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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

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    Latham lashes out in wake of Aurukun strife

    Controversial former Labor leader Mark Latham has continued his outspoken ways, this time on Indigenous issues stemming from the latest troubles in Aurukun.

    Former Labor leader Mark Latham has weighed into the debate over violence and community unrest in Aurukun, saying more money won’t help fix the poor educational outcomes of Indigenous children.

    In an interview on Sky News in the wake of the latest strife in Aurukun - which resulted in the evacuation of 25 teachers and staff from the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy - Mr Latham spoke at length about the issues facing remote Indigenous communities.

    The one-time Prime Ministerial aspirant blasted the "focus" on important symbolic issues such as constitutional recognition for Indigenous people, saying they were a distraction from ongoing issues of violence, abuse and social disadvantage.

    In comments that are certain to stir controversy, Mr Latham also laid the blame of social problems at the feet of Indigenous people themselves, rather than “historic wrongs”.

    Mr Latham said: “The events in Aurukun are another example of the truism in modern Australia that the damage being caused to Indigenous communities is much more by Indigenous people themselves than the question of historic wrong.

    “Now there were some terrible things to Indigenous Australians in the 19th century but those past grievances are nowhere as important as the reality that we’ve got a lavishly funded education program in Cape York where teachers and staff don’t find it safe enough to even be in the community let alone the classroom.

    “So across the board whether we're looking at crime, violence against women, or child sexual abuse, Indigenous communities are hurting themselves much more than this question of historic wrong.”

    Mr Latham went on to say that the issues of constitutional recognition and a treaty were a "distraction from the bread and butter” issues of providing a good education and opportunities for young Indigenous people.

    He also took aim at the constant calls for extra funding for Indigenous education.

    “You can throw a lot of money in the education system but it doesn't mean you get results,” Mr Latham said.

    “Bill Shorten was in Cairns at the start of this week promising 400 Indigenous teaching scholarships at a cost of $5 million. It sounds like a very noble ideal. 

    “But if those scholarship holders can't actually live in a place like Aurukun and teach in the classroom, if they have to Cairns and I assume stay holed up in taxpayer funded hotel rooms, then that just makes a mockery of the idea that automatically putting more money into education gets a better result.”

    Mr Latham found an unlikely ally in Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt on the issue of education funding.

    Mr Pitt is visiting Aurukun today for urgent talks to resolve the latest flare up in community tensions.

    “Throwing more money at the problem is not the solution, positive outcomes will rely heavily on the resolve of local leaders and improved community engagement,” Mr Pitt said.

    “I was in Aurukun just three months ago in response to community unrest and it’s very disappointing to see that calm has not been able to be maintained.

    “The senseless actions of a few have traumatised an otherwise calm community and put public safety at risk. 

    “I know there’s no quick fix but it’s clear that something has to change and quickly and the community must be empowered to make the changes they want and need.”

    Mr Pitt said he would discuss today’s meetings and resolutions with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to devise a whole-of-government response to the issues at Aurukun.