Impasse at Wadeye – 2
‘Indeed, it is only the combination of a determined senior leadership at Wadeye and a dedicated researcher, that has brought them (the Wadeye school attendance figures) to light”
Nicholas Rothwell, The Australian, March 20, 2010
I alerted the Catholic Archbishop of Darwin, the Catholic Education Office, the NT Minister and opposition spokesman for Education, and the Federal Minister and opposition spokespeople for Education, of the fiddling of the enrolment figures versus the actual attendance figures at Wadeye in December 2008 and I also questioned these figures in my Quadrant essay “Wadeye, Failed State as Cultural Triumph”. I also have serious concerns with regard to the reliability of Rothwell’s information about the senior leadership team. I am very pleased that a “dedicated researcher” has finally brought this matter to light. However, there are other issues and concerns with regard to this level of truancy which I think Rothwell fails to explore.
It is now not unreasonable to propose that we need to suspend anti-discrimination laws and human rights in order to educate aboriginal children. We need to trade human rights and racial discrimination (as they have been defined) in order to achieve ‘equal opportunity’. The most important human right to the next generation of children at Wadeye is the ability to read and write in English (a ticket to ride on the Australian merry go round).
Yet many – in fact most – the overwhelming majority, of the whitefella public servants, teachers, and administrators in the NT would absolutely disagree with that statement. Presently, there are 600 school aged children in the community of Wadeye who do not go to school. Most of them have never been to school. They have no prospects of work and most will spend the rest of their lives on welfare – as their parents did – many in various stages of addiction – most involved in petty crime and many in serious violent crime. This is the legacy of a failed education. These people do not share our values with regard to violence against others, nor personal property – nor our attitudes toward work nor the ‘common good’.
The school goes to festivals, teachers to conferences and ‘in services’ all over Australia – there are cadet camps, excursions and funerals to such a large extent that the teaching program is disrupted on a weekly basis. No child will learn to read and write under these conditions
The Wadeye school is better resourced with new buildings, catering, computers, sporting equipment, a swimming pool, a language centre, a boat etc than almost any other school its size in Australia. It has excellent staffing levels and a plethora of consultants and experts in just about everything from language to capacity building.
This impasse in school and education in Wadeye does not exist because there has not been enough taxpayer’s money thrown at it. It exists as a statement of welfare inertia, a statement of utter confusion, a statement of being ‘past caring’, a cry from an exhausted community, as a failed experiment at a tribal communist state. And it exists because both Church and State have dressed guilt up as compassion. They staff their schools and public institutions with those who are convinced of invasion, genocide and the stolen generations. It is only because of this belief that they are compassionate.
Pre 1970’s, compassion was based on Christian principles and was exercised toward aboriginal peoples through education and welfare. We diminished the need for compassion and welfare through the process of education and the establishment of a better way of life. Now our compassion is based on anti western, anti democratic and anti – Christian human rights, a few historical theories and politically motivated lies without any possibility of establishing a better way of life. Education is seen as cultural genocide. This is the moral impasse.
The school aged children of Wadeye, who do not come to school, involve themselves in various acts of vandalism, violence, breaking and entering, theft and drug taking/dealing during school hours. This group provides a huge workload for the local police. These kids believe they are living a traditional tribal aboriginal life. They are not. They are living the ghetto lives of the marginalized – the lives of the children of alcoholics and addicts – the dog eat dog lives of the homeless, the same the world over. These children’s lives could be fairly compared to those in Haiti or Soweto or Harlem. Their lives are no more traditional aboriginal than my life is Catholic Irish working class.
Parents will not send their children to the invaders school. Teachers burdened with apology trying to deal with the raw resentment of children without any real understanding of the forces at work, cannot teach the language of the invader to the invaded. They cannot and should not be expected to do so.
Genocide and invasion are only opinions for idle minds in universities fraught with ‘Genocide Studies’ and conferences on ‘Whiteness’ – however they do matter when it comes down to the practical dysfunction of large groups of human beings such as those in Wadeye where child abuse is common, almost every woman has her face covered in scars from violence, and addiction is hardly under control. Baz Luhrman’s Australia, SBS and First Australians, Message Stick, the Catholic Church, the school and the state, all reinforce and exacerbate the level of anger and resentment and therefore the ability to teach and learn English.
The whitefellas are enabling and perpetuating this outrage. The 80% school truancy level is a whitefella problem. Talented writers like The Australian’s Nicholas Rothwell need to address this issue. Lurking romanticism with regard to Rousseau inspired traditional tribal settlements are no longer possible. The bird has flown. Yet ‘culture’ can be retained in art and song and dance, as it always has throughout the globe.
It is not just the recalcitrant ‘lost generation’ of indigenous parents who are responsible for the failure of education in Wadeye, it is also the whitefellas – the state funded, church sanctioned, self determination, reconciliation, liberation juggernaut. In the end, it is the Federal Government which must somehow ensure that these 600 or so school aged children in Wadeye gain some sort of education or training or go to school.
We must find a way to educate a generation of unwilling students, and we must do it now. The alternative is to grow an uneducated, abusive, violent, reactionary army of welfare dependant addicts, ripe for any revolutionary movement.
What about an apprenticeship program? Could an Army Education Unit help? What programs does the Catholic Education Office have in place with regard to promoting the use of English in the community at Wadeye? Is there such a language as ‘Centrelink English’? are there people who know how to speak it? Can it be taught to adults in Wadeye? What can the CEO do to remove the social disincentives, in Wadeye, to the learning of the English language? Roughly what percentage of the citizens of Wadeye reject Christian beliefs? Do the citizens of Wadeye accept Australian law? Do they see themselves as Australians?
Is there a program to promote to each family of each school child of the need to feed the child, dinner and breakfast. To make sure the child has a mattress and blanket and that they go to sleep by 10 o’clock?
Unfortunately, there is no real way forward in indigenous education other than that which requires interventionist thinking.
Patrick McCauley’s "Impasse at Wadeye – 1" is here