This morning I watched this powerful mini-documentary on Al-Jazeera called “Aurukun: Mining For A Future“. Filmmakers Nick Ahlmark and Nicole Precel (@Storytime_Films) examine the lives, challenges and opportunities of some of the Wik tribe living in the Indigenous community Aurukun in far northern Queensland.
The documentary follows Gina Castelain, CEO of Wik Projects, an aboriginal businesswoman from Aurukun who is trying to make a meaningful difference in her community by providing skills and economic opportunities for them.
I’m not sure when it was filmed, but it looks like the Aurukun mine they are talking about didn’t happen, which is a great shame, as it appeared to be a chance for the Aurukun community to re-build their economic base.
Another interesting follow-up to their brief comments about the poor state of schooling in Aurukun is this puff piece in the Cairns.com.au (beware – it’s a Murdoch site) from June 28 claiming that Aurukun was one of the far north QLD schools to get “top marks”. I say it’s a puff piece because it doesn’t have any balancing opinions in the story.
Anyway, it’s a great documentary, worth 25 minutes of your time.
A new international report has ranked the life circumstances of Aboriginal Australians at the “bottom rung” and warned that Aboriginal children are “23 times more likely” to face jail than non-Aboriginal children.
The report also notes that federal government programs still falling short to address extreme hardship within Aboriginal communities.
The London-based rights organisation, Minority Rights Group International, in its latest annual survey of Aboriginal communities globally and released in Bangkok, says Australian Aboriginal communities “occupy the bottom rung” of a range of social indicators.
Aboriginal Australians are also over-represented in the criminal justice system and are 14 times more likely to be sent to jail than non-Aboriginal people.
As Mike tweeted, it’s a “proud day for Australia”. I’m certainly not an expert on the challenges we face as a nation improving the living conditions of the original inhabitants of this country, but I’ve been trying for years to get my head around it. Recently I’ve been reading “The Politics Of Suffering” by Peter Sutton, an excellent primer, and I’ve tried to get a podcast series up and running on the subject for many years. The recent news that the government has extended the NT intervention for another decade is very disturbing, even though Sutton seems to have changed his mind on the original intervention by the Howard government and believes it was necessary to prevent further decline. I really don’t know enough about it, but it disturbs the hell out of me and I’m embarrassed as an Australian that the oldest civilisation on the planet is suffering like this on our watch. What disturbs me even more is when I talk to fellow Aussies about it and I get, more often than not, the impression that many of my country folk have just washed their hands of the issue and seem to believe our fellow citizens somehow deserve the situation so many of them are in. What does this say about us as a people?
I was just thinking tonight about St Michael’s Grammar School in St Kilda. I remember back in my Ozemail days, around 1996 or 97. We – along with Microsoft and, I think, Cisco and Compaq – had set-up St Michael’s as a pilot school for all of our latest technology. The classrooms were all networked, there were laptops everywhere, it was all quite exciting. If you had told me then that fifteen years later, many schools would still be lacking a basic internet understanding, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Last week my kids attended interviews at the high school in Brisbane they will be attending next year. Their mother and I went along. The interviews went well – I was quite proud of my youngsters asking very grown up questions about the school and curriculum during the course of the interview – and as they drew to a close I asked the teacher whether or not the boys’ curriculum would be available on the school’s website.
“Ah no,” she replied.
“Well I like to be keep abreast of what they are working on,” I said. “How will I find out what the curriculum is?”
“You’ll have to email the teachers,” she replied.
“Each of them individually?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Are their email addresses up on the website?” I inquired.
“Ah no,” she replied.
“Well how do I get their email addresses?” I asked.
“Well they should hand them out to the kids on their first day,” she replied. “Otherwise, you can ask them when you have the first Parent-Teacher meetings a couple of months into the year.
The primary school my kids currently attend love to send paper notes home with the kids. Of course, these usually end up buried in school bags and we don’t find out about them until it’s way too late. Why aren’t they emailing us with information we need to know? I understand that not every parent has access to the internet, even in 2012, but surely the schools can take the same approach as most of the utility companies now and ask me if I want to receive notifications by email or paper? Wouldn’t that save schools significant dollars each year in printing costs?
Another example – my kids are on their Year 7 school trip to Sydney and Canberra this week. What system did the school put into place for notifying parents that the kids have arrived and are okay? Well it works like this. First, one of the teachers on the trip sends a text message to TWO parents. Then the rest of the parents are supposed to text THOSE parents asking for updates. I kid you not. Even the kids’ soccer team sends out weekly text blasts to all of the parents advising updates to this weekend’s game. It isn’t rocket science.
I haven’t had anything to do with school IT for many, many years, but I can’t believe it is 2012 and we still don’t have laptops (or, better still, iPads) in the hands of every school child; that every classroom isn’t connected by wifi; that a year’s worth of lesson plans aren’t posted on the school’s website for students and parents to peruse in advance; and that all schools aren’t using blogs, email, Twitter and text messages to update parents about stuff they need to know.
Building awareness and discussion. Driving issues up the priority stack in the minds of the people, the media and politicians. It’s what movements like OWS can accomplish. It’s what we can do with tools such as podcasting and Twitter. Keep in mind that OWS was started (in part, at least) by Adbusters magazine (who’s CEO, Kalle Lasn, has appeared on this show in the past just BTW).