Tags: aboriginal land rights

13 Jun 2005, Comments (0)

Part of the Problem? (Guest post)

Author: Helen

My first guest post on the Cast Iron Balcony.

Ben Scambary is a doctoral student at the Centre of Aboriginal Policy Research at ANU. He’s working on a longer article for publication.

A note on comments: People commenting here have been plagued by a “Questionable Content” error. the only cure I have been able to find is to cut out ellipses “…”. But there other causes I haven’t been able to figure out yet.


Part of the Problem?

John Cleary has ìno difficulty with the right of indigenous [sic] Australians to own their own landî, however his glib critique of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976, and Land Councils fails to recognize the immense historical difficulties in attaining such ownership in the NT. Indeed he also fails to recognize the efforts of NT Land Councils in promoting of economic development through an array of innovative land management programs, and agreements with resource developers; activities undertaken in the absence of adequate funding from the Federal Government. He also fails to recognize the extensive linkages between Land Councils, the Northern Territory government, and local government structures in pursuing economic development on Aboriginal Land.

Clearyís alarming lack of understanding of the functions of the Act highlights the peril of ëmainstreamingí. He talks of poor education, poor governance structures, welfare dependency, alcohol abuse, high mortality rates, and lack of services in relation to Tiwi Island communities. Under the ALRA, NT Land Councils do not have a charter in any of these areas, and are largely powerless to seek redress. The poor outcomes he highlights are already the responsibility of State and Federal Governments, who have historically abrogated their responsibilities in the provision of basic services to remote Indigenous communities.

The research that Cleary preempts in relation to funding for Indigenous service delivery has already been undertaken. John Taylor and Owen Stanleyís recent work in relation to Port Keats has highlighted the gross under funding of services in remote NT communities, and has exploded the myth that current funding levels are adequate. The research also indicated that there is a looming crisis of disadvantage with increasing Indigenous population, decreasing regional economies, and simply a lack of government services and resources to address the issues in remote Australia.

Cleary criticizes the role of ìhighly paid non-indigenous [sic] managersî, but fails to declare that he is the outgoing CEO of the Tiwi Island Regional Authority, which might place him firmly within that category. Having held such a position he should know that the introduction of ëmainstreamingí and the imminent amendment of the ALRA will not rectify the problems of ëlayers of governanceí and the administration of remote Indigenous people from ëcity officesí. Rather these will be exacerbated. Similarly he should be aware that his off-the-cuff reforms will never be attained until the Federal Government lifts its veil of ignorance on Indigenous issues and starts to properly resource service delivery in remote Australia.