Outstations, well-being and cultural survival

Patricia Karvelas and Natasha Robinson | December 13, 2008
Article from: The Australian

War erupts over Dodson’s ‘grenade’

INDIGENOUS leader Warren Mundine has accused father of reconciliation Patrick Dodson of using a review of Aboriginal outstations to “throw a grenade” in a bid to spark a political war between adherents of self-determination and backers of economic self-reliance.

The former Labor national president’s response to Mr Dodson’s attack came as a former World Bank economist called for an end to the system of funding Northern Territory outstations, saying it benefited whites at the expense of dirt-poor Aborigines.

Helen Hughes said the outstations should be entitled to the same funding rules as any other remote community, but the money was being spent on white managers living in large communities rather than on the Aborigines living in the remote homelands. “Aboriginal people are being totally ripped off,” Professor Hughes said.

“They’re hiring white staff who have comfortable offices and comfortable houses, and the bulk of the funding that is going to the outstations is being spent on the staff.” Mr Dodson yesterday wound up two weeks of consultations in remote communities over the future of the outstations. The review comes a year after the Northern Territory Government took responsibility for more than 500 outstations from Canberra.

Echoing the inflammatory comments of Howard government indigenous affairs minister Amanda Vanstone, who likened the outstations to “cultural museums”, Coalition indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott said yesterday governments should not subsidise communities that had no future.

“I’m all in favour of people building for themselves a bush retreat, if that’s what they want, but I’m far from convinced that the federal, state or territory governments should subsidise people to build bush retreats,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Dodson attacked Mr Mundine, Cape York leader Noel Pearson and Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton, telling an outstation meeting on Thursday the trio “don’t recognise you and don’t recognise your culture”.

Mr Dodson – the recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize – accused the three of trying to shut down the outstations.
“I find it quite bizarre that a man of peace has really thrown a grenade between indigenous people to start a war, for what purpose I don’t know,” Mr Mundine told The Weekend Australian yesterday.

Though the Rudd Government has been quiet on the issue, it has been pushing the Territory for months to bite the bullet on the outstations, demanding the Territory Government form a policy with clear rules about what services would be provided at which outstations.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin is being advised by bureaucrats whose thinking is aligned with that of their former senior colleagues who worked as bureaucrats advising the Howard government, Peter Shergold and Wayne Gibbons.

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