Koori History Newspaper Archive

Extension helps kids: Mundine

Weekend Australian - March 7, 2009
Author: Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent

INDIGENOUS leaders have praised the Rudd Government for extending the Northern Territory Aboriginal intervention, but the program's architect, Mal Brough, said it should have gone further.

The Australian revealed yesterday that the Government would guarantee funding for law and order, alcohol and anti-pornography measures in indigenous communities until 2012.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the Government would also continue funding for the Australian Crime Commission's specialist taskforce on child abuse.

Mr Brough, the indigenous affairs minister in the Howard government, said yesterday the Rudd Government should have extended the intervention even further.

``Being out here right now, they need to be going further,'' Mr Brough said from the APY Lands in South Australia.

``It's not enough just to continue what was started in June 2007, and a lot more energy has to be asserted in order to get things to what all Australians would consider normal.''

Indigenous leader and former Labor Party president Warren Mundine said he had been concerned that the anti-interventionist lobby was gaining traction with the Government.

He said he was glad the Government had stood firm.

``Let's not underestimate the problems that are there that need to be resolved,'' Mr Mundine said.

``We saw the Children Are Sacred report, we've seen many reports over the years on different economic factors, jobs and the welfare within these communities, and this Government is determined to fix it, and I'm right behind them.''

Mr Mundine said it would take time for the intervention to make tangible differences to people's lives.

``You've got to overcome 30 years of government policy in this area -- which quite frankly, if you look at the record, you can see the overall result of -- and you've got to overcome 200 years of history,'' he said.

``You don't do that overnight.

``Communities are feeling safer. I've been up with communities, women and children are definitely feeling safer.''

Indigenous academic Marcia Langton , who attacked the Government this week for being half-hearted about the intervention, said she had faith that Ms Macklin was committed on the issue.

``I want to congratulate Minister Macklin for her efforts,'' Professor Langton said.

``She has shown yet again that she's taking these matters seriously.''

But the Coalition's indigenous affairs spokesman, Tony Abbott, questioned how serious the Government was about the intervention.

``My concern is that they got themselves into this position in the first place,'' Mr Abbott said.

``That suggests to me they're not nearly as fair dinkum as they'd like people to believe.''

Mr Abbott said it would have been better had another military person been chosen to replace Major General David Chalmers as head of the intervention, following the announcement that a former chief executive of the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Mike Zissler, had been appointed to the role.

``One of the significant straws in the wind was the replacement of a general with a public servant,'' Mr Abbott said of the appointment.

``Now I've got nothing against the public service, I think they do a good professional job.

``But I think the military are more used to getting urgent jobs done quickly under difficult circumstances.''