NACCHO Aboriginal News Alert : New NT Labor Government hands back decision-making control to Indigenous communities

NT Ah Kit

“In devolving decision making, Labor will be guided by the principles outlined in the Aboriginal Peak Organisation’s Partnership Principle, which recognises the critically important role that control over life circumstances plays in improving Indigenous peoples lives.

Control is also central to a further fundamental determinant of our health and wellbeing—that of culture.

Culture is a universal aspect of human societies that gives meaning and value to individual and collective existence.”

Aboriginal Peak Organisation’s Partnership Principle

 ” The new NT Labor government will allow remote Northern Territory schools to choose to implement the Direct Instruction teaching method as part of a broader overhaul aimed at giving local people more control over their affairs.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner will also reinstate so-called community cabinets, whereby all ministers and departmental heads periodically conduct government business in the bush to ensure direct exposure to remote communities’ views.

Visiting Numbulwar, on the Gulf of Carpentaria shore about 550km southeast of Darwin, Mr Gunner yesterday said winning back four of five bush seats Labor lost in 2012 was “crucial to us having credibility” as a government for all Territorians.”

Report in The Australian 2 September see full story part 3 below

PHOTO New Arnhem MP Selena Uibo, left, with Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Numbulwar preschooler Relisha Hall, 4. Picture: Ivan Rachman

 “Labor’s win at the Northern Territory election will mean a new dawn for Indigenous affairs and policy making in Australia that will see decision making and control given back to Indigenous Territorians.

NT Labor Policy

The Northern Territory has by far the largest proportion of Indigenous residents with around a third of its population Indigenous.

As such, the Territory is home to some of the biggest challenges in Indigenous affairs, but is also home to a wealth of local policy making nous.  

With occasional involvement by the federal government to varying degrees and success, the policy making wherewithal needed to tackle the range of big and complex issues that touch Indigenous Territorians lives largely sits with NT politicians, bureaucrats, academics, land councils, health and education professionals – and of course with Indigenous Territorians.

Progressing reform to better the way government supports and respects the will of Indigenous NT residents.

It is for this reason the newly elected NT Labor government will deliver the most extensive return of local decision making to Indigenous communities since the Territory achieved self-government in 1978.

Labor will introduce a 10 year road map and local decisions oversight board made up of indigenous leaders from the NT that will see Indigenous communities take control over:

  • Housing;
  • Local government;
  • Education and training;
  • Health;
  • Looking after children; and
  • Law and justice.

The shift is huge. But it’s also an obvious step in progressing reform to improve the way government supports and respects the will of Indigenous Territorians.

Put the intervention and its top down policy making approach well and truly where it belongs: into history.

An NT Labor government will provide the backing where it has a central role to play – namely, in direct financial investment in supporting jobs for Indigenous Territorians including:

  • $4.1m for one off capital grants of up to $100,000 for Indigenous ranger groups to support jobs for Indigenous Territorians on their land;
  • Establish a land management and conservation fund of $2m per year to improve conservation practices on Aboriginal lands and sea country;
  • Amend the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act to specifically recognise the role of Indigenous ranger groups in managing for conservation across large areas of the Territory; and
  • Provide $500,000 per annum to establish an Indigenous carbon unit within government to deliver carbon abatement and economic development on Indigenous land – this has the potential to unlock tens of millions of dollars of investment and jobs.

Not only does NT Labor’s policy lay important groundwork in the national discussion on constitutional recognition and/or treaty, this policy shift would finally, and thankfully, put the Intervention and its top down policy making approach well and truly where it belongs: into history.

apont-slider

Guiding principles for our research and policy work

Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APO NT) is an alliance comprising the Northern and Central land councils, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory.

The alliance was formed in recognition of the fact that our interests and responsibilities as organisations representing and governed by Aboriginal communities and organisations are inextricably linked.

Our shared interests are underpinned by an unwavering commitment to the principles of Aboriginal community control and self-determination.

We share an understanding that tackling the plight of our communities can only be achieved through coordinated action across a broad range of policy areas: in housing, employment, education and health; but equally importantly in ensuring that the right conditions are in place for creating strong, resilient communities.

This requires empowering and giving responsibility to govern our communities and control our organisations in determining our futures—to control and manage the delivery of services, to build and maintain community infrastructure and to develop sustainable enterprises and livelihoods on our traditional lands, as well as on those lands that have been alienated from us.

It requires empowering individuals through developing self-esteem and strong cultural identity that can underpin educational achievement, enhanced capacity to obtain and remain in employment, and to avoid destructive behaviours such as interpersonal violence that all too often lead to contact with the criminal justice system.

And it requires strong action in tackling the scourge of alcohol and other drugs, its underlying causes and accompanying burden of unresolved and ongoing intergenerational trauma in our families and communities.

A belief in evidence

Importantly, our belief in these principles is not merely aspirational, but is supported by a strong evidence base: that of the social determinants of health.

The overwhelming body of evidence of the social determinants of health shows that our health and wellbeing is profoundly affected by a range of interacting economic, social and cultural factors. Key amongst these are:

• Poverty, economic inequality and social status;
• Housing;
• Employment and job security;
• Social exclusion, including isolation, discrimination and racism;
• Education and care in early life;
• Food security and access to a balanced and adequate diet;
• Addictions, particularly to alcohol, inhalants and tobacco;
• Access to adequate health services
• Control over life circumstances.

Psychosocial factors, particularly stress and control, are critically important.

Put simply, the less control we have over our lives the more stress we experience. Stress is associated with anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem, social isolation and disrupted work and home lives. It can increase the risk of chronic illnesses such as depression, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

This evidence demonstrates that there is a social gradient of health that reflects and affects our opportunities to lead safe, healthy and productive lives for ourselves and our children.

Culture matters!

Control is also central to a further fundamental determinant of our health and wellbeing—that of culture.

Culture is a universal aspect of human societies that gives meaning and value to individual and collective existence.

In the context of societies with dominant and minority cultures, such as Australia, the widespread and persistent suppression of minority cultural practices causes severe disruption, making our communities susceptible to trauma, collective helplessness and endemic maladaptive coping practices.

These can be passed on through the generations, as we have witnessed in relation to the processes of colonisation and past government policies such as those of the Stolen Generations.

We believe that we are also witnessing the generation of such impacts in relation to ongoing government policies, for example, the misguided, coercive approaches of the NT Intervention and Stronger Futures.

The final report of the World Health Organization Commission on the Social Determinants of Health highlighted the issues of cultural suppression and loss, social exclusion and lack of consent and control as key factors affecting Indigenous populations.

The above underscores that the control that we seek over our lives, communities and land is far more than a political aspiration that government may interpret as something it can arbitrarily restrict or deny us. It is as fundamental to our health and wellbeing—and hence to the task of Closing the Gap in life outcomes—as it is to our rights and interests as Aboriginal peoples.

APO NT’s work is informed by these principles and the evidence on which they are based and we will continue to communicate with government to ensure that our voice is heard.

Labor will let remote schools choose Direct Instruction: Gunner

The new Labor government will allow remote Northern Territory schools to choose to implement the Direct Instruction teaching method as part of a broader overhaul aimed at giving local people more control over their affairs.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner will also reinstate so-called community cabinets, whereby all ministers and departmental heads periodically conduct government business in the bush to ensure direct exposure to remote communities’ views.

Visiting Numbulwar, on the Gulf of Carpentaria shore about 550km southeast of Darwin, Mr Gunner yesterday said winning back four of five bush seats Labor lost in 2012 was “crucial to us having credibility” as a government for all Territorians.

“It’s really important that we do as much as possible to make sure that locals have meaningful control of their lives. Because when we make decisions in Darwin or when we make decisions in Canberra, we get it a little bit right, but if we get it wrong we get it a lot wrong,” he said.

“If you make decisions locally, occasionally you’re going to make mistakes. But when you get it right you get a lot right, and when you get it wrong you get it a little wrong.

“We will avoid what is often a common mistake and that is, if someone makes a mistake locally, we strip that decision-making power back to Canberra or back to Darwin.”

He visited Numbulwar with incoming local Labor member Selena Uibo, who was until recently a Direct Instruction teacher at the community school. The method was introduced to the Territory by former education minister Peter Chandler under the previous CLP government.

Ms Uibo praised DI and said she would push for broader ­adoption. “I found that it was doing its job in terms of teaching young people who were not Eng­lish speakers the system and the context of learning English and breaking down and contextualising English as part of reading as well,” she said.

Numbulwar School Council chairwoman Hida Ngalmi said DI was “working”.

“We need our children to speak English and to learn how to put their sentences together properly … we don’t want them speaking Kriol all the time,” she said. The school also runs a program aimed at revitalising the Wubuy language.

Teachers Lauren Zaharani and Chris O’Neil also said they found the DI method useful.

“It’s my first experience (of DI) and I think it’s working,” said Mr O’Neil. “It’s certainly building their reading capacity.”

Year 8 students Shrell Manggurra and Alphias Numamurrdidi said they looked forward to going to high school and getting jobs.

Mr Gunner said he was pleased with the positive feedback about DI from Numbulwar.

“I’ve had reports from other communities where it hasn’t quite been the right thing,” he said. “We want to make sure that the schools, locally, can develop how they teach in their classrooms as suits their community — we want to give that flexibility.”

Mr Gunner said the priority should be educational outcomes.

“I don’t think anyone in the Territory should be satisfied with our current results. We have to, and must, do better,” he said.

Labor has committed $300,000 for each school to be spent on improvements to the education environment that would not otherwise be possible under the triaged system of ­maintenance.

Numbulwar School plans to use the money to move sand to create a larger play area and ­better carpark, and to purchase hydroponic equipment for older kids to use.

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal News Alert : New NT Labor Government hands back decision-making control to Indigenous communities

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