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Analysis and Comment (52)

The media should focus more on positive models of change and commitment in Aboriginal communities. The media should focus more on positive models of change and commitment in Aboriginal communities. Rusty Stewart

Bad news: negative Indigenous health coverage reinforces stigma

Think of Aboriginal health and you’ll probably recall messages of large gaps in life expectancy, increasing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and asthma. Or that the last ten years…
Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in NSW – rich in ancient history. Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in NSW – rich in ancient history. Steve Bourne

Working with Elders and return of First Australians' remains

Evidence of the first people to settle in Australia can be found in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, in western New South Wales, informally referred to as Australia’s Rift Valley. Hundreds of archaeological…
Not a new idea, as this map from 1885 shows, but no less controversial. Not a new idea, as this map from 1885 shows, but no less controversial. Meyers Konversationslexikons

Canal carved through Nicaragua will destroy rainforests, communities and wildlife

The Nicaraguan government has granted a concession to a mysterious Chinese company owned by Jing Wang, a little-known Hong-Kong based businessman, to build an inter-oceanic canal. This would provide an…
Sustainable palm oil production should have local consent: often, it doesn’t. Sustainable palm oil production should have local consent: often, it doesn’t. Rainforest Action Network

Sustainable palm oil must consider people too

Businesses, government and civil society met this month in Medan, Indonesia, for the 11th annual Roundtable meeting on sustainable palm oil. While orangutan conservation organisations dominated conversations…
The High Court has found that Indigenous disadvantage needs to be taken into account during sentencing. The High Court has found that Indigenous disadvantage needs to be taken into account during sentencing. AAP Image/Marianna Massey

High Court to give ‘full weight’ to Indigenous disadvantage

How long should a criminal’s past history and background remain relevant in a court of law? That was the question before the High Court earlier this week in the case of William Bugmy. Bugmy, a 29 year-old…
West Papuan refugee Amos Wainggai is on board the Freedom Flotilla, headed for Papuan shores from Australia. What will it mean for our relations with Indonesia? West Papuan refugee Amos Wainggai is on board the Freedom Flotilla, headed for Papuan shores from Australia. What will it mean for our relations with Indonesia? AAP/Cleo Mary Fraser

What will the West Papua flotilla mean for Australia-Indonesia relations?

Given the extreme sensitivity with which the issue of West Papua is viewed in Indonesia, the “Freedom Flotilla” heading from Australia to the Indonesian-controlled territory is sure to create tension…
Galiwin'ku, Elcho Island, the Yolngu people’s customary land. The lead singer of Yothu Yindi, a Yolngu band, died yesterday, aged 56. Galiwin'ku, Elcho Island, the Yolngu people’s customary land. The lead singer of Yothu Yindi, a Yolngu band, died yesterday, aged 56. Flickr/boobook48

Yothu Yindi and the Yolngu culture: dreaming of a brighter day

The lead singer of the band Yothu Yindi died yesterday of kidney disease, aged 56. Only a few decades after radio, popular music and electric guitars spread through Arnhem Land in the 1960s, Yothu Yindi…
For all its faults, NAPLAN is helping Indigenous education. For all its faults, NAPLAN is helping Indigenous education. AAP Image/Melanie Foster

Closing the gap: NAPLAN will help improve Indigenous education

Federal education minister Peter Garrett confirmed late last week that education ministers from around the country had agreed to lift national efforts to improve Indigenous education results. Results from…
Figures regarding the original population of Australia may be way off. Figures regarding the original population of Australia may be way off. WanderingtheWorld (www.LostManProject.com)

Australia’s colonisation was no accident, say the numbers

Like many people, I grew up believing Australia was colonised by a small band of people, who had most likely landed on its shores by accident; but research I published this week suggests a far larger founding…
The endangered dugong is being hunted unsustainably using a cruel harpoon technique. The endangered dugong is being hunted unsustainably using a cruel harpoon technique. Nicola Sfondrini

In the name of culture: dugong hunting is simply cruel

Many Australians are rightly appalled by the slaughter conducted by the Japanese whaling fleet under the guise of “scientific research”. This is not only because whaling is cruel but also because whales…
Indigenous Queenslanders should be able to choose their own path. Indigenous Queenslanders should be able to choose their own path. AAP/Dave Hunt

Funding cuts threaten Indigenous independence in Queensland

Funding cuts announced to Queensland Aboriginal communities last month will of course affect the budgets of Aboriginal Shire Councils. But their impact will be felt much more further afield than just within…
The important links between Indigenous language, art and culture have finally been recognised. The important links between Indigenous language, art and culture have finally been recognised. AAP/Dean Lewins

Joining the dots: Indigenous art and language in the national cultural policy

Arts minister Simon Crean’s newly released cultural policy, Creative Australia, represents a refreshing change. It is underpinned by an understanding that not only are the arts closely linked to each other…
Tasmanians have yet to engage fully with the unspeakable in their history. Tasmanians have yet to engage fully with the unspeakable in their history. Nina Matthews Photography

Coming to terms with Tasmania’s forgotten war

Is Tasmania at a tipping point? Over the next two weeks The Conversation, in conjunction with Griffith REVIEW and the University of Tasmania, is publishing a series of provocations. Our authors ask where…
Robert Bagie, Olive Bagie, adopted son Ramsley Woosup and Mimia Whap were afraid of flying after losing a family member in the Lockhart river crash. Robert Bagie, Olive Bagie, adopted son Ramsley Woosup and Mimia Whap were afraid of flying after losing a family member in the Lockhart river crash. AAP/Jade Bilowol

Lockhart River crash compensation a big win for Indigenous justice

A couple of weeks ago, Justice Henry of the Queensland Supreme Court handed down judgement in favour of the families of five people killed in the tragic Lockhart River plane crash in 2005. The court awarded…
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon discuss the Closing The Gap report in June. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon discuss the Closing The Gap report in June. AAP/ Penny Bradfield

Closing the gap on Indigenous employment? Not quite

It almost goes without saying, but stable, well-paid employment remains one of the key ways to protect people from poverty and exclusion. And that’s never truer than for our Indigenous population. Aside…
Understanding the stingray’s significance can help us understand opposition to James Price Point gas plans. Understanding the stingray’s significance can help us understand opposition to James Price Point gas plans. Joy VanBuhler

Beware the stingray: Indigenous heritage and WA’s gas plans

For overwhelming economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons the LNG precinct proposed for Walmadany (James Price Point) should not be built…In sum, such a project is against the national interest…
Government policy affects which languages flourish, and which languages die out. Government policy affects which languages flourish, and which languages die out. iambents

Slip of the tongues: language and the unintended consequences of Indigenous policy

Indigenous communities are devastated when languages are lost. This was the conclusion of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs last month. The…
Why did the government drop the ball on constitutional recognition? Why did the government drop the ball on constitutional recognition? AAP/David Crosling

Failure to launch: what happened to Indigenous recognition?

The Gillard government has finally confirmed it will not be asking Australians to vote in a referendum for the constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples in this term of parliament. Although agreeing…
A new parliamentary report has called for urgent action to protect Indigenous languages. A new parliamentary report has called for urgent action to protect Indigenous languages. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

The chance of a lifetime to save Indigenous languages

It is not often that the opportunity comes along to make a real difference, but a new report into Indigenous languages in Australia has the potential to do just that. Our Land, Our Languages has already…
The government can’t wait any longer, it needs to make changes now to improve Indigenous education. The government can’t wait any longer, it needs to make changes now to improve Indigenous education. Aboriginal Art image www.shutterstock.com

Can Indigenous education afford to wait for a real response to Gonski?

In all the discussion, media releases, press conferences and TV coverage of this week’s government response to the Gonski review, it was fascinating that the issue of Indigenous education rated such little…
Terry Mills has been sworn in as new chief minister of the Northern Territory. Terry Mills has been sworn in as new chief minister of the Northern Territory. AAP Image

Was the NT election outcome a shockwave or a regional ripple?

The recent Northern Territory election attracted an unusual amount of media attention amongst the “politically informed public”, especially in the south-eastern states of Australia. Media reporting saw…
Indigenous policy takes a generation to change … what will the next 30 years hold for communities? Indigenous policy takes a generation to change … what will the next 30 years hold for communities? yaruman

The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion

Last week, the Stronger Futures legislation passed through the senate - laws which extend the Northern Territory Intervention for another 10 years. The relative merits and faults of the legislation aside…
Alcohol restrictions will stay in place until 2022. Alcohol restrictions will stay in place until 2022. librarianidol

Northern Territory Intervention extended … but is it working?

The last sitting week of parliament before the winter recess may well be remembered for the historic senate vote made late into the night. This legislation, with bipartisan support, agreed to the extension…
Eddie Koiki Mabo (left) and Jack Wailu on the Torres Strait Island of Mer during the High Court challenge. Eddie Koiki Mabo (left) and Jack Wailu on the Torres Strait Island of Mer during the High Court challenge. AAP/National Archives of Australia

Advocates or activists: what can lawyers learn from Mabo?

Australians have just celebrated Mabo Day – this year marking the 20th anniversary of the landmark High Court decision that changed the course of land rights in Australia The case has special resonance…
Government-erected signs separate Indigenous people from their neighbours across Darwin. Government-erected signs separate Indigenous people from their neighbours across Darwin. AAP Image/Xavier La Canna

The Northern Territory Emergency Response and the signs that divide us

The sun is setting as I drive home from my work at Charles Darwin University. My route runs between Nightcliff, a funky beach suburb with old-style Darwin elevated houses, and new high-rises springing…
Non-Indigenous Australians should say sorry because they feel sympathy for the plight of the Stolen Generations, not because it was their fault. Non-Indigenous Australians should say sorry because they feel sympathy for the plight of the Stolen Generations, not because it was their fault. butupa

‘Sorry’ isn’t the hardest word, so say it for the Stolen Generations

As we are about to mark the 14th National Sorry Day and the fourth since the National Apology was delivered by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, I can’t help but wonder if much has changed since the days…
Indigenous community jobs aren’t part of the mainstream economy, but they fit the needs of the community well. Indigenous community jobs aren’t part of the mainstream economy, but they fit the needs of the community well. Kayt Davies

Closing the gap, or making it wider? Putting a value on Indigenous jobs

Among all the school payments and defence cuts, last week’s federal budget also quietly committed an additional $5.2 billion to the government’s Closing the Gap program. It’s a vote of faith from the government…
Melbourne footballer Liam Jurrah returns to Melbourne after being charged with attacking a man in Alice Springs. Melbourne footballer Liam Jurrah returns to Melbourne after being charged with attacking a man in Alice Springs. AAP/David Crosling

What if Indigenous Australians didn’t play footy?

Imagine if the indigenous people of this country didn’t play Australian football, the only truly unique sport this continent country has ever created. As a percentage of the population, indigenous people…
Jurrah’s story is not over yet. Jurrah’s story is not over yet. AAP/Julian Smith

Liam Jurrah’s biographer speaks on Yuendumu’s tragedy

Liam Jurrah’s involvement in a violent incident in an Alice Springs court last week has captivated the Australian media for days. The 23-year-old forward at the Melbourne Football Club recommenced training…
It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. It’s essential that we get it right when it comes to changing our constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

Indigenous recognition: we can’t afford to water down constitutional reform

Earlier this year, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians gave its final recommendations to the government. Recognition would acknowledge the unique place of Aboriginal…
Queen Elizabeth II has many supporters. But are they getting value for money? Queen Elizabeth II has many supporters. But are they getting value for money? EPA/Chris Radburn

A right royal rip-off – how much should Commonwealth nations pay for the Queen’s Jubilee?

To some, the Queen and her royal family are dear to the heart. To others, there is nothing sillier than following the lives of individuals that parade themselves as royalty. And for many – if not most…
The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. The Treaty of Waitangi reminds us that indigenous people must be treated honourably before the law. Sids1

A matter of trust – what we can learn from the Treaty of Waitangi

Much is made of the Treaty of Waitangi as the vehicle for the recognition of Maori in New Zealand’s legal system. Australia lacks a treaty, the argument goes, and therefore is constitutionally disabled…
We know Aboriginal fires affected Australian vegetation, but now we have evidence they altered the monsoon too. We know Aboriginal fires affected Australian vegetation, but now we have evidence they altered the monsoon too. ciamabue/Flickr

How Aboriginal burning changed Australia’s climate

For thousands of years, Aboriginal Australians burned forests to promote grasslands for hunting and other purposes. Recent research suggests that these burning practices also affected the timing and intensity…
Many Aboriginal people, like boxer Anthony Mundine, look to Islam as a way of re-connecting with their roots. Many Aboriginal people, like boxer Anthony Mundine, look to Islam as a way of re-connecting with their roots. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Long history with Islam gives Indigenous Australians pride

Muslim conversion is growing in Indigenous communities. In the 2001 national census, 641 Indigenous people identified as Muslim. By the 2006 census the number had climbed by more than 60% to 1014 people…
It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. It’s time to recognise the first Australians in our constitution. Flickr/Rusty Stewart

It’s time to recognise Indigenous Australia in our constitution

Last week, the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples concluded its deliberations on reform proposals. While we wait on the release of their final report…
Indigenous Australians systematically burnt grasslands to reduce fuel and stop fires raging out of control. Indigenous Australians systematically burnt grasslands to reduce fuel and stop fires raging out of control. Flickr/pietroizzo

The biggest estate on earth: how Aborigines made Australia

Aboriginal people worked hard to make plants and animals abundant, convenient and predictable. By distributing plants and associating them in mosaics, then using these to lure and locate animals, Aborigines…
Government data shows Aboriginal people are twice as likely to have a core activity limitation as non-Aboriginal people. Government data shows Aboriginal people are twice as likely to have a core activity limitation as non-Aboriginal people. AAP Image/Karen Michelmore

Changes needed to close the gap for Indigenous Australians with disabilities

Alongside high rates of incarceration, unemployment, homelessness and some of the poorest health outcomes in Australia, Indigenous people’s access and use of disability services is under-representative…
Indigenous Australians under 18 will not be included in the sample collection components of the Australia Health Survey. Indigenous Australians under 18 will not be included in the sample collection components of the Australia Health Survey. k-girl/Flickr

Failing to close the Indigenous data gap with the Australian Health Survey

The Australian Health Survey’s (AHS) exclusion of data from the Indigenous population raises questions about how serious we are about closing the health gap. It’s generally accepted that clinical care…
WA’s proposed LNG processing plant has set Indigenous and environmental groups against one another. WA’s proposed LNG processing plant has set Indigenous and environmental groups against one another. AAP

Green - black conflict over gas development in the Kimberley: a sign of things to come?

Conflict between Indigenous (“Black”) and environmental (“Green”) groups is a growing feature of Australia’s political landscape. This has been highlighted by very public disputes over Wild Rivers legislation…
Acknowledging and honouring the humanity of others is the first step to a high-expectations relationship. Acknowledging and honouring the humanity of others is the first step to a high-expectations relationship. AAP/Tony Bartlett

Indigenous policy: be compassionate, be brave

Why do we keep spending billions of dollars in Indigenous communities with so few results? It’s because we don’t have a high expectations relationship between both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians…
Indigenous people traditionally eat kangaroo, but they’re worried about the scale of the hunting. Indigenous people traditionally eat kangaroo, but they’re worried about the scale of the hunting. AAP

Food fight – Aboriginal elders take on the kangaroo industry

Last month, an alliance of Aboriginal elders announced their intention to bring a constitutional law challenge against Australia’s kangaroo industry. The announcement follows efforts by the Federal Government…
While we do things to people, not with them, Indigenous policy won’t move forward. While we do things to people, not with them, Indigenous policy won’t move forward. sidkid/Flickr

Effective Indigenous policy reform: closing the right gap

AFTER THE INTERVENTION: Chris Sarra from the Queensland University of Technology says white Australia must address its relationship with Indigenous people to truly close the gap. There has never seriously…
The Intervention was meant to help Indigenous children, but how much difference has it made? The Intervention was meant to help Indigenous children, but how much difference has it made? Rusty Stewart/Flickr

Indigenous programs: protecting the vulnerable and promoting well-being?

AFTER THE INTERVENTION: Peter Billings from the University of Queensland interrogates the legal basis for the Intervention and suggests some new approaches. The belated release of a 2010 review of Government…
They’re digging it up, but they’re not sharing it around. They’re digging it up, but they’re not sharing it around. ginger_ninja/Flickr

Native title and Australia’s resource boom: a lost opportunity?

AFTER THE INTERVENTION: Ciaran O'Faircheallaigh of Griffith University explains why mineral wealth rarely ends up in Indigenous hands. Native title creates the potential for indigenous communities to share…
The message that Aboriginal people need to take responsibility for their future has been a popular one. The message that Aboriginal people need to take responsibility for their future has been a popular one. AAP

Noel Pearson’s policies embraced by white Australia, but how effective are they?

AFTER THE INTERVENTION: ANU’s Jon Altman investigates Noel Pearson’s efforts to improve Indigenous welfare on Cape York. In discussions about the NT intervention, Noel Pearson’s work in Cape York is often…
Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin announce the consultation paper, which is only in English. Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin announce the consultation paper, which is only in English. AAP/Alan Porritt

The Intervention: Government’s refusal to consult damages community relations

The federal government’s consultation process on the next phase of the “Intervention” in the Northern Territory is excluding those to whom it matters most: Indigenous communities. The “Intervention” was…
Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin must ensure policy reflect cultural differences. Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin must ensure policy reflect cultural differences.

Blaming individuals will get indigenous employment policy nowhere

The Gillard Government’s new discussion paper on indigenous welfare policy in the Northern Territory continues Labor’s rhetorical reliance on a loosely defined concept of the “dignity of work”. Federal…
Mining companies are finally sharing the benefits with the native owners of the land. Mining companies are finally sharing the benefits with the native owners of the land. AFP/Christian Sprogoe/Rio Tinto

The Boom: Native owners or mining companies: who benefits?

Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas have, for the past five decades, experienced at close quarters the ill-effects of large scale mining, while receiving few of the benefits. From Cape York…
The government says it’s on track to release all children asylum seekers in detention soon, but other policies need to be changed urgently. The government says it’s on track to release all children asylum seekers in detention soon, but other policies need to be changed urgently. Flickr/Takver

Australia’s wake up call from the UN: Yes, we’re a racist country

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says Australia is racist. And she’s right. Racial discrimination in Australia is not idiosyncratic; it is enshrined in laws, policies and practices…

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