Dear Mr Forrest, business won’t fix this one

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest.

One of Australia’s richest men, mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, used Australian television on October 24 to send an address to the nation about his “Generation One” campaign, which aims to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

I don’t have any air-time, but I do have page space. This is my address to Twiggy.

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Dear Mr Forrest,

I think we have something in common (yes, I’m surprised too).

You say the plight of Indigenous Australians has been a “lifetime passion” for you, and that you’re keen to create opportunities for young Indigenous Aussies. I hear you.

But I don’t have friends like yours: no James Packer, Kerry Stokes or Lindsay Fox to assist with funding my big ideas and no Warwick Thornton to direct my television advertisements. And I certainly do not have enough sway to earn a one-on-one with prime ministers, past or present.

But, like you, I’m pretty eager to live in a nation that affords rights and opportunities to all its people, equally. And if you can use your position of influence, as the wealthiest person in our nation, to assist in closing the gap, I might allow myself to momentarily turn a blind eye to the fact that the black gold that awarded you your fortune, and thus your influence, is ruining our planet.

I’ll cut to the chase: I feel a very important factor has been overlooked in the Generation One campaign.

When it comes to seeking justice for Indigenous Australians, there is really only one place to start, and that is with the abolition of the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention.

It’s been three years now, and the situation isn’t getting better in the territory — if anything, it’s getting worse.

The housing program that promised to build 750 new houses has delivered only 11 so far. The rate of malnutrition among children has increased. So has unemployment. And income management has not resulted in more fresh food and vegetables being bought. In fact, the rationing of income onto a Basics Card that can only be spent in certain stores, has made purchasing fresh food more expensive and unattainable for most members of prescribed NT communities.

And that’s just the start.

The current situation in the NT is a failure of our governments, of our leaders: PMs John Howard and Kevin Rudd, and now PM Julia Gillard.

I’m not a lone voice shouting anti-government sentiment on this very important issue. The intervention has also been condemned as racist by the United Nations in a report released earlier this year.

And so while Madeleine’s plea on your TV ad was compelling, and the pledge of more jobs for Indigenous Australians is admirable, the issue of closing the gap can’t be achieved with good business sense and money alone. We need a fundamental shift in our thinking around Indigenous issues.

We need an overhaul of current policies, specifically those implemented as part of the intervention. Only then can we make real progress on closing the gap.

If we don’t address this crisis now, Rudd will not be the only prime minister to step up to a generation of Aboriginal Australian’s and say “Sorry”.

[Abridged from an article that first appeared on http://Australiantimes.co.uk .]

Comments

Kate Ausburn claims in Issue 860, Nov. 7th, that "When it comes to seeking justice for Indigenous Australians, there is really only one place to start, and that is with the abolition of the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention. It’s been three years now, and the situation isn’t getting better in the territory — if anything, it’s getting worse." Well, Kate is wrong. Although construction of housing has been far too slow, it is quite incorrect to say that "the rate of malnutrition among children has increased." Failure to thrive rates have declined somewhat. However, detection of malnutrition as a form of neglect has increased, as a result of more child welfare workers investigating cases. And it is not true tro say that "the rationing of income onto a Basics Card that can only be spent in certain stores, has made purchasing fresh food more expensive and unattainable for most members of prescribed NT communities." In fact, the opposite is true: the BasicsCard has made food more, not less, attainable for the vast majority of people in prescribed communities. Nor has the fact of the Basics Card in any way made food more expensive in the vast majority of communities. Kate also ignores the considerable benefits accruing to the people in the prescribed communities from greatly increased spending on health, education and safety programs, and the diminished trafficking in illegal substances. Bob Durnan Hermannsburg NT
Is this your opinion Bob Durnan or can you back this up with facts.