Many current Aboriginal policies 'absurd', says leading academic

Jul 07, 2016, 12:06 PM


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: A number of leading Australian academics are expressing deep concern about the viability of many government Aboriginal community programmes.

At a book launch in Sydney's inner west, researchers vented their frustrations at policy makers using words like "shameful" and "absurd" to describe many projects currently being implemented in outback communities.

Our reporter, David Taylor, was there for AM.

DAVID TAYLOR: Mark Moran has being looking at Indigenous policies over the past 20 years and whether or not they're working.

He's just written a book highlighting how governments have fallen well short of what's needed to support Indigenous communities.

MARK MORAN: You just arrive, you make it up and you leave after six months. And we wonder why we're not getting these long-term developmental gains.

DAVID TAYLOR: He says, over a given fortnight, an Aboriginal youth could be swamped by as many as 10 so-called community reengagement programs.

MARK MORAN: You end up with these quite ridiculous situations, where you'll have 50 disengaged youth and 10 programs that are specifically working to re-engage them. So in any one fortnight, an individual can have six, seven different programs hitting them at the same time.

And the net effect of all these programs pushing and pulling people in different directions: it really is becoming absurd.

DAVID TAYLOR: Mr Moran has support.

Eva Cox is an adjunct professor at the University of Technology, Sydney and specialises in Indigenous affairs.

EVA COX: I mean, we've just stuffed up. I think basically we've stuffed up at least over the last 20-odd years and I think it's time we actually went back and fixed it.

DAVID TAYLOR: She argues many Aboriginal policies haven't improved since the late 1990s.

EVA COX: Because I think we've grossly neglected anything to do with Indigenous policy in this last election. It's just disappeared.

We've had bipartisan negligence from both the major parties. And it's something which I think is shameful and we need to do something about it.

DAVID TAYLOR: Leanne Townsend is the CEO of the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy.

She grew up in the northern New South Wales community of Uralla and identifies as Anaiwan.

She says policy needs to be led by community elders to be effective.

LEANNE TOWNSEND: And the removal of politics to realise the genuine change driven by Aboriginal people themselves.

DAVID TAYLOR: In a written statement, a spokesperson for the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, said that the Coalition Government's focus in Indigenous Affairs has been on getting children to school and adults to work and making communities safer.

The statement went on to say that the Coalition's policies have seen progress made in these areas, but the Minister recognises a lot more work needs to be done.

DAVID TAYLOR: Leanne Townsend again:

LEANNE TOWNSEND: We have this approach and reference tonight, taken largely from the corporate sector of KPIs and measurements. And I agree that's absolutely what's required in performance.

But who holds government to account equally with their failures? And we understand that as the mob who are experiencing those failures, but what is the broader Australia doing about that accountability?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Leanne Townsend from the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy, ending David Taylor's report.