perhaps out of context and I wonder to what end?