Sunday, July 09, 2006


I had 8 days in the Northern Territory and I have been too busy both with work and pleasure to write much for my blog. I spent most time in Alice Springs but had the last couple of days at Uluru. Both towns are reasonably big tourism centres with substantial aboriginal populations. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the visits. Alice Springs is an interesting conference location and Uluru is just amazing.

John Quiggin gave an interesting talk at the Econometric Society meetings in Alice Springs on Employment in Remote Aboriginal Communities. This is work in progress so no online version is yet available - if one becomes available I'll link to it. John suggested that an improvement would be to expand the role of Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) which currently provide most employment for aborigines in remote areas. These are like Work for the Dole schemes. They could be augmented with various protectionist policies such as employment subsidies, tariff protection for commmunity outputs or even output subsidies.

The possibility of offering 'reserved employment' in particular occupations seems sensible. Aborigines are extensively involved in the tourism industry in cities like Alice Springs and increased involvement in these types of activities might be an option. All these types of policies have a 'tough love' component to them - rewards go to those who work.

It is doubtful that Australia has overspent on aborigines given their poor health, education and low capital base status. John linked the failure of development programs for aborigines with the well-known difficulties in fostering regional development schemes. Sensibly he argued that magic bullets won't work and that evidence-based policies are the way to go.

Talking to locals in Alice Springs it was obvious that substantial barriers are already present between whites and the blackfellas. The recent horror stories on child abuse have produced a kneejerk overreaction among some. But there is also enormous respect among many whites for blackfella culture and skills.

One of my resolutions is to get better informed on the situation facing Australia's original inhabitants. It is something I should know more about and I will.


Tanya said...

Thanks for the great post, Harry Your plan sounds like a very good one. Sometime ago you wrote about a photo/article that appeared in the Aus. The photo was of a family in their house at Hopevale Aboriginal community and the article as about housing conditions in aboriginal communities. You said that you were going to write more on the topic. Perhaps you could do that …

I found the photograph to be confronting and thought provoking. It is really worth looking at very, very closely. The Aus used the photograph to convey Aboriginal residents’ seeming lack of care for the houses they are provided. I have spent some time in a remote Aboriginal community in WA and know that these conditions were common there and I suspect they are common elsewhere. But, the photograph also showed these wonderful (and I would suggest, trusting) smiles of three aboriginal women and some kids. The photograph should challenge us to think about how our cultures come together in Australia … to make us think about multiple understandings of ownership, cleanliness, communal living, family, government planning, charity, media, exploitation, and much more. So, I hope you’ll share your thoughts with us.

hc said...

I'll have a go Tanya. I also noticed those bold smiles. Beautiful.