Friday, September 29, 2006

No-one who knows the Queensland police well will be surprised by the report below

Drunken Aborigines can be hard to take but the police are supposed to be professionals, not goons. The black must have copped a hell of a hit to rupture his liver. Two official Commissions of Inquiry into Queensland police misbehaviour -- the Lucas Inquiry and the Fitzgerald Inquiry -- did not lead to any permanent change that one can see. As ever, almost all complaints against police are investigated -- cursorily -- by the police

A senior Queensland police officer lost his temper and repeatedly punched a drunk Aboriginal man before putting him in a police cell where he was left to die from his injuries, a coroner has ruled. After two years of investigation into what killed 36-year-old Palm Island man Mulrunji, Acting State Coroner Christine Clements yesterday found the island's top police officer Snr Sgt Christopher Hurley was responsible for the death. She also ruled Hurley was "callous and deficient" in not properly checking on Mulrunji's welfare in the island's watchhouse, where he died from internal bleeding due to a ruptured liver and portal vein at about 11am on November 19, 2004.

Attorney-General Linda Lavarch has referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether anyone should face charges. The State Government also has announced a "high-level response team" to advise Cabinet on the 40 recommendations of the report.

In delivering her findings, Ms Clements was scathing of the Queensland Police Service's initial investigation into the death, which she described as "lacking in transparency, objectivity and independence". She said the integrity of the investigation had been compromised by the involvement of local officers, some of whom knew Hurley personally and who dined at his home during the investigation.

The death sparked a violent community backlash and riots on the island during which the police station burnt to the ground. Hurley - a decorated officer credited with reducing crime on the island and helping locals - has vehemently and repeatedly denied he assaulted Mulrunji, who he met for the first time that day. But Ms Clements said she was not convinced Snr Sgt Hurley was telling the truth about events inside the station and accepted a witness account that Snr Sgt Hurley said "Do you want more, Mr Doomadgee, Do you want more?" during the incident.

Mulrunji, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.292 at the time of his death, was arrested for public nuisance after mouthing off at a police liaison officer who was helping Snr Sgt Hurley arrest another man. He resisted arrest and punched Snr Sgt Hurley in the jaw as he was being led from the police van to the watchhouse and the pair fell as they were walking through a doorway.

Ms Clements urged mandatory first aid training for watchhouse staff following evidence that Snr Sgt Hurley was not qualified in first aid and no officer attempted to resuscitate Mulrunji after it was discovered he may have died.

Multiple recommendations were also made to beef up training for officers in the area of watchhouse safety and arrest procedures. Ms Clements also found that Mulrunji's initial arrest by Snr Sgt Hurley was "not an appropriate exercise of police discretion" as he could have been dealt with by a caution or summons to appear in court. It is reprehensible that the detailed recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody should have to be referred to, so many years after the Royal Commission. The evidence is clear however that these recommendations are still apt and still ignored," she said.

Despite the damning findings, Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said there were no grounds to suspend any of the officers named in the report. [Extraordinary!!]


Aborigines: need for INtolerance

In the Cape York town of Hopevale, where Noel Pearson grew up, there is every kind of gambling except one - cards. There is a social taboo against card gambling that lingers from the days when the Lutherans ran Hopevale mission, back when Aboriginal children like Pearson's father and grandfather were taught to read the Bible back to front and to write beautifully. "They never do card gambling at Hopevale," Pearson said on Friday. "They gamble on pokies, drink, fornicate, everything else, but there is a remnant social norm about card gambling."

Pearson, 41, the director of the Cape York Institute, likes the card gambling example because it "just illustrates the strength of social norms", the often invisible glue that creates social order and civility and protects the vulnerable. "That's why advantaged middle-class people don't have to worry about things like school attendance and school readiness," he says. By school "readiness", Pearson does not mean whether a child can recite the alphabet, tie shoelaces and cut along a straight line. He means the basic daily readiness of being fed, washed and well slept before coming to school.

Pearson aims to rebuild social norms that have disappeared over the past two generations from Cape communities. It is part of his plan to dramatically reform the way welfare is delivered, and tie it to behavioural benchmarks such as school attendance and responsible parenting. The Federal Government has contributed $3 million for a pilot project and he has just returned from a trip around Cape York to ensure the voluntary participation of the four communities of Aurukun, Hopevale, Coen and Mossman Gorge.

Pearson laments the situation in which the sacred bond of love between mother and child has been broken by substance abuse and the collapse of social norms. He openly declares he wants to reintroduce "intolerance" into his communities: intolerance of drugs, intolerance of alcohol, intolerance of sexual abuse, intolerance of domestic violence, intolerance of not sending your children to school every day.

Pearson's critics - mostly middle-class, progressive-left and social-justice romantics - say his plans to tie welfare payments to behavioural benchmarks are draconian. But they don't understand what it is like to live in a community without social norms, he says. He is determined that his welfare reform project will address the horrific abuse of indigenous children which has been reported this year with sickening regularity.

If parents are drug users, for instance, he asks why authorities hand back a child into such a known dangerous environment. He wants instead to take control of welfare payments as the tool to force irresponsible parents to clean up their act, to say: "If you don't agree to regular drug testing for two years and satisfy other benchmarks [such as school attendance] you will be on income management and you will not have the freedom of spending your money as you want." Instead, welfare payments will be managed for the parent and used to pay for rent, food, school supplies and other necessities. "It is a carrot and stick approach," Pearson says.

The welfare reform project complements the institute's work on education. Pearson outlined some of those achievements at an advisory group meeting on Friday in Cairns for the Every Child is Special project. It includes a successful pilot project at Coen primary school, in which the 15 least proficient readers were given intensive, systematic instruction in phonics for a year by specialist teachers from Macquarie University's MULTILIT (Making Up Lost Time In Literacy) program. The results, unveiled on Friday, were encouraging; the children, whose reading ability was three to four years behind the Australian average, gained an average 21.4 months in reading accuracy. The Higher Expectations program identifies the brightest primary school children and "works aggressively" to send them to elite boarding schools, Pearson says. The first candidate is at Brisbane Grammar this year, "and he's survived and done well". Another program supports indigenous students at university. This year there were 10 candidates, and next year another dozen. Pearson is proud that both programs are "completely privately funded".

Ann Creek, a Coen elder and mother of five who has been a driving force in improving literacy at Coen school, said at the meeting on Friday: "Kids absorb knowledge; they want to be part of it, they want to learn more. If given the chance they'll grasp it . We all want our kids to achieve so they can go on to further education. They want to make a name for their family, for their clan group and for their community."

Pearson's "Cape York Agenda" of economic and social development aims to build the "capabilities" of indigenous people, freeing them from the yoke of welfare passivity, empowering them with proper education so they have at least the same knowledge of Western culture and proficiency in English as their peers in the rest of Australia. He says he hopes to transform communities within a generation. But first he must re-establish social order, and that requires a "hard bottom line". "Enforcement of the Education Act, [taking control of the] family benefit payment is the draconian bottom line we think is part of the process. We have an escalation in place that means we hopefully never have to get to the bottom line. But without the bottom line there is not much hope of re-establishing social norms." And as Bernadette Denigan, the director of the Every Child is Special project, reminded the group: "The ultimate draconian bottom line is the removal of children by government and that does happen."


"Healthy" food turns out to be pretty ordinary

Children would be better off sitting down to a big fry-up for breakfast than eating some commercially produced muesli bars, so loaded are they with fats and sugars. A test found seven were so laden with kilojoules that a Mars Bar presented a healthier breakfast alternative.

The analysis of more than 150 different cereal bars by Choice magazine found that seven - including three types of Kellogg's K-time muffin bars - contained more kilojoules than the much-maligned Mars Bar. Two varieties of muesli slices produced by Sunibrite contained more saturated fat than a breakfast of two bacon rashers. Many others, including a range of Uncle Toby's muesli bars and a collection of cereal bars with the words healthy, fit or natural featuring prominently in their names, were at least 20 per cent sugar.

Of the bars tested, only 13 met all the analysts' healthy nutrition requirements, based on kilojoules, sugar, saturated fat, dietary fibre and wholegrain content. On the other end of the scale, the Nice & Natural yoghurt natural nut bar met none of the requirements.

While the healthy connotations associated with the words cereal and muesli were dubious in many of the bars, the definition of fruit in others was also suspect. "The fruit often found in some bars was more likely to have come from a laboratory than an orchard," said Choice's media spokeswoman, Indira Naidoo. She said parents should think again if they thought their children were getting part of their daily serving of fruit by unwrapping a bar containing what appeared to be dried strawberries, apples, pears or plums. The chances are that they are snacking instead on maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, humectant, vegetable fat, modified maize starch, flavours, colours, vegetable gum, food acid, firming agent and emulsifier.

The findings led Choice's analysts to conclude that despite often being labelled with "healthy" names, many of the bars really belonged in the supermarket confectionery aisle. Ms Naidoo said that rather than snacking on cereal bars, children would be better off eating an apple, which gave plenty of fibre, less sugar, and no fat.


Greenie propaganda unpopular in the schools

School geography aint what it used to be. Now it is mainly Greenie indoctrination

Teaching geography as part of social studies courses alongside subjects such as history, economics and citizenship has overseen a halving in the past decade of the number of students selecting the discipline in their senior years. Figures gathered by the Australian Geography Teachers Association show the extent of disenchantment with the subject among year 11 and 12 students brought up on a diet of Studies of Society and Environment. Even in NSW, the only state to have maintained geography as a stand-alone and mandatory subject from years 7 to 10, students are eschewing the subject.

Teachers and professional geographers fear high school geography curriculums are failing to attract students, particularly in years 9 and 10. Australian Geography Teachers Association president Nick Hutchinson and Sydney University lecturer Bill Pritchard argue for a re-energising of geography curriculums based on the principles of the International Charter for Geographic Education. Under the charter, students should study among other things locations and places, to enable them to set national and international events in a geographical framework, and the major biophysical systems, such as landforms, soils and climate.

The plethora of subjects from which students can choose and the rise in vocational education are cited by geography teachers as major reasons for the discipline's fall in favour. The proportion of HSC students sitting geography has fallen from 14 per cent in 1997 to 7.5 per cent last year. Victoria is reintroducing geography as a separate subject under its humanities umbrella this year after watching the number of students studying the subject fall from more than 4000 in 1992 to just over 2500 in 2004. In South Australia, the decline - from about 2200 in 1996 to 1500 in 2004 - coincided with a rise in the number studying tourism (837 to 1856).

Mr Hutchinson said some of the fundamentals of geographic learning had been lost, with school curriculums instead focused on solving problems. What should return to the classroom was the basics of physical geography, such things as how soils, glaciers, rivers and coasts were formed and their effects on humanity. "We're no longer teaching a fundamental understanding of people and place and how things work, how cities work, the basis of our post-industrial society," he said.

Queensland University of Technology associate professor John Lidstone believes students should be taught the "awe and wonder" of the natural environment, not just its problems. Dr Lidstone, the former secretary of the International Geographical Union's commission on education, said schools should teach geographic thinking by teaching the subject as patterns, such as patterns of happiness, or of wealth and poverty. Also key were enthusiastic and skilled geography teachers who would incite excitement in students about the subject.

The Institute of Australian Geographers has written to federal Education Minister Julie Bishop calling for a national review of the geography curriculum along the lines of the recent history summit. Ms Bishop yesterday said the push by geography teachers and professional geographers revealed the failure of state governments to develop appropriate curriculums.


No comments: