“The current system is clearly not working and the fragmentation and duplication of family support services is part of the problem, and these are largely delivered by non-Aboriginal organisations, which impairs their ability to work with the most vulnerable Aboriginal families,
The “most urgent system reform” was the establishment of a tripartite forum between the commonwealth and territory governments and the community sector, as recommended in the royal commission into child detention in the NT,
This would enable Aboriginal leaders to “plan in partnership with governments to do what is needed to fix the child protection and out-of-home care systems” and lead to the development of “a more structured intensive family support service system throughout the NT”.
John Paterson, chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory, yesterday criticised the “many system failures” that led to the attack, which included the fact the child had not been removed despite the family involved having been the subject of 52 notifications to Territory Families since 2002
Aboriginal medical providers in the Northern Territory have lashed departmental failings that saw a Tennant Creek toddler sexually abused, saying problems would continue unless family support services were delivered in conjunction with Indigenous-led organisations
Mr Paterson said this approach would require increased funding from both levels of government for prevention services and programs, to counter the fact that the NT government had “directed more than 80 per cent of new funding to the crisis end of the system”.
He said the “wholesale removal of children from vulnerable families is not the answer” but warned the system needed to shift “from statutory responses to better preventative services and programs”.
“We know that children in out-of-home care are more likely not to complete their education, to be unemployed and for women, more likely to have their children removed,” Mr Paterson said. “The issues are long term and systemic, which require long-term predictable funding from both levels of government as well as a commitment to the tripartite forum.”
The Australian can reveal that neither the NT government nor the territory’s Children’s Commissioner has sent Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion the full copy of a report into the matter, which, when delivered to Chief Minister Michael Gunner last week, was heavily redacted to cover up the department’s failings.
This is despite Senator Scullion describing it as “look(ing) like arse-covering of the highest order” and saying he had “asked the NT government for a copy of the full report, without redactions, to see what Michael Gunner is hiding”.
Senator Scullion did not respond to questions yesterday.
The inquiry’s redacted section includes the fact that older siblings of the toddler had also been subjected to attacks and that one of them had been taken away by a known sex offender after being left at home alone.
The toddler and another child have been removed from their parents’ care by authorities and a 24-year-old NT man charged with sexual assault, after the toddler underwent surgery for genital injuries, required a blood transfusion and tested positive for gonorrhoea.