I first became involved in Aboriginal issues in the very early 1970’s. At that time I made enduring friendships that last to this very day. I began working with Charlie Perkins and speaking alongside Aboriginal activists such as Gary Foley, Paul Coe and Billy Craigie.
The recently publicised Cabinet Report stating that the $3.5 billion spent by the Federal government on Indigenous programs each year has yielded a “dismally poor return” is no surprise to me. I have seen the devastation firsthand. In fact I would expect that every Federal Cabinet Minister over the past thirty years would not be surprised either. I find this whole area of Aboriginal education/welfare a minefield of ideological, personal, racist conflicts.
It is a blight on our nation that in 2011 if you’re an Aboriginal child and you’re brilliant chances are “the system” won’t pick you up and assist you like it does for non-Aboriginal children. In fact it is quite probable that very system will hold you back.
In the Northern Territory, Queensland and in Sydney (Redfern and Ashfield) we operate our Exodus Foundation Literacy Tutorial Centres which are geared towards teaching the poorest, most disadvantaged kids from the poorest most disadvantaged schools to read. As you would expect we tutor many Aboriginal children.
Our programs are the only ones that actually work. Analysis proves this.
When we compared our programs with others we were astonished to find that other literacy programs for similar Aboriginal kids only slowed the rate of their falling behind whereas ours actually brought them up to and above National standards.
Despite having the evidence to prove this the Northern Territory Government continues to refuse to fund us and the response from the federal government has been lukewarm to say the least.
We are now in the invidious position of having to cancel or severely curtail our work in the Territory if we cannot soon find sources of funding. That would mean over 160 children a year would suffer.
I find it really painful that bureaucratic and ideological infighting can condemn even more Aboriginal children to a life without the education that most of us take for granted.