Giving volume to the voiceless


By: Tony Koch

A DECADE ago, Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson sent shockwaves through indigenous and non-indigenous Australia when he boldly declared that welfare dependency was the ``poison'' killing his people.
But he did not stop there.
He advanced and argued responses he had been considering for years -- beginning with the demand that government back a system where alcohol was restricted on remote communities.
Pearson's argument was that sobriety brought with it what drunkenness took away -- the ability to take responsibility for one's actions.
He was pilloried mercilessly -- from the soft Left of Australian society, and even more from Aboriginal leaders and those associated with them who wanted nothing to change.
But Pearson struck a nerve with government, and with the general population, and his views were supported.
It is difficult to argue with a person proposing change aimed at stopping women and children being assaulted and abused.
What Pearson saw as a natural corollary was that sober communities would accept responsibility for their children -- look after them properly and ensure they got a good education.
It has been a long time coming, but it seems that the strategy is at last bearing fruit -- according to the report tabled yesterday in the Queensland parliament.
They may seem to some to be small steps -- increases of 4 per cent to 10 per cent in school attendances, for instance -- but all the signs are pointing the same way. Upwards.
It is not unrealistic to think at this early stage that the present generation of Aboriginal children could have much better prospects in life because Noel Pearson had the courage to stand up for the voiceless and helpless among his people -- and government had the foresight to back him.