I phoned several politicians today about the endemic bashing and sexual abuse of women and children in some Aboriginal communities. Two have spoken out to date.
The former Aboriginal affairs minister John Herron has been fighting for five years to convince ATSIC that something needed to be done. He said: “It’s make or break now as far as I’m concerned”. He is considering writing a piece for the webdiary.
Carmen Lawrence is the shadow minister for the status of women. She is preparing a domestic violence package, and is “very keen to see appropriately designed policies are produced for the indigenous community, and that means working with indigenous groups to help break down the barriers to this being spoken about and acted upon”.
She said domestic violence in Aboriginal communities was more properly called “community violence directed towards women and children” and that programs should be “linked closely to health, legal services and appropriate housing support”.
“There’s no refuges, there’s no support from the legal system, and women are often exposed to the same players. These are the key reasons why indigenous women often shut up about it,” she said.
“The program has to be something that the Aboriginal communities help develop and own. ATSIC needs to be involved.”
She said programs for Aboriginal communities were still in the early stages of development, and that rather than detail programs now, Labor’s policy would point to the areas it believed needed urgent attention.
By the way, I checked with the Press Council this morning and Geoff Clark had yet to file a complaint more than ten days after the allegations against him were published.
A hearing on the injunction taken out in Cairns against Brisbane’s Courier Mail on Friday night by Pat O’Shane’s brother Terry – who is on the regional council of ATSIC – will be heard this afternoon. The injunction prevented the paper publishing certain allegations.
Today, I begin with Jack Robertson’s Meeja Watch, then suggestions on what can be done from Otto Ruiter, Anne Marks, Peter Gellatly, Richard Ure, Dianne Davis, Greg Clarke, Sean Cody and Mark Williams.
Fairytale or murder story?
By Jack Robertson
Last week (in Rape and racism) I said that the story of Journalism was finished. I was soon proved utterly wrong, but I might also still be proved depressingly right. The Meeja has performed half of a great (if heart-breaking) service. What happens next is largely in their hands. Reconciliation must be embraced with gusto and flair, as a point of Meeja honour. A few positive suggestions:
1. More Meeja space for grass-roots leaders & facts: Editors should establish Indigenous pages, radio/TV should run more dedicated Indigenous shows. These should place a marked emphasis on communities. Journos need to elicit more from grass-roots leaders and ‘doers’. Those who drive the real improvements rarely have the time, the means, or the inclination to seek publicity. Yet they’re the key to Reconciliation.
2. Distrust self-advertisers: Anyone who spends time and energy proclaiming their own achievements on, and commitment to, Indigenous issues, should be treated by journalists with suspicion. Ruthlessly deconstruct the words of those who seem to think that ‘talking about doing’ and ‘actually doing’ are morally and practically equivalent.
3. There are no Big Picture cure-alls: There are no ‘big’ answers. This will be the hardest Meeja aspect to alter, because it thrives on issues like treaties and apologies. I support both, yet my ambivalence tends to rise with each escalation of debate over them.
4. More Publicised Respect for Indigenous Elders: Why not initiate regular (state-based?) ABC programs hosted by tribal (as opposed to political) leaders, in which Indigenous affairs are discussed? Aboriginal Elders need to re-establish broader influence. The only way is by exploiting modern technology. If this poses problems for Elder protocol, then Elder protocol needs to adapt. Profile equals power. Only TV gives real profile, now.
5. More Indigenous journalists: We need more black faces in the working Meeja. If that means aggressive positive discrimination, including hiring unpolished and inexperienced journos, so be it. We could use less slick Hollywood bullshit, anyway.
6. More ‘confrontation’ in real time: Much heat in this debate tends to be generated by the stand-off ‘War of the Whitey Columnists’ – Paddy Mac has a crack at Manne, Bob blasts Quadrant in reply, Pearson v. Marr, Reynolds v. Windschuttle – yet these prodigious motormouths rarely go mano-a-mano, the only way to establish common ground. My personal preference would be to bung the whole pack into the jelly-wrestling tub at the Kalgoorlie Miners’ Arms, but perhaps the Meeja could at least facilitate more live round-table discussions like the SBS Insight one regarding Pearson a few months ago – calm, methodical, relatively assumption and baggage-free. I reckon Tim Dunlop should chair a two-hour job on the ABC. (Why not? We need NEW faces in this debate.)
7. Imagination from Editors and Producers: Re-rig the contemporary Meeja paradigm. Turn the world upside-down, get pro-active and up-beat. Some specific pitches:
a. Black on White: A TV/radio program which invites Indigenous leaders in various fields to interview non-Indigenous peers. Turn the Meeja tables. Pat Dodson interviewing John Howard about his political career. Stan Grant interviewing Gerald Stone on journalism. Freeman on Waugh, Wes Enoch on Williamson, Anu on Minogue with ‘Indigenous Issues’ (as such) taking a back seat. Black Australia almost always fills the ‘passive’ role in mainstream Meeja. It’s ossifying.
b. Australian Dreamtime: Replace those bloody 6.30 ‘Yes Minister’ re-runs with a half-hour live story-telling slot. First fifteen minutes – a Dreamtime story. Second fifteen minutes – a dramatisation of one of the old or new bush or town poets, matching the theme. We’ve got to start stressing the Human impulses that bind us together, not the ideological crap that hoiks us apart. That’s what Art is for. It used to be, anyway.
c. The Fairfax Award: An annual $10,000 prize offered for the best good news print feature, by a freelance journalist, on life in any type of Indigenous community.
d. Indigenous 7-Up: Pick ten Indigenous kids from diverse backgrounds, and follow their progress as they grow up. Perhaps look in every couple of years.
e. Television Walkabout: Give a couple of ‘middle Australian’ Meeja Faces – Jeff McMullen and Ernie Dingo? – a 4 X 4, a crew, a fistful of bucks and a six month brief: to boldly go and ‘educate’ themselves, each other, and the rest of us about the complexities of contemporary Indie Oz. One hour slot per week, say. Done with enthusiasm, idealism, Oz humour and clarity of purpose – to inform – it could make a mighty difference.
OK, so I’m no programming guru, but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s up to the Meeja to come up with positive contributions, now.
That’s the downside of making a story happen – you enter it as a player, and a player can’t just leave the game when it suits. Black Australia has taken (another) demoralising hammering, as an unfortunate but direct by-product of Andrew Rule’s story.
The Meeja owes them constructive passion. Most editors endorsed publication on public interest grounds. Fine, but the Public must remind them that our Interest isn’t something they can casually conjure up to justify a scoop, then disregard.
At the first sign of the Meeja retreating into the safe house of ‘journalistic detachment’ – as this issue gets trickier – we have to point out that it’s an option they’ve now forfeited.
What happened last week was that Australian journalists unambiguously and irreversibly repositioned their profession at the heart of the Reconciliation process. They mustn’t forget it. And it’s got to be a good thing in the long run.
That is, it literally MUST BE MADE to be a good thing in the long run, simply because there is no bearable alternative.
For the Meeja to disengage now would be a fantastic betrayal of a black community whose fledgling sense of unity is shredded. It would be akin to a crusading social worker who has a wife-beater arrested and the wife and kids placed in emergency care, but then drifts off, neither helping police secure a conviction, nor facilitating the wife lasting independence. Leaving him free – bursting with resentment – and her with no option but to return, humiliated, to the old order.
Don’t let any of your colleagues pretend otherwise, Margo – all reporters, whether they like it or not, now have a direct stake in Reconciliation. The Age editor Mike Gawenda crossed a journalistic Rubicon.
In the best traditions of the inky trade, the Clark story stirred up what obviously needed stirring up. Whether Andrew Rule’s explosive prose becomes the opening to a fairytale or a murder story is mostly up to those who endorsed its publishing.
Having admitted I was wrong to say that journalism was finished, I would be gutted if the next few months proved me wrong again. Reconciliation would be, too.
Otto Ruiter in Springwood, NSW
Here’s my plan. As the SMH provides us with this public forum, I propose that the SMH actively promotes indigenous awareness. Employ indigenous journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and whoever else is needed and publish a complete page of Aboriginal News (unencumbered by advertising), in print and online, not once a week but EVERY DAY. When we are informed from an Aboriginal perspective on a daily basis, there will be no easy escape for anyone.
So you’re concerned about the level of violence in Aboriginal society Margo. Hooray! See if you can get hold of a video called Minymaku Way (SBS Independent and CAAMA Productions). You’ll be able to watch a gut wrenching account of how the women at Ernabella got the white owner of the nearest roadhouse to stop selling the alcohol that was a huge contributor to the death rate of their dearly loved families (male and female).
It took them ten years to do it. It might have helped those women if some journalists had had the energy and initiative to get out there and cover their immensely courageous taking on of white power and money.
Now your interest and the interest of the Herald has turned to this area I look forward to real support for Aboriginal people who have been beavering away for a long, long time to make their lives bearable.
Peter Gellatly in Canada
I feel very uneasy about contributing to this topic. My leanings are probably towards assimilation as a resolution, but I do not want to seize this particular opportunity to score points. Some of those from whose arguments I strongly dissent are nonetheless people whose moral commitment I admire. And in the end their evaluation might prove correct, and mine flawed.
First, I too thought you got it wrong re the allegation against Geoff Clark and his determination not to respond. I am less sure where I stand on the appropriateness of O’Shane commenting, given her public duties as a magistrate. There are good arguments both ways. As to the impact on Clark’s reputation, well, if some are prepared to think ill of him on the basis of unproven allegation, he is surely justified in dismissing such opinion as of no great merit. That is not to say I conclude the allegations are groundless; I am in no position to conclude anything, so without court-adjudicated proof I MUST adhere to the presumption of innocence. Any other course is for me too corrosive of our legal system to even contemplate.
Anyway, I won’t join any chorus of condemnation re either Fairfax’s decision to publish or your perspective. In highly charged and polarised matters like this, one almost inevitably ticks off half the readership whatever one does. The only sure-fire solution is to be timid: which would make for a useless newspaper and a thoroughly undermined Web Diary. So please, don’t ever be deterred from blazing away.
I confess to amazement about the way this story has evolved. Why on earth does it take an allegation against an Aboriginal leader to bring to light the tragedy of widespread abuse in Aboriginal communities? Frankly, I find it a bit sick. However, one could endlessly ponder the vicissitudes of collective social conscience, so I’ll drop that thought.
What strikes me reading the news concerning in-community abuse are the strong parallels between the Australian and Canadian situations. Sadly, in both countries equally well-meaning people are diametrically opposed in how they see resolution to the problems faced by their first peoples. More importantly, abundant evidence of past dreadful policy errors appears to have no cautionary impact on the assessment of contemporary ideas.
Here’s a comparable piece from the current Canadian agony. I hasten to add that the situation it describes, while all too common, is by no means typical – rather it represents the extreme. Moreover, another columnist in some other newspaper would probably see the situation described in an entirely different light. For Canadians, despite treaties, constitutionally entrenched native rights, and billions of dollars in government appropriations, are, just like Australians, still grappling with the seeming impossible.
Canada’s “Globe and Mail”:
Who will save Kitty Turtle?
By Margaret Wente, Saturday, June 23, 2001
Last February, 16-year-old Kitty Turtle shut herself up in her bedroom, blocked the door, and tied a noose around her neck. She dangled from the ceiling for three minutes before her brother-in-law broke in and cut her down.
Later on, someone asked her why she did it. She said it was because her boyfriend was going out with other girls. “I thought it would be much better for him.”
In Pikangikum, girls like Kitty try to hang themselves all the time. They hang themselves the way affluent suburban girls get anorexia. In this Northern Ontario reserve of 2,100 people, a dozen girls and young women have died by hanging since 1999. Five of them were 13 years old.
Michael Monture blames these and Pik’s many other misfortunes on Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault and the federal government. He says the people there are being denied the basic necessities of life. He is the native doctor who went missing last week after he went into the bush on a spiritual quest “to pray for the people.”
Dr. Monture’s disappearance and rescue, and his comments, have been a big story in the national media. He describes a devastated place where people have very little food and no clean water, where the school was closed for months, where the government has arbitrarily cut off funding.
His descriptions of the kids were especially horrific. High on solvents, they howl all night long. “They have a fire going in the garbage dump to keep warm while looking for things to eat. It’s very upsetting to think that this is Canada.”
Anyone not made of stone agrees with that.
Dr. Monture’s condemnations were echoed by many. Pikangikum Chief Louie Quill said there have been three more deaths since the government seized control of band finances last month. Matthew Coon Come, the fiery chief of the Assembly of First Nations, warned that the battle over Pik could become another Oka. David Masecar, president of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, accused the government of making the suicide epidemic worse because it has taken away people’s sense of control.
In fact, what’s killing the children of Pikangikum is very much worse than this. They have been utterly abandoned.
Kitty Turtle and her friends live in a world where children are unparented, unfed, neglected and routinely sexually abused; where most girls are mothers by 16; where there are no rules, no structure, no role models, and nothing to aspire to; where children are isolated from any other way of life and deprived of any firsthand knowledge of the broader world.
The usual diagnosis for these problems is that they are suffering from loss of culture. But they do have a culture, and it is very strong. It is a culture of violence, despair and death.
To keep people in such a place, especially children, seems unbelievably cruel. Yet that is our official policy.
By no means are all native reserves as bad as Pik. It may be the worst of the worst. “It was one of the most traditional communities in the North,” says John Donnelly, the Indian Affairs official who oversees the region. When he was there in 1975, he recalls, the Ojibway-Cree women still wore their traditional outfits of skirts and pants, and sat in the back rows at council meetings. “It could have been 1875.”
Geographically, Pikangikum is not so terribly remote. It is 300 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg; Red Lake, a mining town, is only 50 kilometres away. But there are no roads in. And for many years the settlement has been torn apart by infighting.
There are 13 different Christian churches, ranging from Mennonite to fundamentalist Baptist. There are family feuds, and factions, and the current chief is the third in 18 months. People there do not trust outsiders, but they trust each other even less.
Pik has probably the highest birth rate in Canada. Sixty per cent of the population is under 20, and a third are under 9. In other words, it has a thousand children in crisis.
A few months ago, psychologist Barbara Jo Fidler was asked by the regional counselling agency to prepare a psychological assessment of Pikangikum. She sought to portray the people as they saw themselves.
Her report (which has not been made public) is enough to break your heart.
In addition to the familiar story of poverty, addiction and joblessness, she wrote of “physical abuse, wife assault, child sexual abuse, sexual assaults/rape, [and] a high death rate by other causes besides suicide.”
Infant deaths and accidents are common. Everyone, she writes, “is in a constant state of grieving”. The homes have individual gravesites at their doorsteps, some adorned with flowers, photographs and small toys. “A walk in the community leaves one with a sad and eerie feeling that is almost beyond description,” she wrote.
Dr. Fidler asked many people, old and young, what factors contributed most to the breakdown of the community. Their most frequent answer: “lack of parenting.”
Of the children, she wrote: “They don’t have the coping skills to deal with any kind of adversity . . . the direct result of lack of parental limit setting and boundaries dating back to childhood.”
They are impulsive, desperate and in pain. And, like all kids, they imitate their friends. And that’s why girls like Kitty Turtle try to hang themselves when their boyfriends leave them.
Pikangikum is not short of social services. There are mental-health and substance-abuse services, crisis teams, volunteer youth patrols, a bereavement project, suicide-prevention programs and much more. But people don’t use them very much. When the school closed last year, a recreation program was set up for the kids. But no one came.
“The community problems are so huge the workers feel overwhelmed and demoralized,” wrote Dr. Fidler.
About $16-million a year in government funds flows into Pik. It is not true that there is no food. Although it is expensive, the local store is well-stocked. Social-assistance payments have not stopped. When the water-treatment system broke down last year from lack of maintenance, the government flew in bottled water.
Like other local services, the school is run by the community. Last year, it was shut after a broken valve was not replaced. When the fuel truck came to fill the school’s oil tank, the oil overflowed and did a huge amount of damage to the building. Cleaning up the mess took the band 10 months, and cost $1.6-million. The federal government supplied the money.
In her report, Dr. Fidler writes of the image that haunts her most. It’s not the graves or the flowers, or even the faces of the damaged little girls with whom she talked. It was the sight of a naked baby doll, hanging by its neck from a telephone wire.
You won’t hear these things from Dr. Monture (who is a Mohawk, from Southern Ontario, and new to the area, and looking for a job). You won’t hear them from Mr. Coon Come, or the chief, or any of the other people who hope to exploit the sufferings of Pikangikum to serve their own agendas.
It’s not they who will save Kitty Turtle. They are part of her problem.
Richard Ure in Epping, NSW
In wondering what to do next, perhaps we should step back a little and ponder what we think we do well and then apply it to where we have failed.
Australia has a proud record in welcoming new settlers to this country and most seem to want to become “one of us” within a generation. Perhaps Pauline is correct. Treating indigenous Australians as a special class seems to be causing more harm than good. Even if ATSIC was doing a super human job (and it does not seem to be) since when did adding another layer of politicians solve anything? By its mere existence ATSIC perpetuates a divide between indigenous Australians and the rest of us.
Assimilation probably wasn’t the best policy and multiculturalism seems to have worked far better with many times the number of new settlers than there are indigenous Australians today.
As we ponder our first 100 years as a nation, we are reminded of the almost unanimous dire predictions of early politicians and commentators were there to be a chink in the White Australia policy. Despite the doom laden fears, people the subject of this former policy are migrating to this country and moving to our suburbs daily with little fuss.
So long as indigenous Australians are seen as different, I can’t see us having effective mechanisms to deal with same problems the rest of society has. The main difference seems to be they have them in greater number.
Dianne Davis in Sydney
I watched you on Lateline on Friday night this evening (Friday, 22 June) and I wish to applaud your courage and conviction for speaking out – as an individual, not a journalist – about what you rightly describe as the “national emergency” of horrendous violence and abuse suffered by women and children in indigenous communities.
I wish to state upfront that there is also totally unacceptable levels of violence against women and children in European communities. But the facts and the research show that within indigenous Australia, it is at epidemic levels – as Evelyn Scott noted earlier in the week, it has become almost a “cultural norm”.
Excerpts from the Boni Robertson Report are almost too painful to comprehend; we live in a world where technology delivers accounts of suffering and brutality daily and perhaps we are in danger of becoming inured to it. But the Robertson Report and the stands taken by Aboriginal women of great dignity (Scott, O’Donaghue, Perris Kneebone, Pryor) must impel all Australians to take action – lobby our politicians, contribute to a fund, publicly demonstrate – whatever it takes. This is human tragedy writ large.
I found Michael Mansell’s response on Lateline to be the specious retreat of those who would rather play the race and Fairfax conspiracy cards, than truly confront the savaged minds and bodies of far too many women and children within his own community.
I believe something of huge benefit and goodness has emerged from the Clark drama, the “flailings” of Pat O’Shane, the past lethargy of ATSIC – and this is to absolutely blast the horror faced by many indigenous women and children onto the front pages of our newspapers, onto our television screens, and into our hearts and minds.
From horror can come good; let’s all make a commitment – with the guidance of enlightened Aboriginal leadership – to rebuild the many broken souls and bodies, and to protect future generations. That is real reconciliation. This is not so much a race issue but a profound human issue.
Greg Clarke in Canberra
I was amazed at how Michael Mansell on Lateline completely refused to address the substantive issues of the abuses going on and the lack of action by ATSIC. But I don’t see how any reasonable person can be duped by his constant harping about conspiracies, media conspiracies and Fairfax conspiracies.
Mansell was arguing as if he just doesn’t what the status quo disrupted, as if he’s hoping the whole thing will blow over. Heaven forbid if ATSIC looks bad over this – that sounds like Mansell’s worst fear! But really some major change has to happen if this chronic abuse is to be stopped.
The leading Aboriginal women like Evelyn Scott have got to keep pushing hard. I hope this issue does not die until something is done to stop the abuse, occurring, and it seems obvious that the current set of (mostly male) Aboriginal leaders won’t do it.
Sean Cody in London
I’ve been watching the debate and issues surrounding Clark and then the larger domestic violence and sexual abuse horrors unfurl over the past week, and it leaves me depressed beyond belief to read what people are experiencing today in Australia. The despair that has fallen over me has left me weeping as I have read some of the postings to the diary, but there is one thing that you have really struck on in your Friday entry – “It all depends on what we all do from here on”.
To deal with Geoff Clark, I’m sorry, but he MUST stand down. I neither believe nor disbelieve the allegations made against him, and I am undecided as to whether or not they should have been published originally – although I do tend to go to the side of approval. But the fact of the matter is that this information is now in the public domain, and regardless of whether it is true or not, its very existence now clouds every single thing that ATSIC will do with regards to the horrendous problems of sexual abuse and domestic violence in indigenous communities in Australia.
There appears to be no doubt that the most helpless and the most innocent in human society, children, are being violated to the very core of their being, and that their siblings and mothers are suffering the same fate. That action is required is, of course, a ridiculous understatement.
Action must come from a source untainted by any hint of similar action. Since ATSIC must be one of the driving forces behind fixing this dreadful situation, then surely it must follow that the head of ATSIC must not himself be in a situation that compromises his integrity with regards to these matters.
To the much larger issue of what can be done – I have no answers, only ideas. I do know that given the history of white and black in Australia, the response to the horrific problems facing certain members of the indigenous population must be driven by the leadership of the indigenous population. White Australia cannot step in as it has in the past and possibly spawn a whole new generation of stolen peoples.
However it cannot sit by and let the indigenous population deal with these matters on their own. Support and co-working must be at the forefront of our efforts, but the indigenous leadership must be at the vanguard.
I must stress this – one of the measures of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. Those Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders that find themselves to be the victims of atrocities perpetrated on them by their fellow community members, and who feel powerless to escape their hells, are surely some of Australia’s most vulnerable members.
How we, as a society, help them escape their predicaments is how we should and shall be judged. They are our brothers and our sisters, and we must NOT stand by while they suffer. More than commissions of enquiry, more than councils, more than working groups, there are things that each and every one of us can do.
If we see a situation where we believe domestic violence to be happening, then we must notify the appropriate authorities. If we do not, we are guilty of complicity through silence. If the appropriate authorities do not take the appropriate measures to investigate and, if necessary, deal with the allegations, then they are guilty of complicity through inaction.
I am not in any way suggesting vigilante action, nor the patronising and demeaning attitudes taken in the past as part of official policies of forcible removal – I am calling simply for compassion and care. Cultural sensitivities are of course to be considered at all times, particularly when one considers the treatment that the indigenous population has received at the hands of white Australia, but they should not stand as a barrier to the salvation of people suffering.
If we, as a society, do not act as a society – the non-indigenous and indigenous population working together – then we are all damned as a society.
Buried in Danna Vale’s speech (in Time for action) is one enticing sentence: “It seems to me that the time has come to put aside fears of being politically and culturally intrusive and to do what is necessary to protect and support the women and children in these communities.”
Seems fine, doesn’t it? The priorities are right, surely? BUT, does what is necessary to protect and support Aboriginal women and children demand political and cultural intrusion, or even the fear of it? This statement is equivalent to “We have license to intrude politically and culturally, as we define it, to protect Aboriginal women and children.”
So Vale is crystal clear: if race and gender interests conflict – and they probably will – then regrettably, race is expendable.
It is instructive that Vale does not offer any examples of justifiable political or cultural intrusion, other than implying that the intruders will be white people. In fact, she offers no measures at all except in the broadest and most unsurprising terms (apart from a safe house suggestion, like yours, which need not be so intrusive) and – surprise! – is reduced to lauding the fact that the Howard coalition government has provided $6 million over four years for this or that programme, a party political bit of cheerleading just as barren of insight and vision as any of Beazleys current approaches to policy description. It’s just more money.
Race and gender interests need not be in conflict, but such political rhetoric sets up a very convenient division between them when a number of options may instead be available in stopping the violence. So why set the division up in the first place?
She even invokes that tired chestnut political correctness to denounce those who would dissent on any aspect of her argument, almost as if dissenters would consider the abuse of Aboriginal women and children to be defensible. Curiouser and curiouser.
I hope these comments do not come across as petty or too abstract. I fear they may even appear insulting or distract from the depravity and suffering inflicted upon the women and children described earlier. What I am suggesting is that the subtler elements that accompany this kind of political rhetoric ought not be ignored, for they have definite ideological and practical consequences for the future of Aboriginal people as Aboriginal people.
One other reason I am concerned about Vale is precisely that she went to the brink for Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory subject to mandatory sentencing but then came back from the brink. She put herself on the line to defend the most basic of principles – the welfare of children – and compromised! She was too craven to cross the floor. I dont care how intimidating Howard
may be towards his backbenchers. This is the same theatrically gutless politician behaviour were used to from all sides of politics, but it no less damages her moral authority as spokesperson for Aboriginal welfare reform.
Vale’s emerging use of divisive tactics in advancing a necessary and complex cause may prove to be untenable. But if divisiveness is going to be an acceptable way of proceeding with this problem, then let us play her game for a moment.
If by chance a persons CV offers any reflection on her character and on her credibility in sticking up for the wretched, what do we see?
Consider the choice between Danna Vale, who decided to give away a job in juvenile justice to become a politician serving a comfortable, middle-class urban seat for a government whose policies on women’s and Aboriginal affairs speak volumes, and Pat O’Shane, a legal officer who has travelled the country for decades trying to oppose at times intractable prejudice against women and others in the face of bitter opposition, including that of fellow Aborigines and erstwhile friends.
There would be no contest. Except, perhaps, in a brave, new, yet strangely unchanging Australia where “political and cultural intrusion” is promoted as a default and neither adequately described nor feared.