The Federal Government has released its monitoring report on the NT Intervention for the second half of 2009. The report shows much has been achieved in health, education and crime reporting since the Intervention started though critics say there is not enough evidence yet to support its rollout.
The Northern Territory Emergency Response was a Howard Government initiative in June 2007 in response to claims of abuse and neglect of children in the “Little Children are Sacred” report. It was supported by the Rudd Government when it took office five months later. The legislation period of NTER is five years and it commits the Government to actions to “close the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal key health indicators. The objectives of NTER are ensuring the protection of women and children, reducing family violence, improving education, improving health, and promoting positive behaviours and personal responsibility.
In 2009, the Rudd Government attempted to remove elements of the NTER. Legislation is before the Senate to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act. Many in the 73 NTER communities felt they had been hurt, humiliated and confused by the discriminatory way in which original legislation was pushed through. However the same people admitted children, women and the elderly were all feeling safer, better fed and clothed, and there was less humbugging for alcohol, drugs and gambling.
The Government has built eight of nine promised new crèches and upgraded 11 out of another promised 13. Average school attendance has increased from 60.1 percent to 62.2 percent in 12 months. This is still down on the 62.7 percent figure recorded in 2007. A school nutrition program is up and running, staffed mainly by Indigenous people while over 140 new teaching positions have been funded in the NT. Another 173 health professionals are on the books covering nursing, GP, dental and allied health.
Outreach teams have made 110 visits to 66 remote communities. Eighty-eight community stores were licensed to sell alcohol and out of 190 monitoring visits just one store had its licence revoked. Alcohol Management Plans are in place in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Palmerston and Katherine and on their way in Borroloola, Maningrida, Gunbalanya, Elliot, Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt. The Government created 2200 new jobs leaving almost 17,000 on welfare quarantine known as “income management”. Ninety-six percent of these spent $133 million on food and clothing using BasicCards.
The number of child abuse cases increased in the 2009 reporting period giving the ABC its gloomy headline. It rose from 72 in 2007 to 142 two years later. With 62 additional police in communities, there is an increase in reported crime, while the actual incidence of crime may have remained unchanged or have fallen. The numbers of alcohol related incidents went up 31 percent while the number of drug related incidents went up 23 percent. Reported incidents of domestic abuse went up a staggering 75 percent between 2007 and 2009.
Last year NT Indigenous children were six times more likely than other children to be the subject of abuse and neglect. Neglect remains the main crime (43 percent) followed by physical abuse (26 percent) and emotional abuse (24 percent). Sexual abuse accounted for less than 10 percent of cases and since July 2007 27 people (including four non-Indigenous people) have been convicted for child sexual assault.
Responses to the report have been limited in the media and non-existent in the blogosphere. Apart from the ABC article noted above, the NT News also picked up on the increased stats angle, The Australian published an article by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, while ANU’s Jon Altman in Crikey called the state of progress “disturbing”.
Altman says we have gone backwards since 2007. However, until there is a concerted hue and cry by white Australia to follow through on the initiatives, nothing will change. Our media is failing us with this task. For those interested, Part 2 of the report provides detailed information and analysis by sub measure.