Aussie 'Tough Love' Upends Aboriginal Society

Government push to stop alcoholism, violence erodes power of tribal elders
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2009 12:15 PM CST
Aussie 'Tough Love' Upends Aboriginal Society
Aborigines march on Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Australia's controversial "tough love" program is toppling the Aborigines' traditional social structure, the Wall Street Journal reports. The government's effort to tackle rampant violence, child abuse, and alcoholism among Aborigines by banning alcohol sales and supplying welfare payments in credit for food and other essentials instead of cash has enraged many tribal elders, but has also spawned a nascent feminist movement in some communities.

In one Northern Territory settlement where the established stores refused to take part in the program, the head of a women's center opened her own, despite intimidation. "The council used to decide everything," she says. "But now the intervention has given power to the rest of the people who have not been able to speak for themselves." Aboriginal leaders charge that the policy is racist and is splitting their communities, but the government, pointing to improvement in child nutrition, plans to extend it.
(More Australia stories.)

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