LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Oppression through education cuts

The de-funding of TAFE and the removal of public education in prisons is a disgrace. The privatisation agenda is of no benefit to the working class or marginalised peoples, amongst whom are Aboriginal Australians — my people.

The recent removal of public education in prisons will have a devastating impact on inmates’ ability to obtain the education they need to reduce the risk of reoffending. Aboriginal peoples make up more than 27 per cent of the adult prison population and 50 per cent of the youth detention population, so these changes will hurt us.

The recent Uluru Statement calling for constitutional recognition and an Aboriginal voice in decision-making says: “Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.”

Aboriginal incarceration is a result of years of limited access to education, poverty, structural racism and intergenerational trauma. The neoliberal privatisation agenda seeks to blame individuals and absolve governments of solutions. How can true reconciliation be achieved when not only are my people being locked up, they are not being provided their fundamental right to quality public education?

It is a grim time for my people regarding access to education. We are already behind non-Aboriginal Australians and the gap will rise if proposed government policies go through. Policies that cut funding to schools, increase universities, and privatise TAFE. From schooling to TAFE to universities to prisons, we are continuing to be oppressed through a denial of access to education.

Tim Blackman
Federation member

NT Intervention —10 years on

I write to draw attention to the fact that 10 years have passed since the introduction of the Northern Territory Emergency Response. This policy, also known as the Intervention, ushered in draconian laws targeting Aboriginal people, laws that are still in place today under the Orwellian title of “Stronger Futures”.

I am a member of Stop The Intervention Collective (STICS) which, over the ensuing years, has held many forums and an annual protest to raise awareness of the consequences of this racially targeted policy.

Yolngu Nations Assembly Spokesperson, Yingiya Mark Guyula, Independent Member for Nhulunbuy NT Legislative Assembly, and a previous speaker at last year’s STICS forum stated, “Ten years since the federal government Intervention and everyone needs to remember that we experience the failings of that invasion every day.”

The socioeconomic conditions of First Nations People have not improved under the Intervention, despite Closing The Gap policies. Intervention polices have compounded the harm of 229 years of colonial dispossession. The intervention has seen statistics on almost all markers of social wellbeing become worse: child removal, incarceration, youth detention, suicide and self-harm.

Policies of the NT Intervention and Stronger Futures are insidiously spreading to other states and contravene some of the most fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which include the right to self-determination.

“We are an occupied country. We never ceded our sovereignty. We need to stand united rather than divided,” East Arrernte woman, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks said at a previous STICS forum in Sydney.

Many people have observed that relations between First Nations People and government are at an all-time low. A call to change that relationship was clearly stated in the Uluru statement. No more token “Recognise”, no more imposition of discriminatory laws.

First Nations people are “Asking To Be Heard” with the Uluru Statement. Aboriginal People are calling for a complete reset of relations with this country’s lawmakers, a truth and justice process and a voice in policies that affect their wellbeing and social and political agency.

I urge you to learn more, read articles, watch videos, find out about forums and rallies at stoptheintervention.org.

Cathy Gill
Bondi Beach Public School

Caught short

I’ve just been caught with the new payment system for casual teachers. I attended a school, the principal forgot to sign necessary approval on time. Now I am left out of pocket for an extra fortnight because of this delay. Surely if I undertake work as a casual teacher I should be paid on time?

But let’s face it, it’s no longer worth raising this issue with the NSW Teachers Federation at a branch meeting. As we all know, Federation will not address this matter on behalf of casual teachers as the Federation prefers to support principals over paying teacher members. Seriously, what is a union for if it does not support industrial matters?

Greg Adamson
Casual

General Secretary John Dixon replies: Any members who experience discrepancies with pay should speak to their Fed Rep or contact the union’s Professional Support section for advice and support. If a payment problem occurs on a regular basis then the issue should be brought to an association meeting and forwarded to state Council, where all decisions about Federation actions are ratified by the vote of more than 200 councillors.

Federation has a long history of taking the failure to pay casual teachers on time either directly to the Department or the Industrial Relations Commission or Industrial Magistrate to seek prompt payment. If, however, members do not advise Federation of an issue, then it is not possible to act or provide support.

Federation continually campaigns for the wages and working conditions of our members. Just recently, Federation successfully pressured the Department to reverse its decision to abandon recognition of prior service in determining the starting salary of teachers new to the public system. The DoE is currently in the process of reviewing salaries and paying back tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages to affected teachers.