Wrong Role Models
One of the greatest problems for traditional remote Aborigines today is that they have been exposed and subjected to some of the worst aspects of western society from earliest contact. Too often, some of our most dysfunctional people have been their controllers and their de-facto role models. And traditional people have had almost no opportunity to be exposed to any of the best aspects of our society, as described throughout this document.
It is not in their nature to be exploitative, and they do not know to be extremely wary if they engage any aspects of our commercial system, because they do not expect the systemic exploitation that goes with the territory. They do not realise that they are often regarded as soft targets. And even when they do wise up to it, they are not necessarily very enthusiastic about joining up and becoming like that themselves. They have caring relationships to maintain, including family, relations, friends, and fellow community members.
Remote Settlement Mis-designs
Many remote settlements suffer from inappropriate design and construction, more suited to temperate, wet climate town or city living, and generally are exceedingly unsustainable, making individual living and community management difficult and prohibitively expensive. In their current setup, many remote Aboriginal settlements have multiple internal conflicts and contradictions, and require far too much effort and expense to run, and to maintain basic services, let alone improve and expand them. Inappropriate design and implementation renders many tasks several times more difficult and time-consuming than they need be, making community administration impossibly difficult, leading to chronic “crisis management”, requiring intense, prolonged attention on patching failing, mis-designed systems. Imposing inappropriate solutions in remote settlements can only result in outcomes downmarket of rural towns, many of which are in serious decline.
Inadequately Resourced for Small Town Model Needs
Remote Aboriginal settlements have always been severely under-resourced, and are far more expensive than a sustainable community would be to run. This would not be such an issue if resources were well matched to the functions they must serve and all resources worked well together. If they are not, and if they do not, there are immediate problems, as all budgets are very lean, and anything that does not work well, cannot be replaced. That these past masters of sustainable subsistence living should now be suffering such a plight gives ample reason to suspect the circumstances and conditions that they have been placed in.
Lack of Appropriate and Relevant Solutions
Many attempts to provide solutions, while well intended, have imposed conventional mainstream practices not suited to the climate, or to the remoteness, or to Aborigines, or to community living, and what is provided may not be compatible with what is already in place. Typically, remote Aboriginal communities become over time a patchwork of temporary, ad hoc and crisis “fixes”, mixed in with previously failed experiments. As a result, chronic impoverishment and severe overcrowding can be commonplace in some communities, giving rise to conditions, that by some measures are on a par with our detainee/refugee camps, which have become notorious for inducing a propensity towards degeneration and self-harm.
Real Needs Not Met
Communities have become far too expensive places for community members to live in, and do not provide for many of their real, pressing needs, which are still not widely understood or appreciated, and which contribute significantly to individual impoverishing and community dysfunctionality. Many communities have become seriously run down over time because of the difficulty in maintaining the high-cost, high-effort, high-energy usage and high maintenance needs, in every little area of community functioning, when they need careful and thoughtful designs that encourage good functioning.
Learnings not Shared or Generalised
Every remote community has to make their own situation work, on its own, without any benefit gained from what other communities have struggled to overcome. A failed experiment in one community can well be repeated in many other communities without any generalised learning taking place. Successes likewise are not shared around, and so positive lessons are not generalised, either. Each community must re-invent the wheel as it were, on its own and in isolation.
The assimilation process has never served them well, has not provided significant employment, does not give them life skills, and does not assist them to navigate the complexities of our world, and in particular the financial minefield. Too often, success has been orientated around one person getting ahead in ways that does not flow through to enable general community upliftment, while the vast majority have been left destitute.
Need for Genuine Community Structures
A major contributing factor is that most remote Aboriginal settlements have not been set up as highly functional, life-affirming, sustainable communities, providing abundance for all, and fulfilling all community members. Instead they are structured as small, isolated, impoverished settlements that are significantly economically downmarket of many presently-failing rural and remote towns, and in their present set up and structure do not enable, or even allow, growth and development towards greater viability.
Community Solutions not Understood
The greatest problem is that mainstream society and institutions have no understanding of, or orientation towards, or feeling for the actual needs of a community, as opposed to a settlement. Community understandings, values and practises remain substantially unknown and invisible to most stakeholders that interface with, and bear upon Aboriginal groups, including those who live in cities and rural towns. The growth producing, community dynamic, which is different from mainstream town dynamics is neither perceived, or felt or understood by most professional staff living and working within Aboriginal communities, who are still plugged into mainstream everything, and can only impose inappropriate, misplaced, misapplied, malfunctioning mainstream “solutions”. The common case is that in lieu of sustainable community solutions, inappropriate and unsustainable mainstream practises are misapplied, with inevitable disastrous results.
Sustainability Understandings not Known or Embraced
Sustainable living is a whole field of understanding and practice that can significantly contribute to the health, wellbeing and fulfilment of the people, and the good functioning of the community. Yet these particular needs remain substantially unknown and invisible to most service and resource organisations that interface with Aboriginal groups, and likewise to most professional staff who live and work in Aboriginal communities, who continue to apply unsustainable non-solutions.
Destroying Community Spirit
Many remote Aboriginal settlements have been sufficiently miscreated to be unsustainable and almost unworkable. Settlement people are too often obliged to exist in an under-resourced, fragmented, chaotic, dysfunctional, self-defeating, unworkable system. Yet remote Aboriginal communities are expected to thrive despite these disadvantages, and being extremely remote, on dirt roads, with inadequate and tenuous communications to the outside world, they have few income generation opportunities. As small towns, which they are supposed to be, they are seriously under-funded, and many will never work well, unless and until they implement sustainable community solutions.
After decades of living in such imposed conditions, and watching their communities decline under the bureaucratic model, the general community spirit has broken down. Eventually, some resort to desperate, dysfunctional, unhelpful, inappropriate, self-defeating behaviour, which has never been part of traditional patterns, principally to kill the pain of an unrelenting, untenable, impoverished existence, without hope of improvement.