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Opinion & Commentary


Opinion and Commentary contains media articles written by CIS researchers.  Communications Manager: Karla Pincott 0411 759 934

  • 18C makes us all tongue-tied

    20 Jan 2015 | The Australian

    The fear of potential legal action under the RDA also means the nation will debate the question of recognising Indigenous people in the constitution with its tongue tied. Read More

  • We risk an Indigenous lost generation

    08 Dec 2014 | The Australian

    Placing Indigenous children in accordance with the ACPP threatens to compromise child wellbeing and keep open the gaps in Indigenous social outcomes. Read More

  • Let’s get serious about tackling indigenous violence

    05 Mar 2013 | The Punch

    For many remote Indigenous people, life is so bad that jail is often a better option. Read More

  • To get Aborigines out of jail give them education and jobs

    07 Feb 2013 | The Australian

    Rather than continuing to focus on applying 'culturally appropriate' responses to indigenous disadvantage, we should focus on basics such as education and employment. Read More

  • Progress is possible in remote Aboriginal lands

    02 Jan 2013 | The Australian

    It is possible to make a real difference in remote Aboriginal communities, provided there is genuine commitment and engagement. Read More

  • Better schooling, not uni quotas

    02 Oct 2012 | The Australian

    LARISSA Behrendt's recent report recommends doubling the proportion of indigenous students at universities. Only 1.09 per cent of university students are indigenous and Behrendt argues that the target... Read More

  • What Price friends?

    23 May 2012 | ON LINE Opinion

    Price has been called a puppet because of her support of the intervention, but it is hard to argue with what she wants for her people: "real education based on real standards" so they can walk the line... Read More

  • What Price friends?

    23 May 2012 | ON LINE Opinion

    Price has been called a puppet because of her support of the intervention, but it is hard to argue with what she wants for her people: "real education based on real standards" so they can walk the line... Read More

  • Literacy problems hidden behind culturally separate careers

    21 Mar 2012 | The Drum

    One of the primary reasons for the problems experienced by AHWs is ambivalence about the need for English literacy and numeracy. When the role was first created in the 1970s in the Northern Territory,... Read More

  • Education crucial to Aboriginal jobs

    02 Feb 2012 | Australian Financial Review

    The problem is not a shortage of jobs in the mining sector. More local Aboriginal people would be employed in mines if they had the skills for employment. Read More

  • An Indigenous program that’s boxing clever

    20 Jan 2012 | The Punch

    At risk Aboriginal youth are given an outlet to build self esteem through a boxing program with Redfern police. Read More

  • An Indigenous program that’s boxing clever

    20 Jan 2012 | The Punch

    At risk Aboriginal youth are given an outlet to build self esteem through a boxing program with Redfern police. Read More

  • An Indigenous program that’s boxing clever

    20 Jan 2012 | The Punch

    At risk Aboriginal youth are given an outlet to build self esteem through a boxing program with Redfern police. Read More

  • NT intervention: action better than apathy

    28 Nov 2011 | The Drum

    It is hypocritical that the very same people who lament the gross violation of Aboriginal rights carried out under the intervention can remain so silent about the injustice that has seen so many remote... Read More

  • Changing expectations of Aboriginal school attendance

    18 Oct 2011 | The Drum

    If my son wasn't hassled every time he was late to school then he would probably continue to be late. If there were no consequences, then despite the carrot of a real job one day, he like many remote Indigenous... Read More

  • Remote disadvantage even worse than reported

    27 Sep 2011 | The Australian

    Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted on programs that mostly benefit bureaucrats IN February, the Productivity Commission released Indigenous Expenditure Report 2010 showing that an additional $5.1... Read More

  • Degrees of difference

    22 Aug 2011 | Online Opinion

    Many people have taken umbrage at this arguing that having a separate form for some remote communities is an example of 'positive discrimination'. Few people seem to understand the broader implications... Read More

  • Census apartheid: separate form separates a community

    10 Aug 2011 | The Drum

    The use of a separate Census form for some discrete Indigenous communities is not only state-sanctioned apartheid but statistically invalid. Read More

  • OOHC not working for at-risk kids

    19 Jul 2011 | The Drum

    The causes of the OHHC crisis care are multifaceted. But the consensus among experts is that at the heart of the crisis is the increasing numbers of children with 'high needs' entering care because of... Read More

  • Lands where no one can feel at home

    25 Jun 2011 | The Australian

    Indigenous ‘community’ a misnomer. Read More

  • False notions of Indigenous community

    15 Jun 2011 | ABC News

    Indigenous communities are not homogenous. Read More

  • Bar must be raised to curb pub violence

    07 Jun 2011 | The Newcastle Herald

    Follow NSW and crack down on problem pubs. Read More

  • Custody for Indigenous kids more than black and white

    01 Jun 2011 | ABC News

    We should find better ways of combining Aboriginal child safety and the passing down of traditional lore by responsible elders. Read More

  • Back to six-pack politics

    26 May 2011 | Sydney Morning Herald

    'Wet canteens' have been tried and utterly failed in indigenous communities. Read More

  • Petty name-calling just adds to polarisation

    12 May 2011 | The Australian

    Increasing polarisation emerges in the aftermath of Larissa Behrendt’s tweet on Bess Price’s support of the NTI. Read More

  • Apartheid at the local pub

    06 Apr 2011 | The Australian

    Double standards in the responsible service of alcohol have contributed to the growing alcohol problem in remote indigenous communities, and are one reason why alcohol restrictions are now in place in... Read More

  • Fat cats feed on needy

    23 Mar 2011 | The Australian

    If government expenditure on indigenous Australians is divided among the welfare-dependent, the average per head is $75,000. Read More

  • Protecting bad teachers produces chronic failure

    09 Mar 2011 | The Australian

    My School confirms that funding is not the cause of Indigenous educational failure. Read More

  • Education the key to living in two worlds

    08 Mar 2011 | Online Opinion

    Key to the maintenance of a cultural or ethnic identity is the passing on of cultural knowledge and fostering a positive self image among the next generation. Read More

  • Remote chance of university

    Joe Lane | 28 Dec 2010 | The Australian

    Although Indigenous graduates are taking their place in the professions and doing postgraduate studies, most of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in remote areas and on welfare... Read More

  • Aborigines should be given houses for free

    Sara Hudson | 08 Dec 2010 | The Newcastle Herald

    Indigenous people are locked out of home ownership. Read More

  • Land rights must come first

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 26 Nov 2010 | Spectator Australia

    Private property rights are the foundation for self-sustaining Indigenous businesses. Read More

  • Ownership would transform Aboriginal towns

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 24 Nov 2010 | The Canberra Times

    The denial of private property rights to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on indigenous lands continues to cause extremes of poverty and dysfunction. Read More

  • Home ownership key to ending dysfunction

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 17 Nov 2010 | The Australian

    Indigenous Australians are being denied their right to own the house they live in. Read More

  • Education is only way out of ghettos

    Sara Hudson | 09 Nov 2010 | The Australian

    Separate schooling is disadvantaging indigenous children in remote communities. Read More

  • Collective apathy: alcohol and child abuse in the NT

    Sara Hudson | 09 Nov 2010 | ABC News

    What has been tolerated in Aboriginal communities would never have been tolerated in the major cities and towns of Australia. Read More

  • Little Gungaleeda girl: a preventable tragedy

    Sara Hudson | 01 Sep 2010 | ABC News

    The death of the 'little Gungaleeda girl' is a tragic outcome of poorly resourced medical care in remote Indigenous communities, says Sara Hudson on The Drum, 1 September 2010. Read More

  • Helen Hughes opens her diary

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 31 Jul 2010 | The Spectator (Australia)

    Helen Hughes writes the Diary for Spectator Australia about her trip to Cape York, 31 July 2010. Read More

  • Government doing something for Indigenous people not with them ...

    Sara Hudson | 29 Jun 2010 | Online Opinion

    Without community engagement Outback Stores will be yet another example of government doing something for Indigenous people not with them, says Sara Hudson in Online Opinion 29 June 2010. Read More

  • Outback Stores is not the solution

    Sara Hudson | 29 Jun 2010 | The Canberra Times

    Rather than running stores for Indigenous communities, Outback Stores should be empowering residents to run the stores themselves, says Sara Hudson in The Canberra Times, 29 June 2010. Read More

  • Would-be Indigenous homeowners abandoned

    Sara Hudson | 18 May 2010 | The Australian

    The redirection of funds away from the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land program signals that remote Indigenous Australian’s dreams of home ownership will remain only a dream. Read More

  • Aborigines hurt by the stereotype of suffering

    Sara Hudson | 12 May 2010 | The Sydney Morning Herald

    The majority of Indigenous Australians don’t need government hand-outs but unfortunately they hardly get any recognition. Read More

  • NAPLAN tests show the Indigenous gap

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 11 May 2010 | The Newcastle Herald

    NAPLAN results show just how behind the mainstream remote students are, says Helen Hughes and Mark Hughes in The Newcastle Herald, 11 May 2010. Read More

  • Indigenous students from welfare-dependent families perform poorly

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 10 Apr 2010 | Adelaide Now

    South Australia has some of the most disadvantaged remote Aboriginal communities and some of the lowest indigenous employment. Read More

  • Another brick in the wall

    Sara Hudson | 04 Mar 2010 | ABC News

    Public housing cannot remain the only option in Indigenous communities. If residents of remote communities could access some of the 'dead' capital currently tied up in the communal ownership of land, they... Read More

  • Competitive disadvantage is hardly the healthiest option

    Sara Hudson | 02 Jan 2010 | The Australian

    Determining the appropriate level of government responsibility is a vexed issue. Nowhere is this more apparent than in remote indigenous communities. Years of welfare dependency have demoralised communities... Read More

  • Where Does all the money go?

    Sara Hudson | 12 Dec 2009 | Open Forum

    One of the reasons why increased funding has failed to make any significant inroads in closing the appalling health ‘gaps’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is that no one really knows... Read More

  • Wasting money damages Aboriginal health

    Sara Hudson | 10 Dec 2009 | The Australian

    Public hospital reform wasn't the only issue put on the backburner at this week's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Brisbane. The Rudd government has also put off decisions about indigenous... Read More

  • Hale and hearty, say their parents

    Sara Hudson | 03 Dec 2009 | The Australian

    Ninety-seven per cent of Indigenous children are reported to be in excellent, very good, or good health, but these findings of the federal government’s study into Aboriginal children’s health are based... Read More

  • A sense of despair at Indigenous housing policy

    Sara Hudson | 12 Nov 2009 | Online Opinion

    Despite billions of dollars being spent, residents of remote communities still don't have enough houses. What houses there are continue to be poorly maintained, overcrowded and run down to the point of... Read More

  • Authorities must not wag school

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 16 Oct 2009 | The Australian

    The just released National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results for this year confirm the Northern Territory remains far behind the rest of Australia in educating its children. Read More

  • Environment before people, says Wilderness Society

    Sara Hudson | 06 Aug 2009

    The misanthropic attitude of conservationists was revealed last week when a group of Aboriginal protestors from Cape York gate-crashed a Wilderness Society and green fundraiser in Sydney. Read More

  • Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2009

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 08 Jul 2009

    The Commonwealth government hoped for favourable coverage from the release of the Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage. Instead, the Government was subjected to widespread criticism... Read More

  • Statistics obscure the truth

    Sara Hudson | 07 Jul 2009 | The Australian

    The media has been quick to sensationalise the statistics in the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report released last Thursday, particularly those figures that show that indigenous child abuse has increased. Read More

  • Permits will throttle growth towns

    Sara Hudson | 18 Jun 2009 | The Australian

    The Northern Territory government's tourism department recently mounted an advertising campaign encouraging people to ‘make a great investment’ by travelling to the Territory. But if you want to head... Read More

  • Who are Indigenous Australians?

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 13 Jun 2009 | NZCPR

    In 1967 Australians overwhelmingly supported a referendum that altered the Australian constitution in regard to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The strong support was a measure of mainstream Australia’s... Read More

  • Quietly making the grade

    Joe Lane | 27 May 2009 | The Australian

    Contrary to popular myths, Left and Right, Indigenous students in mainstream society, representing the majority of Indigenous children and youngsters are doing well at school, staying to Year 12, and going... Read More

  • Commonwealth government fails remote Indigenous students

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 15 May 2009

    The second round of National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests took place this week. Australia wide, all children in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will be tested for literacy and numeracy. Read More

  • Is more money for Alice Springs town camps the answer?

    Sara Hudson | 08 May 2009

    The federal government is offering $125 million to the Alice Spring town camps in an attempt to resolve the deadlock over negotiations for 40 year housing leases to the Commonwealth. This works out to... Read More

  • Making remote schools work will take commitment

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 11 Apr 2009 | The Australian

    Indigenous illiteracy and non-numeracy has been recognised as a problem in Australia for more than 20 years. But government targets have gone backwards from ‘fix the problem in four years’ in 1997... Read More

  • Indigenous people in NT deserve fair go at private homeownership

    Sara Hudson | 29 Mar 2009 | The Straits Times

    On the surface, the recent government decision to provide funding for new public housing to four troubled communities in the Northern Territory sounds like a good thing. Finally government appears to be... Read More

  • Aborigines shut out on home front

    Sara Hudson | 11 Mar 2009 | The Australian

    Among the multitude of policy failures in Aboriginal communities, public housing is poorly designed and constructed, with few of the amenities that most Australians take for granted. Read More

  • Has Indigenous Education Been Shortchanged Again?

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 06 Mar 2009 | The Australian

    The minister for education’s plan to fund two hundred additional teachers with $100 million of support is a commendable response to the Northern Territory’s crisis in Indigenous education. But the... Read More

  • School litany of shame

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 14 Dec 2008

    With the May 2009 national literacy and numeracy tests only six months away, it is not too soon to focus on the reasons why more than half of the Northern Territory's Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 school children... Read More

  • Numbers don't go remotely to issue

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 28 Nov 2008 | The Australian

    The news that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found the 17 year gap in the life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has been reduced to 11 years would be welcome if it... Read More

  • Out with the Outstations?

    Sara Hudson | 19 Oct 2008 | Sunday Territorian

    After thirty years, it finally seems the Northern Territory government is acknowledging the failures of the outstation movement. Last Monday, the Northern Territory government released a discussion paper... Read More

  • Leadership can make all the difference in a CDEP organisation

    Sara Hudson | 11 Oct 2008 | The Sydney Morning Herald

    This week the Rudd Government announced sweeping changes to the Community Development Employment Projects program, an indigenous work-for-the-dole-scheme. It will be axed in non-remote regions, and CDEP... Read More

  • Welfare stretcher at bottom of cliff

    Sara Hudson | 08 Oct 2008 | The Australian

    The federal Government has announced that it is reforming the Community Development Employment Program, an Aboriginal work-for-the-dole scheme. But there's an air of deja vu. The Howard government axed... Read More

  • The Northern Territory's performance in national literacy and numeracy testing

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 17 Sep 2008 | The Australian

    When we drew attention to the failures of Northern Territory schooling in April this year, our report Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory wasaccused of being‘poorly researched’ and ‘relying... Read More

  • Guest workers and the Northern Territory

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 14 Sep 2008 | The Sunday Territorian

    To Australia’s embarrassment, by not tackling the problems that prevent Aborigines picking the fruit that is now ripening on trees, the Northern Territory is failing both its growers and unemployed Aborigines. Read More

  • Major General Jeffrey and aborigines in the open society

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 08 Sep 2008 | The Australian

    Major General Jeffery is to be congratulated for drawing attention, on his last day as Governor General of Australia, to the achievements of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the open society.... Read More

  • Stepping away from CDEP

    Sara Hudson | 21 Aug 2008

    The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program was established to help Indigenous Australians move from welfare into work. But despite its good intentions, thirty years of CDEP have proved... Read More

  • South Australia – the forgotten state no longer?

    Sara Hudson | 19 Aug 2008 | The Adelaide Advertiser

    Yesterday the federal government finally came to the party and acknowledged that it has failed Indigenous communities in South Australia. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has been in negotiations... Read More

  • Fruit picking jobs for local aborigines or guest workers from the Pacific?

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 18 Aug 2008 | The Courier Mail

    Growers' struggles to get fruit and vegetables picked and processed have led the Australian Farmers’ Federation to campaign to bring in ‘guest workers’ from the Pacific Islands and East Timor to... Read More

  • Governments are failing East Arnhem Land

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 26 Jul 2008 | The Weekend Australian

    Kevin Rudd’s ‘Community Cabinet Meeting’ in Yirrkala unfortunately did not tackle the failures of public policy in East Arnhem. Amending the constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians will... Read More

  • The three 'R's of Northern Territory Indigenous education: responsibility, reform and 'rithmetic

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 06 May 2008 | The Australian

    Ms Scrymgour, the Northern Territory Minister for Education, is to be congratulated for taking responsibility for the crisis in Northern Territory Indigenous education by directing her Department of Education,... Read More

  • Policy reform to close the gap between black and white

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 15 Apr 2008 | The Australian Financial Review

    After some 200 years of discrimination, the basic principles that must inform policies that affect Indigenous Australians are at last emerging. Firstly, it is clear that as the oldest immigrants, Aborigines... Read More

  • Failures in education policy are creating a lost generation

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 07 Apr 2008 | ABC News Online

    The Northern Territory has known for more than a decade that Indigenous students are completing its Aboriginal schools (Learning Centres and Community Education Centres) with the numeracy and literacy... Read More

  • Pretend Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Northern Territory

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 03 Mar 2008 | The Canberra Times

    The Northern Territory Department of Education reports that only 20% of Indigenous students in remote schools pass year 3 and 5 literacy benchmarks. For Indigenous students in Darwin and Alice Springs,... Read More

  • Strangers in their own land – An extract

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 27 Feb 2008 | The Australian

    Two teenager girls from East Arnhem Land undergo a ten-week educational marathon in Sydney with Helen Hughes to help them bridge the gap Read More

  • Let local Indigenous communities decide who comes and goes

    Sara Hudson | 21 Feb 2008 | The Australian

    The Rudd Government's legislation to restore the permit system for access to indigenous settlements in the Northern Territory is being introduced in parliament this week. Contrary to popular opinion, the... Read More

  • How can we move forward?

    Kirsten Storry | 27 Dec 2007

    It should go without saying that ten year old child cannot consent to sex. Sex with a ten year old child is a crime and few crimes are more reviled in our society than rape or paedophilia. Read More

  • Life after kava needs education, real jobs

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 14 Oct 2007 | The Sunday Territorian

    As part of the Northern Territory ‘emergency intervention’, the Australian Government announced a ban on the import of kava, a ceremonial drink from the Pacific Islands that was introduced into North... Read More

  • Aboriginal artists in the remote 'homelands' downtrodden by too much aid

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 19 Sep 2007 | The Canberra Times

    The director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University, Professor Jon Altman, was reported in a newspaper on Monday saying that ending the Community Development... Read More

  • Breaking the cycle

    Kirsten Storry | 10 Aug 2007 | The Press

    Are Australians racist? This is the question that New Zealanders were asking last month after the Australian Government sent the army in to Aboriginal communities to help combat shocking rates of child... Read More

  • Teachers key to remote schools

    Kirsten Storry | 18 Jun 2007 | The Australian

    In Aurukun on Queensland's Cape York, the school leadership refuses to accept that the complexity of the issues facing the indigenous community is an excuse for its children not getting a good education. Read More

  • South Australia's "homelands" have only a small proportion of Australia's 500,000 Aborigines...

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 02 Jun 2007 | The Adelaide Advertiser

    South Australian "homelands" have only a very small proportion of Australia's 500,000 Aborigines, but they include some of the most dysfunctional settlements, with appalling health, overcrowded and derelict... Read More

  • Our state of disgrace

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 31 May 2007 | The Courier Mail

    Queensland, with a quarter of Australia's Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, has some of their most dysfunctional settlements. Read More

  • Helen Hughes writes on Lands of Shame

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 26 May 2007 | The Australian Financial Review

    The pernicious permit system that censors reporting about remote ‘homelands’ has been sufficiently broken into to make Australians aware of the appalling conditions in these areas. It is a national... Read More

  • An edited extract from Lands of Shame

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 26 May 2007 | The Weekend Enquirer

    After the passage of the 1967 referendum, and with the beginning of the transfer of land to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, two main approaches to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander development... Read More

  • An extract from Lands of Shame

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 22 May 2007 | The Canberra Times

    About a third of Australia's 500,000 Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders work in mainstream jobs, own their houses and live like other Australians, mainly in the southern states. About 250,000 live... Read More

  • State must focus on Aboriginal schooling

    | 11 May 2007 | The West Australian

    When the nation’s education ministers met in Darwin last month, nit-picking over the national literacy and numeracy benchmarks was on the agenda. According to newspaper reports, the States and Territories... Read More

  • Law must be upheld by all sides

    | 17 Jan 2007 | The Australian

    Fifteen years after the royal commission, the appalling handling of the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee has reignited controversy over policing in indigenous communities. The Palm Island police... Read More

  • Palmed off and abused

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 08 Jan 2007 | The Courier Mail

    The concerns aroused by the Mulrunji case are a long-overdue reaction to failures of policing and jurisprudence towards Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. But Aboriginal exceptionalism -- apartheid-like... Read More

  • Stop excuses on indigenous education

    | 01 Dec 2006 | The Adelaide Advertiser

    Last month, Treasury secretary Ken Henry said Australia would not have managed its current prosperity well unless it improved areas of chronic policy failure, such as indigenous policy. Read More

  • Funding for indigenous communities still not finding targets

    Helen Hughes AO 1928 - 2013 | 20 Oct 2006 | The Canberra Times

    The funding intended to help Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders does not reach most of them. Abysmal overcrowding in run down dwellings is well documented, yet the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs,... Read More

  • Skills better investment for indigenous

    | 25 Apr 2006 | The Courier Mail

    In remote indigenous communities, there is little local economic development or mainstream employment. Those employment opportunities that do exist in the mining, pastoral and tourism industries largely... Read More