Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Changing the debate

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

24 January 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

In light of the reduced debate around Change the Date, it is the perfect time to give attention to the issues that impact the lives of Aboriginal Australians in some of the most profound ways.

There seems to be no end to the Indigenous issues that regularly make headlines across the nation ranging from domestic and family violence, child sexual abuse, youth suicide, poor health, welfare dependency and poor education outcomes.

Vast amounts of tax payer funds are spent every year on addressing these issues, yet very little appears to be achieved in way of actual problem solving or ‘closing the gap’ as we now term it. A new approach toward problem solving is what is needed which prioritises fact over politeness and action over symbolism. Too many lives depend on this.

Nicola Bercovic’s article in the Australian highlighted that in the ten years between 2006 – 2016, 23% of partner homicide victims in Australia were Indigenous (another 22% were from the migrant community).

What is most apparent is that the traditional cultural drivers behind Indigenous family violence are being ignored by tax payer funded organisations responsible for developing strategies to reduce violence because they do not fit an ideological narrative.

The most popular ideological narrative argues that racism and colonisation are the drivers. This narrative exonerates Aboriginal perpetrators of violence as now they too are viewed as victims with less accountability for their actions.

As long as this narrative is bought by governments and as long as tax payer funded programs are not held accountable for lack of evaluation and measured outcomes, the billions of dollars each year will continue to uphold an industry built on the misery of Australia’s most marginalised citizens.

As tax payers and concerned fellow Australians we should all demand our financial contributions toward solving these ongoing issues be better spent where common sense prevails, the truth is prioritised and diligent evidence based research form the basis for problem solving.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solutions cannot be reached without acknowledging the cultural drivers behind family violence and violence against women.

Back to homework

Blaise Joseph

24 January 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

School is almost back; and for most students that means homework is just around the corner too.

It’s a topic guaranteed to divide parental opinions. Depending on who you talk to, homework can either steal students’ childhoods, or is an integral part of education that schools don’t do enough of these days.

But what does the research say?

Reviews of the research to date have consistently found that homework has small but significant positive effects on academic achievement, across subjects and year groups.

And according to the OECD, homework appears to be especially important for students at risk of being low performers in mathematics. Those 15-year-old students who spend around 7 hours per week on homework are 70% less likely to be low performers than students who do no homework, even after accounting for socio-economic background and other relevant factors.

However, the OECD also found there are “diminishing returns” to homework: beyond a certain amount, extra homework doesn’t help any further.

It also depends on the quality of homework. For example, colouring in a picture of Dora the Explorer is not good homework; but assigned reading or practising maths problems can be very beneficial.

Developing good home study habits in the early years of school is almost certainly a good thing. It can help to reinforce classroom learning and develop automaticity — the ability to instantly recall essential knowledge in order to allow students to complete more difficult tasks.

And it can be a great opportunity for parents to have some involvement and monitor progress — as long as the homework tasks are of a high quality and aren’t excessively reliant on parental support.

While the right kind of homework in the correct amounts is valuable, it is not a loved activity: it creates extra work for teachers, and most students don’t like doing it.

But if we want to set and maintain high expectations of Australian students, then ensuring they become comfortable doing some schoolwork outside of school hours is essential. 15 minutes of homework per day during primary school won’t steal anyone’s childhood.

Sport grants always political

Simon Cowan

24 January 2020 | Ideas@TheCentre

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has revealed that the federal government handed out tens of millions of dollars in community sports infrastructure grants ostensibly for political purposes.

This has outraged many — including some who are for the very first time finding a type of government spending to which they are opposed.

This audit was initiated in response to the Liberal candidate for the South Australian seat of Mayo presenting a local bowling club with a six-figure novelty cheque under this scheme early last year.

The ANAO observed “it is not evident … what the legal authority was” for the way the Minister made approvals under this program. It goes on to conclude “the award of funding … was not consistent with the assessed merit of applications.”

Which seems moderately appalling, but like so many government spending programs, the whole scheme reeks of politics clothed in the guise of supposed bureaucratic objectivity.

What is the federal government doing doling out funding for community sporting infrastructure in the first place?

Section 51 of the Constitution, which sets out the powers of the federal government, says nothing about funding equestrian facilities across the country. It does not task the Commonwealth with the grave responsibility of expanding the footprint of lawn bowls. Tennis, soccer, cricket, football – all absent.

Why are these initiatives the business of the federal government?

The better approach is to delegate decision-making and funding powers to as low a level as possible and allowing individual communities to start making decisions about what they think spending priorities should be.

An even better approach might be to significantly cut taxes and let individuals spend their own money on the leisure facilities they think are important.

Either way, we need to stop pretending that bureaucratic processes are inherently apolitical. That the only assurance of ‘independence’ is government money handled by public servants.

Indeed singling out these sporting grants is problematic. Not because the Minister was right to make funding decisions primarily for political reasons. But because pretty much our whole system of government is set up to do the same thing.

This is an edited extract of an opinion piece published in the Canberra Times as Is anyone really shocked by Sports Rorts 2.0?