Silence allows the suffering of our Indigenous communities to continue writes Ernest Hunter, a psychiatrist who has worked for many years in remote Queensland.
Ernest speaks of hundreds if not thousands of failed programs and projects that
“have disappeared without evaluative trace, reports of commissions and inquiries consigned to administrative oblivion’…”
“Along with health bureaucracies that have invested in managerialism at the expense of domain knowledge, health practitioners also bear silent witness. And, (at the risk of ‘blaming the victim’) so do many Indigenous communities, organisations and individuals..
There is a..significant silence, the absent or muted voices of informed and assertive consumers…
I am not suggesting that health services are ‘responsible’ for the ills that affect Indigenous Australians…
However, they should be accountable for inadequate services..
The absence of an informed and demanding consumer base makes it likely that past failures and folly will go unexamined and consequently, that they will be repeated.
It is important to differentiate between informed and assertive consumers (who drive service and reform) and litigious consumers (who are likely to provoke ‘risk management’). The latter do not, necessarily, lead to improvement and can add to the tension between services and consumers…
Unfortunately, the relationship between Indigenous Australians and mainstream health and social services has, incrementally, become more adversarial, with increasingly defensive governments and departments.”
Clearly each sector must look to its own responsibilities but Ernest sees education as a cornerstone to Indigenous consumer advocacy and a better way for all parties concerned.
He cites the dramatic changes in his lifetime to the educational outcomes for the Hawaiian Indigenous population through the Kamehameha Schools Distance Learning system which he says has brought clarity of vision and financial investment to the task of education.
Although a ‘very long journey’, this system could be applied in health as well as in education Ernest concludes and the planeloads of ‘crisis-driven consultants and administrators’ might no longer periodically descend on bemused local residents – and clinicians like Ernest – who look on in silence.
The KS system goes beyond campus-based programs. It includes
“collaborative efforts with charter schools and other community organizations, area learning centers which become a hub for community work, and scholarships for learners to engage in supplementary enrichment activities or needed services.”
The system won a United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Award in May 2009 recognising it as one of the top ten distance learning programs in the country. Founded in 1997, KS provides Hawaiian culture learning opportunities and it raises awareness and understanding on Hawaiian issues.
It seems ‘virtual schooling’ has really come a long way. Once nothing more than distance education there are now more active approaches like recorded audio etc and there are places like Fieldstone Academy that have fully live classes. The student sits at home and sees the teacher teaching live and there’s also online tutoring.
This advocacy role is an initiative of the International Society For technology In Education (ISTE) and just HOW important is this?
This non-profit group’s efforts go beyond giving technology to students. They are developing advocacy expertise among educators so they can be informational resources for policymakers at all levels of government.
The challenge seems to be that few policy-makers fully recognize the impact technology has in schools and – exacerbating things – educators are not sharing their success stories enough with their elected officials.
A pity Ernest Hunter isn’t the lead consultant…
Do we have anything like KS? I’d love to hear if we have.