land of grog and porn

In June of this year, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced a plan to charge in and do something about the Emergency Situation in Aboriginal communities. All Aboriginal children would undergo medical examinations, in large part to check for evidence of abuse. Police would be sent in to arrest child abusers. Bans on alcohol (for a period of six months) and on porn would be imposed. Welfare payments would be withheld from parents whose children did not attend school, and 50 % of welfare payments would go to specific areas, eg, food or other necessities.

It seemed more a sensational electioneering ploy than about genuine concern for a crisis that has existed for far more than the 11 years John Howard has held office.

He used as his basis for action the findings of the Little Children Are Sacred report. However, he blatantly disregarded the findings of the report that recommended communities needed help from a social and health angle - rather than the law and order approach that John Howard assumed.

Howard claims that the state and territory governments have left this crisis unaddressed - but he has most likely been aware of it for at least the 11 years he has held office, and is only choosing to do something now just before an election. If he was so concerned, why didn't he try this approach years ago?

I wouldn't blame Aborigines for fearing he will use this as an excuse to abuse land rights, as well as basic human rights. Who's going to police him?

Considering Australian history, it would seem understandable to me that Aborigines would fear mandatory health checks for their children. Aside from whether these checks would be legal or not, Aborigines would not have to be told 'lies' by malicious persons with hidden agendas in order to have a natural fear of the authorities. The Stolen Generation has not been adequately addressed by the Australian government.

In addition, the White Australia Policy and treatment of blacks in custody are other examples of unresolved tension.

Do Aborigines have the same prospects in life as other Australians? Can they look forward to the same standard of life? In 2001, when I visited Uluru, a guy was protesting about racism in employment practices.

Also, at present there is a disparity between the health of Indigenous Australians as compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

Not all Aborigines are child abusers or grog abusers, and it is unfair to single out Aborigines for the kind of sensational attention that unfairly stereotypes them.

Some Aboriginal communities are 'dry' by choice, or have made an attempt to be so.

Is there anyone in Australia who doesn't realize how widespread alcohol and porn use are in non-Indigenous Australians?

Most people's lives have been touched in one way or another by alcoholism. Most Australians probably drink more than they 'should'. Does anyone truly believe that taking alcohol away from an alcoholic solves the problem? In remote aboriginal communities, even if it were possible to enforce the ban, prevent all attempts to smuggle alcohol in, what behaviours would replace the addictive ones?

When people sign themselves into rehab, they are monitored medically, they are provided with counselling and group therapy. They receive support. They are supposedly helped to find alternate ways of coping when they feel the need for a drink. They learn what their triggers are, how to identify them, and they learn what situations and people they may need to avoid in order to get well.

Even if it were possible to weed out all those who are abusing children and lock them up in jail, what about the effects of the previous abuse? The social and health resources don't seem to be in place to help children cope with the long-term effects. And what about when offenders are released? What treatment do they receive? What prevents them from reoffending? Isn't it common knowledge by now that locking someone up in jail doesn't take away pedophilic or violent impulses? When an offender has served time, does it just become a matter of waiting for the person to reoffend?

One of the major reasons there's so much fuss about high-speed broadband internet is probably related to another Australian addiction: porn.

And what on earth does porn (not even specified as child porn!) have to do with child abuse? Doesn't porn act as an outlet for sexual release? Without that release, aren't people more likely to be frustrated and to seek other outlets?

I know that there have been people who have tried to make a difference, and who do make a difference. Without enough resources or backup, unfortunately they couldn't prevent the ongoing state of emergency.

I think that most Australians do feel bad about the treatment of Aborigines throughout Australia's history.

One of the major problems is the remoteness of Aboriginal communities. It would take a long-term major financial and social planning commitment to make a difference. For many years, many Aboriginal leaders have asked for this assistance, but have been ignored.

Race relations are a sensitive subject in this country, and John Howard's actions do nothing to improve them.

Why don't Aborigines move to more populated areas? They have a strong connection to the land, and their value systems revolve around the importance of family and community. They already have very little power in this country. And considering the history, it's no wonder they might be reluctant to give up what strength they have.

If there aren't many employment opportunities, or even recreational opportunities available, what would be considered a natural human response? How is the human spirit affected by lack of options in life?

As long as John Howard refuses to acknowledge that Indigenous Australians have good reason to fear that they will be unfairly treated by those with more power and resources, and as long as no long-term commitment to health and social planning is made, he is not 'doing the right thing'. His motives are questionable, as is his version of 'help'.