It’s increasingly important to read The Australian newspaper for an understanding of Indigenous affairs. For the culture that Aboriginal Art Directory readers care about emerges only from the conditions in which remote Aboriginal elders and artists live.
A recent series of articles about Arthouse Auctions “ linked to on our Facebook page “ has been courageous and important. But of far greater significance has been two lengthy features over two weeks by Nicolas Rothwell. Not only is he a fine writer and a great journalist “ he’s embedded in the NT Indigenous world through his partnership with Alison Anderson, the maverick Pintupi/Luritja politician and artist. She bares her emotions; he brings his independent intellect to bare on the crisis that both see rolling like a tsunami across Australia’s north.
Last weekend, Rothwell began his analysis of policies by governments of all shapes and conditions by identifying a sullen rebellion by remote First Australians as their sense of powerlessness builds in the assimilationist face of Intervention politics imposed upon them by white bureaucrats and FIFO consultants. Nothing that has resulted from the billions of dollars poured into these policies has worked “ school numbers have declined, alcohol and other substance abuse thrives, jobs are ignored. I was once told that, in The Kimberley’s remote Kalumburu, the men sub-incised their penises so deeply, reproduction was impossible. It would seem that the same despair is now widespread.
I urge you to track down this article “ subscribing to The Australian if necessary:
This weekend, Rothwell offers solutions so radical, some will call it apartheid. He points out that when remote communities want to organise something “ ceremony or a sports-day “ it works like clockwork. He also points to a plain and fundamental divide between the southern Aboriginal individuals who guide governments and have their own distinct interests and the 80,000 language-speaking, ceremonially orientated Aborigines in the North. One size does not fit all.
Rothwell also reminds us that half a century ago, cattle barons and the missions ran a world that suited tribal needs far better than Canberra or Darwin bureaucrats manage today. Nugget Coombs recognised this; Bob Hawke and the ACTU did not in their mistaken pursuit of equal pay for the cattle industry. Today the ‘development of the north’ is such a political priority that the Land Rights Act, the northern Land Councils, the funding of out-stations in the NT and WA and any sense of autonomy is under threat from both the NT regime and the ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’.
Instead, Rothwell proposes a reinvention of the Australian School of Pacific Administration that used to train patrol officers for Australia (as well as PNG, etc) to prepare a new class of administrator to go into an autonomous ‘governorate’ set up by the Federal government involving regional assemblies established on traditional authority lines. This has happened under Canadian and Danish rule for Inuit in their norths, taking up to 25 years to achieve. Similarly, the best young teachers would be incentivised to dedicate themselves long-term to remote schooling “ including regional boarding schools “ with a bicultural curriculum. Jobs in areas such as fishing, cattle work, house building maintenance, fire management, parks and tourism, even resource ventures could be reserved for the locals.
You really should consider Nicolas Rothwell’s case.