When it comes to positive developments in indigenous affairs, the media’s silence is pathetic. Whilst there is a groundswell of hope and appetite for change amongst indigenous peoples and governments alike, the media just won’t acknowledge the fact. Consider this list of 17 indigenous media releases for the month of December, 2005.
Yet did we hear of these ? Apart from the indigenous site, Message Stick of ABC online and their weekly Sunday night half hour radio spot, Speaking Out, one could be forgiven for thinking there is nothing going on in indigenous affairs. Well, there is plenty going on, especially in the area of Shared Responsibility Agreements.
Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRA) based on mutual obligation, are just one of the tools the Government has for working with indigenous communities. And they are making these agreements in ever increasing numbers. As of 24 November 2005, 121 SRAs had been signed with 98 indigenous communities around Australia.
So far the Federal Government, States and Terrorities and communities have been entering mainly into simple, single-issue SRAs that are meaningful to communities and show what SRAs can achieve. Over time SRAs will become more comprehensive, building towards a community’s long-term vision for the future.
So yes, there are positive developments happening in indigenous affairs, as with SRA's. Let’s have a look at one of these programs in my state of New South Wales. The central west town of Dubbo has been in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Despite this, things are moving in the right direction concerning it’s indigenous youth :
- The Dubbo Aboriginal community want to improve the lives of their young people by getting them involved in sporting, recreation and other community activities.
- In response to this need, all levels of government, sporting associations and the corporate sector are working with the community to implement a comprehensive Aboriginal Youth Strategy.
- This strategy forms the basis for an SRA developed in partnership with the Dubbo Aboriginal Working Party. The SRA will improve sporting and recreational facilities, build the community’s capacity to participate, and support a wide range of activities.
- The Aboriginal community will be active partners in the strategy. Community members will manage the facilities, including making sure the oval is locked/unlocked at the appropriate times, coordinating security to protect the oval against vandalism, and ensuring equipment is maintained and accounted for. They will also organise community fund-raising activities.
- Parents will support their children’s involvement in sporting teams by providing transport, maintaining equipment, and doing training to become sporting officials, coaches and club administrators. They will also make sure their children obtain and wear appropriate sporting clothing, abide by sporting competition rules, and help to support the coaches in their roles.
- The Australian Government will help to upgrade facilities, and employ activity coordinators, coaches and administrators. Where necessary, the Government will subsidise participation costs for children from low income families.
- The New South Wales Government will provide funds for equipment and programs. Dubbo Council and the corporate sector will get involved by helping to upgrade the West Dubbo Oval.
- Local, State and national sporting associations will help with skills training and accreditation through Sports Development Officers.
Kempsey was another town on televsion last night concerning wanton violence and vandalism by indigenous youth. The town has been virtually lawless and depressed for too long. Yet their indigenous community is yet to sign an SRA. The sooner the better, I say. Check the Aussie map or look up your state to see which local communities are entering agreements and the issues involved.