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The man who calls himself by an Aboriginal name appears to have no interest in Aboriginality

'Jobs and education are the lifters' by: Nyunggai Warren Mundine, The Australian 3 December 2014 with [Comments by Maurine Brannan]*

The only way to move people out of poverty is education and employment. [... wrong start to a terrible article - what you might call constricted thinking - the 'only' way Warren? There are in fact many ways for Aboriginal people to transcend the dire economic situations they find themselves in, and none of them need Western education or employment] This is true whether you're an indigenous person living in a small community in remote Australia or an Indian living in the slums of Mumbai.

Poverty isn't solved by welfare or giving communities money. It is solved by economic development - individuals within a community making money.

While governments lay down the conditions under which economic development takes place, jobs and economies are created by commerce and private capital.

This means indigenous affairs policy has to tread a fine line between two conflicting forces.

On the one hand, indigenous disadvantage can be turned around only through commerce. On the other, a huge amount of time and energy focuses on things that are not commerce, such as welfare and government services.

Look at public discussion of the Forrest review. This report is about how to get indigenous - people into jobs and businesses and how governments can establish the conditions for economic development and commerce to thrive in indigenous communities. But the public discussion - focuses on cashless welfare and a card that, in time, nobody should need. The whole point of the Forrest review is to get people off welfare and earning their own wage, which they can spend however they like. While people in capital cities tweet about the injustices of welfare reform, indigenous - [Can't even show your own people a modicum of respect by using a capital I to differentiate between generic indigenous and Aboriginal and Islander people in particular] people in the country want the chance to grow their communities as they see fit. [QUITE - 'as they see fit'...and if that means rejecting mining or nuclear waste on tribal territory, then they should be able to - you don't actually say they have a right to, just that they 'want'...]

Take the Alyawarr people who live in and around Ampilatwatja, where John Pilger filmed his documentary Utopia. In August they released a statement welcoming the Forrest review's themes of self-reliance, indigenous training and employment, local decision-making and cultural authority. [Just glibly threw that in, as if it meant NOTHING, which it apparently doesn't to Warren - 'cultural authority' does not come easy, it takes a lifetime of dedication and education in the highest, most evolved culture on Earth] They called for greater decision-making rights over their own lands and to develop the region through business and tourism partnerships. They said this was the only way to create training and job opportunities and enable Alyawarr people to remain on country. They didn't even mention cashless welfare.

The Alyawarr people know the future of their communities depends on their participating in the real economy, through jobs, business and enterprise. This is true for all indigenous people, whether they live in the central desert or the suburbs.

Perhaps it's unavoidable that indigenous policies revolve around government assistance, because so many indigenous people depend on governments.

Personally, I'm not interested in devising new ways to structure government assistance or demanding that spending decisions are made by communities instead of Canberra. I care about who has the government contracts.

For example, imagine a portfolio of indigenous housing. Government employees make decisions on maintenance spending but contractors - almost - always non-indigenous people who travel to the community at great expense because there are no locals with the skills or training - do the work. Some argue government should "empower" the community by devolving responsibility for housing management to a community-based indigenous organisation.

But this is not empowerment. Sure, indigenous people would be responsible for the housing, which you can bet will be in an appalling state of disrepair. But if the locals are not skilled enough to perform maintenance work, the indigenous organisation will do exactly what the government department did - bring in contractors to maintain the housing.

Indigenous communities will not be truly empowered until community members are skilled enough to set up small businesses and buy their own houses. [Houses mean NOTHING in the grand scheme of things - why should Aboriginal people spend their entire lives paying off a ridiculously expensive piece of real estate? It has NOTHING to do with their culture.]

Indigenous people don't need government's permission to gain the skills to win these contracts. They can do it now; many are often partnering with established service providers. Economic development is the only way to close the gap and enable indigenous communities and cultures to survive and thrive into the future. [How will assimilating into your masters' Western culture enable Aboriginal cultures to survive then Warren ... ]

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is executive chairman of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.

COMMENTS

David - Plus 1

Richard - Inclusion in economic development is the only way to close the gap. And that may require the exclusion of the option of welfare and the easy option of making no change.

Michael - I am totally at a loss as to how an 'economy' can be built in the 'never-never'. An economy needs to produce goods that others wish to purchase. How can a tiny community in the outback possibly develop a viable business model unless it is funded by the taxpayer? If Ford and GMH can't do it without taxpayer assistance, I don't see how an aboriginal community can possibly succeed. Joining mainstream society (i.e. moving and acquiring an education) is one answer.

Nyunggai Warren - Perth, Melbourne and Sydney - for example, developed economies from nothing. They were tiny communities in the middle of nowhere. There's plenty of goods and services moving through remote Aboriginal communities but they are all supplied by outsiders.

Mal - I'm with you all the way on this Mr. Mundine. [... would that be Mal Brough, architect of the intervention?]

Barry - Warren, have you considered that ATTITUDE and WORK ethic are the real issue amongst alleged aspiring employees, regardless of alleged ethnicity? How about we ALL agree that our nation accept and demand without caveat, one rule of law for ALL Australian residents be applied equally without reverse apartheid? We ALL accept that whatever individual difficulties we may face come down to the problem we created because we did or not do what we should have done and ALL of us should stop making excuses because of the imperfect world we share and NO ONE in Australia has an entitlement to a taxpayer funded handout as reward for non-productive non useful effort, BEFORE reward for useful effort? Inclusive of this national equity is the FAIR criteria, do the crime then do the time, no caveats because as AUSTRALIANS we all accept being held to account regardless of any culture and or practice that is inconsistent with our ONE Australian rule of law, is racist? [Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are NOTHING like you Australians, thank God - they are the legal and proper owners of this continent, unlike Australians, and therefore are unique - your laws do not apply to them, as their laws do not apply to you.]

Robert - All very well in an ideal world. Now tell us how to fix the sorts of government money problems that The Australian has been revealing in "The Lands" in the north of South Australia. Australia's Indigenous communities are, like others - business, farming, you name it - composed of individuals and any one hundred activist committees can be guaranteed to come up with a score or so competing ideas about what to do with government concessions or largess.

Barry @Robert AGREED one rule of law for ALL Australian residents, NO caveats for any character copouts

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*Disclaimer: This article was previously published stating that Ghillar Michael Anderson made the comments. This is incorrect and the website administrator apologises for the error.