But for true wisdom on how to deal (NO! COLLABORATE!), with all communities it’s best to go no further than the report itself, where in introducing their recommendations, the report writers quote Fred Chaney’s 7.30 Report interview when he retired from the National Native Title Tribunal in April this year.
“And one of the things I think we should have learned by now is that you can’t solve these things by centralised bureaucratic direction. You can only educate children in a school at the place where they live. You can only give people jobs or get people into employment person by person. And I think my own view now is that the lesson we’ve learned is that you need locally based action, local resourcing, local control to really make changes.
But I think governments persist in thinking you can direct from Canberra, you can direct from Perth or Sydney or Melbourne, that you can have programs that run out into communities that aren’t owned by those communities, that aren’t locally controlled and managed, and I think surely that is a thing we should know doesn’t work.
So I am very much in favour of a model which I suppose builds local control in communities as the best of those Native Title agreements do, as has been done in the Argyle Diamond Mine Agreement, as is being done in Kununurra. Not central bureaucracies trying to run things in Aboriginal communities. That doesn’t work.
They’re locked into systems which require central accounting, which require centralised rules and regulations. They’re not locally tailored.
The great thing about working with a mining company in an Aboriginal community is that the mining company has the flexibility to manage towards outcomes locally with that community.
The great thing about the education projects in which I’m involved is that we can manage locally for the outcomes that we want to achieve locally.
Once you try and do it by remote control, through visiting ministers and visiting bureaucrats fly in, fly out – forget it.
Rex Wild, one of the writers of the Children Are Sacred report agrees, telling Lateline Business:
“The answer is to sit down with the people, work out what they need with them, provide them with assistance and support, which is both financial and in personnel on the ground, people they can work with, people that spend time with them, people that come and stay with them, visitors that are regular and they know by name, not people who blow in for five minutes or 10 minutes here and there, descending from the sky like a swarm of locusts and then disappearing again. That’s not what’s required.
We need long-term, strategic work with people, building up trusts. We were able to do that in a very short time by, we think, sitting down with people under the trees, in the gymnasiums or equivalents and talking with them. That doesn’t seem to happen when the bureaucrats arrive.”
Sounds like real community engagement to us!