The abysmal state of indigenous affairs is just one, if the most horrifying, symptom of governance structures locked in the past, argues Professor Peter Shergold, head of the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW.

In an article published in The Weekend Australian, Professor Shergold, a former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, is critical of government programs that create passivity, calling for new approaches that would place the citizen at the centre of power.

Citing the concerns of indigenous leaders Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Noel Pearson, Professor Shergold writes:

"Pearson's scream of despair echoes far beyond Cape York, through the dark valleys of bureaucratic despond. What has happened to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders reflects a world in which individuals are perceived by the public servants who deliver government policy - generally with commitment, good faith and worthy intentions - as beneficiaries or recipients.

"Treated as dependents, it is scarcely surprising that many of those on welfare or on the dole learn helplessness from the manner of state intervention. They are forced to fit themselves to the services they receive. The undermining of self-reliance is certainly not confined to indigenous Australians."

Read the full article on the Australian School of Business website.

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