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A stinging rebuke for Kevin Rudd by Pat O'Shane, Australia's first Indigenous magistrate

[From the Sydney Morning Herald's Letters column June 29, 2007,]It was with extreme alarm that I heard Kevin Rudd express support for the Prime Minister's proposals to take over indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

The issue has been around for decades, and people such as I warned about it at least 20 years ago. At the time I stated it at a public meeting in Sydney I was vilified by the media and politicians as alarmist and hyperbolic. Other people's warnings were simply ignored.

I would have expected that Mr Rudd would note that it was John Howard who shortly after assuming office embarked on a protracted propaganda program of demonising indigenous Australians, which enabled him to put a firebomb through indigenous programs and cut $400 million from indigenous health funding. Programs designed to overcome the very problems that breed child sexual abuse have virtually been demolished.

I would also have expected Mr Rudd to note Mr Howard's nuclear power agenda to which uranium, present throughout the Northern Territory and especially in Aboriginal lands, is fundamental.

Far from Mr Howard attempting to institute measures to ensure indigenous Australians get to share a place in the sun with the likes of his own privileged mates, he is once again engaging in the blame game. And he's about to fix things, jackboot fashion, by cutting services, putting indigenous parents through hell and compounding the suffering of little
children, along with all other members of their communities.

Putting his name to these proposals is a serious indictment of Mr Rudd's leadership and signifies an alarming lack of judgment.

In order to distinguish himself as a true alternative leader he should differentiate between the land grab from indigenous people and the issue of child abuse. He should also make a distinction between Mr Howard's political and economic agenda and the real crisis of child abuse.

Solutions to the crisis of child abuse have been highlighted in a raft of domestic and international texts which do not promote deployment of police and the military as the front-line response. The situation requires a health, education, human services and housing response.

Let us be clear that John Howard and Mal Brough (not to mention Noel Pearson and Sue Gordon) are not the "great white hopes" for Aboriginal communities. There are any number of people within the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities who would be more than willing to assist Mr Rudd in differentiating himself by building a civil society, which would include happy, healthy indigenous communities.

I look forward to hearing Mr Rudd outline a more considered response to the situation in the Northern Territory and particularly his response to Mr Howard's promotion of further violence and disempowerment in indigenous communities.

Pat O'Shane
Hunters Hill

Background coverage on Pat O'Shane in GLW

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