Better futures for whom: Enforced sub-standard schooling- dysfunction- incarceration and long view dispossession.


 For whom the bell tolls: Enforced dispossession.

The better futures strategy flying under the Australian ethnocentric radar is creating dysfunction for a community fighting to hold onto their lands and culture. But destruction is not inevitable; it is the outcome of powers directed against them.


Compulsory English only education in Aboriginal Communities throughout the NT is crushing children’s opportunity to learn English or to pass on their own languages. Recent destruction of bilingual education without consultation was ironically for the purpose of reducing government costs in indigenous education.


Data from the MySchool website in 2011 shows a significant drop inperformance in Year 3 and Year 5 reading and writing skills across formerbilingual schools ranging from 22% to a massive 89% drop after shifting toan “English only” approach (Professor E Grimes:  2012)[1]


Compulsory sub-standard education for 40 % of the NT school population is destroying children’s chances. Ethnocentric policies are creating failure and hopeless attendance prospects. Welfare linked school fines of 400 dollars first offence are putting the poorest parents in the country and their children at risk of having their children removed. (Mothers at Milingimbi)[2] Mothers who remember that children were still being taken in the 1980’s ask what has changed?


Some four hundred homelands and their children across the NT have been ruined by funding cuts.[3] The very heart of indigenous language, culture, dance, art and ecological knowledge to manage the country are being destroyed in a mining boom. Forced into ‘better futures’ and off their land they can’t make ends meet and must rely on welfare. [4]


In these ‘growth towns’ the rapidly rising police presence has forced indigenous incarceration up 46% in the last ten years. With substandard housing, education and increasing economic desperation the justice system is sweeping these young people into a privatised penal system.[5]


In the northern territory 82 per cent incarceration in rate for indigenous people is higher than that in South Africa.


So what will become of Indigenous people in this better future. What about indigenous languages. What of the indigenous estate, cleared of its owners and keepers, its languages and culture.


[1] (Prof) Charles E. Grimes Australian Society for Indigenous Languages (AuSIL), Darwin; Adjunct Professor, Department of Linguistics; School of Culture, History & Language; College of Asia & the Pacific;Australian National University. (ANU) Canberra.

[2] Four mothers at Milingimbi have been threatened with fines starting at four hundred dollars for missing a meeting with a welfare representative over school attendance. They are embarrassed and did not want to be named. They said things are getting worse since the 2007 intervention.

[3] Professor Jon Altman  et al say, ‘ the estimated 500 outstations/homelands, with approximately 10,000 people associated with them and another 40,000 people linked to outstations/homelands are being stripped of support.

[4] [4] Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Report January — June 2011, school enrolment and attendance has declined from 64.5% in February 2009 to 62.7% in February 2011, despite rapid population growth. Income support recipients have increased from just on 20,000 in June 2009 to nearly 24,000 in June 2011. Reports of child abuse in NTER communities have increased from 174 in 2007–08 to 272 in 2010–11; as have domestic violence reported incidents, from 1612 to 2968. Suicide/self-harm incidents have increased from 109 in 2007–08 to 227 in 2010­–11 in NTER communities.

[5] The NT government policy of deploying police instead of teachers has resulted in a 46% rise in incarceration the last ten years with 82 of every hundred people in jail indigenous and most for misdemeanours.


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