For anybody who cares about the survival of indigenous cultures, the results of an inquiry into the lives of aboriginal peoples in Australia's Northern Territory have been shocking. The inquiry involved visits in 45 aboriginal settlements and found that such settlements were rife with violence and sexual abuse. The report was put together by Rex Wild a barrister and Pat Anderson an aboriginal health worker. The report concluded that drugs, alcohol and unemployment were at the roots of disintegration of aboriginal cultures in Australia. The authors of the report claim that alcohol has been totally destroying the fabric of families and aboriginal societies.
The report has been taken to heart it seems by the federal government and the prime minister John Howard announced that the federal government is taking control of the 60 aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and the following measures are to be taken.
-Police and soldiers will be sent to patrol the communities.
-Bans will be imposed on alcohol and pornography.
-Children under 16 will have to submit to mandatory health checks.
-If children fail to attend school, welfare payments to their parents will be stopped.
This is the most blatant intrusion into the aboriginal affairs in forty years. Some view that the intervention is not going to do much and that things will continue as usual after the election. Furthermore, it seems that "white paternalism" will be resented by the aborigines and it is not the optimal way to deal with the problem. The prime minister claims, on the other hand, that the welfare of children is more important than "constitutional niceties." Aborigines live in self-governing territories and have rights to their land.
Looking from the outside in, it is disheartening to hear what an aboriginal leader, Mick Dodson said:
"Our children are experiencing horrific levels of violence and sexual abuse beyond comprehension." And nobody has cared for years.
"An estimated three in five children have suffered some kind of sexual abuse in the southeast Queensland Aboriginal community of Cherbourg. In May, 2006, Alice Springs crown prosecutor publicly declared child sexual abuse in aboriginal communities a "national problem". Australia-wide, indigenous Australian children are 20-fold overrepresented in the juvenile corrective service and 20-fold more likely to be involved in child abuse and neglect cases."
For more information on the aboriginal peoples see
News Source: Australia's Aborigines: Hard Paternalism, The Economist, at 49-50.