Decolonising the north

Above the Townsville–Port Hedland line

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  • Published 20180807
  • ISBN: 9781925603316
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE TURNBULL GOVERNMENT’S initial response to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory highlights its failure to include northern Australia and other remote regions in the economic and social life of the nation. The commission’s findings paint a predictably grim story of the brutal practices inflicted on the children – overwhelmingly Aboriginal – who are held in the Northern Territory’s children’s prisons, as well as describing the failure of successive governments to respond to the social crisis that helps to explain the mass imprisonment of young Indigenous people. Yet the Turnbull government is so far refusing to support, with serious funding, the recommendations of the royal commission, which it established. It has ruled out contributing to the Northern Territory’s commitment to build two new child detention centres, arguing that it has adequate resources. This decision comes on top of the Commonwealth’s recent threat to abandon the ten-year National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing in favour of negotiating separate housing arrangements, as a means to leverage greater funding commitments from relevant jurisdictions (Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia).

The inevitable result of the Commonwealth’s obvious retreat from investing in remote Indigenous Australia will be a further running down of community housing and infrastructure, as the provincial governments of federated Australia simply do not have the money to support these settlements. There are approximately a thousand discrete communities in remote Australia, the vast majority in the north, above an imaginary line drawn between Townsville and Port Hedland. Tens of thousands of people live in these places, which range in size from major rural townships to small semi-permanent outstations.

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About the author

Howard Pedersen

Howard Pedersen is a Broome-based historian who wrote the award-winning book Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance (Magabala, 1995) with Bunuba custodian Banjo Woorunmurra. He...

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