Aboriginal communities are breaking down
Unable to deal with past traumas and current neglect many Aboriginal communities break down. The abuse of underage children is but one symptom of the collapse.
What are the problems?
Even if we did everything right as from today, we are still heading into hell.—Tom Stephens, WA government backbencher 
Many Aboriginal communities and families fracture and break down because Aboriginal people cannot deal with their current situation, but also because many governments have neglected basic services and infrastructure for decades.
Aboriginal communities are suffering from a mix of issues [1, 25]:
- Lack of services. Communities lack medical and disability services, and often have no Home or Community Care services.
- Lack of medical care. For example, there might be no dental care.
- Little education. Communities record a decline in education services and school attendance.
- High unemployment. The already scarce jobs in remote communities are often further reduced by drought.
- Staff exhaustion. Staff supporting communities exhaust quickly which for instance leads to a large turnover in the number of nurses.
- Decaying infrastructure. There are problems with sewerage and clean water provision. Children are swimming in sewerage ponds because local pools are not operational
- Broken families. Children have no real home due to a failure to approve foster carers.
- People are bored. Because there is so little to do especially for young people they become bored and commit crimes, often just to “get a chase off the cops”.
- Ineffective government programs. There is an abundance of government programs (more than 50 organisations run by the state, federal or community in Bourke alone) that receive millions of taxpayer dollars each year, but they are ineffective and lack co-ordination because they have not been designed with Aboriginal people, but for them. Power politics are a common problem.
Traumatised and disrespected: the older generations
As a result of the experiences of the Stolen Generations many older Aboriginal people have deep-seated fears about being removed from their communities by white people, be it for welfare reasons or for imprisonment.
This leads to a ‘code of silence’ which surrounds abuse  because Aboriginal people do not want to relive the traumas of forced removals which are just starting to heal after the Australian government’s apology in February 2008.
The older generation feels powerless, bewildered and despairing, living at the mercy of their dysfunctional families who harass them for money and steal their food .
A growing sense of frustration and alienation comes from company after company neglecting or refusing to consult with them, but also the younger generations ignoring elders and not paying due respect.
Unable to lift themselves out of their despair, Aboriginal people turn to excessive alcohol consumption and take marijuana and sniff petrol. This is then followed by violence, murder, self-harm, suicide and child sex abuse.
Some say that the problem has worsened since Aboriginal people have been driven off pastoral leases in the 1970s to settle in towns . Living on their own land has proven to improve health.
Many families function poorly, have only one parent or a parent which had been forcibly removed from their natural family.
None of us had fathers, everyone was locked up in jail.—Dean Daly-Jones, Aboriginal actor 
Angry and lost: the younger generations
Anger and frustration among the young is also common, but lands many of them in jail. “For some of our young Indigenous people who might be angry or frustrated with life, they think running amuck is what being Aboriginal is all about,” observes Aboriginal educator Dr Chris Sarra . “But they have to know the behaviour that underpins anti-social behaviour is certainly cultural, but it’s not the culture of Aboriginal people but the culture of dysfunction.”
There are a lot of angry, young men in the criminal justice system here.—David Pheeney, Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor, Bourke 
Young people in Aboriginal communities have a strong vision for their future, but no means to achieve it . With an outlook of a future devoid of opportunities people become aggravated and discontent. Government under-funding and government apathy towards remote communities can lead to ongoing unrest.
24% of Aboriginal children aged 14-17 are at high risk of emotional or behavioural difficulties, compared with 15% of the non-Aboriginal population . High stress events, such as illness, family break-up, arrests or financial difficulties, are the main contributors, and more than 20% of children live in families where such events occurred at least 7 times in the past year.
If male children are neglected or physically abused, more than 50% of them are likely to commit crimes when they are older . The older the child the greater the likelihood becomes. Up to 70% of male and female Aboriginal offenders have been abused as children .
Boredom is another reason for high crime rates. “The kids do nothing. There’s nothing for them to do,” says Aunty Dawn Smith, a town elder in Bourke . So they roam the streets at night, trying to “get a chase off the cops”.
Many of the young parents have known nothing other than violence, mostly towards women, neglect of children, and an almost complete lack of understanding of the wider world .
Young people take their own lives because they are suffering from an identity crisis following their parents’ and grandparents’ traumatic history with governments and institutions. A “history of problems” has been passed from generation to generation .
Leaving their communities and work elsewhere is a welcome option for some. “I’m out of the community for a couple of weeks and I don’t have to put up with the fighting,” says a young Aboriginal man working in mining . Financial freedom and a lack of humbugging are additional benefits.
Dysfunction becomes normal
Dysfunction is so widespread and omnipresent that is has become “normal” life. With parents’ parents and neighbours all doing the same - wrong - thing there is no incentive to change.
Parents are unaware of the deep emotional scars their behaviour inflicts on their children. A mother could beat her child with a stick while drunk one day and, being sober again, hug her to pieces the next .
Malnourished children are so commonplace that locals say it’s the climate that keeps them thin because they “eat normally” .
The only understanding of “love” children have has been formed by the pornography they’ve witnessed, long before their brains were capable of processing the images.
In some communities, child sex has become so normalised that children as young as 6 have been observed performing oral sex on each other. “They say they’re just playing, without having any sense that it’s wrong,” a senior child sexual assault specialist says .
All today's kids can remember from last Christmas is fighting and drunkenness and the interviews hey had to give police when their little friends were raped.—Lara Wieland, doctor who spent 8 years in remote communities 
Imagine last year, we had a funeral every weekend in Fitzroy Crossing.—Joe Ross, Aboriginal leader, Fitzroy Crossing, in 2007 
“Why did I lose my kid?”
Queensland doctor Lara Wieland could not understand why a person could neglect their child and still be heartbroken if they were removed.
She witnessed people feed their child hardly at all, sporadically send them to school and yell at them.
Yet the same people were genuinely be heartbroken, despairing and confused when their child is removed from them.
She now understands that these people, in their heart, really didn’t realise that what they were doing was so bad.
They would say “But why did I lose my kid for that when I know many other families who are doing the same or worse?” 
Abuse of children
- Aboriginal children per 1,000 who were abused or neglected in 2010-11. Same figure for all Australians: 6.1 per 1,000 .
- Percentage of cases of abuse or neglect where the victim is a girl .
- Aboriginal children per 1,000 who were on care and protection orders in 2010-11. Same figure for all Australians: 5.4 per 1,000 .
- Times Aboriginal children are more likely to be in care than other Australian children .
Though they are the most helpless members of Aboriginal communities, children bear a great deal of the violence and abuse from Aboriginal people.
The Little Children are Sacred report in 2007 uncovered heart-breaking stories about child abuse. Its authors made 42 recommendations to the Australian government, but just over a third of them had been fully adopted two years later. Child protection workers report a ‘huge backlog’ of cases, hundreds of which ‘had not been touched in years’ .
Aboriginal children are far more likely to be on a care and protection order, one of the “last resorts for authorities” . They are also 7 times more likely to be removed from their parents and placed into out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal children .
According to a report  the underlying causes of the Aboriginal over-representation are the legacy of the Stolen Generations, poverty and “perceptions arising from cultural differences in child-rearing”.
We get young girls who come up to me and say 'I am sick of being raped.'—Madeline McGrady, Elder, Boggabilla community, NSW 
Boys raping younger boys become just boys "playing gay".'—Lara Wieland, doctor 
Helping Aboriginal children requires professionals, such as social workers, welfare workers, nurses, doctors, police and teachers, but attracting these into Aboriginal communities proves a difficult task . But Aboriginal lawyer and Nyoongar woman Hannah McGlade does not see an outside solution working. “The real changes I believe strongly have to come from Aboriginal people within the community because we are the ones that have to protect and care for our children,” she says .
Governments receive “pretty grim” reports but sometimes take 18 months before they investigate what’s going on .
Children who have been molested and raped are now parents. No-one ever helped them or told them that what happened to them was wrong. No surprise that the trauma suffered by them prevents them from leading a functional household and giving emotional stability to their own children.
There's no doubt sexual abuse is a serious problem within many Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.—Rex Wild QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions 
Help Kids Help Line is Australia’s only national children’s counselling service providing 24-hour counselling services to young people aged 5 to 25 years.
Freecall 1800 55 1800, or online at www.kidshelp.com.au.
Truck drivers buy sex from 12-year-olds
In several states, the Australian Crime Commission has found, truck drivers buy sex from Aboriginal girls under 16 years of age (the legal minimum age of consensual sex). 12-year-old girls use contraceptive implants, children as young as seven experiment with sex toys and children trade sex to sniff petrol or for food .
Nurse resigns “due to a broken heart”
A community health nurse has resigned after 18 years in the job because she could no longer cope with the abuse and neglect of children in the Aboriginal community she was working for.
The nurse “cared deeply” for the health of Aboriginal children but she moved to a job in an aged-care home “due to a broken heart.” [7, 13]
Breaking the cycle of dysfunction
Dr Lara Wieland who has worked for 8 years with Aboriginal people in remote communities, suggests ways out of the cycle of dysfunction .
- Shift the shame. Aboriginal communities need to understand what the problems are and that the shame is not in having them, but in hiding them. The silence around problems needs to end.
- Educate what is “normal”. Education needs to convey to people what is normal and what is not. It will be hard to deconstruct entrenched normalised problems though, especially if the educator is white.
- Clean the community. Restrict access to alcohol, limit access to pornography.
- Provide law and order. Police needs to be present and supported, resourced and adequately staffed. They need to enforce law and order, eliminate sly grog and drugs, but also share information with the community.
- Teach parenthood. Parents need to learn what it means to be parents. Remove incentives for children to have babies.
- Educate kids. Children need to be able to read and write when they leave school.
- Put children into functional families. To allow children focus on learning they need to stay with loving families during school terms (homestay). Families can be Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. “I cannot tell you how many times I have been begged by people from the communities to take their young children to live with us to give them a better life,” says Dr Wieland.
Other suggestions include:
- Giving emotional and social support. This is one of the missing ingredients in many programs tailored towards Aboriginal people, reports have found . Programs that are not culturally tailored and ignore Aboriginal trans-generational trauma will be far less effective in creating lasting change.
- Set up single-sex support centres. Situated near an old ceremonial ground, the Strongbala (“Strong Man”) centre in Katherine, NT, offers Aboriginal men a shelter to clean themselves up, get health checks, eat healthy meals and receive training for jobs. Men have to do chores to qualify for a meal. Elders teach the men how to hung. Men can reconnect with their culture and restore their dignity and self-esteem in the centre. Being a men-only place the centre allows them to feel free to talk about their problems and get things off their chests. 
Facebook causes bloodshed
On Palm Island in far north Queensland, Aboriginal youths have stirred long-held animosities by writing inappropriate comments on Facebook.
Elders have blamed social networking sites such as Facebook for a variety of problems including blood feuds between warring clans, other acts of violence, and false criminal accusations against people .
Aboriginal youths clashed in a bloody street brawl on Palm Island after comments on Facebook reignited a long-standing family feud.
The island’s mayor, Alf Lacey, said the shift to the Internet had spilled over into bloodshed in “many Aboriginal communities” .
A similar incident happened in the Torres Strait where a Facebook page was swamped with negative comments .
Every Aboriginal community in Queensland has a web site.—Alf Lacey, mayor, Palm Island 
Last updated: 21 March 2013 | Out of respect for Aboriginal culture I use Indigenous sources as much as possible.
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 'Singing farewell', Koori Mail 427 p.3
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 During Q&A after the screening of 'Toomela' at Message Sticks 2012
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 'Crying out for a new beginning', SMH 2/2/2013
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