Monday, February 13, 2023

How to help Aborigine communities

Anthony Dillon is an academic with some Aboriginal ancestry. He makes reasonable suggestions below but offers no pathway to achieving most of them. Specificity about what should be done is needed.

I believe token reinforcement studies point to one strategy that is highly likely to work: Pay for results. One specific application of that would start from the fact that school attendance is usually very poor among children in Aboriginal settlements. But education is essential for one to get anywhere in the modern world. So PAY childfren to turn up to class. A small amount could be paid at the end of each schoolday. If need be, the benefits paid to Aboriginal adults could be reduced to pay for it

The extreme problems facing too many Aboriginal Australians were recently highlighted in the news cycle again. This time the focus was on Alice Springs. While news stories raised public awareness of the violence and neglect of children, so much so that it attracted the attention of the PM, it is important to recognise that similar dysfunction happens in many other towns and communities. Nor are such stories new, as Chris Kenny has stated: ‘This blight of violent crimes, substance addiction, abused women and children and wasted lives is nothing new.’ Responsible media outlets, like The Spectator Australia, Quadrant, and the Australian have been reporting on these problems for many years. We hear the same stories and the same tragedies, just different locations.

Among those who care about Aboriginal people, of whom there are many, there is a growing frustration because so many Aboriginal lives do not seem to be improving. While we see successes with more and more Aboriginal Australians completing university, occupying leadership roles and starting businesses, far too many still suffer needlessly, particularly in less urbanised settings. This is despite considerable government spending, dedicated departments in both the public and private sector and a huge amount of goodwill from the Australian public.

We know the problems; however, there is less certainty about the underlying causes, and hence, less certainty about effective solutions. Clearly, a new approach is needed.

Albert Einstein has been credited with saying that, ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ He was simply saying that the problems we face require a deeper level of thinking. A deeper level of thinking about the seemingly intractable problems facing Aboriginal Australians and the contributors to these problems is needed, if we are to develop effective solutions.

Recently, action was taken in Alice Springs to restrict the amount of alcohol available to residents. This response has some merit, but must be part of a broader solution. By itself, an alcohol restriction is like a band-aid on a broken limb. A deeper level of thinking is needed for an effective solution. Alcohol management is one part of the solution, but not the complete solution. Alcohol misuse, is not only a cause of the problems we read about, but is also a symptom of deeper, underlying problems. Allow me to briefly discuss elements of what an effective solution would look like.

First, those leaders responsible for implementing solutions, must examine their ideologies and lay their egos aside. This is perhaps the biggest challenge. Doing this allows difficult conversations to openly occur. Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson was reported as saying, ‘We are all too scared to have the difficult conversations.’ Without difficult conversations, we will continue to see band-aids applied to broken limbs.

We must be free to openly discuss the problems facing Aboriginal people without the wild accusations of racism. Highlighting problems that disproportionately affect one racial group over another is not racism; it is simply truth-telling (cue for the proponents of the Voice in their quest for truth-telling).

Second, while alcoholic restrictions are sometimes a necessary circuit breaker, they are generally ineffective at promoting intrinsic motivation and agency within a person struggling with alcohol. A more effective solution that results in long-term benefits is one that motivates a person to want to stop drinking or to at least drink responsibly, because they want to live a healthy life. Incidentally, when an individual wants to take control of their life, this is true self-determination.

Sadly, the politics of Aboriginal affairs have cast self-determination as Aboriginal people seeking help only from other Aboriginal people. This is actually separatism, and has only ever failed. And will always fail.

Third, people are more likely to want to live a healthy life when they can see purpose in their lives. One way of achieving purpose is by helping and caring for others; this promotes connection with others. A multitude of ways can facilitate this, such as by having a paid job, volunteer work, helping a neighbour or engaging in community service. Paid employment, of course, has economic benefits. This is why Warren Mundine, when talking specifically about the recent crisis in Alice Springs, stated, ‘Any policy which does not increase economic participation and independence is a waste of time and money.’

Fourth, working adults are great role models for children. Children seeing working adults will learn that regular school attendance is a requirement for one day getting their dream job; it fosters hope. On this matter, Helen Morton has stated in the Australian that, ‘Unemployment is associated with poorer physical and mental health. The bright eyes of children’s early hopes and dreams quickly fade without opportunities.’ Further, working adults are more likely to ensure their children go to school and that home life is conducive to study.

Finally, dangerous ideologies, such as the idea that racism is the big culprit holding Aboriginal people back, or the belief that addressing the problems facing Aboriginal people requires a cultural solution that can only be delivered by other Aboriginal people, are huge barriers to empowering Aborigines. Other dangerous ideologies such as claiming Australia Day or an anthem are causes of pain to Aborigines must also be thrown in the bin.

These points are only some of the elements necessary for an effective solution, but they are all too often neglected. A total solution must also include access to jobs, access to good schools with dedicated staff, provision of affordable fresh food and modern services, and abandoning aspects of traditional Aboriginal culture that are no longer applicable in modern-day Australia.

I believe if we adopt the ideas in this article, next year on 26 January, instead of seeing stories about Australia Day protests, we’ll see positive stories about transformed Aboriginal communities where the people are living their potential, and making us a better Australia.

Whether you’re on the front line or the sideline, we all have a part to play. Let’s step up and let our voices be heard.


Covid’s devastating impact on the heart as lockdowns take a triple toll on the health of the nation

New heart research confirms fears COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on the health of Australians after confining them indoors, deprived of opportunities to exercise and exposed to poor diets and sleep routines.

Almost half of more than 6000 people who have undergone Victor Chang Heart Health Checks since the start of the pandemic have recorded results considered outside the healthy range.

A specialist team which conducts a mobile testing service across Australia has found cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels all significantly higher since COVID arrived.

The number of people having at least one test result outside the healthy range since March 2020 increased from 33 per cent to 47 per cent - a relative jump of more than 40 per cent.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Program manager Anastasia Dounas says for many the COVID effect was real and of serious concern. 'They got out of the habit of going to the gym during lockdown and ate and drank more because they were worried and stressed, leading to weight gain,' she said.

'Working from home also led to less incidental exercise and the fear of COVID saw more people choosing to drive to work than catching public transport which resulted in people taking fewer steps each day. 'That all adds up.'

Since the launch of the heart check program in 2011 until the onset of COVID in 2020, more than 76,000 participants have been tested with just over a third having one or more results outside the normal healthy range and advised to follow up with a GP.

Within this group, eight per cent were beyond the healthy limit for blood pressure and blood sugar, and almost 30 per cent for cholesterol.

Since March 2020, 6182 participants have been tested with just over 47 per cent having one or more results outside the healthy range and advised to see their doctor.

Of these, 15 per cent were on the wrong side of healthy for blood pressure, 10.5 per cent for blood sugar and 32 per cent for cholesterol.

Heart check nurse Clare Lennon said it was more important than ever to be assessed and start re-engaging with exercise and a healthy diet.

'Heart health checks are vital in revealing if you are at risk of heart disease but can also help prevent it,' she said.

'Lifestyle changes or medications can make a huge difference to risk factors but you need to be aware of whether you have high cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar to begin with.'


Anthony Albanese makes major immigration change with 19,000 refugees who arrived by boat to stay in Australia forever

Rewarded for breaking our laws. The should have been permanently transferred elsewhere -- maybe to PNG

Some 19,000 refugees who arrived in Australia by boat will be granted permission to stay forever as Anthony Albanese delivers on his election promise.

Refugees currently on one of several temporary visas will be able to apply for a newly created permanent residency visa from Tuesday.

The government will also commit $9.4m over two years for free visa application assistance, plus additional funding for free specialist legal service providers.

Fears have been raised among some Labor members concerned people smugglers will take the news as encouragement to ramp up their activities.

Permanent residency will be granted to asylum seekers who applied for a three-year Temporary Protection visa (TPV) or five-year Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV) before February 14.

Refugees who arrived before Operation Sovereign Borders was established in 2013 will also be able to apply through the Resolution of Status visa.

Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles said granting permanent residency would go a long way to help the refugees.

'TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities - often in rural and regional areas,' he said.

'Without permanent visas however, they've been unable to get a loan to buy a house, build their businesses or pursue further education.'

The decision will end up to a decade of uncertainty for some asylum seekers. 'It makes no sense - economically or socially - to keep them in limbo,' Mr Giles said.

Mr Albanese had made it part of his election promise in 2022 to give permanent protection to refugees and asylum seekers who are one of several temporary visas.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil issued a 'crystal clear' warning and said people who attempted to enter Australia without a valid visa will be deported.

'There is zero-chance of settling in Australia under Operation Sovereign Borders,' she said. 'The Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force are patrolling our waters to intercept and return any boats that try to enter.'

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd scrapped the Howard government's TPVs and offshore ­processing in 2008.

The decision encouraged people smugglers with 820 boats carrying 50,000 asylum seekers being sent over, with 1,200 dying at sea.

A senior Labor member said they feared a repeat would happen after the latest announcement, The Australian reported.

'The election commitment was very clear. But some are ­worried about is that it's going to go back to what it was under Rudd and (Julia) Gillard,' the source said.

An initial round of TPV/SHEV holders, including those whose visas are nearing expiry, will be invited to apply by the Department of Home Affairs, with all other visa holders able to apply from late March 2023.

The government estimates about 19,000 visa holders will be eligible for the RoS visa, which carries the same rights and benefits as other permanent visas.

This include the ability to vote and apply for bank loans, and immediate eligibility to the NDIS and extra social security schemes.

Under existing arrangements, both TPV and SHEV holders are eligible for Medicare, Centrelink payments and can work and study.

RoS visa holders can also apply to become Australian citizens and sponsor their family to live in Australia, under the family migration scheme.

TPV and SHEV holders who are not granted a RoS visa will need to depart Australia voluntarily, however those with new protection claims may request Ministerial Intervention.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs state there are 5000 TPV and SHEV applications currently undergoing review. If successful they will be granted a RoS visa.


A return to winner-takes-all custody battles

Bettina Arndt

This week a television crew from the Japanese public broadcaster came to Sydney to interview family law specialist Justin Dowd, a former President of the NSW Law Society. Japan is considering a move away from mum-custody towards ‘joint parental authority’ – which recognises that it’s in the best interests of children to have both mum and dad remain involved in their care.

The Japanese crew came to Australia because they acknowledge this country as one of the world leaders in encouraging separated parents to share decisions about raising their kids. That achievement stems from John Howard’s path-breaking 2006 reforms promoting ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ which resulted in a major increase in care from dads, more shared care, better relations between parents, and less litigation. The result was improved children’s well-being, according to UNSW research, and the reforms were a big hit with the public, ‘overwhelmingly supported by parents, legal professionals, and family relationship service professionals’, according to research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Yet Justin Dowd had to tell the Japanese crew that it’s all now at risk. The Labor government has announced draft legislation that will take Australia back to the dark ages of the winner-takes-all custody model. ‘The Albanese government went back to the future this week,’ pronounced the Australian Financial Review (AFR) spelling out the proposed laws which would end of any notion of shared parental responsibility, shifting the power in divorce battles firmly back into women’s hands.

This is huge, people. This dastardly political attack on our society will undermine the welfare of children, ramp up hostility between parents, and swell the coffers of lawyers who will benefit from the appalling fallout. Yet our media and politicians will no doubt avert their eyes to this impending catastrophe and just usher the new laws through – unless we stop them.

Back in 2007, I was approached by a retiring family court judge keen to enlighten me on how the family court had gone astray. The problem? ‘The woman has had all the power, the man almost none.’ In the judge’s view, children were missing out on vital contact with both parents due to decisions to award sole custody to the primary carer.

‘The custodial parent has been all-powerful. She – it’s usually she – has had the power to regulate access, sometimes regardless of court orders. She’s had complete authority to live anywhere, with the child, that she desires. The power to determine the child’s school, church, decisions about day-to-day living, and the power to get a greater slice of the matrimonial cake. More often than not that power is exercised unreasonably.’

The Howard reforms very effectively eroded that power and, ever since, feminists have worked feverishly to get it back – regardless of the cost to children. Now comes their reward for marshalling the women’s vote to help Labor regain government. It’s payback time … and Labor has come good by offering women the greatest prize of all – the children.

According to bright new world of Family Law being promised by the Albanese government, the following will no longer be deemed important in making decisions about children’s care:

Ensuring children benefit from meaningful involvement with both parents.

Children’s right to know and be cared for by both parents.

Children’s right to spend regular time with both parents and other significant people like grandparents.

Parents jointly sharing duties and responsibilities for the kids’ care and development.

Parents agreeing about future parenting of children.

All gone. All the language that provided the scaffolding that enabled children to have divorced dads remain part of their lives is being ripped out of the legislation. The Australian Financial Review headline said it all: ‘Time’s up for ‘equal rights’ in court custody battles.’

Family Law professor Patrick Parkinson, who advised the Howard government when the 2006 reforms were introduced, warns that dads will be ‘cut out’ by the proposed family law changes. Parkinson has produced a detailed submission exposing the flaws in the proposed changes. (This submission will eventually be publicly available as part of an inquiry into the proposed changes but please contact me if you’d like to see it now.)

‘Under the guise of simplification, it actually involves radical change and radical reversal,’ Parkinson says, pointing out that the government is misleading the public in claiming support from various public inquiries for this move. In fact, neither the 2019 Law Reform Commission review nor a recent parliamentary committee recommended removing the pivotal section promoting ‘equal shared parental responsibility’, although they did suggest some changes.

Here’s where Labor’s Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, comes in. He justifies removing this critical section, 61DA, by claiming the language of ‘equal shared’ responsibility has deluded daft dads into thinking that they might just be entitled to equal time with their own kids. The AG’s consultation paper spells this out, explaining that the proposed repeal of this section is ‘a response to substantial evidence of community misconception about the law – that is, that parenting arrangements after separation are based on a parent’s entitlement to equal time, rather than an assessment of what arrangements serve the children’s best interests’.

Dreyfus is also tossing out the other key sections which gave dads hope of fair treatment, namely 65DAA which requires courts to consider equal time or substantial/significant time, as a possible parenting option.

As Parkinson points out, the proposed new laws ‘stripped almost all references which encourage the meaningful involvement of both parents in relation to the child after separation’ – references that have been used for almost three decades to inform negotiations for parents who have ‘bargained in the shadow of the law’. And equally, to guide lawyers, mediators, and family consultants helping parents through this process. The risk is we could go back to vicious winner-takes-all battles for the children – described by family lawyer Geoff Sinclair in the Australian Financial Review as ‘full-on disputes – there was no silver medal. You either won or lost, and the prize was the children’. Sinclair is hopeful this won’t happen.

Now the new family law will be all about safety. The first consideration under the proposed legislation is what orders are best to promote safety for the child or carers. That’s hardly a surprise. Feminists have been using the violence card to undermine fathers’ contact with their children since the 2006 laws were first introduced, with constant claims about violent dads putting children at risk, and legal efforts to beef up safety considerations working very effectively to shut fathers out of children’s lives.

They’ve done a brilliant job hushing up the key statistic which puts a lie to the claim that so many dads pose a risk to their children – namely that only 1.2 per cent of women are physically assaulted by their male partner or ex-parent each year in Australia, according to the most recent 2016 Personal Safety survey. Physical violence is blessedly rare.

No wonder they place so much emphasis on the tiny numbers of cases which actually make it through to court – complex cases, often involving mental health problems, which fail to be resolved through alternative dispute resolution. Oh yes, there’s violence here – often these cases come festooned with allegations of violence or emotional abuse from both sides. Yet there’s AIFS research showing more fathers than mothers held concerns about their children’s safety, often involving harm inflicted by mum’s boyfriend.

‘Any reform of the law needs to be more sophisticated and nuanced than to be premised on an assumption that almost all perpetrators are male and almost all victims are female,’ argues Parkinson yet this is precisely the main thrust of Labor’s proposed new family law. And naturally, the media laps it up. ‘Draft bill aims to improve safety for separating families,’ applauded The Guardian. ‘Family law overhaul aimed at stopping abusive partners manipulating the system,’ ran the Sydney Morning Herald headline.

It’s another superb victory for the feminists, one more achievement for their mighty domestic violence juggernaut, which already works a treat stacking the family law system to favour women. Currently all it takes is one vague claim that violence could occur, requiring zero supportive evidence, to set in train a sequence of events starting with dad being removed from the home, denied contact with children and, if he’s lucky, ending up paying big money to see his own children in our hellish supervised contact services. And mum gains all the perks, benefits, and supports that come with victim status. It’s totally irresistible.

Labor’s latest move didn’t surprise me – they have form. I watched in horror when Labor regained power in 2007 and immediately appointed a fierce critic of shared custody to study overnight care by dads of infants and toddlers. Their devastating research results came to be used to deny dads overnight care of young children, not only in Australia but across the world before the research was eventually denounced by a team of international experts.

Phillip Ruddock, the Attorney General who implemented the Howard government reforms, pointed out at the time that Labor has always been keen to wind back efforts to promote divorced dads’ involvement with children. ‘They’ve long been captured by the female lobby determined to retain sole control over their children.’

Now’s the time to stand up and show ordinary Australians won’t stand for this attack on children’s right to be cared for by both parents. We need very quickly to get active and make enough noise to convince the politicians currently basking in feminist accolades that we are not letting them slip this one through.

I need all of you to make your voices heard. Here are some ideas you can use to make a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department inquiry. Try to talk to local MPs or send them an email and do everything possible to promote public discussion of this vital issue.

We can’t afford to just sit back and let them get away with unwinding the legal framework that did so much to improve the lives of fathers and their children




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