One of the sorry images which has stayed with me after our return from Australia’s Top End is the large number of Aborigine people wandering round without purpose, sitting in gutters or on the grass of parks, many waiting for the pubs and bottle stores to open at 2pm, all apparently with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
What does it say about their homes that they’d rather be loitering without intent in town than in their own places doing something constructive?
What does it say about a system which allows them to exist on benefits, leaving them with nothing constructive to do and nowhere else to go?
We saw art work produced by Arorigines and heard of tourist operations run by them but in the 12 days we were there saw only two working – one as a shop assistant, another as a guide.
We were told it wasn’t always as bad as this, many used to work in return for board, keep and some money. But when minimum wages were introduced the employers couldn’t afford to keep many of them because they didn’t do enough to justify what they’d have to be paid.
This should serve as a warning to us – the numbers of young Maori who are unemployed has risen considerably since youth rates were introduced.
Surely it’s better to be working and being paid what you’re worth than on a benefit because you don’t work well enough to earn a minimum wage?