Australia: So called black leaders in America and other "we are victims 24/7/365" club can learn from this as it sinks in to the Aborigines that waiting for the handout does more harm in the long run than good. But, some of these programs Howard put together would make the ACLU explode.
|Prime Minister John Howard has been demonized by Aborigines for a decade, but on Tuesday one of Australia's most influential black leaders said Howard could be the person that ends generations of black squalor.
After years of racial tensions over Howard's tough practical approach to improving aboriginal living standards, prominent black leader Mick Dodson said Howard had an historic opportunity to do what no other prime minister has achieved.
"You may be the best-placed prime minister in Australia's history to do what needs to be done for the sake of my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and yours," Dodson told a racial reconciliation conference in Melbourne.
Australia's 460,000 Aborigines have a life expectancy 17 years lower than the rest of the country's 20 million people, with the majority living in remote outback communities where there is little access to good housing, health or education.
With Howard sitting a short distance away on the same stage, Dodson said Aborigines would put aside differences on spiritual issues to work with Howard to improve the lives of Aborigines.
"I'm here today to tell the prime minister that I am ready to walk alongside him in taking the next steps toward reconciliation," said the long-time Howard critic.|
|Six years ago, Howard angered black leaders at a similar conference when he refused to apologize for the wrongs of white settlers and past government assimilation policies of removing aboriginal children from families to be raised in white homes.
On Tuesday, Howard told the conference his government and black leaders must focus on programs to improve opportunities, rather than symbolic debates, such as land rights and sovereignty over Australia before European settlers arrived in 1788.
"I do not think that 30 years of obsession with symbolism has advanced the cause of aboriginal people," Howard said.
"Reconciliation will come not as a result of eloquent rhetoric or high-level communiques. It will come through indigenous and other Australians taking millions of small steps in the right direction."
But Howard said it would still take generations to improve the living standards of Aborigines.
....In one outback program, children must attend school to be allowed to use the community swimming pool, while another program made government funding conditional on guarantees that children would wash more regularly.
The pool-for-school deal had a marked impact on truancy levels, while the wash-for-fuel deal helped cut down on the incidence of preventable eye disease in a remote community. The government has signed more than 150 similar agreements.
Howard's approach to indigenous problems has been slowly winning support with black leaders, with many now acknowledging Aborigines must take responsibility for their plight.
"As an aboriginal man, I have a particular responsibility to take action. I need to do more, my brothers and sisters across the country need to do more," said Dodson.|