Anyone whose seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, or read about the Stolen Generation knows that the history of government intervention on the behalf of Aboriginal children has been quite tragic. So the chances of anything good coming out of Prime Minister John Howard’s drastic new proposals aimed at curbing child abuse in Aboriginal communities seem quite slim. Here is a roundup of some of the reaction in the blogsphere:
Culture Matters offers some background:
Howard, in reaction to a recently released report about child abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory called Little Children are Sacred [pdf], has introduced sweeping measures, including banning alcohol in certain communities for six months, cracking down on pornography (both legal and illegal, it would appear), and introducing a raft of other measures aimed at forcing Aboriginal parents to ensure the welfare of their children. These include tying welfare payments to certain outcomes, such as school attendance or holding payments in reserve to ensure that money is spent on food and other necessities, though I’m not entirely sure how this would be implemented. This Associated Press article outlines many of the measures to be taken.
Kimberly Christen echos the thoughts of many bloggers when she writes:
Many commentators have noted the outright racist overtones of the plan, the problems with linking government welfare to “benchmarks,” and the undermining of indigenous rights and self-determination. This is all true, as it has been for some time under the Howard government. But the truly scary part is Howard’s admission that he is trampling on constitutional rights, but oh well. This is the same logic the Bush administration used to push through the Patriot Act after 9/11–in times of crisis “we” have to sacrifice some “freedoms” for the good of all. The illogic disregards the fact that constitutional rights are not crisis-optional, they are, in fact, meant to withstand crisis and maintain rights.
Jane Simpson looks at the chances that the government will even be able to implement this rather dubious plan:
A shock and awe campaign relying on volunteers, and not backed up by adequate and sustained long-term planning and long-term implementation? So – what evidence do we have that the Federal Government can deliver adequate long-term implementation? Or the 3-4 BILLION dollars over 5 years that Jon Altman of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research reckons is needed for a long-term outcome.
Unfortunately – very little.
And s0metim3s compares the plan to government intervention into “failed states”:
Much of this rests firmly on Australia’s history as a penal colony and its record as a mostly anxious outpost of Imperial power. It might be noted that this latter aspect is evident in the recent occupation of countries in the Asia-Pacific by Australian military and police. Nevertheless, such exercises are presently conducted under the rhetoric of ‘failed states’ and humanitarian intervention – with little, if any, opposition voiced against such from within Australia, so deeply entrenched and seductive is this disposition of benevolence. And, it might also be remarked that this most recent declared emergency in the northern parts of Australia closely resembles this discourse of ‘failed states’ and its practices – though this time as an “internal” re-colonisation. All of this is to suggest that Agamben’s eloquent account of the sovereign exception and ‘bare life’ are helpful, but insufficient to explaining what is transpiring in the detail, as a process.
Culture Matters also has a post surveying the media reaction to this story.
I’m sure there is a lot more out there, if you find anything particularly good please post it to the comments.
UPDATES (July 11th):
- Culture Matters reports that “families in the NT fleeing to the desert in fear that the government was coming to take their children.”
- Jennifer Martiniello writes that “It has been an openly stated agenda that Howard wants to move Aboriginal people off their lands…”
- Paul Toohey asks whether it is appropriate to use methods used against organized criminals in Aboriginal Australia?
- And “a coalition of Northern Territory Indigenous organisations has issued 50 recommendations in response to the Commonwealth’s plan.”