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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Call for Aborigine 'paternalism'
Aborigines in the bush
Aborigines are Australia's most disadvantaged community
Australia's health minister has proposed sending administrators to run struggling Aboriginal communities.

Tony Abbott said allowing Aborigines to manage their own affairs had in many cases failed, highlighting issues of health, poverty and abuse.

A new form of "paternalism" was needed, he said, to build governing structures in failing communities.

Opposition lawmakers attacked the plan, accusing him of a return to heavily criticised policies of the past.

"What we know of 200 years of Australian history is that paternalism didn't work," said Chris Evans, indigenous affairs spokesman for the Labor Party.

"Paternalism is what saw the black children taken away from their parents," he said.

'Appalling conditions'

But Mr Abbott's call came as a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that Aborigines continue to have a far lower life expectancy than other Australians.

The death rate among aboriginal children was three times that of other Australian children, the report said, and 70% of Aborigines do not reach the age of 65

Many Aborigines lived in appalling conditions, Mr Abbott said.

"The fundamental problem here is not lack of spending, although it could always be higher, but the culture of directionlessness in which so many Aboriginal people live."

He called Australian guilt over past policies and "naive idealisation" of communal life the biggest obstacle to improving the lives of Aborigines.

Members of the minority community face high levels of unemployment, and alcohol and drug abuse are common.

A report in May highlighted shocking levels of sexual and domestic abuse against women and children in remote communities.

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