Women For Wik: What’s Working?

| June 28, 2009
Women for Wik

Women for WikOriginally formed to support Native Title Legislation 12 years ago, Women For Wik are back in action to talk about What’s Working.

Women For Wik is a network which respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islander people’s rights and capacities to control their lands and communities. Despite the apology, progress has been slow and sometimes policies have gone backwards; often because of relentlessly negative reporting of crises and deficits. These ‘stories’ have led to drastic interventions, takeovers and funding shifts which weaken localcommunities and undermine the often under-reported progress.

Women For Wik has just launched our new website www.whatsworking.com.au to counter the unbalanced reporting and better inform people of real progress in areas where local control and involvement makes the difference. We want to document examples of programs, policies and activities which are actually working; or have been until they were defunded!

Women For Wik first emerged 12 years ago in support of Native Title, and was reactivated 3 years ago in response to the Northern Territory Intervention, in particular to the way things were done. There is an undoubted need for more funding – but with local involvement and decision making to make it work.  Every study of top down policies shows why they don’t work and how they have proven disastrous to culture and living standards.

A current example of this is the latest proposals to de-fund the Outstation movement and so push people off their land to urban centres. Outstations have worked in many cases, as people on their own land avoid inter-group tensions, grog and despair and nurture their economies and cultures. The problems of Wadeye and other such mission based townships with multiple language groups illustrate the issues.

Women For Wik wants to hold governments to their commitment to evidence based policies by offering access to evidence of the programs which have worked, are working and could work with appropriate support. There are many evaluations that show clearly that centralised bureaucratic actions cannot work. Local cultures are diverse and local involvement is essential to making things work.

We have the support of a wide range of groups and individuals. We want the governments involved to re-think their policies and programs and move away from centralised, paternalistic approaches. We hope the wider community will have a clearer understanding of what works and will support policies that respect and enhance the capacities of our Indigenous communities to manage their
own lives.