As with I imagine most Australians, I’ve been following this new state of emergency declared by Howard with a great deal of interest, enough so that I’ve taken the trouble of downloading the original report into the protection of aboriginal children from sexual abuse, ““Little Children are Sacred”, that sparked this off and read the “Recommendations” and “Rules of Engagement” chapters.
Reading them, it seems that while the Howard government has taken on some of the recommendations, specifically to do with school attendance (although the report did not make clear how school attendance should be increased) and increased police resources (even if the report did recommend that more aboriginal police officers especially female aboriginal police resources), pretty much everything else seems to have been ignored especially the rules of engagement.
Seeing as the rules of engagement were pretty much designed to empower and engage the community into recognising, developing and then owning its own solutions to its own problems, I fear that the current paternalistic engagement model if continued will fail expensively as have all others. I’m only slightly encouraged that Brough is talking about this rather extravagantly gungho flying in of police and army as being the stabilisation phase followed by two other phases called rather optimistically normalisation and exit.
Nonetheless, I still think that there is a genuine desire to act even if it also coexists with Howard’s political opportunism. It is difficult to read the report and not be moved by it. And I have no real confidence that the Northern Territory Government has the skills and resources to deal with this problem.
The question remains whether the Federal Government does. And much as I would like to think that they do, I fear that they do not.