Yet more proof of need to act

By Tony Koch | The Australian

Another round of statistics demonstrating dysfunction and accumulated disadvantage in remote indigenous communities should come as no surprise.

The revelations in the Productivity Commission report, shocking as they are, greatly understate the truth.

A decade ago an inquiry into violence in communities, headed by Aboriginal academic Boni Robertson, was held in Queensland. She was assisted by 50 community women.

The committee was told it was highly unlikely that there was even one teenage girl in a community who had not been physically and/or sexually assaulted at least once in her life, if not many times.

The intervention ordered by the Howard government has revealed a greater degree of violence against children than was "officially" acknowledged. But medical experts who conducted examinations were not allowed to question child patients about any history of physical or sexual abuse - they had to depend on the information being volunteered. That rendered the exercise a farce.

Governments throughout Australia have been aware of the horrific statistics for many years, and have done little to save children from continued abuse. A royal commission - where witnesses are protected, where perpetrators are identified, charged and removed from the communities - is a necessary starting point. But no Labor government has the courage to do that because it would upset its leftist supporters who contend that "white interference" is culturally inappropriate.

The greatest - and most prevalent - abuse of children in indigenous communities is the abject neglect of their physical and intellectual health and wellbeing. The continued refusal by government to do anything more than hand-wringing is criminal, and merely serves to ensure that for the children and many of the women, these communities remain nothing more than prisons without bars.

Tony Koch | July 03, 2009 The Austalian

Detailed Australian Nations Map Source: AIATSIS