Over the years there have been many government programs that dictate the terms of post colonial Australia towards Indigenous people.
In the past, the government had programs that had a clear purpose of assimilating Indigenous people into European settler society. This is not my opinion, it was publicly stated on paper and clearly spoken about in public.
In recent years the government has been criticised for continuing this agenda of assimilation. The word assimilation is no longer used publicly; however it seems this agenda still exists. In 2017, the current government program goes by the name: Indigenous Advancement Strategy. But what does this mean? Does advancement mean closing the gap by improving the life expectancy, health, education and incarceration rates? Or is it another positive spin on something more sinister?
In recent years and even in recent weeks we have witnessed how the Indigenous advancement strategy and the minister for Indigenous affairs appear to be acting against the interests of our people. Earlier this month it was revealed that $3.8 million dollars of IAS funding was being allocated to the National Australia day committee. Meanwhile, residents in Elcho island found out this year that funding for a successful dispute resolution program will no longer be supported by IAS funding. The program only required around $200,000 per year to operate. This story is being repeated all around the country with successful community run programs being strangled by a lack of funding.
Despite major cuts to Indigenous funding in recent years, funding still exists and the criteria for qualifying for funding is ever changing. In 2015 it appeared that funding would only come under the condition that organisations pledge their support for the highly controversial Recognise campaign. One area where funding hasn’t dried up is for organisations that focus on improving school attendance rates of Indigenous children. I have no complaint about improving attendance rates, but does this result in higher education standards? The current education system has often been criticised for not meeting the needs of Indigenous children. It’s not just about being at school more. It is also about transforming the attitudes of teachers and the way the curriculum is designed. The government is still hesitant to roll out mother tongue/bi-lingual education despite countless research that points to the success it would bring.
So back to this term Indigenous Advancement Strategy. Is it about Indigenous people? Yes. Is it a strategy? Most certainly. Is it about advancement? That’s debatable.
I see this advancement strategy as yet another attempt at assimilation. We know that state governments do not want to fund remote communities and it seems that the federal government is trying to eliminate programs that help keep those communities together. The government is still doing what they think is best for our people. The government is not listening to us, they are not listening to leading experts from relevant fields and they even choose to ignore recommendations from the United Nations.
I could go on and on with example after example that shows the governments true strategy is the destruction of our culture, the movement of our people off our lands with the ever-present goal of the continued destruction of our resources. That has been the goal since the British settlers first set foot on our lands. The strategy is not about our advancement, the strategy is about our cultural downfall.
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy stinks of assimilation.