Sunday, 3 June 2012

Peddling the easy answers

Remember Brad Goodman?



Brad was a self-help guru, who found fortune and fame peddling a bunch of easy answers to a gullible people.  Although simply a character in The Simpsons, like many other characters from that beloved cartoon, it is not hard to find people in real life who could play that same part.

Like Jack. 

After his recent appearance on Australian Story, Jack Manning Bancroft is riding a wave of public adoration.  Touted as everything from a future Indigenous leader, to an Aussie inspiration, overwhelmingly, the feedback coming in from his TV appearance has been extremely positive.  If you listen to the viewers, he's achieving huge success with Indigenous youth, turning the tide of low expectations and bringing high profile supporters and donations to disadvantaged Aboriginal kids.

At least, that's what Australian Story told them to swallow. 

Jack runs an outfit called AIME - Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience.  He teams Uni students (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) up with Indigenous students, to mentor them through High School, for around an hour a week (it must be an action packed hour..).  It is supposed to assist with raising the rates of Indigenous students finishing Year 12, and encourage more Indigenous students to go on further, to University studies and a brighter future.

The outfit is funded by both Universities and corporate sponsors (such as Rio Tinto & Google), no doubt as they feel it is a worthwhile cause.  Even Thorpey is on board, and he's putting his money (well, to be technically correct, the money of his donors) where his mouth is. 

But I can still hear that nagging little cartoon voice of Lisa Simpson.  You see, like Brad Goodman, Jack Manning Bancroft and AIME are peddling a bunch of easy answers.

In operation for almost 8 years now, you may be surprised to know that AIME does not operate in a single remote area.  Heck, they don't even operate in the Northern Territory, Western Australia or South Australia.  You may be surprised to find that in Victoria, they've chosen to work with schools that not only have some of the lowest percentages of Indigenous students in the state, but, they've also chosen schools that are some of the most expensive and prestigious.  Schools like Scotch College (who do give two scholarships a year to boys from the N.T), Trinity College and Xavier College.  Melbourne Grammar School is also on their list, as is Parade College.  Looking at the list of public schools that they work with, it appears the maps past Hampton Park are not in existence.  A shame really, as if they were to talk with the Principal at say, Bairnsdale Secondary College in Gippsland, they would find that not only are there schools with a high percentage of Indigenous students, but, that those same students would benefit from any help on offer, as they are some of  the neediest and lowest performing in the state.

It is much easier to mentor a young affluent white boy from Scotch, who identifies as Indigenous, than a struggling black kid from the sticks who doesn't dare dream as big as finishing High School with a passing grade.  It is much nicer to sit down and discuss the merits of various Universities and the trivialities of campus life with a young kid in a crisp, smart uniform than to try to elevate the aspirations of a child whose parents don't care enough to ensure he is well fed, let alone well dressed and bathed.

For eight years, it appears Jack has deceived himself, and, the rest of us.  He's told us he's making a change, and, more importantly, he's Closing the Gap.

He is not.

Instead, he has created a divide.  Widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots.  While the wealthy Identifiers are improving their outcomes from good or great, to fantastic, the neediest have lost ground.  Hell bent on convincing ourselves that things are improving, we place people like Jack on a pedestal.  He tells people what they want to hear, and asks only that you throw money his way in return for his good deeds and innovative ideas.  Like the citizens of Springfield, we can't get enough of our Brad Goodman and his easy answers.

I don't doubt that there have been some hard luck kids who have been helped by AIME.  I also don't doubt that they've done some good work as a result of their programs.  Heck, I don't even doubt that some of the kids they've helped have had dark skin.  What I do take issue with, is allowing what appears to be a genuine fear of failure to dictate your policy and programs, resulting in the help again going not to those most in need. 

Let's say Joe Average decides to start an organisation to help Aboriginal children.  Joe wants to be able to get donations coming in by the bucketload, so, he looks around the other organisations who claim to do the same thing as him, and makes his pitch even better than theirs.  Red Cross say they will lift literacy rates by 10%  among 5-12 year old Aboriginal children by 2015.  To get more donations than Red Cross, Joe markets his organisation to potential donors as being ready, willing and able to take that number to 25%.

This is where things get tricky.  Instead of working harder or smarter with old theory, or implementing some new, previously untried revolutionary program to work with struggling kids, Joe simply takes his half-baked organisation to selected areas, excluding any schools with kids that have consistently poor outcomes or a high percentage of low-income earners as residents.  He works with a small group of children who identify as Indigenous (often several generations removed from a single full-blood ancestor), offering nothing new or exciting, but, simply uses their natural progress to fiddle with the averages and achieve his goals on paper.

We're a nation that likes facts and figures, but, we're a population that likes them spoon-fed to us.  We certainly seem to prefer it when someone else tells us what conclusion we are meant to draw from statistics and percentages, if our current mindset is anything to go by.  Indigenous specific statistics are no exception.  In the twenty years from 1986 to 2006, the Indigenous population doubled.  While part of this is attributed to natural rates of procreation, the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that this staggering increase is also due in part to people identifying as Indigenous where in previous counts, they did not.

The boom in our numbers has been great for those trying to 'Close the Gap'.  All of a sudden, gains can be made, by little more than a tick in the box.  We can all reassure ourselves that we're going forward, not backwards, because the statistics don't lie.  As a percentage, we have more middle income and high income Indigenous households than ever before.  As a nation, we've made serious ground when it comes to preventable childhood diseases ravaging Indigenous youngsters.

But that's when you look at the nation as a whole.  When you take the statistics and break them down, you see the real picture.  Urban Indigenous populations are making all the gains.  The remote communities make little gain, none, or in some cases, are going backwards.  While their often fair-skinned, urban counterparts are achieving on par in almost all areas with their non-identifying peers (the gold standard we apply when we speak of a Gap), the improvements of which we so often speak and celebrate are just not being delivered to those who need it the most.  Those who were struggling then, are most likely to still be struggling now.  My experiences with remote communities have done nothing but strengthen this conviction.  The overwhelming poverty, dysfunction and suffering remains at the same levels year after year for many remote communities, but to hear the city slicker fauxborigines speak, we're doin' fine.  We hear self-appointed Elders constantly tell us the importance of Welcome to Country ceremonies and demand their performance as a mark of 'respect', yet never think to question why they have placed so much focus on a shallow tokenism, when children are being abused and neglected. 

Instead of helping their poorer, blacker cousins, often, the fauxborigine exploits them for their own gain. 

We are allowed to get upset when intellectually impaired children are excluded from across the board testing (Naplan) in an effort for a school to post an artificially inflated score.  It is unquestionably wrong for a school to discriminate against disabled children in order to appear as though their students are outperforming their expectations. Why are we so afraid to apply the same logic when discussing Aboriginal students?  At present, should you dare to point out that disadvantaged, dark skinned Aboriginal children are being excluded in much the same way from programs such as AIME to keep their success rates high, you will be denounced loudly by every fauxborigine with a Twitter account.  Accusations of racism if you admit to being non-Indigenous, and, a perpetrator of lateral violence if you happen to be black like I am.  Personally, I despise a term like lateral violence being levelled at me by someone with pale skin.  The term implies that the accuser and myself are on an equal footing, when clearly, we are not.  I cannot hide what I am, they can and do.  Even if they have 'identified with their culture practically from birth' (a readily coined phrase by many in the 'Industry'), it makes no difference.  They demand every Caucasian person in Australia admit that they are the beneficiaries of White Privilege, yet refuse to accept that simply by virtue of their own pale skin, they too are the recipients of this very same Privilege.  Hypocrisy at its finest.

During his TV appearance, Jack compares himself to an Undercover Cop, with regards to his Aboriginality.  He explains that people cannot tell he is Aboriginal just by looking at him (just as one cannot tell an Undercover Cop in plain clothes is a Police Officer), and because of this unique position he holds, he is able to permeate the various layers of society and discover racism across all walks of life (and of course, is personally offended by it - give me a break).  Lucky him.  I don't know a single black skinned and obviously Aboriginal person who wouldn't mind trading skins for a day so he can really learn what it's like.  Perhaps then he will stop making ridiculous and insulting statements and realise just how good he has it.

Overhearing a racist joke or comment is so far removed from being rejected dozens of times for rental properties or jobs for no other reason than the way you look.  Seeing an Aboriginal person be refused service by someone who just served you without problem is light years away from being the person denied that simple courtesy again and again.   Having two people in primary school call you a name after you told them you are Aboriginal is a walk in the park compared to having that label applied to you almost every day, and that label sticking with you long past the days of the schoolyard, without having to utter a word about your heritage to anyone.


I hope Jack will decide to prove me wrong and start working with impoverished and remote Aboriginal communities.  It will be much harder than working with the kids from a private school, but I can promise you that it is infinitely more rewarding, and I warn you that it will at times, break your heart. 

26 comments:

  1. BST, I'm a white Australian bloke. I have been following your blog for about 8 months and have never failed to be impressed with your straight-talking courage. I feel that you are articulating what a vast majority of Australians think, but are too coy to say.

    Anybody who has had any dealings with the Aboriginal Industry and who has not allowed themselves to be compromised by the bullshit therein, leaves or lives with a bitter taste.
    No Australian is not moved by the plight of our FELLOW AUSTRALIANS who have been forced by Government whim into a life of impoverished mendicancy, and whose choices have been tragically curtailed.

    No ordinary Australian in not angered by the legions of taxpayer funded mandarins whose lifestyle choices are supported by keeping the Aboriginals, our Brothers, right where they are.

    The real Stolen Generations are the thousands who have had and will have their futures stolen from them by continuing, State sponsored degradation, while this pack of self-aggrandizing middle-class, white wankers trade on the misery of others by wrapping themselves in the cloak of "victim" and gorge at the public trough.

    Trouble is, there's no easy answers, long term mendicancy turns the lives of the recipients, regardless of race, into "Trainspotting"; and cutting off the welfare would cause immeasurable pain. Accepting that the world is close to the edge of a chasm of chaos, I believe that the welfare may cut off for everyone so we may see a socialization of pain.

    Notwithstanding this, the only way out for "the poor" anywhere has been education; not an education in victim hood but a sound academic education with a vision for the future. The continuing cant regarding the mythological utopian noble savage existence of the Indigenous prior to European settlement is just Romantic bullshit and the sooner it is rejected the better. To romanticize the realities of the hunter-gatherer life with its marginal diet, rigid social organization, superstition , ,ongoing blood-feuding and woman stealing and present it as a caring, environmentally sustainable ideal and a viable alternative to modern civilization is pure folly; yet this has been the gift of white, Marxist anthropologists to the Indigenous of Australia, and the foundation stone for the State sponsored apartheid that continues to lock out the large proportion of our Indigenous from a full participation in Australian society.

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    1. Peter - "the only way out for "the poor" anywhere has been education; not an education in victim hood but a sound academic education with a vision for the future"

      Very true Peter. When you see how much of the world is cut off from those who don't have even basic literacy skills, you realise how important education is to bettering outcomes at all levels.

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    2. Very well said Peter.
      Let the fightback begin.
      I for one am sick to death of lying leftard gubbariginals stealing,selling and exploiting Aboriginal identity.
      For personal gain.While the true Aboriginals are left to rot in fringe camps and hell hole public housing estates across the nation.
      Good on you BST,you may well be the bloke we have been waiting for.

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  2. Black steam trains have a glorious sense of power and progress in my memory... go well friend; and thank you for this piece.

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  3. I only have one word for you BST - "respect". Keep up the good fight, for you are saying things that others may not.

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  4. I don't know where you get the strength to keep resisting this hideous trend of white aboriginal people who insist they speak for the indigenous population and demand the wider community accept that they do indeed have a thriving indigenous culture in the inner suburbs! In addition, apparently one drop of aboriginal blood is equal to any amount from another race. I have given up ever expecting an answer when I ask for concrete examples of this so called contempory culture and have also almost given up even responding to some of the outragious comments made on issues like the intervention, which are beyond the experience of any of them. I am also sick of being told I am divisive when I differentiate between black, remote aboriginal people and fair skinned, european looking ones. It's not divisive, it's a fact of life. There can be no comparison between the two groups.
    If only they could put as much energy into actually doing something practical for those children living lives of desperation and who have no hope of achieving any semblence of a normal functioning life. Even if they cannot physically go to a remote community a lot could be achieved with children from places like Redfern. Take a group from there and show them the homes and workplaces of obviously indigenous people who have achieved at a mainstream level and see what mentoring could be done to help these children escape from the ghettos some indigenous people have created in the city. I have spent 40 years raising and caring for indigenous children in remote areas and quite frankly hygiene and literacy standards are worse than they were in the 70's in some areas. At the same time rhetorical speeches and pretend programs are flourishing. What a mess.

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    1. Glad to see you Big Nana.

      I don't know that it is strength, I think I write out of desperation and frustration, in equal parts. I feel a huge weight on my shoulders from my people, they are looking to my generation to fix things and we just aren't capable of doing it without a huge shake-up of the 'Industry'.

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  5. Good Luck BST, other blogs are picking up your message. (About f**king time too)

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  6. Great article and, subject aside, you sure can 'write'.

    Anyway this line caught my eye... "The remote communities make little gain... or in some cases, are going backwards."

    I'm bamboozled how remote Aboriginal communities will EVER be self sustaining. We know a company like, say GMH, couldn't put a factory in a remote area and make it pay, so how can an aboriginal community ever pay its own way? Surely theres no half measures. Remote aboriginals either need to return to totally traditional living off the land, or pack up and move to the 'burbs and join the real world like the rest of us. Why do we believe the fantasy that remote communities will ever be anything other than shanti towns with no jobs, no prospects, no respect and no hope.

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    1. One option is the communities can exist in the same way as small villages do in the rest of the world. Be as self sufficient as possible wth regard horticulture, chickens, goats, cattle etc. Perhaps a small bakery, one cabinet maker, a store and any other small enterprises like artifact making that could bring in a small income. Topped up by social security, people could live a simple, but healthy and satisfying life whilst retaining their language and those parts of the culture they wished to retain. However this lifestyle requires hard work and discipline, not attributes easily found in remote communities. It's the sort of life I could be happy living, having experienced something similar in the Kimberly for several years. It is the type of lifestyle used by missionaries 100 years ago and was quite successful but disentigtated as soon as the missionaries left.

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  7. Well done. That is a brillian tarticle sure to upset those on the gravy train.

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  8. Have linked your blog post ...it has a lot of hard truths, regards.

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  9. Well written. I think your blog will strike a chord with many Australians.

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  10. Brilliantly argued. I'm putting you into my rss feeds
    A person who is prepared to stand up, and make sense.

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  11. Thank you for the sound of this blog - the ring of truth being told unvarnished and so inconvenient to the aboriginal industry and the leech farm that feeds off it.

    Truth never damages a cause that is just.
    – Mohandas K. Gandhi
    and not forgetting this is little adage which stretches across the ages They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.
    - Plato

    Go well my brother -

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  12. Ahh, the privilege. It is a privilege to read some truth and integrity on the matter. But privileges are easily withdraw, sometimes with a sharp and costly smack from a Judge and some kicks from the leftard media. Andrew Bolt's privilege for instance.

    But where the opportunity to speak clearly on a difficult subject is hampered in one case, the urge pops up elsewhere. Well done Sir for your efforts here in exposing the cant and hypocricy. You are fortunate to be protected by your colour in our pseudo-non-racist Oz.

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  13. A Bolt linked to your blog. Very good writing. You need to get yourself on one of those programs like Q AND A or Insignt or someting just to smack down(verbally) some of the white people who think they know what it's really like for (real) indigenous Australians, when in reality they wouldn't have a clue.

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    1. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall on Bolts office when the lawyers went over the decision to link.
      BST, you are up against the Industry, and they fight a vicious fight. Somewhat like cornered rats.
      Watch your back, and bloody good luck to you...

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  14. Brilliant. Keep writing the hard truths for the aboriginals and non aboriginals and you will have the overwhelming majority of the population - black and white - supporting you.

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  15. I guess I've done my share of promoting a rosy picture of Indigenous success at university, with close to thirty thousand graduates now, and record enrolments. Yes, 're-identification' has played a part in the boost to those enrolments and graduations, bhut also perhaps, a massive increase in inter-marriage between working Indigenous and working non-Indigenous people in the seventies and eighties onwards, and a subsequent massive increase from about 2000-1 in Year 12 graduations. But I still think that, sooner orlater, they will make a difference.

    Yes, there are phonys - those of us who have worked in Indigenous support programs at universities know them pretty well. And there are others who have been happy to live off their own people, maintaining the Gap or widening it if possible. But I fervently believe that somewhere out there, there are decent Indigenous graduates who genuinely want to be of use to their people on the one hand, and those who asimply want to strike out on their own and develop productive careers regardless, on the other.

    BUT, it has to be said, that in the past ten years, especially people in rural and remote areas have turned away from education towards welfare, even as those avenues have been closing up. Rural study centres have closed up, at least here in SA, as people chose bullshit TAFE courses instead. But those avenues are also closing.

    The tragedy is that universities' Indigenous support programs are also being destroyed and their funding taken over by their arch-enemies, Aboriginal Studies teaching schools, and the emphasis has shifted from supporting Indigenous students, to teaching 'Aboriginal Culture' to non-Indigenous students. So universities have been gutted in their potential to assist rural and remote Indigenous people just at a time when they are turning away. I fear that the Gap will widen significantly before anybody does anything about it.

    I have been keeping a database of stats on Indigenous higher education, if anybody is interested, on joelane94@hotmail.com

    Keep fighting, BST !

    Cheers,

    Joe

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  16. This is a fantastic blog. As a seventh generation Australian I am proud to call this country my home, and both proud and ashamed of how we have attempted to integrate our various cultures. I believe there are more benefits than drawbacks to our integration, though there are massive problems still, yet we seem to be going exactly the wrong way about solving these remaining differences. Entitlements and welfare only create victims and then feed and grow that victimhood. The solutions offered are divisive and neglect the larger picture. I'd love to see some blog posts about what you think is working currently to help, and what further could be done. Thanks again for raising these important issues, and I hope that all of us born under these beautiful skies can live harmoniously as one Australian people.

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  17. I am just wandering what it is you "äctually" do to contribute to any of the crisis you continually raise here on your blog??? so far all I have seen is you tear shreds off all fair skinned proud Aboriginal people who are trying to make a difference, be it in major city (cause thats where they live) or degrading someone else who is trying to get an education to give back to the community, while you sit in your emergency accomodation (handout) continually breaking the law (driving on a suspended licence) crying harrassment, "swallowing your pride"to approach the people who actually get off their ass to make a difference in Aboriginal communities for people like you and families in need such as yours, and you dare to sit here and belittle them, denounce our culture and say we are not worth shit!
    I will actually take this time to point out to you, that you are not making anything better, instead you are fostering the very hatred that breeds and keeps this society at levels, a level of white collar ( color) and disadvantage. you are not making any ones contribution to society an easy road, and you belittle the very people you are sitting on your ass waiting to hand you an Aboriginal housing property, frankly I would rather see it that another person who tirelessly gives to the community get that precious accomodation and you learn to eat humble pie, and stop spreading your hatred toward the people who actually make a difference.
    I f I lead a life that clearly invokes jealousy in your soul, take the journey my friend and join the real world, oh thats right you have a family member with a mental illness, rendering you incapable of making a real difference? get over yourself, everybody has turmiol in thier lives, some people just choose not to sit back on thier ass and whinge about how hard done by they are.

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    1. Let me guess, one of the pale audience members from the show?

      And the community you work in, something disadvantaged and full of needy people like Toorak? Vaucluse even?

      Your empathy and ability to separate your judgement of me and my opinions with the needs of my family is well noted. Perhaps a job in the Industry is just right for you (housing would be the obvious calling). You certainly have the right attitude and seem to understand just how the system works. What an asset to any community you would be.

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  18. Well said Kritiqued. Your response reflects very poorly on you, Dallas. Pathetic really.

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  19. I lived in the Northern areas of South Australia for forty years. There were many Aboriginals in the area but they were outnumbered by white people.
    In years those I knew quite a few people who were called for jury duty. Of those people called for jury duty three people, one of whom was my wife, were selected to be a member of a jury that served on a trial.
    Of the three cases two were of Aboriginal men murdering other Aboriginal men and the third trial was of a Aboriginal man who caused such grievous wounds to an Aboriginal woman that she is now brain-dead.
    All of the cases involved alcohol. Three out of three trials all involving Aboriginals is more than a coincidence. I know and worked with a number of Aboriginals but not one was a male over fifty, their lifestyle were killing them. The only people who made it to old age and commanded respect were the women elders. The young women were as violent as the young men and are now living the same lifestyle as the men.
    Goodness knows what will happen when the old women die. The last bit of stability in lives of the very young people will have gone.
    I hope that the light skinned, middle class Aboriginals who are living in their comfy, inner city homes haven't got a clue of what's happening on the lands, why do I say this? because if they do know what's happening I really wonder how they can sleep at night or look at themselves in the mirror. All money and efforts to improve the lifestyles of Aboriginals should be made for the Aboriginals who live in squaller and fear of alcohol fuelled violence. The majority of these Aboriginals live on the lands.

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