Sunday, August 07, 2011

Census Apartheid for blacks

Sara Hudson questions official racism

Next Thursday, 9th August, is Census night. Across the country Australians will be filling in the official Census Household Form. The Census is an important source of statistics for government and is used to determine government policy and funding levels. But a small group of Aboriginal Australians, living in discrete communities, are given a separate form – the Interviewer Household Form. Next Thursday, 9 August, is Census night. Across the country Australians will be filling in the official Census Household Form. The Census is an important source of statistics for government and is used to determine government policy and funding levels. But a small group of Aboriginal Australians, living in discrete communities, are given a separate form – the Interviewer Household Form.

The rationale for the separate form is that Indigenous Australians living in discrete communities do not have the English literacy and numeracy skills to fill in the standard Census form. However, an illiterate Somali who has just arrived as a refugee in Australia does not get a separate form but gets assistance from interpreters.

Now if the only difference between the two forms was their names, then there wouldn’t be much to complain about. But unfortunately the distinction is much more pervasive than that.

• Different questions are asked

• Questions have different response options

• Different examples of responses for a question

• Questions are worded differently

• Question response boxes are in a different order

• The sequence of questions is different

These differences mean that data are not directly comparable between Indigenous Australians surveyed by the Interviewer Household Form and other Australians, including Indigenous Australians who receive the mainstream Household Form.

The Household Form explicitly states on the front that any person in the household concerned about privacy can ask the Collector for a Personal Form and a Privacy Envelope. The Interviewer Household Form has no such statements, effectively signalling that Indigenous Australians have lesser rights to privacy.

The inclusion of participation in CDEP (an Aboriginal work-for-the-dole type program) as a separate question, and its classification as employment in the Census, has enabled government to hide the high levels of unemployment in discrete communities. If CDEP was treated like other work-for-the- dole programs and classified as unemployment, then the official Indigenous unemployment rate (from the 2006 Census) would be nearly 50%.

The misguided attempt of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to be ‘culturally appropriate’ is state-sanctioned apartheid. Not only is it deeply patronising to assume that Aboriginal people living in discrete communities are unable to fill out the official Household Form (Alison Anderson, an MLA for the Northern Territory, was given the Interview Household Form), the different questions used mar the validity of the statistics.

If enough pressure is applied on the ABS, this may be the last Census that such a racially discriminatory and statistically invalid practice is carried out.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 5 August. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

No more handouts for Aboriginals, says ex-Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunipingu

FORMER Australian of the Year and Aboriginal leader Galarrwuy Yunipingu has called on his people to stop accepting welfare handouts, saying it is killing them.

Mr Yunipingu was speaking at this year's Garma Festival, held on a remote region of Yolngu land on the edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory.

"Stop relying on welfare handouts," he told an audience, which included executives from Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest. "Please no more, please no more welfare handouts. "It's a killer to the Yolngu Society."

Instead, Mr Yunipingu said his people deserved appropriate education. "Not just any Mickey Mouse teaching, not just any education for blackfellas, please give us a real teaching give us a real education."

The Garma Festival is a celebration of the Yolngu cultural inheritance and will run until Sunday.


Spending control for ferals coming

WELFARE recipients could be segregated into different queues at shops under an "apartheid system" that will force them to spend at least half of their money on essential items at government-approved retailers.

Business groups have condemned a federal government plan to control the spending of up to 20,000 people across the country by effectively making them shop at a handful of the biggest retail chains. And the Law Council of Australia has warned that the change could be discriminatory.

In a five-year trial to start next July, the government will quarantine between 50 and 70 per cent of welfare payments made to those deemed "financially vulnerable" or who have been referred by child protection authorities in five local government areas across Australia, including Bankstown in Sydney.

The quarantined money will be contained on an eftpos-style "BasicsCard" that can be used only at certain retailers to buy food, clothes, medicine, bus and train tickets and other "priority items". Banned products will include alcohol, cigarettes, pornography and gambling products.

In the Northern Territory, where income management was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 and mainly affected Aboriginal communities, many shops have forced cardholders to use separate queues as they slow down other shoppers, according to Paddy Gibson, a researcher from the University of Technology, Sydney. A coalition of 40 community and business groups, including the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia and the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants of NSW, says the effort and paperwork needed to join the list of designated retailers would make it impossible for all but the most powerful chains, such as Coles and Woolworths, to take part.

"This will drive business from the small operators to the big conglomerates," said Violet Roumeliotis, executive director of the Metro Migrant Resource Centre. "It will isolate and stigmatise people who have to use the card. It's a kind of apartheid system, really. It won't stop people with drug and alcohol problems from getting access to those things."

At Bankstown grocery store Eastern Delights, which imports most of its products from the Middle East, staff are worried about the potential impact on revenue. "Many people won't be able to spend money on traditional foods and ingredients here - they'll have to go to Woolworths," said the owner, Chadi.

Long-time welfare recipient Janet Short, 60, is a recovering alcoholic on about $600 a fortnight in disability support. "I haven't had a drink for more than a year, and I've shown that I can manage money perfectly well without being told how I should spend it - what a ridiculous idea," said Ms Short, who lived in Bankstown for 25 years, but recently moved to Waterloo. "Why should the majority have their choices taken away because of a few idiots who blow their money on drinking and gambling?"

The government had planned to wait for an evaluation of the Northern Territory program but has pushed ahead early, expanding it to Bankstown, as well as Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland, Playford in South Australia, and Greater Shepparton in Victoria, before a countrywide roll-out.

A spokeswoman for Jenny Macklin, the Federal Minister for Community Services, said the government chose the regions because they have high unemployment and skills gaps, and many of their residents rely on welfare payments as their main source of income.

She said the spending controls would be imposed on people deemed by Centrelink staff to be "financially vulnerable" or parents referred by child protection agencies. Welfare recipients also have the option of joining voluntarily.

"Income management is part of the Australian government's commitment to reforming the welfare system so that income support payments are spent in the best interests of child ren and families," she said.

Placing controls on where and how people spend "ensures that money is available for life essentials like food, clothing and housing, and provides a tool to stabilise people's lives and ease immediate financial stress".

The manager of Bankstown's Women's Health Centre, Sue McClelland, said rates of sexual abuse and domestic violence in the region were "worryingly high", and many women would welcome the intervention.

However, the Law Council of Australia has warned that compulsory application of income management on the basis of location or race is discriminatory - a position supported by the National Welfare Rights Network. The network's president, Maree O'Halloran, said that controlling the way people spend welfare payments was also "damaging and counter-productive because it reduces the capacity of people to learn the financial management skills necessary for achieving independence and self-reliance".

Mr Gibson, who is a senior researcher at the University of Technology's Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, spent 18 months in the Northern Territory to observe the effect of income management. He said the judgments made by Centrelink staff were "heavily influenced by prejudice. In the context of a suburb like Bankstown, it will overwhelmingly be migrant communities, along with indigenous and other marginalised groups who will be targeted."


Coal seam gas industry under the microscope in NSW

THE environmental, social and economic impacts of coal seam gas mining and exploration in NSW will be examined by a wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry.

The inquiry, by the upper house committee responsible for resources and energy, is expected to hold public hearings in October and November to examine the environmental impacts of coal seam gas mining, including the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking ".

It will examine the legal rights of property owners and the impact of coal seam gas mining on property values, food security and farming. The economics of coal seam gas, including royalties paid to NSW and the extent of the role of coal seam gas in meeting the state's future energy needs will be considered.

The inquiry, to be chaired by the Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Brown, was established following a proposal by the Greens MP and mining spokesman, Jeremy Buckingham, who is the committee's deputy chairman.

He said it would be "the most comprehensive inquiry to be conducted into all issues relating to the coal seam gas industry ".

"This inquiry will provide a forum for the hundreds of community groups and experts concerned about the coal seam gas industry to put these concerns to parliamentarians, " Mr Buckingham said. "This comes at a vital time with massive plans for expansion of the gas industry on the planning books and community concern building to a crescendo. "

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, announced new environmental and community consultation rules for the coal and coal seam gas industry last month. They include changes to the way mining companies can use water in their operations.

Mr Hartcher has imposed a moratorium on fracking, which he said is not used in NSW, until December 31.

The inquiry will consider holding public hearings in areas where coal seam gas activity has caused community concern, including Casino and the northern rivers, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree, the Hunter Valley, Sydney and the Illawarra.

Submissions to the inquiry will be called for next week with hearings proposed for October and November.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association's chief operating officer for eastern Australia, Rick Wilkinson, said it "welcomes and strongly supports the inquiry ".

"The coal seam gas industry is confident that a comprehensive examination of the industry will clearly demonstrate the value of the industry to the people of NSW, including its capacity for delivery substantial economic benefit, jobs and a much needed source of cleaner energy, " he said.

The president of the NSW Farmers' Association, Fiona Simson, said the association was "thrilled " about the inquiry. She called on Mr Hartcher to delay the renewal of exploration licences.
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1 comment:

Paul said...

"He said the judgments made by Centrelink staff were "heavily influenced by prejudice."

I suspect experience also had something to do with it.