View Full Version : Aus Dopers: World Vision etc and Aborigines??
11-10-2010, 04:28 AM
Just something that has piqued my curiosity of late, but given the atrocious living conditions of many of our (particularly) remote indigenous folk, why have groups like World Vision, Community Aid Abroad etc focussed their attention on Biafrans** and the like rather than upon our own local poverty issues.
Is it an ego thing, that the Aus government (and people) would be loathe to accept the notion of 'sponsoring a child' from Wilcannia or Bourke because that would show that we're not willing to care for these communities ourselves?
Is it just that showing pics of starving kids in LDC's makes better copy and thus attracts more donations?
Is there some legislation happening that forbids such programs happening in Aus?
It's just that every night on the telly we're bombarded with tear-jerking ads from such orgs as World Vision and CAA (amongst others) that beseech us to help these poor little kids in Biafra** who will suffer terribly if we don't donate $20 per month or whatever the current 'rate' is.
Yet here in Australia, we've got thousands of kids of our own who go hungry, many without a decent roof over their head and I wonder why we don't have the same sort of 'Child Sponsorship' program happening. If it works for kids overseas, why wouldn't it work here? Does the fact that it would be happening on home soil (so to speak) make it too close for comfort, and perhaps too open to scrutiny??
**I use Biafra as the generic 'terrible place where kids are starving' location for want of offending all the other places where kids are starving. :)
11-10-2010, 05:06 AM
That's an interesting thought - I wonder if if there are commercials in Africa asking for donations to assist the poor Australian aboriginals?
I don't think there is anywhere in Japan that I can donate to people suffering from poverty in Japan - maybe I'm wrong, but I did donate a whole lot of very good quality clothes once that I thought could maybe come in handy for the large homeless population here, but all the clothes got sent off to Africa. I only found out about that when they tried to bill me for the shipping cost to Africa.
I guess appealing to everyone's belief that things are worse elsewhere (outside their own country) is a key point in raising money. And people know what government assistance is available for poor people in their own country, and they know that they already support that assistance via their own taxes. Lastly, they've probably run into one or two of the poorer people who need assistance in situations that do not put them in, shall we say, the best light.
All in all, it's probably a lot easier to convince people to donate money to people whose very existence they cannot comprehend - and therefore imagine the worst.
11-10-2010, 05:15 AM
In retrospect, I'm wrong. Yes there are places in Japan where I can donate to Japanese, I completely forgot - I've given to a few places before - places like the equivalent of the deafness foundation etc.
11-10-2010, 05:17 AM
I think the understanding is that underprivileged children in Australia can get support and assistance from worthy charities like The Smith Family, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and so on (all of whom will gladly accept donations)- not to mention Government support in the form of welfare payments for the family etc.
11-10-2010, 05:25 AM
11-10-2010, 06:48 AM
Maybe because $20/month goes a lot further in Africa than Australia, so they can help more children there.
11-10-2010, 08:03 AM
It must be because they are giving to needier nations providing life's basics to children. They deliver essentials like new clothing, diapers, blankets, and shoes to help children in poverty. They are doing this in backwaters like the US (http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10369)
11-11-2010, 11:37 PM
It's a curly one. I guess that with the Biafra** example, the horrible conditions are caused by drought and/or war, and there's an expectation that, if given temporary assistance, the impoverished masses will eventually get back to whatever subsistence life they had, once the drought/war is over (not that that can't be a heckavalongtime in some cases).
With the isolated Aboriginal example, there's no war or drought as such, the problems are all pretty much from European influences and the loss of the traditional lifestyle. There's almost certainly more going into those places in government welfare than any NGO will deliver into your Biafra** example. The Aboriginals can't go back to what they were doing before white settlement, and they don't seem to be willing or able to go forwards and live like a bunch of whiteys. The money we give them fucks them up in a lot of cases. They want to stay where they are, on their land, but there's nothing much productive for them to do out there. An NGO would be throwing money into undoing the harm the government money is doing. We can't morally stop supporting them, even though it keeps them as basket cases in terrible conditions.
All that said, I think there are remote communities that work better than others. It's not all horrible, and we've got to respect the people's right to live as they choose. It's not simple or someone would have fixed it ages ago.
11-12-2010, 12:26 AM
As someone who is studying international development, all I can say is that it's extremely complicated.
From a historical viewpoint, modern relief agencies (organizations designed to help people through a specific emergency) formed out of aid efforts to Europe following WWII. As the Marshall Plan kicked in and Europe got back on their feet, these agencies needed to find new frontiers if they wanted to remain relevant (and if their employees wanted to keep their job.) Meanwhile, as colonialism fell apart, the concept of "development" was being formed. Believe it or not, the idea of development is not a natural or obvious one. For example, in colonial times the ideas about these countries were completely different. Anyway, America specifically saw "development" as something they could take charge of, meaning they would gain a lot of influence that was formerly held in Europe. Development was a perfect match for these relief agencies, and the campaigns with starving African babies were born.
Meanwhile, governments keep pumping large foreign aid (like USAID funds) based to no small degree on politics (quick, guess what countries the US donates the most to) and a chunk of that filters through NGOs. As long as there is money coming in, the agencies are going to exist. Where there is funding, aid will come.
Aid is a business, and operates on market principles, This isn't always a bad thing- markets can increase efficiency. By no means does this mean aid agencies are scams. But they are competing for funding, and for historical reasons Africa is a prime place to do that.
If you looked, I'm sure you could find plenty of organizations working in your own country- the US is full of soup kitchens, shelters, women's centers, etc. A lot of them get funding in different ways, such as through the immediate community or by government grants. I think it's mostly that that specific kind of TV mass marketing is ineffective, perhaps because making a comment on poverty in your own country is bound to be political in some way, whereas commenting on other countries fits well into this "development" framework we've created.
11-12-2010, 01:51 AM
I think the most important point to make here is that everybody involved with the Aboriginal situation agrees on one thing:
This problem can not be solved with money.
Australia is an a very wealthy nation, and the number of Aborigines is tiny, and the number with difficulties just a small fraction of that. If the problem could be solved by throwing aid money at it, it would be solved in about 2 years. I have seen the figures on the amount of money spent to promote Aboriginal welfare over the past 40 years. I can't remember the exact amount, but it amounts to several million dollars fo4r every Aboriginal person who lived during that period. Clearly if the issue could be solved with money then it would have been solved by now.
That is why foreign aid agencies don't get involved. Because there is nothing for them to do. The same reason they don;t get involved with homeless people and drug addicts living in the USA. And you do realise the USA has far more of those people than Australia has disadvantaged Aborigines. Right?
So why doesn't money solve the problem? Three reasons. The first is general corruption and incompetence of governments and public servants of all races. The second is the complexity of the problem. The final is the delicacy of the problem.
Aboriginal problems are horrendously complicated and have a huge number of causes, but at the end of the day the problem is that Aboriginal culture as it is now does not promote success in the modern world. Throwing money at the problem can achieve one of two goals.
It can be used for education and information that aims to change Aboriginal culture. This has been done to death and is being done to death. Aborigines, particularly young people, are saturated with messages designed to get them to abandon the most inhibitory aspects of the culture. It probably works in the sense that it stops the problem getting any worse, but it has plateaued, and there is no evidence that more education will produce better results. Furthermore, many of the destructive aspects of the culture are also the most beneficial, so it's damn hard to change them. The most obvious example is the concept of communal success, where the success of one member of a community or family is be shared by all. That's a wonderful concept, but it also means that when one person succeeds, for example in getting a good job, the wealth is often dissipated amongst numerous unemployed people. The result is that success doesn't build on success, and the situation for the community doesn't improve.
The second way money can change culture is through forced aculturation/assimilation. It might work, but it shouldn't be attempted.
So money can't address the root causes of the problem.
So money might be able to address the symptoms of the problem. It might be able to provide houses for example. But anybody familiar with the latest Aboriginal housing fiasco or the ATSIC corruption scandals of the late 90s knows why that doesn't work. One of the biggest problems is that there is no fixed accountability for Aboriginal governance. Aborigines aren't self-governing, yet the Communities are almost all controlled by a self-governing body, elected by community members that is answerable only to the commonwealth minister. Furthermore this same body controls much of the funding that is available for off-community projects as well.
The result of this bizarre little situation is that nobody is accountable for nothing. One of the Communities I was staying at had the pump that supplied the drinking water break down. The Aboriginal body, ATSIC at the time, said it wasn't their problem because water was the responsibility of the local (read County) government. County government said water supply was the responsibility of the state, and they could only help with treatment, the State said Aboriginal affairs was a Commonwealth reposnsibility, the Commonwelath minister said he couldn't interfere in ATISIC autonomy on the matter. And so around it went. More recently there has been a scheme allocated umpteen million dollars to build houses for Aborigines in Northern Australia. When the last review was done there had been something like 12 houses built for the people managing the project at a cost of about 3 million dollars a house, and no houses at all built for Aborigines who were homeless, unemployed or in poverty. The cause was the same.
These are just two examples, but they are frighteningly typical of the situation created because nobody can take control of the situation. The fact that the Aboriginal body members are elected by poorly educated, usually clannish people also produces the types of result you'd expect. Think Boss Hogg and you're getting a pretty accurate picture of many Aboriginal councils. There were a series of scandals in the late 90s that led to an investigation of the then ATSIC, which revealed that corruption was rife. I won't bore you with all the stories of corruption uncovered, but we had things like ATSIC councillors people setting up real estate and building companies, then getting people to apply for home loans for the houses they would build, knowing the loan would default. Because ATSIC guaranteed the project, they got paid for the project even though it never got beyond the foundations.
So the corruption and incompetence surrounding Aboriginal issues makes it almost impossible for money to achieve anything. So why not quash the corruption? Because of the third problem: the delicacy of the situation.
Nobody wants to address the problem because it's too sensitive. Aborigines have to have some degree of self-governance. When the previous government announced plans to abandon ATSIC following the corruption scandals there were howls fo aoutrage. So ATSIC was abandoned in name and still exists in a new but functionally identical form.
When the extent of domestic violence, child neglect and child rape was uncovered by a report several years ago, the Commonwealth government implemented what it called "The Intervention". Federal police and defence force staff were mobilised to provide medical care and protection to community members. Pedophiles and repeat violent offenders were arrested and tried. People found to be neglecting their children in order to buy drugs or alcohol were given the equivalent of food stamps instead of cash. And the result was howls of protest despite the almost incomprehensible severity of the problem.
Nobody is really prepared to tackle the problems because it is political suicide. No matter what solution is suggested, it is portrayed as racist and paternalistic. The only solutions that are able tomake headway are those proposed and implemented by the Aboriginal councils and communities. But as noted above, the structure of those communities means that it is almost impossible for them to implement change.
That's it in a nutshell. Oh, there are plenty of problems that derive from those, like the fact that you can't get health professionals to stay in most communities because of the high levels of violence. But those are symptoms of the root problems of cultural dysfunction, corruption and delicacy.
So the problem isn't money. The problem has buckets of money thrown at it. If someone could show a way to make serious headway into the problem the money would be found in an instant. Butt he problem isn't money, because the problem can't be solved with money.
11-12-2010, 02:06 PM
As someone who is studying international development, all I can say is that it's extremely complicated....
I would like to ask: are you studying development by the US (official and charity) organisations in other countries - hence international - or are you studying generally development by (official and charity) organisations in (3rd world) countries?
Because your description doesn't sound anything like the charities I know of, both from their aims and motivations, and what they try to achieve. I guess you consider that naive, but the charities (not the official organisations - those have more egoistic concerns) here don't concentrate on influence spheres or geostrategy, but on need, with a pragmatic aspect (they usually don't go where security of their employees can't be guaranteed because of civil war, or where the govt. is too corrupt/ failed to make any headway etc.)
I also wonder: are you thinking of all development charity orgs in the US? Only the big ones, but not the international ones (World Vision and Plan are international, but with an US presence)? The local church group that sponsors an African partner church? The small group run by some 20 volunteers? Because I see big differences in motivations and approach there.
Plan was founded during the Spanish civil war and changed its method several times, adapting to what worked better, but the aim was to help children by developing the community with an individual child sponsorship relationship. UNICEF has a different history, goal and approach. The Christoffel-Blindenmission (now CBM, Christian Blind mission), started out yet again different. None of them are interested in geostrategy or what's advantegous for the US.
I don't doubt that those considerations play a certain role at the govt. level, when it gets decided where a big project is being built, where to send help and so on, but that's not the whole picture for me.
As for the Aboriginals: I can't speak about them, but I often get the question related to my own country - we have poor kids here, and even homeless people sleeping on the street. My personal answer to this is:
The people in 1st world countries - leaving aside the US - have a social safety net. The state should catch them and provide them with the basics of food, water, sleeping place etc. If the politicans slash the social net; if private charities step up to fill the gap; if the local homeless asylum are deplorable - then I have different means than money. I could contact politicans here and put pressure on them different from the politicans in Biafra**. I could organize protests, lobby for changes, proposition my local board, even found my own party or get myself elected with the Greens/ Reds and push for change.
I could also volunteer time, helping at the soup kitchen / food table.
Secondly, while it sounds callous compared to the standard of living here - and kids do suffer when their parents can't afford anything for them because they are poor - poor people here are still 100 times better off than the Biafrans**, in terms of food, home, clothes and infrastructure. Whether short-term starvation or long-term education, things are here available that don't exist in Biafra**, starting with decent roads, libraries and schools, press, almost non-corrupt officials, safety etc.
So giving money to Biafra saves and improves lives a lot more than giving money to poor children in the first world.
Third, my own personal motivation to sponsor Plan was a picture from 1946: a child bundled up in a thick coat (because it was cold) in a bare room. A German child that got food during the hunger years because of Plan. It could have been my parents or one of their relatives, or older friends. We have a high standard of living today, and not-stunted adults, because organisations helped us out after WWII, giving milk and school food to children in serious danger of mal-nutrition. Now we are relativly prosperous, so we can give back.
The bigger answer: My country promised to spend 1 % of the budget to help 3rd world countries (they don't fulfill that promise). The % of budget spent on the poor here in the country itself is much higher, through the social system. Still, if I (and others) affect a political change to restore the social safety system, it's far cheaper to distribute 1 million Euros (or whatever) over 80 million people than collect it from the fewer Christians/ charitable people.
There are also some egoistic reasons long-term for helping both 3 world and poor 1st world, but most egoists who are too short-sighted to think long-term I don't feel worth arguing with.
11-12-2010, 03:33 PM
It's not that the charities have geo-strategic goals, as much as that where it is viable to run an aid agency is influenced by geo-strategic factors.
People who work for development organizations have kids to raise and student loans to pay off. They are going to go where the money is. And the money is in line with the major powers. No doubt there are some great NGOs working out there on a grassroots level, but for someone who just invested in a higher degree, there is only so much "hanging out in a village" that you can do. In any case, everyone in the industry is part of the ever-changing rhetoric of development, which reflects larger social ideas.
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