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Look up: how policy gaps and failure blind us to what’s going on in Indigenous affairs

Elise Klein writes in The Conversation (2.12.16) about how policies from successive Coalition and Labor governments have followed a paternalistic lead. The author argues that this has created further impediments to thousands of Indigenous peoples who are doing plenty to improve their own situations.

‘This week, the ABC has featured stories of Indigenous innovation, creativity and boldness that are all too often overlooked. These have included Aunty Pearl Slater teaching art and checking in with new mums and their newborns; Miranda Edwards running a childcare service aiming to give the best early education to Indigenous kids; and Sandra Anderson leading Bremer State High to listen properly to their students’ families about what’s needed to provide meaningful education.

‘These stories come after a recent call by prominent Indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt to honour invisible work undertaken by Aboriginal women tackling domestic violence. Behrendt is right to push back on the narratives that seek to further isolate marginalised peoples. Indigenous Australians have always done plenty.

‘In contrast, the Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report, released in November, presents a different picture – one of gaps. Despite the 3,558 pages of number-crunching, socioeconomic indicators and a glossy finish, the report does not capture anything close to the humanness of Miranda, Sandra and Aunty Pearl. It also does not capture the raft of policies implemented to make their lives and others’ even harder.

‘Concerning here is not just how the report focuses on deficit and gaps, but how it fails to “look up” and extend its analysis to the government’s ideology, which underpins the failures of its policies. It ignores the enduring will of settler society to continue to colonise.’

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