A critique of the mainstreaming of Aboriginal homelessness services in South Brisbane.
In 2005 the Howard federal government abolished ATSIC following a gradual de-funding and winding down process over previous years. . Two clear new policy frameworks appeared in the post-ATSIC period – 1/ The mainstreaming of Aboriginal services and 2/ An obsessive and exaggerated focus of Aboriginal family violence. These two policies became the basis of the much condemned Northern Territory intervention in 2006, however since 2005 they have been the basis of state and federal programs delivering services to Aboriginal marginalised and at-risk people in South Brisbane.
Prior to 2005 the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation provided support to marginalised and at-risk Aboriginal people in South Brisbane including hostels, medical services, meals, clothes, advocacy and a range of other services and programs. The Corporation was made up of, and managed by, Aboriginal people who identify with Musgrave Park, which, at the time, was the centre of local Aboriginal life. The Musgrave Park people perceived themselves as custodians of the Park. The customary law process of eldership, women’s business and men’s business governed life at the park and was the front line of defence against anti social and dangerous activities in the park. The people who congregated daily in the park acted as an advice and referral centre to Aboriginal people from all over Australia who visited Musgrave Park to track down relatives, get the gossip of what was happening in the Aboriginal community and, if they needed it, to be referred to the support services of the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation.
In 2005 the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation had all its funding withdrawn. The Hope St. Drop in centre was closed down and the hostels formerly managed by the corporation were handed over to Murri Watch to manage. The hostels now managed by Murri Watch, the Murri Watch diversionary centre in Woolloongabba and hostels managed by the national organisation Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. were forced to open their doors to all people, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as had been the case previously, in order to receive further funding from state and federal departments.
The money that had previously gone to the Musgrave Park corporation to run programs and employ staff was divided up in an ad hoc fashion amongst a range of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal services including Micah, West End Community house, St. Luke’s nursing service, Kummara Indigenous Family Care and Murri Watch.
Funding that had previously been spent on services and programs specifically for homeless people were transferred to programs tackling Aboriginal family violence.
Money that had previously been spent providing meals at the Hope St. drop in centre was diverted to supplying sandwiches and poor quality food to parks.
The St. Luke’s nursing service that used to run a clinic at Hope St. was moved to the public toilet in Boundary St.
In 2006 all services dealing with homelessness in Brisbane came under the coordination of Micah by way of the Brisbane Homeless Service Centre (BHSC), the formalisation of the Southside Homelessness Action Network that had been formed in 2004.
The transition from the self-determination and community development model of the Musgrave Park Corporation to a mainstreamed, centralised welfare model was completed and entrenched in the Micah BHSC. The political control and management of services was transferred from Aboriginal elders to the administrators of welfare bureaucracies. The sole determinant of program policy had become government funding guidelines rather than local Aboriginal peoples own perceptions of their own needs.