Dogmatic about outcomes

Natasha Robinson; 26/12/09

Nearly two years before John Howard’s government launched its grand intervention into the remote Northern Territory, a portly, snowy-haired Aboriginal man travelled to Alice Springs to deliver a prescient speech. Mick Gooda, then chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health in Darwin, stood before the audience at a symposium on early childhood development and waded into politically charged waters. Presenting a case in support of government intervention to protect vulnerable Aboriginal children at risk of harm, Gooda argued that the right of a child to be safe overrode every other human right, even if it meant “the R-word”: child removal. “Governments are the final safeguard for our children,” Gooda said. “When all is failing a child, the ball is in the government’s court.” Last week Gooda was appointed by the Rudd government to take over the highest paid role in the indigenous bureaucracy, that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. The Queensland-born Gooda’s appointment to the $240,000 a year commissioner’s role came after Sydney academic Larissa Behrendt, a Harvard-educated barrister, withdrew her application for the position.