Friday, December 07, 2007

Henry on the intervention

The head of the Treasury has distanced himself from the Howard government's approach to aboriginal intervention saying that policy makers and administrators “haven’t been very good at” delivering programs in a cost effective and non-threatening way.

Delivering the keynote address to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare conference in Canberra yesterday Dr Ken Henry said that while it was important for the government to provide sustainable macroeconomic growth, with low and stable inflation and unemployment more was needed to make sure that that all Australians shared in the nation’s prosperity.

Indigenous Australians had without doubt experienced the highest levels of disadvantage, however measured, over the longest period of time.

But programs aimed at ending indigenous disadvantage would fail unless they gave indigenous people an opportunity to shape the policies that would affect their destiny...

“A considerable body of international literature suggests that indigenous engagement in policy development is key to achieving better results. In itself, it reduces the passivity of solutions, creating ownership of both the problem and the solution. And it is fundamental to indigenous self-esteem,” Dr Henry said.

“Active participation in the decision-making that affects one’s community can be a powerful source of identity, even of pride. And it is an obvious means of recognising inspirational role models.”

The Treasury Secretary said that “multiple inventions” were needed but to improve aboriginal disadvantage, but that they had to be targeted to local needs, integrated and delivered in a cost effective and non-threatening way.

“This is important for the proper functioning of government; but it is equally vital for those people for whom the programs exist — indigenous people themselves. As policy makers and administrators, we understand this at a conceptual level. But we haven’t been very good at allowing that understanding to affect the way in which we implement things.”

Note his earlier speeches on these topics.