Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Aboriginal division and the failure of Aboriginal policies in Australia

Over at Club Troppo, Ken Parish has written a long two part series triggered by Aboriginal responses to Noel Pearson's eulogy at Mr Whitlam's funeral. I have only skimmed them at this point, but they seem worth reading. To help you here, they are in order:
The posts were triggered by Jack Waterford's piece in the Canberra Times: Noel Pearson is a great orator but he's essentially a leader without followers in Aboriginal world

For personal and professional reasons, I follow the stories and feeds on Aboriginal life and policy. This includes the black nationalist threads. I think that Jack is right. 

In this short post, I don't want to revisit the detail of my past writing. However, I would repeat three points that I have made:

  • We need to recognise the diversity in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. A one size fits all approach makes no sense. 
  • We need to clearly distinguish between problems that are specific to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and those that are in fact subsets of broader problems.Attempting to address Aboriginal disadvantage that are in fact linked to the second will generally fail because they address symptoms, not causes.
  • In attempting to address one poorly defined problem we create new problems in part because of the constructs we create in trying to solve the problem that then force reactions. The history of black-white relations is littered with examples of this.
Yesterday's post on New England Australia is a small example: The North's growing disadvantage - increasing poverty, lower life expectencies

Many of the communities with lower life expectencies have higher Aboriginal populations. There is a statistical connection in that Aboriginal populations have lower life expectencies. But so does the non-Aboriginal population compared to the rest of the country. If you want to increase Aboriginal life expectencies, you actually have to address the reasons for lower life expectencies in the population as a whole. Otherwise, you are going to fail.  


O'Rourke said...

"If you want to increase Aboriginal life expectancies, you actually have to address the reasons for lower life expectancies in the [rural] population as a whole."

1. Persuade ppl esp. Abl people to stop smoking.
2. Ensure somehow that ppl see a doctor regularly (blood pressure etc). NB: $7 < 1/3 pkt cigarettes

Simple really!
Michael O'Rourke, Canberra

2 tanners said...

I'm sorry, Michael. It's not that simple. When your unemployment rate so high that you feel that employment depends on 'connections' and your chances of even seeing a doctor depend on where you live, smoking seems like the least of your worries. And drinking dulls the pain. Poverty kills, pure and simple, through all sorts of pressures. Inadequate or low quality food. Poor sanitation and sanitary habits. Too-young pregnancies. Education might provide a partial answer, but it requires people to actually to turn up. And why should they, when it's not perceptibly going to lead to a job or improved life outcomes?

Note that I am not talking about aboriginal people in particular, I'm talking about poverty-stricken people in Australia and all over the world.

(I'll stop there before I say something I really regret.)

Anonymous said...

Jim you gave a link to your NE blog which I read but don't feel entitled to comment upon.

You stated that Tenterfield had "10th worst life expectancy", but I can't find your BOS link to support that? There's 'standardised death rates' down to the town level, but where's the 'life expectancy'? Not doubting, just would be interested to see where my area sits.

And the above two comments: I agree with both, even tho 2tanners seems to disagree with O'Rourke. Funny that.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd first. You pinged me there rather nicely, kvd. Life expectancy and death rates are not the same thing. For example, because country people are now on average older you would expect higher death rates. Life expectancy is lower, but that is not shown by the raw death stats.

Michael, time you got back home. In Tamworth, as I understand it, no doctor bulk bills now. So its not $7, but the full price.

Outside Tamworth, the number of available doctors has gone down. So a medical check up ain't so easy. More Aboriginal people do smoke, but I agree with 2T here.

MO'R in Canberra said...

All - wd encourage you to look at this link: 'outer regional' (ie, incl greater New England) has about the same ratio of doctors as major cities:



O'Rourke said...


Let us turn now to smoking rates.
Inland New England is higher than might be expected: Table 1 p.4 in doc cited below. - This is New England from Murrurundi to Mungindi, not the wide Belshavian definition.

Looking at comparable regions we note:
"Regional 2: from 14% for North Coast NSW to 28% for Grampians (Vic)".

Plainly there is opportunity for New Englanders to do better.

Source: http://www.nhpa.gov.au/internet/nhpa/publishing.nsf/Content/Report-Download-HC-Tobacco-smoking-rates-across-Australia-2011-12/$FILE/NHPA_HC_Report_Tobacco_Smoking_Rates_Report_October_2013.pdf


Anonymous said...

Ah, 'Belshavian New England' - where all the STOP signs say "It might be wise to pause and consider alternate scenarios".

If no passport is required, I'm moving there!


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Michael. I will look at the numbers and respond properly when I have. However, as a general statement, the use of ARIA numbers is quite problematic, something that I have written about before. You have to drill down. As a simple example, Armidale and Tamworth are inner regional, Guyra or Inverell outer regional.

Jim Belshaw said...

Ah, kvd, if only that were true.