Plea on indigenous misery

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has declared war on "passive racism", saying he is affronted that a clever and innovative country such as Australia had not solved indigenous disadvantage.

In an interview with _The Weekend West _, Senator Scullion said without immediate investment in Aboriginal Australia, especially in school attendance, incarceration rates would continue to be high.

"I'm miffed that in a really forward-thinking, smart country, one of the areas we seem to continue to struggle to get right is to ensure that those communities who have a lot of Aboriginal people are not always centres of poverty and disconnection," he said yesterday.

"That cycle of misery is the cycle we've got to break because there's nothing wrong with a place like Roebourne, there is nothing wrong with the Aboriginal people who live there apart from the normal passive racism, the normal low expectations that we as a community in Australia have to move away from."

Senator Scullion, a Northern Territory senator, has had a long involvement with indigenous communities.

He said passive racism, while often motivated by good intentions, did not help Aboriginal people, citing as an example Centrelink officers failing to breach indigenous jobseekers who did not take up a job found for them.

The Government will today announce an $18 million extension to a schools truancy program to add schools in Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Wiluna to the Commonwealth's remote school attendance strategy.

The program already employs 63 school attendance officers and supervisors in Carnarvon, Halls Creek, Kalumburu, Meekatharra, Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Onslow, Roebourne and Rawa.

With another 25 truancy officers in recruitment stage, and 48 more to be employed under the program's extension, WA will have 136 employed under the program from term 2, or five officers for every 100 enrolled students.

Latest program data shows an extra 614 children attended school in WA, the NT, NSW and Queensland.

Senator Scullion said the simple fact was that unless children went to school, their prospects would be poor.

The West Australian

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