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Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.

Such is the title of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry Report into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse 2007. The report writers explain:

The title “Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle” is derived from the Arrandic languages of the Central Desert Region of theNorthern Territory. It is pronounced Ump-ah Ah-kil-yurn-a-manMu-kar-Mu-karl.

The report has the poetic description provided by a senior lawman of the Yolngu people of Arnheim Land.

In our Law children are very sacred because they carry the two spring wells of water from our country within them.

These quotes are sufficient to indicate that this report (in English: The Little Children are Sacred) adopts an attitude of cultural sensitivity to Aboriginal people with an awareness of difference and diversity. Not only do some people speak English as second language it says, but as a third and fourth language. The subject matter, I find is depressing, but not all the perpetrators are Aboriginal, and it includes in conception the long historical view. The attitude of the report is summed by the following statement:

Our appointment and terms of reference arose out of allegations of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children. Everything we have learned since convinces us that these are just symptoms of a breakdown of Aboriginal culture
and society.

. . .What is required is a determined, coordinated effort to break the cycle [. . . of band-aiding individual and specific problems as each one achieves an appropriate degree of media and political hype] and provide the necessary strength, power and appropriate support and services to local communities, so they can lead themselves out of the malaise: in a word, empowerment!

There seems to me to a disconnect between for example the nauseating spin of the Prime Minister and the rhetoric of the The Australian editorial, “A failed indigenous experiment ends”. The report, commissioned by the NT Government is one thing, and the political action and direction seems to be another. Ken Parish made the astute point, and I am kicking myself for not having foreseen it, not out of Howard hatred, but because these people have form:

[The plan proposed by John Howard] appears to be little more than a cynical, desperate, Textor focus group-driven grab for redneck votes, by targeting the poorest , most vulnerable Australians.

The cartoonists as always get the punch lines, as per Nicholson in The Australian:


The Little Children Are Sacred Report notes that it has all being said before, perhaps anticipating John Howard who has just discovered the issue, even though the ABC PM Program reported on Friday that Geoff Gallop had sent him a copy of WA’s report and heard no more.The Report to support it’s claim repeated the observations of a magistrate saying in part:

The underlying problems identified in this inquest are:
(a) alcohol abuse across the community
(b) marijuana abuse
(c) violence, especially domestic violence
(d) family breakdown
(e) a weakening of the traditional and cultural values in modern Australian society
(f) lack of employment, opportunity and other advantages enjoyed by many in non-Aboriginal Australia
(g) a clash of culture, occasioned by various means, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem, especially among young men.

The last point is the most interesting, and one in which I do not have insight. For example, the novel “To Kill A Mocking Bird”, which came up in our household, gives insight , to make the point that novels can be quite instrument in informing the undertaking of effective social action.

But my sense is that this seeming disconnect can happen because the report is not so readily available via the Australian media, especially the ABC as it was via the BBC online.

There has been a host of commentary around Aussie Blogdom on this subject. Mark and Kim at Lavatus Prodeo have most of the connections.



1. Dave Bath - July 5, 2007

You say…

But my sense is that this seeming disconnect can happen because the report is not so readily available via the Australian media

Yep, and where it is discussed, it is usually only the summary of recommendations.

Page 129 of the full report shows that the kiwis have had a lot of success with their Kia Marama and Te Piriti programs for nearly 20 years, and there has been little in the news (or blogs) about this proven solution (or a major part of the solution).

I’ve extracted the relevant bits here in case you don’t want to download the blegabyte full PDF) and include a few extra research links on the efficacy of these programs that were not included in the report.

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