Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A New Standard in Indigenous Affairs

When you consider Indigenous Australians are barely represented at all as employees and contract providers within 'Indigenous Affairs', you have to ask the question: How did ‘who is Aboriginal?’ become an issue?

Non-Aboriginal people are the overwhelming majority of employees in Indigenous Affairs and many of these people do not have the essential skills, experience, networks or understanding that is required to occupy such positions. For any person to be effective working in Indigenous programs, they need to have a firm understanding of Indigenous perspectives, community protocols and have appropriate levels of training and experience for the responsibilities of their position. They need to understand and be able to identify the difference and importance of programs WITH Indigenous people rather than the programs AIMED AT Indigenous people.

Many of these senior non-Indigenous Public Servants, often self-proclaimed ‘Indigenous experts’, are effectively acting as the Gatekeepers to Indigenous employment. Most of these ‘experts’ could count every Indigenous person they know on one hand and more often than not, they do not have the support of the few Indigenous people who work, several levels below them, in their Departments. For many of these key decision makers, a small stint in Indigenous affairs is essential for their career progression. The only outcome they are interested in is having this accolade on their resume so they can go for the jobs they actually want.

Government funds Indigenous programs, claiming that the intended outcome is to ‘Close the Gap’. Any informed observer can plainly see that this is not the case. Indigenous initiatives are not funded with this goal in mind. The key identifiable outcome from this strategy is career progression opportunities for non-Indigenous employees within the Public Service and Government funded positions in the Private Sector.

To add insult to injury, these strategies are presented as socially responsible initiatives to address an issue of great importance to many Australians.

The government creates programs that give taxpayers money to Australia’s biggest companies and consultancy firms to ‘explore’ and ‘research’ Indigenous employment opportunities which they then use to create Social Capital as Responsible Australian Entities.

Ever increasing numbers of Australians have serious concerns over Government’s lack of outcomes for Indigenous Australians and many of them have begun asking awkward questions. Questions like “How many houses does 300 Million dollars build?”

We need to hear more qualified and relevant Indigenous voices on Indigenous issues. In Government, as in media, it is more common than not to see only a minor contribution from Indigenous people on Indigenous issues, and just as (if not more) often than not in both Government and media, that input is either misrepresented or ignored completely.

It is unacceptable that Government says one thing to Indigenous Australia, another thing to non-Indigenous Australia and then goes and does something completely different anyway.

It is unacceptable that Indigenous Australians continue to cop a majority share of blame for the mismanagement of funding and programs that most Indigenous people have little to no influence over. It is an atrocity that the people in Government are the sole reason Indigenous people are not adequately represented in Indigenous Affairs, and are also one of the worst perpetrators of engaging in victim-blaming.

It is unacceptable that the Government have waited as long as they have to act, and it is unacceptable how they are acting.

We cannot change what they have already done, but we must change what they are currently doing. 

Australia needs to demand new standards in Indigenous Affairs:



Sean Pearson - @AbvantageOz
Luke Pearson - @AboriginalOz

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