On 21 June 2007, the former Federal Government announced an intervention in the Northern Territory (NT) in response to the declared crisis of child abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.
Since that time, the Rudd and then Gillard Governments have made a range of changes to the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), however some key measures remain in place including income management (under an amended scheme) and alcohol bans. There have also been a range of parallel reforms to employment, housing and local government which have impacted on local communities, in many cases reducing Aboriginal control over decision-making and service delivery.
The NTER legislation expired in July 2012 and the Stronger Futures legislation was passed in June 2012, to extend many of the NTER measures for an additional 10 years.
ANTaR considers that Australian governments have a responsibility to take effective action to protect children in danger from violence, neglect and abuse. However, we are concerned that the policies of successive Federal Governments have largely ignored the recommendations of the Little Children Are Sacred report, to which the NTER was in response. We are also concerned that an opportunity to positively engage Aboriginal communities and to provide the additional services and capacities necessary to establish the conditions for safe and strong communities has been missed.
A Better Way
ANTaR has sought to play a constructive role in public policy debate on this issue by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to propose an alternative policy agenda in to strengthen Northern Territory communities and improve safety and wellbeing. We call this ‘A Better Way’.
ANTaR launched the ‘A Better Way' campaign in 2010. We have published two key campaign policy publications.
- ‘A Better Way: Success Stories in Aboriginal Community Control in the NT’ showcases effective Aboriginal community controlled programs, organisations and initiatives to highlight the capacity in local communities to drive change.
- ‘A Better Way: Building healthy, safe and sustainable communities in the Northern Territory through a community development approach’, outlines an alternative policy framework based on empowerment and capacity building. The paper is informed by evidence and recommendations by Aboriginal organisations, human rights principles, governance research and international development experience.
We have also sought to facilitate the exchange of information between national human rights and advocacy organisations and NT organisations to ensure our advocacy is informed by accurate information.
While we have been strongly critical of governments for breaches of human rights, poor consultation and the failure to engage and empower Aboriginal communities, we have also recognized much needed additional resources which have been directed to communities for housing, health services, governance and education.
For more detail on ANTaR’s advocacy and position on the NTER and Stronger Futures, see policy papers and submissions below.
ANTaR will be working with Aboriginal and non-Indigenous partner organisations to monitor the impacts of Government policies in the NT and to hold governments to account.