Thursday, February 09, 2023

Census facts unsettle the Voice fantasy

Most "Aborigines" are in fact white. Will it be their voice that is heard? If so, why?

Whose Voice? And who stands to benefit? Quite apart from the moral, legal and constitutional questions raised by the Albanese government’s proposed referendum on an Aboriginal Voice to parliament, which of the varied (and often conflicting) indigenous agendas will it promote? Will it be that of the activists from what the latest Census describes as the ‘urbanised’ four out of every five of the 3.7 percent of the Australian population claiming Aboriginal heritage? Much of this urbanised majority also has a non-indigenous background; about half of them live in Australia’s capital cities.

Or will it represent the real concerns of the only one in every six First Nations people who actually live in remote communities suffering the huge disadvantages and demoralising consequences of maintaining as much of their traditional lifestyle as is possible for marginalised people living in the old style in a new world? Their problems extend far beyond the alcohol that features in the media headlines; they result from a conflict of cultures.

Governmental bureaucracies lumping together the significantly different problems facing these two very different indigenous groups is one of the many reasons that Aboriginal policies have consistently failed. And now comes the Voice, the outcome of 2017’s Uluru Statement that emerged from a series of twelve indigenous ‘dialogues’ (the majority held in capital cities!) and one regional meeting whose purpose was ‘to consult and educate First Nations people’. There was no plebiscite, like that now suggested for remote settlements on the alcohol issue; that the organisers had to ‘educate’ them on the need for the Uluru Statement raises questions about the extent to which remote indigenous people really shared the activist views of the overwhelming urbanised majority. And ‘consulting’ carries no implications of formal support, as recent judgments on resource projects have shown.

Any rational discussion on Aboriginal issues depends on some knowledge (not evidenced in many of the public exchanges) of the statistical reality of the wide differences (in composition, location and circumstances) within the close to one million (out of Australia’s total population of 25.7 million) who described themselves in the latest (2021) census as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Significantly, the census reveals an extraordinary jump in the recorded indigenous population of 23 per cent over the previous five years, four times the rate of rise in the non-indigenous population. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Demography Director Emily Walker saying this rise is ‘partly explained by changing identification’. This impact of part-Caucasians choosing to identify as Aboriginal is most evident in Victoria, playing a part in the remarkable 36 per cent rise since the 2016 census in those doing so. This is in striking contrast to the modest three per cent increase in the Northern Territory’s indigenous numbers (comprising almost one-third of the Territory’s total population and many of whom are in remote communities), indicating a minimal contribution, if any, from the sort of ‘status change’ that is clearly altering the nature of the indigenous populations in urban Australia..

Whatever the motive, overall it is evident that increasing numbers of Australians are deciding to prefer their indigenous background, however tenuous, ahead of that of their non-indigenous forebears. Although no statistics are publicly available on the extent to which Caucasian-Aboriginals, particularly those urbanised, outnumber the fully indigenous, it is evident that the more people with mixed backgrounds who choose to identify as Aboriginal, the smaller will be the proportion of First Nations people made up of traditional tribal Aboriginals. So whose Voice would predominate?

Inevitably, the Voice of traditional indigenous remote communities will become relatively fainter. The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects Aboriginal population growth in remote communities as low as 0.5 per cent a year to 2031, only a fraction of the five-times higher 2.6 per cent rate for city-based Aboriginals, lifting them to 40 per cent of the total. With regional areas remaining steady at 44 per cent, the result is that remote areas will slide further to only 15 per cent of the indigenous population, leaving them by 2031 at only 161,000 out of Australia’s total population by then of 30 million, or less than half of one per cent.

The ABS says the reason for the falling share of remote communities is not only that their age structure is relatively stable so that the population of child-bearing age increases relatively consistently, but also that they are ‘largely unaffected by an increasing paternity assumption as the Northern Territory has the lowest proportion of children born to indigenous fathers and non-indigenous mothers’. Make of that what you will! But it seems to indicate that tribal Aborigines are less likely to mate with non-indigenous women than do those males with a Caucasian background who claim Aboriginal status and thereby enhance the indigenous birth-rate statistics in the cities and regions.

But this is only the tip of an iceberg of significant differences the census reveals between the growing proportion of urban and relatively diminishing share of remote community indigenous people. In education, the differences between urban and remote results are immense. The census revealed that Year 12 completion rate for 20-to-24-year-old indigenous residents of urban areas was 50 per cent, double the Northern Territory rate. It also reported a considerable gap between labour force outcomes. And even on such mundane items as indigenous access to the internet, the range is from the ACT’s 85 per cent to Victoria and Tasmania’s three quarters to only 55 percent in the Northern Territory.

The evidence is clear that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the range of significantly different problems facing indigenous Australians, however defined. What suits vocal and activist urban Aboriginal people, many of whom have access to the benefits of other cultures, is not necessarily of benefit to remote communities (and in some instances, like alcohol, may be to their detriment). As the Menzies Research Centre’s Nick Cater wrote recently, ‘The Voice would certainly empower an elite group of indigenous men and women. It is less certain what difference it would make for the disempowered individuals in remote communities, town camps and the streets of Alice Springs’; a concern given substance by the census revelations.


The Queensland town where roaming dogs attack locals every TWO days as the latest victim, 22, is flown to hospital after being pounced on by a pack of three aggressive animals

Yarrabah is an Aboriginal settlement

An outraged local mayor has demanded pet owners in his town be more responsible as residents fear walking outside due to roaming packs of aggressive dogs.

There have already been 19 dog bites in Yarrabah, a community of 2,500 people in far north Queensland, this year - an average of about one attack every two days.

The attacks are so severe that emergency services have been forced to airlift a number of people to hospital.

The latest attack earlier this week saw a 22-year-old woman flown to Cairns Hospital for treatment after she was mauled by three dogs and left with serious injuries.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital Health Service said 53 people presented with dog bite injuries to the Yarrabah Emergency Department in 2022, which was 10 fewer than the 63 locals attacked in 2021.

Based on the figures for the first five weeks of 2023, the number of reported dog bites could top 200 this year.

Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Mayor Ross Andrews said the area's animal management team and Queensland Police officers seized the dogs for impoundment.

Mr Andrews condemned people who allowed aggressive dogs to wander around the town, saying locals should not have to fear going out for a walk.

The shire has an agreement with Cairns Regional Council (CRC) to impound dangerous dogs if they need to be taken out of the community.

'Dogs have been seized for a period of 14 days by the Yarrabah Dog Pound, but they will in fact be held at the Cairns Council pound,' he told the Cairns Post.

He said Yarrabah locals would at times break into the local pound to try to get their aggressive dogs back. Mr Andrews said he was 'very seriously concerned' that many dog owners were not taking full responsibility for their animals.

He said a large number of dogs - some of which are very aggressive - continue to roam free in the area and town clinics regularly treat patients for animal bites.

The mayor said being able to go for a walk in peace, without fear of being bitten by dogs, was important the health of the population.

'In a community where diabetes is an issue, the ability to regularly and safely exercise is essential in the treatment of diabetes.

'The free roaming of dogs has a direct impact, not only upon the social and emotional health but also physical health of our community,' he said.


Parents push to punt God from Qld state schools

Renewed calls have been made for the state government to review how its controversial century-old religious instruction practices are taught in Queensland public schools.

Lobby group Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools has been calling for changes to religious instruction for nearly a decade without success.

In Queensland schools, one hour of religious instruction is provided to students, with the exception of preppies, if they are given consent from parents on enrolment.

Under Queensland legislation, it allows volunteers from religious groups to enter state schools to deliver approved religious instruction, a statement on the department of education’s website.

The parents’ association spokeswoman Alison Courtice said the practice in public schools had changed little since 1910 and said parents felt it did not align with a modern Queensland.

Ms Courtice suggested religious instruction be moved to break times or have a change in policy which allowed non-participants to continue regular class work, taught by teachers.

“We are not saying they can’t or shouldn’t practice faith, but there’s a time and place. It should not be during curriculum time,” Ms Courtice said.

“Religion in public schools still has the same law from 1910 that religious organisation can come in, essentially Sunday school, at the expense of learning.”

Education Minister Grace Grace said she was aware that there were differing views on the “issue” but confirmed there were no proposed changes.

“Religious instruction is not compulsory and if schools do choose to do it, it’s limited to one hour a week and it’s up to parents whether their child participates or not,” Ms Grace said.

Ms Grace said nonparticipating students received supervised instruction in a separate location, such as reading time or personal research.

P&Cs Qld chief executive Scott Wiseman said the association did not have an official stance on whether or not religious instruction had a place in schools.

“It needs to be a local school community decision, local P&Cs should talk it through with the community,” Mr Wiseman said.

“If it’s something the local community want that’s fine, if not, that’s fine.”

In 2021 however, the association quietly removed religious instruction as a priority from its annual advocacy position statement’s wellbeing section.

It had previously stated that “access to Religious Instruction within the school where the school parents, school community and principal consider it to be a best fit” was a priority.

Mr Wiseman did acknowledge that the debate had been a divisive “issue” in schools for a long time.

Ms Courtice said religious instruction could have a place in an approved curriculum if it was used for education purposes to teach students about different cultures. “If religion is going to be included, it should be in a comparative way, taught by teachers and part of an approved curriculum,” she said.

“Students can then understand why their classmates might wear a turban, or have a dot on their forehead or wear a hijab. That would be wonderful.”

Ms Courtice said an online religious instruction that children could study with the guidance of parents or guardians would also be appropriate.

According to a Right To Information document obtained by the parental group, just 26 per cent of parents or guardians out of 568,752 enrolments statewide, gave permission for their children to be taught religious education in 2019.


Cairns crime: Shocking new police data shows huge spike in theft, assault

Cairns has a large Aboriginal settlement -- Yarrabah -- nearby. Cairns relies heavily on tourism so this will likely be very damaging

The Far North has experienced the worst growth in crime compared to any other area of Queensland.

Recent police statistics have shown the offence rate – the number of offences per 100,000 residents – in the Far North QPS district escalated 16.6 per cent in 2022 to a rate higher than QPS districts with larger population centres such as Townsville, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

At 18,239 offences per 100,000 people it’s also the highest Far North offence rate in more than 20 years – confirming many residents’ fears the youth crime crisis is the worst it’s ever been.

Victims of crime in Cairns are now looking to the 2024 state election with the issue firmly fixed in their minds, as some businesses consider closing their doors.

A bagful of offences have escalated to new heights in the Far North.

Rates of assault (34.9 per cent), robbery (23 per cent), unlawful entry (60.7 per cent), arson (50.2 per cent), unlawful use of a motor vehicle (55.4 per cent) and breach of a domestic violence order (29.3 per cent) all climbed to their highest in more than 20 years.

The Far North also had the worst rates of sexual offences, property damage, unlawful entry and motor vehicle theft when compared to more populous regions such as Townsville, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Acting chief superintendent Rhys Newton, district officer for the Far North QPS district, confirmed there had been an increase of about 17 per cent across all crime categories in the Far North from 2021 to 2022.

“That mainly comes from increase in assaults … assaults have jumped 40 per cent to almost 7000 reported in 2022,” Supt Newton said.

“Our property offending has also increased. Last year, there was 6500 unlawful entries and almost 2900 unlawful uses of motor vehicles across the district.”

Supt Newton said there’s “no doubt” a large swath of crime was being committed by a “small minority” of recidivist juvenile offenders. “It’s that 10 per cent who, for a whole lot of reasons, are recidivist property offenders. They create up to 50 per cent of our crime,” he said.

“These kids can come from some of the worst home environments. That is a main contributor. There is a lack of engagement with these kids in their education and their health … consequently, they have a very risky lifestyle, and without any of the normal governors that 99 per cent of kids get – love and care from their family, engagement with their education – without that, there really is very little hope for these kids.

“These are reasons, but not excuses. We do an awful lot of work responding to and investigating these kids. I guarantee every opportunity is taken to bring them to justice.”

Supt Newton said there was some good news among the gloom. “The latest trends from October last year, there has been a downward trend in … property offences. Unlawful entries in October reached a height of 634, now we’re back down in January … to 420,” he said. “Unlawful use of motor vehicles … is falling back down as well. In October we had nearly 200 … in January we had 95.”

Of 316 Far North suburbs surveyed, offence numbers increased in 157 of them, and remained unchanged in 31. Cairns City almost matched its postcode with its number of offences, as higher rates of assault and theft pushed the total up 19 per cent to 4781 in a 12-month period, culminating in an alleged attempted murder by stabbing on the Esplanade.

The town also outdid other central business district suburbs such as Townsville City and Maroochydore.

Manunda, however, suffered a higher percentage jump – 31 per cent to 1731 offences, due to higher rates of unlawful entry, assault and theft in 2022.

Cairns North passed 2000 offences with a 14 per cent increase and Parramatta Park suffered a 25 per cent jump to more than 1000 offences, largely driven by spikes in unlawful entries.

The southern corridor

Offence rates in Cairns’ southern corridor were perhaps the most concerning as police were allegedly attacked and shoppers were allegedly bashed at supermarket check-outs.

As the suburbs have grown, offence numbers climbed in Earlville (19 per cent), Bayview Heights (21 per cent), Woree (29 per cent), Mount Sheridan (19 per cent), White Rock (48 per cent), Bentley Park (66 per cent), Edmonton (19 per cent), Mount Peter (142 per cent) and Gordonvale (40 per cent).

Theft and unlawful entry were the two biggest drivers.

Northwestern suburbs

Redlynch experienced a new wave of break-ins and stolen vehicles in 2022, while Caravonica residents were rocked by an alleged homicide on Melinga Cl.

Both suburbs experienced rises in offence numbers of 39 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

Kamerunga (59 per cent), Brinsmead (30 per cent) and Freshwater (68 per cent) were also struck by higher offences due to escalated rates of unlawful entry and vehicle theft.

The northern beaches

Cairns’ northern areas were relieved by a drop in offence numbers from 2021 to 2022.

Ellis Beach (minus 53 per cent), Palm Cove (minus 8 per cent), Kewarra Beach (minus 24 per cent), Trinity Park (minus 27 per cent) and Smithfield (minus 3 per cent) all achieved downturns, while Holloways Beach, Yorkeys Knob and Machans Beach were pricked with offence number rises of 10 per cent or less.

A significant drop in drug offences and unlawful entry explained the lower numbers at Trinity Park, but most of it seemed to move one suburb over to Trinity Beach, which experienced raises in both, as well as theft, pushing its numbers up 20 per cent.

Cassowary Coast

The Cassowary Coast was a mixed bag, as many suburbs successfully reduced their offence rates while others, such as Tully (38 per cent) and Mission Beach (6 per cent), experienced increases.

Offences appeared to centralise in Innisfail.

Numbers in the centre of town jumped by 16 per cent, due to rises in many offence types, while numbers in the outer suburbs – South Innisfail, East Innisfail and Innisfail Estate – reduced by up to 34 per cent.




No comments: