Ask @SivParker:

Siv Parker
Latest answers

What are the core issues parties need to focus on for Indigenous people?

Sorry it has taken me two years to answer but I think my answer would have been the same as it would have been had I answered 24 months ago.
The core issue is the utter failure over 40 years of the key nonIndigenous advisers within the bureaucracies to fulfil their brief - they did not understand Indigenous people and have failed to design policy that the rest of the bureaucracies were able or willing to implement. These small pools of people are embedded and while they continue to influence public policy, no significant progress will be made.

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When will learning an aboriginal language/dialect become part of standard curriculum in all Australian public schools rather than learning European languages?

TY for Q. I will answer as a lay person, though I've worked with linguists for years.
Of the 250+ languages that existed and the many Indigenous dictionaries now available online & in hardcover, approximately 150 remain in use across Australia.
Indigenous kids are increasingly multi lingual, but Indigenous languages are only taught in discreet schools, where the traditional language is in regular use and the school supports a bilingual education system.
Aboriginal people also speak dialects that are combinations of languages, for example Light Warlpuri, and the old Darwin dialect (mixture of language, Kriol, Greek, Malay etc) and the language common to the more heavily populated 'settled' areas is Aboriginal English.

A definition of Aboriginal English can be found at 'distinctive features of accent, grammar, words and meanings, as well as language use'... depending on how strong the 'old' language continues to be used in that region.

Features include the way the English words are pronounced and some English words have slightly different meanings, the sentence structure is different, and speakers may include cultural references unique to time & place, and/or common to the shared Indigenous experience.
The extent of use may not be obvious, because speakers will tend to revert back to standard English - out of courtesy, but also because of the stigma associated with using it because it sounds 'wrong' and tempts 'correction'.
That's a great sadness for me because the nature of this way of speaking is very enjoyable. It is a very clever language, and uses expressions that don't exist in English.

I would suggest that most regions would benefit more from instruction in how Aboriginal people communicate (can include language, hand signs, head movements) rather than a specific language. If this stopped people from correcting children and adults on how to 'speak correctly', this would go a long way to improving how black & white people communicate.

Interactive map to give an idea of how many languages groups covered Australia
NB: data is incomplete, some boundaries are disputed but the map continues to be the most accessible and widely used.

This is a great resource - 'Australian Aboriginal Languages - I've been keeping an eye on this project for over 10 years and it started long before I came across it - it's great to see how much material is included now:

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" Chris Dawson, NCTCS Victorian Senate candidate, wants to replace the Queen with a full blood Indigenous woman. Thoughts? " From Jimmy Banks @JBConundrum

The idea of an Aboriginal person being installed as Australia’s Governor General has come up before, and discussed most widely when there were suitable candidates who also happened to be Indigenous.

Three things I’d love to see in my lifetime – The Apology, Indigenous PM and Indigenous GG - but I am not in favour of making it a role reserved only for Indigenous people.

I’m wondering why he has suggested ‘full blood’, and if this refers to their cultural knowledge or land interests, for example.

I haven’t been able to find Mr Dawson’s statements on this issue, and in any event I am unsure what the process would be to select candidates under this criteria.

I am not a supporter of ‘blood quantum’ being used to define a person’s status as an Australian Aboriginal.

It is not an accurate indicator of a person’s identity.

Based on the definition of Aboriginality that has been applied and accepted for decades, the outcome is you either identify and are accepted as an Aboriginal person, or you are not, so even if you could measure it, and you can’t, ‘how much culture’ you have is a mute point.
Mr Dawson is not alone in wanting to show respect to and elevate the status of Indigenous people. The first step on this path is to understand the nature of Australian Indigenous peoples’ societies today, and recognize the diversity that exists.

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Do you think all Australian school children should be taught about their local Indigenous mob and if so, what would be the best way to implement this?

TY for the Q. On education, I think all Australian school children should have the best quality education possible, and that includes learning about Australian history from prior to colonial times up to the present day Indigenous policies, and supplemented by learning from local people about the Indigenous culture in their region.

Meeting a group of elderly people who share their stories over a day or so, would be more meaningful if participants also understood the history and impact of 200+ years of colonialism and government policy.
Without that perspective it's an interesting day with charming people but it wont automatically lead to cultural appreciation or meaningful respect. Participants will never know why the elders they met (for lunch; for their ILUA mandated induction training; in NAIDOC Week) live in poverty in the black suburb for example, or more broadly why Indigenous disadvantage exists.

Cultural awareness built into every school curriculum means that Indigenous kids are not 'other people'.

Even with the extraordinary jump in achievement of many Indigenous scholars, professionals, businesses etc, the interface between black and white is dominated by nonIndigenous advocates. Media and the wider community will continue to prefer the Indigenous world to be filtered - through activists, lawyers, anthropologists, doctors, sporting teams - because it avoids discomfort arising from the presumption that discussions with an Indigenous person are based around 'anger, guilt and compensation claims'.
In this equation Indigenous people continue to be 'other', and can be cut out of the picture altogether, never enjoying the social status, career success or personal satisfaction of achieving outcomes that the advocates experience on their behalf.

School children today wont labour quite so detrimentally under these archaic social divisions because they are familiar with each other, and recognise their cultural differences because it was just part of growing up.
They share the school community, even if they are not best friends and go to each others' birthday parties.

The relationship building wasn’t from court cases and mining leases, and reported on with degrees of bias by the media to a community divided on commercial, uninformed and prejudicial interests.

I support Indigenous kids having access to the very best schools available to them, to provide not only opportunities for themselves but because their school mates rather than growing up to be their advocates and emplopyers, will have a future as their peers.

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What time of day is your favorite?

On dusk is my favourite time to sit on the verandah for a yarn. I'm interested in story telling and I named my first blog ' OnDusk ' for that reason.

My writing interests are social realism and poitical satire, from an Indigenous Australian perspective. I am finishing my first book, and writing on several screenplays, including an 8 part narrative comedy and a feature film.

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We've heard about Liberal and Labor Indigenous consultation/advisory policies. Neither of which reference the Congress Mob. Can you tell me some more about this organisation? Is it a more representative group, does it have widespread support, why aren't we hearing more about it? Thanks SUV.

TY for the Q - I've yet to come across details on either Liberal or Labour reform agendas so it's difficult to gauge the extent of consultations under the proposed advisory bodies.

Noel Pearson and Galarrwuy Yunupingu are the public faces of the '8 Empowered Communities' but I'm not across which 'eight regions around Australia united to call for both parties to commit before the election to structural changes to indigenous affairs'*.
[*See ]

Re Warren Mundine's Garma presentation on reforming statutory authorities, I've only seen what's provided on the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce website.

To be consultative - if that's the intention - the broader Indigenous community would have needed to be party to discussions around a reform agenda, and be across the detail of any new advisory pathway to government.
One way to have achieved that would have been for proponents of Indigenous policy reform to stand for national election at the recent National Congress elections - put the proposals on the table and see whether the community supported them. It would have enabled examination of the policies and the candidates, and provided some endorsement if they'd been successful.

However if either/both advisory proposals gets up post election, there is no suggestion that they are intended to be widely consultative. And TOs making decisions about their own land don't need outsiders approval (unless they come under a larger LC that requires a vote by the full council).

I can recall years of discussions to develop a new representative body post-ATSIC. Lots of community discussions (about gender balance, chambers for individuals, community organisations, representational spread etc) included many prominent Indigenous people.

I'll just mention the 'representative' factor and what's called 'self-promotion' which is a very precarious space to be in within the Indigenous community.

The act of 'self-promotion' will bring individuals under attack before people even get around to looking at what's on the table. Self promotion is seen as inherently evil, it's not regarded as appropriate behaviour and it's a (false positive) indicator of corruption - the list of unfounded accusations can be quite long.

EXCEPTIONS to the self promotion rule:
prominent individuals with long histories in Indigenous affairs AND party to POPULAR decisions;
'young leaders';
an athlete (with some exceptions);
or you are putting your hand up because you are responding to the 'outrage' that some one else 'self promoted';
or opportunistic because 'if they put their hand up, so am I'.
The leadership dance is a complicated one. It's also a time consuming one. Anyone looking to cut through may consider bypassing the community altogether to avoid a long period of unproductive 'talk fest'.

My writing interests include political satire:

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What do you want to know about the future?

I like to think how the Aboriginal community will organise themselves individually and collectively when they are completely independent of government funding, election cycles and bureaucratic intervention.

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Where can I find information about how to support Aboriginal people politically? Thank you. Also, I would like to say that I loved interacting with people I met on Twitter but it has been made more than clear that as a white person my input is not welcomed. I respect everyone’s opinion. Thank you

Hi - Aboriginal aspirations are as diverse as the political parties and candidates on offer.
ABC Vote Compass provides details on commitments given by the 3 main political parties to date, so you can compare them. As to what Aboriginal people want? I think some of the things important to the Aboriginal community are not up for the vote. But land & assets management are critically important.
Twitter is pretty much the only free unfiltered place Aboriginal people can talk - to each other, and to the community at large. It's not perfect but there is no other forum like it and I prefer the freedom it provides. I separate what is trolling and what's relevant and try and focus on the latter. Thanks you for asking :-)

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Will Aboriginla voters stick with KevinRudd even when he wont sit down and talk for a treaty?

Thanks for the Q - I'll break it down if you don't mind.
I often hear non Indigenous people say The Apology was one of their most memorable political if not Australian moments. There is a lot of affection from the Indigenous community for Kevin Rudd, and nothing has happened to kill that.
The Treaty was identified as an important goal by the Aboriginal people giving evidence to the expert panel community during consultations on Constitutional recognition (CR) but it's not currently on the table.

Treaty, sovereignty and CR are polarising issues within the Indigenous community, just as monarchy Vs. republicanism are for the wider community.
The MECHANISM to demonstrate that it has strong national support and get Treaty on to the table? As different groups propose alternative Treaty models and signatories in isolation, I am unsure how the indigenous community can progress this.

Recent media says the Australian communities' awareness and support for CR has risen to over 60%.
Both major political parties are now on record with bipartisan support for CR. There is no imperative for governments to discuss anything other than CR.

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What was the last movie you watched? Did you like it?

The Iceman - it's terrific. I'm a huge Michael Shannon fan.

Regarding Indigenous film making - these are very exciting times because thanks to the likes of The Sapphires, Samson & Delilah and Toomelah - there's an audience for 'our stories told our way'. I'm looking forward to seeing Aboriginal stories on the tv and the big screen.

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Indigenous PM – it will happen! Do you think this is possible?

Thanks for Q - yes it'll happen...but when?
There have been a number of Indigenous politicians - though I haven't read of any who self identify as such. However the percentage of Indigenous people in their electorate's must make a difference, ie 30% of the NT population is Indigenous and they have 5 MLAs, including the Chief MInister.

The pathway to leadership of a major political party is a different story. I don't think an Indigenous person will be supported into the leadership as a symbolic gesture - they will earn it. Aboriginal people already over achieve in a number of sectors and industries. Winning at politics is not an insurmountable challenge.

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How can we all get better coverage of what is actually happening in NT and where can help be given

Great question - I am very interested in the NT so this is what I do:

I follow NITV news & the current affairs shows, eg Awaken.
ABC news/current affairs & opinion pieces on The Drum.
I read the Koorimail Newspaper - it is Australia's only independent Aboriginal-company owned newspaper.
NLC/CLC 'Land Rights News' is available via the NLC website.

I subscribe electronically to NTG media releases for a heads up - there are 5 Indigenous MLAs.
Alicespringsnews has some interesting articles online. NB has the usual toxic comments you'd expect.

I keep an eye on media releases from these NGO sites:
Legal & community ~ Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA);
Health & community ~ Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT);
Community & housing ~ NT Shelter.

Background reading - Little Children Are Sacred [Report from the Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse].
There are numerous 'Intervention' reports (also known as NTER, the NT Emergency Response). Submissions from community individuals and groups for/against the NTER provisions/legislation/results on the site are numerous but give great background to the NT situation.

By far the best resource is social media - join @IndigenousX for info and follow Indigenous Territorians' opinions.

Thanks for your question!

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Why don't black people like the Greens? I thought the environment was important to Indigenous people.

Impossible to confirm what's most important to the black vote because the Indigenous community is diverse and widely spread, and therefore won't endorse any individual or organisation to advocate on those terms.
The over riding political issue is recognition of Indigenous people - for some it's Constitutional Recognition, for others their starting point is a Treaty.
Land interests are significant. Health, education, supporting families, justice reinvestment and racism are day to day issues that need immediate action.
I think the Australian community probably isn't aware of the Indigenous issues (not just environmental) that the Greens have supported in the past - the Greens compete with the major parties for MSM reportage.

The natural environment is of critical importance to Indigenous people - for it's cultural importance and it's economic potential. 'Caring for the environment' and 'managing the resources' can mean different things to Traditional Owners and environmentalists.

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What are the main policies we should be looking at (both good and bad) and what will be their effects?

I'd like to see more detail on any policy reforms around statutory authorities - how will the assets and land interests be managed under a changed structure? What's the process for achieving Traditional Owner input?
And what is the long term commitment to the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, the only democratically elected representative Indigenous body?

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