So I stuck my hand up today and admitted, rather bravely, that I don't support Abstudy either. Yep, I lined up with the people dubbed by their own party as bigoted in saying that the 'positive discrimination' of Abstudy is, in my opinion, not a good thing, and should be ended.
I know, right? Progressive, gay marriage loving, environment protecting, refugee advocating, free internet defending, Malcolm Turnbull adoring me isn't enamored with positive discrimination? WTF?
This one isn't as academic as you'd think. I grew up in Moree. There is a pretty big Aboriginal population in Moree, and there were lots of Aboriginal kids in my class and some were my friends.
Moree is about as racially divided as it gets. And when it's not being famous for bad priests doing things to boys I think I shared a classroom with, it has made plenty of ugly headlines for plenty of ugly racial fights, riots down the main street and the like.
There are lots of good people in Moree doing lots of good things too – I'm not saying it is a bad place. Lots of Aboriginal leaders fighting the good fight, many quietly toiling away in a very burdened community, which draws in to it many of the troubled souls from surrounding communities that have no services at all.
Some of those local leaders have tought me good things – like there are times when you need cultural awareness and understanding. And there are times when the differences need to be respected, traditional owners acknowledged and elders deferred to.
But if you've got one set of rules for the black kids and a different set of rules for the white kids, there'll be trouble.
It's pretty simple. The baseline must be the same. It must be called the same thing. Everyone must feel like everyone else is starting from the same starting block, no one is cheating or getting a head start. Anyone gets a different deal or looks like they are getting special treatment – especially when it comes to money – people get jealous and suspicious… and then there's trouble.
You must have consistency or you just add to the cycle of mistrust of a system – and a Government – they already don't trust.
However well intentioned, the same principle applies with Abstudy. It's one rule for the black kids and another for everyone else, and that causes trouble.
I was convinced Abstudy was bad by an Aboriginal man talking about his daughter. It was about 8 years ago, but I still remember his argument like it was yesterday:
"We didn't ask for a special deal. She just wants to go to university, exactly the same as everyone else. How will she ever know if she earned her degree? Or if she really earned those marks, or only got them on some curve because the other kids getting less money had to work rather than study? We didn't ask for special treatment. She didn't come in here asking for "Abstudy" – she just wants the same."
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