Muriel Bamblett, “chairwoman of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, the main body for Aboriginal and Islander Children and Family Services”, writes in The Age: Please listen to us, PM:
The Prime Minister says the “old ways” have failed and the time for talk is over.
We would like to believe you, Prime Minister, but your own “old way” of dealing with Aboriginal people is to disregard our voices. We have been trying to talk with you for years about the lack of services for health, education and child protection. We have been giving you examples of Aboriginal communities that have begun to turn around the drug and alcohol abuse and poor health outcomes, communities that have succeeded because they were empowered and resourced to take action.
We have been talking about a human rights and culturally respectful social investment approach. But the approach by the Federal Government is a policy of disinvestment. It promotes mainstreaming and denies community control. It has no evidence base.
The evidence from overseas and in Australia points to the fact that when there is properly resourced indigenous community control and effective culturally based programs, social dysfunction indicators, such as poor health outcomes and youth suicide rates, decrease.
The Prime Minister says the measures he has announced will stabilise and protect communities. We would like to believe you, Prime Minister, but your measures are disempowering and punitive.