Letters to
the editor

History repeating in NT

Thank you, Mike Seccombe, for shining a light on government spending in the Northern Territory (“How the Northern Territory failed”, August 6-12). I was in Alice Springs in 2007 at the Central Land Council (CLC)when the intervention broke. It probably never would have happened if the NT government had spent its money properly. In the aftermath, the NT Emergency Response Review Board spoke of the “decades of accumulated neglect” that led to the current problems. CLC director David Ross called for a royal commission into NT spending. A senate inquiry into NT spending on Indigenous affairs followed, but nothing changed. Instead of a wake-up call, the expedient rush of the intervention only reinforced a culture of a lack of accountability. And so it goes. It feels like we are having the wrong royal commission.

– Jeremy Dore, Brunswick West, Vic

Co-operation needed to help youth

The behaviour of the Don Dale “guards” highlights the need for all state and territory governments to listen to Aboriginal people to develop strategies with families and communities that divert young Aboriginal people from the juvenile justice system. It is too late and much more expensive when they are in custody. Take a look at the Tirkandi Inaburra (learning to dream) service in Wiradjuri country, south-west New South Wales. The community was listened to in this case, and it has for 11 years been addressing the systemic incapacity of education, community and other services to offer a way forward with any kind of equity. Diversion from juvenile justice has been a clear result for 12 to 15-year-old participants who find hope for a resilient future. In 2005, the NSW government did fund this one service and it has saved it a lot of money. Yet it continues to build institutions to incarcerate more Aboriginal children and young people rather than address the real issues. There will be different ways to do this in different places but the focus needs to be on early intervention.

– Ron Lawler, Wagga Wagga, NSW

CSIRO responds on emission research

A number of errors in Mick Daley’s “Uneducated gas” (August 6-12) need correcting. The article suggests CSIRO research conducted through the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is compromised because it receives funding from the federal government and industry. CSIRO rejects this. GISERA’s governance is designed to protect its research independence and transparency. These measures include a national research management committee and two independent regional research advisory committees (NSW and Queensland) that oversee funds allocation. Furthermore, all public-good research is publicly available once it has cleared CSIRO’s established independent peer-review process. The article also states CSIRO cherrypicked data for a fugitive emissions study published in 2014. CSIRO flatly rejects this. This pilot study report clearly states the scientific methodology including relevant caveats as well as the significance of this work, a first of its kind undertaken in this country. Nor did GISERA’s research cost $14 million as reported. The report was commissioned by the federal government at a fraction of this cost and is publicly available. The national science agency goes to great effort to ensure the integrity and accuracy of its research so it can ultimately maintain the trust of the Australian community.

– Dr Damian Barrett, director GISERA, and research director, unconventional gas, CSIRO Energy

Population factors in homelessness

Martin McKenzie-Murray (“Inside Australia’s growing homeless crisis”, August 6-12) notes that some areas of homelessness, such as family violence, have received attention while others, such as housing affordability and mental health, have not. Given mental illness is so pervasive among the homeless, that should be top priority, with housing affordability not far behind. Negative gearing’s impact on affordability gained some attention through the election campaign, as did the impact of foreign ownership. What is generally neglected, however, is the role of population growth in distorting the housing supply and demand balance. In 2015, Australia’s population grew by 326,100 people. Assuming an average occupancy of 2.6 per household, 125,000 dwellings need to be built every year just to stay put, never mind provide for those who have none. The ANZ Bank reported in March that Australia currently faces a shortage of 250,000 dwellings and that the housing shortage will only moderate “slightly” in coming decades. We can do a couple of things other than build more dwellings. We can discourage large families and thus put a dampener on natural population increase and we can cut skilled migration (while maintaining or even enhancing somewhat the refugee program). In the meantime, however, all governments have to provide more social housing so no one has to sleep rough.

– Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Tackling stigma of chronic fatigue

I was brought to tears on reading Sylvia Rowley’s exceptional report “What about ME?” (August 6-12). Sylvia describes the neuro-immune disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) with accuracy, destroying the myths and stigma associated with this horrid, life-sapping disease. Since a viral infection 22 years ago I wake every day feeling like I have the flu. My brain is usually foggy. Headaches and nausea are the norm. I very reluctantly gave up work eight years ago and am unable to participate in society. I grieve the loss of career, friends, hobbies and holidays. My teenage daughter also has ME and her life, too, is a battleground.  

– Jenny Meagher, Malvern East, Vic

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 13, 2016.

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