A genuine attempt by a responsible Federal government to reduce the amount of chaos in the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory would have taken the time and care to:
1. engage the significant stakeholders to accurately identify the problems and healing strategies
2. to work in a spirit of cultural partnership with all indigenous stakeholders, especially the people in the ‘affected communities’
3. settle down for a long haul, as repair to the generations of damage done under non-indigenous rule will require generations of healing.
We are once again witnessing a ‘top-down’ approach, imposed from distant places remote from peoples lives, Action is all very well, but Buddhist wisdom tells us that energy follows thought.
COMMAND VERSUS RESISTANCE
A top-down command approach which works in the army – where people surrender a part of themselves and follow orders for a living– will not work with a good many First Peoples. “Taking control” of indigenous life is not a real option.
Experts in indigenous affairs have long understood the fundamental importance of getting PROCESS right for anything which aims at effective outcomes. Surely there is still someone in the Howard government who appreciates this?
To effectively engage with indigenous communities it is necessary to first get on-side with the people (men and women) who are the greater part of those communities and have never ceased to be actively engaged in caring for their families and managing community life.
But the military style intervention into indigenous life by yet another Minister is not the real problem.
The real problem is the need accept that the Australian Parliament, as presently constituted, can never govern to ensure the well-being of this country’s First Peoples – and Federal politicians of all kinds prefer a host of other pretences over that simple truth.
Chaos in indigenous lives originates (to a great extent) from non-indigenous sources. In order to reduce the chaos in indigenous life, non-indigenous ways of life have to be reformed. There can be no ‘business-as- normal’ for non-indigenous peoples if we are to restore balance, well-being and health to indigenous Australians.
This is best exampled by the present Australian Constitution and Parliamentary arrangements. There is something fundamentally wrong with the spirit of the Australian constitution. It is a one-sided document written a the height of European theories of racism (1890s) to protect the interest on non-indigenous business people.
Alexis Wright has written about the need for non-indigenous spirit of other countries to begin to become reconciled with the ancestral spirits of this country. In her interview on the ABC TV program 7:30 Report, after winning the Miles Franklin award, Alexis expanded on this:
“KERRY O’BRIEN: After Carpentaria and with Aboriginal, Chinese and Irish blood in your veins you reflected on what might constitute a lasting form of reconciliation.
You wrote, “I’ve often thought about how the spirits of other countries have followed their people to Australia, and how those spirits might be reconciled with the ancestral spirits that belong here. I wonder if it is at this level of thinking that lasting form of reconciliation between people might begin, and if not, how our spirits will react.” Do you see a glimmer of that kind of reconciliation today?
ALEXIS WRIGHT: I think there’s great efforts on our side to try to reconcile the spirits and to think about those ideas, cause we’re quite spiritually minded people and we’re dealing with spirits of our country all the time and trying to honour the spirits of the ancestors.
I think we need to think about where our hearts and minds have come from and how they might live in this country.
I think we’re making the effort and we work very hard in what we do and it’ll be a good time to start talking about reconciliation from that level of, where our spirits connect.”
(full transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2007/s1958594.htm)
FAILURE TO ACCEPT MATURE RESPONSIBILITY
But how many of our non-indigenous politicians even begin to understand such language, let alone know how to get in touch with those parts of our own Being which enable you to use that language? Few, if any.
Pretence is the order of the day, as is propping up failing ‘modern’ models of life. Do we not sense this when we watch the glib approach of the present Leader of the Opposition? He is not the answer. There is a deeper crisis running through life, and it is not solely about the Howard government’s industrial relations legislation.
The Howard- Brough approach (like that of all ‘modernists’) fails to identify the actual sources which generate chaos in the lives of ‘affected communities’. To the extent that chaos has been introduced into the lives of First Peoples, its origins lie outside of their own communities.
The racist foundations of modern Australian life have produced a systemic distortion which, in denying its own role in life’s mismanagement, projects imaginary personality characteristics on indigenous people. The displacement activity ‘creatively’ blames indigenous people for the major and deep shortcomings of the dominant and imposed system of order.
One of the main sources of chaos in the lives of indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory is the Australian Parliament in Canberra. The likelihood of a cure for that chaos coming from the same source (in the absence of constitutional reform to provide effective indigenous representation) is zero.
SO FAR – NORTHERN TERRITORY SHOWS WHAT THE COMMONWEALTH (as presently constituted) CAN’T DO.
The Australian Commonwealth has now had almost hundred years of self-imposed control over the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory. It took statutory responsibility for the Territory from South Australia from 1 January, 1911.
While ‘states rights’ might provide an excuse for Commonwealth neglect of the rights and well-being of First Peoples in other parts of Australia, that convenient argument does not hold in the Northern Territory (at least, since 1911).
The chaos which is evident in the lives of some indigenous communities is inscribed there, to a large extent, by the one-sided imperial methods of colonisation which:
• refused to enter into meaningful systems of balanced exchange, and
• the forceful imposition of monocultural systems of government which privilege farmers, pastoralists, miners and even workers but remains blind to indigenous values, world-views, needs and concerns.
EXPERIMENT IN SELF-GOVERNMENT (FOR NON-INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ONLY)
All attempts to get a degree of real constitutional reform in the Northern Territory, in order to get a breathing space for First Peoples, have run into the same stonewall from both the local non-indigenous mangers of business and their political masters in Canberra.
Real reform is always ‘inconvenient’ when there are very real privileges to protect.
Malcolm Fraser’s 1978 experiment in self-government in the Northern Territory gave decades long misrule by the County-Liberal Party. The CLP introduced real ‘rot’ into Territory life, and that alone would take generations of fully funded healing to repair.
The long reign of CLP misrule has been followed by the election of the ALP, and a process which empowers a single non-indigenous woman as Chief Minister to the same extent it refused to acknowledge and affirm the system of First Law which has operated in First Peoples lives and countries since the beginning.
Both the CLP and the ALP have had a real attempt in the NT experiment and the results are in. Fail!
It is now time to ensure that First Peoples (as the original and long-term peoples in the NT) have the opportunity to come up with forms of governance which will reduce the extent of chaos – and return stability – into their lives.