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TS and I've been e-musing about the Intervention. Here's something we agree on (and see below for where we disagree..)

PETITION [Feel free to distribute, modify etc.]
We call on the Australian Government to postpone the winding up of Community Development Employment Programs in the NT for the following reasons:

1. It jeopardises many organisations such as Language Centres and Arts Centres which provide community services and on-the-job training, and are gradually developing enterprises, as well as jeopardising small-scale tourism ventures which have been started in some communities.
2. There is no adequate safety-net in place. Most of the contracted Job Networks are clearly unable to provide, manage or supervise fair, efficient or effective access to substitutes such as the STEP training program or even Work for the Dole in the remote communities.
3. The abolition of meaningful work will have a devastating effect on the morale and social functioning of many remote communities, causing an increase in the kinds of social problems that led to the intervention in the first place.

We suggest that the entire project - its aims, methodology, strategy and structure – requires immediate independent review.

E-conversation 20 September - 23 September
JS The intervention punishes Aboriginal people regardless whether they have been making an effort or not.
TS1 OK some of this is not just telling people what to do: it includes giving them strong incentives to actually change their behaviour, to get new experiences, to get off their butts, as we now say; I think a lot of people could probably come out of this feeling a bit - or a lot - more functional
JS1 But what ARE the incentives? In the Cape York model the incentive is that your welfare won't be quarantined if you aren't neglectful.
TS2 the incentives are: increased income, autonomy and freedoms, in return for studying, training, working, shifting to places where there are jobs
JS2 In the short-term however, people won't see any such return, and so it will be hard for them to believe in the long-term possibility.
TS3 It ain’t necessarily so. Some of my current walking companions are quite interested in ‘getting out’, but they are possibly not typical. However people who went through the seasonal work expeditions in the 30s to 70s often thrived on it, and some of them whom I have known quite well went on to work away from CA for other periods of their lives. Some of them got to know Jimmy Sharman very well, and had quite a good time of it, by all accounts! One had a welding apprenticeship with MIM.

JS2 They have to weigh up the benefits of being with their families in familiar country on lower incomes, against the cost of moving to town with no certainty of work, in a much less friendly environment, and with greater access to alcohol.
TS3 Yes! Although some of the possible destinations give a fair degree of certainty of getting a job. There are currently blokes from Areyonga working at the Warlpiri gold mines, for example. The greater access to alcohol in some places will not necessarily be a deterrent, and I suspect that may be a deliberate tactic in how all this is being designed. If it is being designed.

JS My suspicion over the income quarantining is that the Government were falsely extrapolating from the wet communities of Cape York (Noel Pearson's problem) to the legally dry communities of the NT. And of course they refused to ask the experts who they indirectly pay - the economists and geographers - to work out how much money actually IS spent on grog in legally dry communities like Yuendumu as a proportion of money spent in the community.
TS1 The CA alcohol sales figures speak for themselves, and Curtin's NDRC has done some work on this over the years, in relation to estimating Aboriginal visitors' consumption as a proportion of the total. Virtually all the communities are 'dry'.
JS1 Yeah, but what I think we need to know is whether the - say- 60% of Yuendumu people who are teetotal normally lose more than half their income to humbugging alcoholic relations. If they do, then clearly they're ahead with quarantining because they'll have more money to spend on food.
TS2 I agree it would be extremely useful to know more about details of current spending etc. However NDRC figures indicate it is highly unlikely that 60% of adults are teetotallers, despite the fabled but very wonky Territory Health survey of c.1989, which has been continually re-quoted but from what I can see, never independently verified. Also, don’t forget that it’s not only ‘alcoholic relations’ who humbug unreasonably. Otherwise law-abiding individuals often have a good line in it too. Not to mention fans of ganja and cards & the pokies, & people who are extremely fond of cars, horses, music, clothes, appliances, shopping & on & on. Nothing wrong with most of these in themselves, just problematic when hitting on fairly defenceless & very impoverished relatives for $50 for no better reason than to indulge themselves. The aim of the Intervention is not simply to stop money being spent on grog/drugs – it also aims to ensure that more money is spent on necessities rather than chosen frivolities like large amounts of deadly (sugar, fat, salt & refined flour laden) fast food, expensive but shortlived toys – i.e. it’s partly an attack on the tyranny of infantile or thoughtlessly self-centred behaviour

JS1 And likewise for card games (although those have extra capital-raising benefits).
TS2 But not necessarily socially useful benefits
JS2 Certainly money spent on alcohol isn't socially useful - money spent on motorcars has mixed social benefits.
TS3 Very mixed, if the cars are often used for ferrying large quantities of illegal substances, or in hunting & gathering of other peoples’ royalties, welfare cheques, wages, food, blankets, TVs, stereos etc.

JS1 But those people who don't normally lose their money to alcoholics and card games - the responsible people - are going to feel VERY resentful.
TS2 those people – who may not be as many in number as you seem to assume (from my experience very few people are able to resist the depredations of relatives) - may feel wronged, depressed, crushed, and this is a major problem with the Intervention. However many of them already feel much like this as a result of present arrangements & consequent problems … so time will tell what on balance the results in this regard are

JS1 And they of course are precisely the people with the skills needed to bring the communities back together again.
TS2 sort of. A lot of the ones that I know are old, worn out, valuable to their immediate families, but past being able to supply much community leadership. This is the problem with the present arrangements – it has produced a self-reinforcing downward spiral where lessening capacity & growing dysfunction levels produce less capacity & more dysfunction ad infinitum

JS1 I wonder what kind of deal Galarrwuy Yunupingu has made over his mob... I wonder whether his Mala Council of Elders is intended as the first step to a Pearson type model which wrests control of determining how people can spend their money from Centrelink staff and hands it over to a council of elders...
TS2 I have no idea. But your guess is probably well founded, given the apparent influence of Noel, Lew and Sean.
JS2 It's reinforced by the observation that last year Brough refused Wadeye the deal on leasing that he has now given to Yunupingu.
TS3 Not so much ‘given’ I think, as granted in response to a growing desperation at Liberal Party HQ…

JS My belief is that replacing say 10 CDEP jobs with 2 full-time jobs is going to leave 8 people with nothing to do and no hope of doing anything, and that the loss to a community of the extra income from the other 8 CDEP jobs will be considerable. The STEP programs aren't in place, and the implementation of work-for-the-dole is baffling.
TS1 I think you are on firmer ground with these concerns. But I also think that this is being done as the key 'shock therapy' component, and that it is actually warranted by the seriousness of the disease, provided it is competently planned & administered – now there’s a big ask - and monitored & adjusted to avoid too much injury. However, I have been continually surprised by the willingness to make adjustments to cope with realities throughout this exercise so far, so the remaining dogmas may dissolve as needed. Apparently there are fierce internal debates going on within both DEWR and the Operations command about exactly these details over the last couple of weeks

JS They haven't, as far as I can see, got a workable quarantining system - nothing like the US food voucher system which is possible to administer, and is transferrable. How on earth can a Centrelink bureaucrat seriously deal with a couple of hundred people asking to spend their money on this and that.... Ironically, quarantining income in this way may reduce people's mobility since it will now be considerably more difficult to raise the money to travel to town. And, for school attendance, that may be a good thing. But when the effects of this hit home, I am betting this will create serious resentment.
TS1 I think I have seen a document indicating that there may be at least 15 cases per Centrelink manager.
JS1 well I can't see how that will work - it means that they'll have to have 77 Centrelink staff for Dagaragu, Yuendumu, Tennant Creek and Lajamanu - (or so I calculate from the wonderful ABS census tables for 2006 - online - it's a dream if you want to waste HOURS of time looking at different variables..)
TS2 I have checked this one, & you are right. The 15 person minimum per superviser formula is to do with WfD groups. The ratio of Centrelink staff to the 50% managed clients looks like being much greater. But they are planning on having around 5 of these people in the larger communities at peak times.
JS2 Fly-in-fly-out Centrelink staff who appear on paydays? BTW an article Tackle child neglect at its roots, (Tony Nicholson, Brotherhood of St Laurence | July 19, 2007) asserts that "The best approach is to give the responsibility for making judgments about quarantining welfare payments not to Centrelink officials or to contracted non-government welfare agencies, but to child protection authorities in each state who understand each child's circumstances and are empowered to act on their behalf. Our goal must be to maximise child welfare, not just simply manage money."

TS1 The main reason for the huge cost of employing bureaucrats is the intensive work they intend doing on this, and in the stores. They are developing a virtual adult education model for teaching budgeting, nutrition etc we were told a couple of weeks ago when being briefed by Centrelink people from Canberra. The degree of resentment will be telling, and will probably depend on the skills and personalities of the workers.
JS1 I wonder whether they've budgeted for interpreters. I was floored by the level of misunderstanding by health workers of absolutely basic terms - when they were HIGHLY motivated to undestand what was going on.
TS2 I fronted a very defensive DEWR person about the need for use of interpreters. I think the message has gotten through, but doubt that the results will be anything like ideal

TS1 The reduction of mobility seems to be quite deliberate, and a feature of a number of the measures, for a variety of reasons. We will know more after a few weeks of trialling etc.

JS Nor have they thought through the short-term consequences of the mix of a reduction of half the disposable income with child-rearing practices which value kids' independence (translated into giving them money, and encouraging them to ask relations for money, to buy their food themselves - which then translates into kids eating fastfood and ready-made food of dubious nutritional quality).
TS1 Again, they have thought of this, and they are aiming to modify it - and I agree with their effort!
JS1 I'd be REALLy interested to know how they propose to modify this - it strikes me as exceedingly difficult.
TS3 my guess is – they are planning to crunch doting parents & embattled grannies & fond aunts and obligated uncles with the income management and school attendance requirements, directly demanding that they begin to try to exercise more discipline and change the dominant child/youth sub-cultures. The extra policing will help in this at crucial times, as will the generally less intoxicated and more focused ambience of the communities. There is about to be an expansion of services supplying cognitive behaviour therapy programs (and ‘anger management’ and ‘parenting skills’ courses) in remote area health services at places like Yuendumu, Papunya and Ntaria, as well as locals training in mental health skills, and these efforts will assist. Likewise the steadily expanding system of early childhood intervention programs based on home visitation by nurses, and growing numbers of effective after-school, school holiday and evening youth programs, as well as more funded & better staffed pre-schools and playgroups. Improved staffing in Council and school workplaces will also generate and reinforce changes at the ‘community development’ level. Linguists & anthros will, if they want, find positive roles for themselves in this brave new world, where they can stand collaborating with the forces of ‘repression’.
JS3 : Well I am sure that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programmes will not work unless they involve anthropologists and linguists. There are so many culturally-laden assumptions in therapy programmes which are hard to translate.
TS4 You are dead right

JS In the 1980s. decades of school breakfast and lunch programs were abandoned in the name of making parents take responsibility for their kids' nutrition. This abandonment did not result in parents taking responsibility for feeding their kids. I don't see that the Government has thought through how to change people's attitudes towards how children are raised and fed. It requires a basic shift in what people value (independence of children vs well-fed children), and people have to be convinced in their hearts that they have been damaging their children by say letting them be independent, letting them drink lots of tea at a young age, or by not ensuring that they eat more protein, fruit and vegetables. Telling people what's good for them and their children rarely works (as we have been finding out with our own families, sigh!!!). Unfortunately, as far as I can see from a distance, the whole process is top-down.
TS1 The process is top-down, but it is not true that top down never works. The intervention aims to - over time - introduce more actions based on medium and longterm thinking, & less automatic reaction to kids’ demands, in relation to parents' behaviour towards rearing their kids. This is another key theme running through the arrangements.
JS1 I don't think it's just a matter of giving in to kids, I do think the people who have studied child rearing in Aboriginal communities are right when they point to the value placed on independence at an early age - it's an essential for hunter gatherer societies that kids learn to feed themselves as early as possible - but how to get it across that this is counterproductive when hunting means buying hot chips
TS2 Given that the present economy is definitely post-hunter gatherer, the value placed on children’s independence and the practice of giving in to kids’ tantrums have merged into the one phenomenon
JS2 This is an interesting point. Annette Hamilton noted the interdependence of a belief in independence and acceptance of tantrums among the Anbarra she studied. How to disentangle these ideas, and accept that independence is good, but show that it must be accompanied by an understanding of what things children cannot judge well for themselves. A further problem may arise for women, in that it's been documented that husbands sometimes rebuke wives for being too harsh to children.

TS1 However, nobody seems able to explain how feeding kids 10 meals per week at school accords with these aims!
JS1 Could they be recognising that in the short term at least kids need food, and school programs are a way of ensuring they get it 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year? And hope that over time the parents get used to a new regime whereby the parents feed kids and insist on the kids eating healthily?
TS2 Undoubtedly that is their thinking, but I think here more than in most other areas of the Intervention theory this displays an appetite for short-term political opportunism rather than the tougher processes needed to achieve real change in family child-rearing practices

JS My concern over the reduction of violence is that if the Government were really serious about it being an emergency, then a) they would have got a lot more police on the ground - how about calling for volunteers from retired police and paying them $650 a day like the volunteer doctors? and put a lot more money into it rather than the hideously complicated Centrelink bureaucracy
TS1 Point taken,. Suggest you write to Brough about this one - you have a good idea! (I have had letters of reply by a Brough advisor to a couple of my email suggestions to Brough)
JS1 ok

JS and b) they would have been targeting the initial deployment better - I gather that the new police at Nyirrpi haven't had much to do, whereas, so the media reports, Titjikala - where there is close proximity to alchohol - have been asking for police and not getting them. 66 extra police is less than one per community.
TS1 Yes, I don't undestand the Nyirrpi gambit either, although I suppose it could be connected with the lobbying powers of the apparently very competent CEO who took over both Papunya & Nyirrpi shortly before the Emergency was declared, and who seems to be a bit of a superstar in the new constellation
JS1 Ah - noisy axles!
TS2 Proves my point – send that email!
JS2 Brough hasn't responded to earlier e-mails I've sent - I'm just Yet Another Bleeding Heart whose opinions he feels free to ignore.... but let's see if this one gets a response...
TS3 It's a comparative advantage writing to him from a community prior to a visit.

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