Outlook sunny, with mixed opinions for Mildred and friends

A STERN message greets visitors to a small town in one of outback Australia’s most isolated regions: “Warning. Prescribed Area. No Liquor. No Pornography.” The whitewashed buildings of Hermannsburg, in the red desert west of Alice Springs, date from its founding as a Lutheran mission in 1877. The sign is a much more recent addition. Mildred Inkamala, an aboriginal elder, points out a spot along the Finke River where an 18-year-old indigenous youth, high from sniffing petrol, raped and drowned a young girl.

到澳大利亚内陆最偏远地区一个小镇的拜访者常常被严肃警告:“警告。划定区域。禁止酒精。禁止情色活动。”赫曼斯堡位于爱丽丝泉城西部红色沙漠地带,当地石灰建筑可以追溯到1877年路德教团理事会的成立。但这些警示也是近期才出现的。当地土著老人米尔德丽德(Mildred Inkamala)给我们指出了芬克河沿岸的一个地点,在那里一名18岁当地青年,因为吸汽油变得兴奋,强奸并溺死了一名年轻女孩。

Three years ago a report on the sexual abuse of children among indigenous communities in the Northern Territory shocked Australia. Aborigines comprise about a quarter of the territory’s population, compared with 2% of Australia as a whole. The conservative government of the time, led by John Howard, announced the “Northern Territory Emergency Response”. Better known as “the intervention”, it imposed federal control over Hermannsburg and 72 other settlements.


The Australian government began controlling how residents of the “prescribed communities” spend their share of public monies: half their income from welfare payments is quarantined for necessities such as food and children’s clothes. As the intervention marks its third anniversary about 17,000 people are now on “income-management”, a twelvefold increase since 2007. The current Labor government, led by Kevin Rudd, is preparing to roll back the intervention’s most controversial element, which suspended laws against racial discrimination. But it also plans to broaden its provision of income-management. From July it will apply to all of the territory’s welfare recipients, regardless of race.


Human-rights activists are unimpressed. They view the intervention as a return to the official paternalism that prevailed before the aborigines won their long battle for land rights 35 years ago. Alastair Nicholson, a former judge, calls the Rudd government’s changes a “cynical attempt to perpetuate racial discrimination”. Among aborigines on the front lines however, opinion varies.更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

人权活动家却不能接受。他们认为这种干预制度是家长式制度的回归, 35年前土著人获得土地权利,而之前家长式制度十分风行。一名前法官阿拉斯泰尔•尼可尔森称拉德政府的改变是“加深种族歧视的一次愤世嫉俗般的尝试”。然而最利益攸关的土著人观点却各不相同。

The contrast is most vivid in a fringe of 18 settlements around Alice Springs known as the town camps. Once places where desert aborigines came looking for work, they degenerated into pools of despair. Alcoholic binges, wife-beating, rape and murder were common. Late last year the federal government struck a deal with the Tangentyere Council, an indigenous body which controls the camps. The council granted 40-year leases to the federal government in exchange for A$100m ($92.6m) to clean up the town camps and build new houses.


William Tilmouth, the council’s director, still thinks the “government knows best” approach stinks of the notorious century of Australian policy that created the “stolen generations”. Mr Tilmouth himself was one of those mixed-race children who were forcibly separated from their parents, ostensibly for their own good. He thinks the intervention should be ended.


Its proponents, however, point to the shaming statistic that aborigines on average die almost 11 years younger than other Australians. Ms Inkamala, for one, is a supporter of the intervention. A reformed alcoholic herself, she has a job and manages her own income. She has watched as Hermannsburg’s primary-school attendance rate almost doubled, to 80%, since it started. The community’s income-managed women, she reckons, have more money to spend on their children’s welfare. Andrea Mason, the head of a local women’s group, says income-management has stopped abusive men “humbugging” household money to spend on booze, drugs and gambling. Far from calling for it to end, she wants it extended outside the territory.