Sunday, 27 March 2016

In which Tony Abbott once again demonstrates why he was never fit to hold office

"Cautionary note concerning the publication of this report

Aspects of this research were only made possible by the involvement and cooperation of community leaders and stakeholders in West Cairns and Aurukun. Their co-operation was based on an understanding that the information provided by local people would be used to find effective solutions to the problems as described in this report. The project team in turn gave a commitment that we would do our best to work with these communities to make them safer, especially for their children. For our part, the present research was always seen as the first phase of a longer-term project that would involve the implementation and evaluation of interventions designed to reduce the prevalence and impacts of sexual violence and abuse in these communities.

Because the focus of this work is on specific communities, it has not been possible to present the report without identifying the communities. While we have done our best to avoid presenting information that could identify individuals within these communities, we are mindful that identifying the communities themselves nevertheless presents significant risks. Publicly naming these communities, particularly in the context of the present findings concerning sexual violence and abuse, risks damaging the relationships and community commitment upon which the success of future prevention efforts so fundamentally relies. Community tensions are very real in both communities, and especially in Aurukun. Insensitive media reporting, for example, even if well intentioned, could inflame these tensions. We fear that such attention would focus on the problems alone, and yet again the voices of those working toward a better future in these communities would not be properly heard.

We understand and support the Queensland Government’s commitment to openness and public accountability, and we are mindful that the present research was conducted with public funding. We understand that in the normal course of events the present report would and should be made available to the public. However we strongly urge caution with respect to the timing and circumstances of making this report public. We believe some delay may be warranted to allow a properly-considered government response to this report to be formulated, and perhaps for some positive outcomes to be presented. We believe we owe that to the members and leaders of these communities." [Smallbone, S. et al, (2013), Preventing Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun: Establishing the scope, dimensions and dynamics of the problem, p. vii, report released 12 March 2016]

Sacked former prime minister Tony Abbott and the mainstream media obviously paid no heed to Page vii of this report, when an opportunistic Abbott rushed to journalists with a simplistic, punitive and appallingly ignorant response.

Stop treating indigenous abuse differently: Abbott TONY Abbott has called for law and order to be enforced in indigenous communities as it is elsewhere.
Responding to an alarming government finding that sexual abuse of and by kids was "normalised" in some of the state's indigenous communities, the former prime minister said there needed to be consequences for any law-breaker - regardless of their background or age.
"Part of the problem often (are those who say) there should be different standards in different places," Mr Abbott (pictured) said. "That is not something that is acceptable. We need to have the same reasonable expectation of people - whether they are male or female, black or white." Mr Abbott said the response was required in the wake of the "utterly scandalous" government findings, in a secret report that was revealed by The Courier-Mail

AAP Bulletin News, 21 March 2016:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has urged authorities in north Queensland to arrest and charge alleged sex offenders as young as 10.
A Queensland report has revealed children are both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Asked what to do about 10-year-old sex offenders in Aurukun, Mr Abbott told the Courier Mail: "They should be arrested, they should be charged, there are juvenile justice systems."
He said it was not acceptable to have different standards in different places.
"We need to have the same reasonable expectation of people, whether they are male or female, black or white, Christian or Muslim," said Mr Abbott.

The Cairns Post, 21 March 2016:

TONY Abbott (right) has controversially declared that Far North Queensland's 10-year-old sex offenders should be arrested, charged and forced through the juvenile justice system.
Commenting on an "utterly scandalous" report outlining distressing rates of child sexual assault, the former prime minister has demanded Australia end its different expectations for black and white communities, and law and order be enforced.
Many politicians remained floored by Professor Stephen Small-bone's The Preventing Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun report. But Mr Abbott, who has a strong record of engaging with indigenous Australians, including volunteering in Aurukun, said there needed to be consequences for any law breaker.
"The conditions are utterly scandalous and there needs to be a very strong response," he said.
Mr Abbott was asked what to do about 10-year-old sex offenders in Aurukun."They should be arrested. They should be charged. There are juvenile justice systems," he said.

The more reasoned response of the report:


The Courier Mail, 19 March 2016:

AURUKUN is again in the news and though the news is not new, it is not good. A report by researchers from Griffith University, led by Professor Stephen Smallbone, on youth sexual violence in Aurukun sat idle through three years of the Newman government before being released by Treasurer Curtis Pitt last weekend.

Ostensibly, then-premier Campbell Newman did not release the report because Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo objected on the basis it would compromise the confidentiality of the children and families involved in the research. This may have been understandable but the failure to respond to the report is appalling. It was provided to the state more than two years ago.

How did things come to this tragic state? Many readers will think this is just the way things are in Aurukun. But it has not always been this way. In fact, things were once very different and how and why things deteriorated so badly is an important backstory.

We can talk about the many proximate causes of the crisis in Aurukun (grog, welfare dependency, unemployment) but its ultimate explanation lies in government violence starting with the Aurukun Takeover in 1978 by the Queensland government under then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The takeover resulted in the Presbyterian Church being kicked out of Aurukun and replaced by the Queensland government. The Smallbone report is the bitter harvest of this original violence at the hands of the state.
Before the takeover respectful kinship relationships meant everything to the Wik people of Western Cape York. A hybrid of traditional and missionary authority and paternalism gave an order to the Aurukun mission that was shattered, and not replaced. Child neglect, homicides, suicides, violence and abuse were virtually unknown before 1985 when then local government minister Russ Hinze finally forced a canteen to open up against the objections of elders.

The first instalment of the state's takeover was the imposition of the local government structure. The second was the imposition of the canteen. This story of state violence began when Bjelke-Petersen's government seized control of the Aurukun's extensive bauxite reserves in 1975 and gave it to a French multinational, Pechiney. The Church supported legal and political campaigns by the Wik people against the state's actions. This is why Bjelke-Petersen and Hinze removed the Church and took over Aurukun.

Aurukun was no longer a mission. It was now a shire. But what was a shire? A shire needed revenue. The only viable source of revenue was to convert unemployment benefits received from the Commonwealth Government into canteen revenues for the shire council. The bodies of the Wik people would be the means through which this conversion of Commonwealth funding into state revenue, would take place. The young bodies and brains of infants would be victims of this money laundering.

Minus the paternalistic protection of the church, the Aurukun people were powerless to resist the shire council's introduction of a wet canteen. This was opposed by many in Aurukun, particular by a strong group of Wik women, but the battle was lost.

The rivers of grog started to flow and they flowed for two decades. The painful story of the collapse of family and clan relationships was now set in train. Serious assaults became commonplace. There were nine homicides in the five years after the opening of the local canteen. The Four Corners report by David Marr in 1990 declared the crime rate at Aurukun far worse than notorious American cities.

The actions of Bjelke-Peterson and Hinze were a form of state violence. The cycle of abuse and neglect that followed the grog chaos from 1985 was imprinted on the young children who were born in its wake……

It’s important to not let the scale of the problem obscure the fact that there are many upstanding individuals and families in Aurukun. The parents who send their kids to school every day, families that nurture and support their children, people who are seeking out a better life for their families, the very parents and grandparents that now stand proud as their children graduate from high school and university. Among them are strong natural leaders in Aurukun. And female leaders are the key.

This active leadership should buoy us and this ground-up movement must not be squashed by bureaucracy and service delivery jargon. These women, with the right support, are Aurukun’s last best hope.

The history that I name as state violence should stand as a reminder of what happens when governments take over and smother local leadership and structures. The colonisation of service delivery has not worked to date and will not work in the future.

Fiona Jose is executive general manager, Cape Operations, at Cape York Partnership

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