Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on the "stolen generation" myth

A big new article has just appeared on the subject. It is written in a rather bitter way, which suggests some personal involvement with the matters discussed. A few excerpts below:

In this article we will examine the above-alluded-to Stolen Generation, and the price Aboriginal children are currently paying for this exercise in unadulterated financial greed.

The entire saga had its genesis in (then) Barbara Cumming's genuine book about her childhood experience at the hands of Australia's Northern Terroritory Christian orphanage operators, a manuscript that was hijacked by bureaucratic ideologists and twisted into the incredible story of the Aboriginal Stolen Generation.

The high priests of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunity (who are dedicated to anything but), orchestrated the solicited testimony of socially and psychologically-scarred and embittered individuals who had been raised without the critical emotional necessity of nurturing families. Nor had these individuals any knowledge of parallel history which should have put their experiences in the real-world context of the times.

Many of the part Aboriginal Australians who had been raised in orphanages, eventually discovered their long-lost families who, when confronted by the suffering of their abandoned progeny, denied all culpability. Well, did anyone really expect them to say to their children "Yeah, mate, I was the selfish and self-indulgent bitch who was too pissed to feed you, or even to shelter you? I forgot about you for a few days while on a bender and bloody welfare took you away. Frankly, you got in the way of my drinking".

Instead, they did what the vast majority or parents would do in such a barbed situation; they either went into compulsive denial, or lied.

What was not revealed in the media is that all cases were reviewed annually, with consideration of family reconciliation the prime objective. Sadly, it was rare for such mothers to be successfully assisted back to sobriety and reconciled with their children. And this was a welfare system the values of which applied to all children: Aboriginal, European, Chinese or Polynesian. In fact, for a century, Australia was one of the few European countries to recognise moral and physical accountability for racially mix-bred indigenous children. Elsewhere, they were abandoned to an often outcast existence....

The Stolen Generation publicity resulted in white social workers, when they attempted to rescue neglected and abused Aboriginal children, were shrilly accused of stealing a second generation. This resulted in a notoriously spineless and self-serving social work profession being intimidated into turning its collective back on a surge of:

* Aboriginal neglect and abuse

* Failure of Aborigines to send their children to the hundreds of Aboriginal community schools provided by government

* Failure of Aborigines to accommodate western knowledge about malnutrition and disease

* Refusal to take up employment and enterprise opportunities (encouraged in this parasitism by the insidious and ironically named Community Development Employment Programme - CDEP).

Transparently now, the spurious Stolen Generation campaign, aimed purely at financial compensation and profitable litigation, has prevented thousands of Aboriginal children from being protected or rescued.

It has also prevented publicity and recognition of the terrible choice many tribal Aboriginal mothers had to make; at least up until 1977, wherein their promised husbands and husband's families insisted they give up their half-white children to welfare, or depart permanently from the clan/family environment, which they had never been separated from for even a second of their lives.

When one understands that the concepts family and happiness and life were utterly indivisible in Aboriginal thinking, this was no choice at all and these women had to surrender their children as "unwanted"; an act that caused inconsolable anguish for both mother and children for as long as they lived.

Lutheran missionaries alone, helped many such mothers, as did one Native Affairs patrol officer who worked on Groote Islandt; but for the vast majority of tribal mothers in this category their suffering has never been recognised or relieved, and their circumstances not brought to the attention of their children, who would like to know that they were not simply rejected, and that they were loved, but were simply victims of an unpreventable and inevitable clash of cultures....

Finally, it should be understood that research for this article was based on the vast NT experience, and people from other parts of Australia may have suffered isolated circumstances wherein Christian church and state departmental roles became blurred and Aborigines were genuinely victimised. Moreover, acknowledging the history of corruption of state governments, it would be surprising if this were not the case, and these are then criminal matters and as such should be dealt with on an individual basis and not as a politicised national campaign


A new tribute to Australia's Left-run schools

Half of Australians lack modern-world skills

Half of all Australians lack the minimum reading, writing and problem-solving skills to cope with life in the modern world. A new survey on life skills by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals 46 per cent of the population, or seven million people, would struggle to understand the meaning of newspaper and magazine articles or documentation such as maps and payslips.

And 53 per cent reached just the second of five levels in a practical numeracy test, while 70per cent, the equivalent of 10.6million people, only managed to progress to level 2 in a series of problem-solving exercises. "Level 3 is regarded by the survey developers as the minimum required for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work in the emerging knowledge-based economy," said the ABS report, Adult Literacy and Life Skills.

The survey of almost 9000 people, which included a written life-skills test, was also done in seven other developed countries. Switzerland and Norway came out well ahead of Australia, while the US ranked much lower across all age ranges. Italy was the poorest-performing country of those participating. One stark difference in Australia was gender. Women were stronger at understanding written material than men, but males were better at understanding documents such as maps. And when it came to numbers, women did considerably worse. [An old, old story. Nothing to do with genetics, of course. It's just all these coincidences that keep piling up] While 53 per cent of men achieved (the acceptable) level 3 or higher, only 42 per cent of women managed the same. And almost twice as many men as women reached the top levels of the numeracy test.

Management consultant and social commentator Wendy McCarthy said the results were further evidence Australia was becoming a society increasingly divided into two classes. Ms McCarthy said a decade of neglect of the public education system was to blame. "It's a huge opportunity lost," she said. "It clearly demonstrates that if you don't invest in public education, except as a safety net, if you don't make it sexy, interesting, exciting, a way to get into the next world, you will slip back - and that's what's happening to Australia. "We will look back over the last 10 years and realise with some horror how much we overemphasised the value of the individual and overlooked the common denominators in our society."

The ACT was the best-performing state or territory in terms of literacy and numeracy, followed by Western Australia and South Australia. Tasmania performed worst. While people whose first language was not English achieved lower literacy scores than the general population, comparisons with a 1996 survey show considerable improvement in literacy levels of this cohort.


Rudd to scrap Howard's history

Howard came up with this at the last minute -- too late to entrench it in any way

The Rudd Government is expected to scrap plans to force the states to introduce compulsory Australian history classes in years 9 and 10 from next year. The new Government is also expected to dump a controversial model Australian history syllabus released by former prime minister John Howard on the eve of the election, after it was criticised for being overly nationalistic and "barely teachable".

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard has told The Age that although history would be a compulsory component of the national curriculum for parts of the secondary school years, the new Government would work collaboratively with states and territories, rather than impose things on them. "Australian history is a critical part of the curriculum and should be included in all years of schooling, not just for a few years in secondary school," she said.

The Government would work with the states and territories "to implement a rigorous, content-based national history curriculum for all Australian students from kindergarten to year 12". It would also refer the former government's Guide to Teaching Australian History in Years 9 and 10 to the National Curriculum Board.

States accused Mr Howard of waging a phoney "culture war" and playing politics when he announced in October that high schools would have to teach 150 hours of Australian history - and that it would be a condition of $42 billion in federal funding. The detailed course, overseen by a four-member panel including conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey and political commentator Gerard Henderson, listed more than 70 milestones ranging from indigenous settlement to the Sydney Olympics.

Professor Tony Taylor, whose draft was the basis for the Henderson-Blainey panel, said he believed the model Australian history syllabus would now be "dropped like a hot potato". "I think it's dead as a doornail," Professor Taylor said. "The prime minister's final document was too close to a nationalist view of Australia's past." He was highly critical of changes made to his original draft. Although it was not the political sermon some feared, the model syllabus was too content heavy and teachers would have found it hard to race through. "I think that was almost entirely a Howard push," he said. "It's too close to nationalism, too removed from a Kevin Rudd, regional and global world view."

Professor Taylor said he believed the new Government would take a broader view and make history, rather than stand-alone Australian history, a core part of the curriculum.

Professor Blainey expected Labor would appoint a committee to make its own syllabus. "Since the committee I was on was appointed by a Liberal government, I think Labor would choose a different cross-section of people," Professor Blainey said. "Most new governments like to do things their own way." He did not think Australian history enthusiasts would be dismayed by a broader history that included a substantial Australian component. "On the other hand, if Australian history became one of 10 cigarettes in the pack they might be disappointed," he said.

Mr Howard used the "history wars" to bludgeon states over what he called "incomprehensible sludge" being taught in some classrooms. Although the states were angry at being bullied with a national history curriculum linked to funding, The Age understands they broadly support compulsory history with local variations.


Where humans live, coral fails - study

So it's not global warming after all! Generalizing from the primitive economies of much of the Caribbean to areas such as Australia's Great Barrier reef would be hazardous, however. It may be hard for outsiders to believe, but something like the most Northern 500 miles of the reef is bordered by an almost uninhabited coast -- a Greenie paradise, really. Odd that most Greenies live in those evil big cities isn't it?

The world's coral reefs are in alarming decline, but what - or who - is most to blame? A groundbreaking study published today singles out human settlement, especially coastal development and agriculture, as the main culprit, even more so than warming sea waters and acidification linked to global warming. The study focuses on the Caribbean, where declining reefs are endangering species of wildlife as well as tourism and fishing that are vital for the local economy, says lead author, Camilo Mora, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. "The continuing degradation of coral reefs may be soon beyond repair if threats are not identified and rapidly controlled," he said.

Teasing apart the complicated web of factors driving reef destruction - overfishing, runoff of pesticides and pollution, hurricanes, climate change - is crucial for devising the best conservation strategies. There might not be enough time for second or third chances, Mr Mora said. But a welter of contradictory evidence, most of it gathered from single sites, has made it nearly impossible to figure out what causes what.

Which is why Mr Mora and University of Miami marine biologist Robert Ginsburg decided to compare several large-scale databases that had never been systematically cross-referenced. Focusing on corals, fishes and macroalgae, or seaweed, in 322 sites across 13 countries in the Caribbean, the study matched environmental and ecological data against patterns of human population density, coastal development and agricultural land use. Also included were data on hurricanes, biodiversity, fish populations and coral disease. Sifting through all these statistics showed clearly that the number of people is the main driver of the mortality of corals, along with declining fish biomass and increases in algae.

But different kinds of human activity resulted in different impacts, the study revealed. Higher population density in coastal areas produces more sewage and depletes fish stocks, both of which are directly responsible for coral mortality. But chemical discharges from agricultural land drives an increase in macroalgae, which is indirectly linked to coral loss.

Warmer sea surfaces are also contributing to coral decline, but not hurricanes, said the study, published in the journal Nature. "The human expansion in coastal areas inevitably poses severe risks to the maintenance of complex ecosystems such as coral reefs," Mr Mora said. Within a reef, predators prey on plant-eating fish, herbivores graze on seaweed, which in turn interacts with living coral. "A threat in any one group may escalate to the entire ecosystem," Mr Mora said. "The array of human stressors ... are significantly affecting all major groups of coral reef organisms."

The study also concluded that while Marine Protected Areas help restore fish populations, they do nothing to protect coral. A fifth of the world's marine reefs have already been destroyed and half are threatened because of human impact, whether directly or as a consequence of rising temperatures driven by climate change, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Coral reefs support some of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world, including many species that depend on reefs for shelter, reproduction and foraging. Coral reefs also provide livelihoods for 100 million people and form the basis for industries such as tourism and fishing, worth $US30 billion ($34bn) a year, says the IUCN.


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