Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Howard’s opportunism with Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-06-29

I’ve delayed comment on the Howard response to the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle[1] document until I’d read enough to avoid a knee-jerk response.  The kicker is near the end of this post, but I’ll start with an article "Unexplained differences" by Ian Anderson (Prof of Indigenous health and director of the Centre for Health & Society and Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne) about the "policy disconnect" between the Pat Anderson and Rex Wild April 2007 Report that the PM pounced on.  Apart from noting the time-lag, I’ll quote a couple of pertinent paragraphs from Ian Anderson’s post at the excellent AustralianPolicy Online, and markup as bold something that had struck me.

None of the above measures announced by Prime Minister Howard are, however, to be found in the strategies recommended by the Anderson/Wild report. The reasons for this policy disconnect are unclear – although there has been some speculation in the press about the government’s response being more about electioneering or using it as a "Trojan horse" for other policy agendas, particularly in relation to land rights.

Many of the government’s proposals – for instance, scrapping the permit system, assuming control of Aboriginal land and instituting welfare reform – are simply not raised in the Anderson/Wild report. No reason is given as to how measures such as scrapping the permit system will address the problem of child sexual abuse.

What might the implications of the bolded parts mean?  Could it be that land could be co-opted by the federal government for use by mining companies and/or agribusiness to, as Howard and Brough might put it "provide a source of jobs that will give indigenous people a sense of dignity"?

One item from the full report struck me in regard to Howard’s ham-fisted approach (my bolding) that is adding another player in the management cluster-****:

At the same time as the reductions in public spending on welfare and child protection began to take place in most jurisdictions, child protection work became increasingly driven by administrative requirements and the adherence to strict procedures (“bureaucratisation”). Management issues rather than professional practice became central to child protection practice, with efficiency, effectiveness and a focus on accountability overriding and conflicting with professionals’ values and orientation towards the needs of children and their families (Liberman 1994).
It has been argued that the bureaucratisation of child protection practice has led to workers’ professional skills, knowledge, discretionary powers and decision-making, being replaced by standardised practice, developed without a clear understanding of the complexity of child protection practice or of the dilemmas and the moral and political factors that workers must take into consideration when making decisions (Howe 1996).

What is really disappointing is what comes out of p129 of the full report, detailing the dramatic successes of our Kiwi cousins from a program started in 1989, with early results reported in 1994.  I’m not surprised they figured it out in NZ, and disappointed but unsurprised that Australia hasn’t learned from NZ successes nearly 2 decades ago.

In the late 1990s, the Gurma Bilni "Change Your Life" Program was developed specifically for Aboriginal sex offenders in prison

The Inquiry was unable to find any formal evaluation of this program and it would appear that, for whatever reason, it has not been maintained.
While participation in offender programs should be voluntary the Inquiry believes that there should be incentives to participate.  In taking this view the Inquiry notes the success of the culturally appropriate Kia Marama sex offender treatment program run at Rolleston Prison in New Zealand.
New Zealand programs
The sex offender treatment program at Rolleston Prison in New Zealand has the Maori name, Kia Marama, which means "Let there be Light and Insight".  The program is run for male inmates who have been sentenced for sexual offences against children.  When Kia Marama was opened in 1989, it was the first treatment facility of its type in the world.
More than 700 men have completed the program to date and an evaluation conducted in 1998 for men who had been treated over the first five years, showed that the program reduced their risk of re-offending by more than 50%.  More recent outcome figures shows that treatment effectiveness has improved when those treated after 1994 were compared to those treated prior to 1994.  Reconviction rates for those treated after 1994 are less than 5%.
A 1998 evaluation found that the differences in the re-offending and re-imprisonment rates suggest the Department of Corrections reaped a net saving of more than $3 million.  Less quantifiable are the societal savings that result from fewer offenders and fewer victims.
The goal of the Kia Marama program is to reduce re-offending among men who have offended sexually against children.  In the first phase of the program, participants work on developing a thorough understanding of their offending pattern.  In the second phase, participants are helped to gain knowledge and skills to deal with the problems linked to their offending.  The program lasts about nine months (37 weeks).  Groups of 10 men meet for almost three hours a day three days a week.  At the start of the program men identify their problem areas and needs.
The group works through modules dealing with issues such as understanding their offending; understanding the effects on victims, changing sexual arousal patterns, social skills, relationship skills and sexuality education, managing moods and coping with risk factors.  The department provides follow-up support after release and former residents take part in post-release parole program with local probation officers: NZ Department of Corrections, Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit
Te Piriti, an Auckland Prison-based program and innovative extension of the Kia Marama program, is designed specifically for Maori offenders who are treated in a Kia Marama-type program, but in a way that blends Maori cultural values and beliefsNZ Department of Corrections:Te Piriti Special Treatment Unit

Howard’s approach seems to be designed on-the fly, and may be driven not by the best advice and needs of indiginous children, and not even by his desire for an electoral "rabbit out of the hat", but as a means of getting power over aboriginal lands which will only exacerbate all social problems.

See Also:

Notes: The title of the report is pronounced Ump-ah Ah-kil-yurn-a-man Mu-kar-Mu-karl
The Anderson/Wild report links seemed a bit wonky, I’ve got the correct ones here.


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