My people must grow up: Alison Anderson

by: AMOS AIKMAN, NORTHERN CORRESPONDENT From: The Australian  02/11/2012

Northern Territory minister Alison Anderson says Aborigines should stop complaining.

ONE of the nation’s most senior indigenous politicians yesterday rebuked those of her people who rely on welfare, saying they need to grow up and stop resorting to the “dangerous conversation of endless complaint”.

Northern Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson told the Territory’s Legislative Assembly that she “despaired at the reluctance” of some of her brethren to take available jobs.

“I look at the men of Yirrkala and ask why they will not drive the 20km to Nhulunbuy to earn excellent money in the mine and the processing plant there,” she said in her first ministerial statement on the status of Aboriginal communities in the Territory since taking the cabinet role.

“It is the kind of question the rest of Australia has been asking for years, as it tries to connect the dots, tries to understand why a long-running mining boom can exist literally next door to a culture of entitlement and welfare dependency.”

She criticised those who expected the government to “do everything for them”, saying the world was looking on and “wondering if we are children”. Ms Anderson said that in her travels to remote communities she would be arguing “with adults who refuse to grow up”.
“In the rest of Australia, people pick up the rubbish in their yards. They fix their own blocked toilets,” Ms Anderson said.

“When they turn on their TVs and see remote communities covered in litter, and able-bodied men complaining about lack of maintenance of the houses they live in, they wonder why. They wonder why indigenous people in these communities won’t do these things themselves.”

Ms Anderson said that life for indigenous people in the Territory was different because, on average, there were less than half as many adults per child as for the non-indigenous population.

“Where are the missing adults? There is no way to put this gently: they are dead,” Ms Anderson said.

“This is like the reverse of the old story of the Pied Piper, where the children were taken away.

“Here it is the adults who have gone, in places like Lajamanu, where 29 per cent of people are younger than nine years old.”

She said that her government would focus on improving education and on helping people create real jobs. “We are struggling with our history, and in some cases with the obstacles in our own hearts and minds.”

Ms Anderson also attacked the commonwealth’s reliance on “bright and shiny and run like clockwork” NGOs that “fill in all the paperwork perfectly”.

“They’re good at lobbying and writing submissions. I don’t mock that but I do suggest they’re not so good at providing services, because they don’t understand the communities ,” she said. “Like so many non-indigenous advisers over the years . . . they’re cursed by the combination of noble intentions and utter ignorance.”

She called for a greater role for indigenous organisations subject to the same standards as NGOs. Ms Anderson also said poor English skills were denying young indigenous people the choices available to other Australians.