The special place of Indigenous people in the history and the life of this country

John Howard visited the Aboriginal town of Ntaria (Hermannsburg) Tuesday this week.

“We have a simple aim,” he told the locals, “and that is whilst respecting a special place of Indigenous people in the history and the life of this country, their future can only be as part of the mainstream of the Australian community.

“But unless they can get a share of the bounty of this great and prosperous country, their future will be bleak.”

On this point, the Prime Minister is quite correct. They will only progress as part of the mainstream: because people like John Howard see to it that government policies punish them completely if they attempt anything different. In this instance, the Prime Minister displayed a remarkably idiosyncractic defition of “sharing bounty”:

In moves seemingly impossible to reconcile with the protection of Aboriginal children on remote towns and communities in the Northern Territory, a document has come into the hands of Crikey that presages a federal government takeover of millions of dollars worth of assets owned by Aboriginal organisations.

Organisational assets above the value of $400,000 are to be compulsorily acquired by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) and transferred to a new entity, the Indigenous Economic Development Trust (IEDT), and then rented back at commercial rates to the same organisations from which the asset has been taken from.

In some cases this will make those organisations commercially unviable, leading to financial collapse and loss of Aboriginal jobs. Every reason for Aboriginal organisations for acquiring property as part of engaging with capitalism has been thrown out in favour of a centrally controlled government bureaucracy.

The article contains details of the supposed policy. I’m sure there must be more to this than appears – even by the disgusting standards of the Howard government this is something else. We shall see.

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