NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Download Progress reports : One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed?

We made an election promise to get young people back on the right path and away from a life of crime, and that is what we are doing. We want Territory kids that get into trouble to become better people, not better criminals.

The Royal Commission recommendations and the Territory Labor Government’s reform plans have resulted in the most comprehensive overhaul of the child protection and youth justice systems in NT history.

This stands in stark contrast to the chaotic former CLP Government who cut funding to youth justice and had no plans.

To create generational change, we have been coordinating a Whole-of-Government response in partnership with Aboriginal organisations, non-government organisations, and the wider community.

We have made substantial progress, but there is more to be done and the Federal Government needs to come to the table and help fund solutions, not just identify the problems. If they are genuine about improving the protection and detention of children they need to help fund the solutions.”

Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield see full Press Release Part 2

Read over 60 NACCHO Royal Commission / Don Dale Articles published last 2 years 

The lack of substantive progress in the year since the commission reported highlights the need for accountability and independent implementation monitoring. Scepticism over the degree to which the commission will represent a moment of change is understandable. It is now more than 25 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

For many, the lack of progress since that 1998 Royal Commission casts doubt over the potential for this royal commission to achieve meaningful change to the lives of young indigenous Australians in the NT.

The Northern Territory government has allocated $70 million for the construction of two new detention centres in Darwin and Alice springs. It is expected that these will be completed in mid-2020.

The royal commission established that the present situation is unacceptable. UNICEF’s report reaffirmed this on the international human rights stage. Change in this area cannot be slow and cannot be incremental. We have the evidence, the commission has laid out the road map and now action is needed.

We call on the NT government to act to better protect the rights of the children within its care “

One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed? From The Convesation see Part 2 Below 

Part 1 Nt Government Press Release

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT Final Report was handed down one year ago.

The Territory Labor Government accepted the intent and direction of all 227 recommendations, and in April this year announced a historic $229 million investment over five years to overhaul the child protection and youth justice systems and implement the recommendations. The Federal Government is yet to allocate one additional dollar to implement the recommendations.

This investment coincided with the release of the implementation plan Safe, Thriving & Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families.

Download 

Safe, Thriving and Connected – Implementation Plan (1)

Today, the Territory Labor Government released the first progress report outlining substantial progress seven months into the reform journey.

Of the 218 recommendations that relate to action by the Government, 33 are now complete, 47 are well progressed, 122 are underway, and 16 not yet started.

Key achievements include:

  • Legislative reform to amend the Youth Justice Act to give Territory Families legal responsibility for youth justice and improve the wellbeing of young people in detention by prohibiting the use of restraints and limiting the use of force, isolation and strip searches for young people in detention
  • Completion of $10.48 million significant ‘fix and make safe’ works at Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres, including new and separate education and female accommodation facilities at the Alice Springs Centre
  • Design tender released for the development of new, purpose-built youth justice centres in Darwin and Alice Springs
  • Increased participation and improved partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and families to increase local decision-making and Aboriginal involvement in the child protection and youth justice systems
  • Reforming and streamlining the child protection processes. This includes the One Child One Case approach for frontline child protection staff, which will increase efficiency so that they can spend more time with vulnerable children and their families. Central Intake Services has also been redesigned to better manage the high demand of notifications and provide a more timely service to the community
  • Construction of the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre is underway – the first of 11 new centres to be built across the Northern Territory over the next five years
  • Development of a multi-agency Crossover Family Working Group to increase information-sharing and co-ordination of service response provided to young people and their families in the child protection and youth justice systems
  • Additional funding of $2.5 million to increase the independent Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s capacity to monitor and audit the child protection and youth justice systems The next major milestones will be delivered by 30 June next year. They include:
  • Open the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre
  • Launch and implement the Signs of Safety practice framework in the NT
  • Renovate the Alice Springs Local Court to include a multi-purpose court for matters relating to children and young people
  • Finalise the design tender for development of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre
  • Establish two more Child and Family Centres
  • Release and begin implementation of the Aboriginal Out-of-Home Care strategy
  • Commence Aboriginal foster and kinship carer programs
  • Draft and introduce the next round of priority legislative amendments
  • Commence the Community Youth Support Grants program and expand access to youth diversion
  • Finalise three more Local Decision-Making agreements
  • Continue improvements in youth detention operations, practice and staff training

RELATED INFORMATION:

The Progress Report along with an overview document, and a table outlining the 33 completed recommendations is available at: https://rmo.nt.gov.au/ (https://rmo.nt.gov.au/)

PART 2 One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed?

A change of government in the Northern Territory has done little or nothing to address the underlying issues relating to abusive practices inflicted on young offenders in detention – captured in images that sent shockwaves around Australia, and the wider world, more than two years ago.

FROM The Conversation 

On July 25, 2016, the ABC Four Corners investigative programme aired Australia’s Shame, a documentary featuring disturbing imagery and footage of children being abused while held in the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre in Darwin.

The evidence of abuse included accounts of detained boys who had been exposed to tear gas and the use of spit hoods while being held in isolation. This shone a national spotlight onto the violence perpetrated within juvenile justice institutions against some of society’s most vulnerable.

After the documentary aired, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced plans for a Royal Commission into the Northern Territory’s juvenile detention system Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

The then NT chief minister, Adam Giles, of the Country Liberal Party whose federal representatives vote with the Nationals, responded to the Don Dale allegations, stating: “I was shocked and disgusted…A community is judged by the way it treats its children.”

Since the Don Dale allegations emerged, there has been a change of NT government, with Michael Gunner now chief minister of a Labor government. A question emerges though: what changes have occurred for children in detention?

Michael Gunner, chief minister of the Northern Territory, with Nunggubuyu woman Selena Uibo, minister for education and workforce training, photographed in June. Gregory Roberts/AAP

One Year on

We have just marked the one-year anniversary of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

The royal commission confirmed that over the past decade, children detained in the NT had been mistreated, verbally abused, humiliated, isolated or left alone for long periods, among other human rights breaches.

At the sharp end of of rights breaches, the commission stated that many children held in detention had been assaulted by staff, who either wilfully ignored rules or were unaware of the rules. Either way, they clearly acted in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations and some domestic laws.


Read more: Why are so many Indigenous kids in detention in the NT in the first place?


The royal commission found that senior government members were aware of but chose to ignore these abusive practices. The report made substantial recommendations for reform.

One year on, Don Dale continues to be in operation despite the royal commission recommending it be closed as soon as possible. The ongoing use of the facility continues to arouse significant concerns among legal practitioners, human rights advocates and youth justice stakeholders. It raises a critical question of what has been achieved in the 12 months since the commission reported – and in over two years since the ABC exposed “Australia’s shame”.

What has been achieved?

The NT government asserts that “Territory Families (an NT government department) is undertaking extensive reform of youth detention”, with the development of “an operating model that better considers the needs of young people”.

It states that in 2017-2018 enhanced and specialised training has been completed, along with the hiring of 23 new recruits, the introduction of the ‘Australian Childhood Foundation’s Trauma Informed and Strength Based approach’ and Restorative Practice training.

These developments represent important progress but recent high-profile incidents at the Don Dale detention centre pose further serious questions about the extent to which the problems at the heart of the Royal Commission remain unaddressed.

The notorious Don Dale youth detention centre near Darwin pictured last week after a distubance. Glenn Campbell/AAP

Earlier this month, Don Dale dominated the media headlines again following reports of riots, fires within the detention centre and staff assaults. Reports stated that tear gas had been deployed. Other allegations reported include young women “showering and using the toilet under the watchful eye of security cameras which are recording and monitoring on site”.

These reports act as an unwelcome reminder of the continued broken state of NT’s juvenile justice system and the ongoing and urgent need for change to ensure better protections for young people held in detention.

The continued failure to protect children’s rights

It is nearly 30 years since Australia ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet we still do not have a national strategy or measures to ensure the implementation of appropriate protection of children’s rights in Australia.

Serious concerns about the state of children’s rights in Australia were highlighted in the latest national coalition NGO report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Report, published by UNICEF on November 1, draws on 58 consultations with 527 children and young people in 30 locations around Australia. Its findings draw significant attention to Australia’s gross violations of the rights of children held in detention.


Read more: Abuse in youth detention is not restricted to the Northern Territory


The report makes a substantial number of recommendations  that build and give national standing to those previously made by the royal commission.

They include: that the government immediately review and amend youth justice legislation, policies and practices to ensure that all children are treated consistent with the UNCRC and the Beijing Rules. It also recommended that governments prioritise detention centres where children are placed as requiring immediate action as part of the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Another recommendation was that all governments prohibit the use of solitary confinement other than as a last resort; prohibit the use of restraints against children and routine strip searches, unless all other options have been exhausted. Importantly, the report also recommends that governments ensure the existence of child specific, independent inspectorates and complaint mechanisms.

The Children’s Report explicitly calls for governments to be held accountable to the children and young people affected by state failings in the provision of juvenile justice, and calls out the failure to implement the recommendations of the royal commission.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health #SistersInside #imaginingabolition : Our CEO Pat Turner address to @SistersInside 9th International Conference Decolonisation is not a metaphor’: Abolition for First Nations women

NACCHO supports the abolition of prisons for First Nations women. The incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women should be a last resort measure.

It is time to consider a radical restructuring of the relationship between Aboriginal people and the state.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities must be part of the design, decision-making and implementation of government funded policies, programs and services that aim to reduce – or abolish –the imprisonment of our women.

Increased government investment is needed in community-led prevention and early intervention programs designed to reduce violence against women and provide therapeutic services for vulnerable women and girls. Programs and services that are holistic and culturally safe, delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

NACCHO calls for a full partnership approach in the Closing the Gap Refresh, so that Aboriginal people are at the centre of decision-making, design and delivery of policies that impact on them.

We are seeking a voice to the Commonwealth Parliament, so we have a say over the laws that affect us. “

Pat Turner NACCHO CEO Speaking at  Sisters Inside 9th International Conference 15 Nov

See Pats full speaking notes below

Theme of the day: ‘Decolonisation is not a metaphor’: Abolition for First Nations women

About Sisters Inside

  • Sisters Inside responds to criminalised women and girls’ needs holistically and justly. We work alongside women and girls to build them up and to give them power over their own lives. We support women and girls to address their priorities and needs. We also advocate on behalf of women with governments and within the legal system to try to achieve fairer outcomes for criminalised women, girls and their children.
  • At Sisters Inside, we call this ‘walking the journey together’. We are a community and we invite you to be part of a brighter future for Queensland’s most disadvantaged and marginalised women and children.

Sisters Inside Website Website 

In Picture above Dr Jackie Huggins, Pat Turner, Jacqui Katona, Dr Chelsea Bond and June Oscar, Aunty Debbie Sandy and chaired by Melissa Lucashenko.

Panel: Why abolition for First Nations Women?

Panel members:

  • Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA (Co-Chair, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples)
  • Pat Turner AM (CEO, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation)
  • Dr Chelsea Bond (Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland)
  • Jacqui Katona (Activist & Sessional Lecturer (Moondani Balluk), Victoria University)
  1. Imprisonment, colonialism, and statistics
  • The Australian justice system was founded on a white colonial model that consistently fails and seeks to control and supress Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Indigenous peoples are overrepresented in the prison system:
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are 12.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians.[i]
    • Our women represent the fastest growing group within prison populations and are 21 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous women.[ii]
  • Imprisonment is another dimension to the historical and contemporary Aboriginal experience of colonial removal, institutionalisation and punishment.[iii]
  • Our experiences of incarceration are not only dehumanising. They contribute to our ongoing disempowerment, intergenerational trauma, social disadvantage, and burden of disease at an individual as well as community level.
  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experiences of imprisonment
  • The Change the Record report found that most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who enter prison systems:
    • are survivors of physical and sexual violence, and that these experiences are most likely to have contributed to their imprisonment; and
    • struggle with housing insecurity, poverty, mental illness, disability and the effects of trauma.
  • Family violence must be understood as both a cause and an effect of social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma.
  • Risk factors for family violence include poor housing and overcrowding, substance misuse, financial difficulties and unemployment, poor physical and mental health, and disability.[iv]
  • Imprisoning women affects the whole community. Children are left without their mothers. The whole community suffers.
  1. Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial
  • The Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial, of which NACCHO is a member, provides a grim example of the link between trauma, suicide, incarceration and the social determinants of health.
  • The rate of suicide in the Kimberley is seven times that of other Australian regions.
  • Nine out of ten suicides involve Aboriginal people.
  • Risk factors include imprisonment, poverty, homelessness and family violence.
  • Western Australia has the highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment.
  1. Imprisonment and institutional racism
  • The overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in prison systems is not simply a law-and-order issue.[v] The trends of over-policing and imprisoning of Indigenous peoples are examples of institutional racism inherent in the justice system. [vi]
  • Institutional racism affects our everyday encounters with housing, health, employment and justice systems.
  • Institutional racism is not only discriminatory; it entrenches intergenerational trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage.[vii]
  • Exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Indigenous people. We are twice as likely to die by suicide or be hospitalised for mental health or behavioural reasons.
  1. Ways forward see opening quote Pat Turner 
  2. The role of ACCHSs in supporting Indigenous women

Increasing access to the health care that people need

  • Racism is a key driver of ill-health for Indigenous people, impacting not only on our access to health services but our treatment and outcomes when in the health system.
  • Institutional racism in mainstream services means that Indigenous people do not always receive the care that we need from Australia’s hospital and health system.
  • It has been our experience that many Indigenous people are uncomfortable seeking help from mainstream services for cultural, geographical, and language disparities as well as financial costs associated with accessing services.
  • The combination of these issues with racism means that we are less likely to access services for physical and mental health conditions, and many of our people have undetected health issues like poor hearing, eyesight and chronic conditions.

Early detection of health issues that are risk factors for incarceration

  • The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health model provides answers for addressing the social determinants of health, that is, the causal factors contributing to the overrepresentation of Indigenous women’s experiences of family violence and imprisonment.
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisations should be funded to undertake comprehensive, regular health check of Aboriginal women so that risk factors are identified and addressed early.

Taking a holistic approach to health needs and social determinants of health and incarceration

  • Overall, the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health model recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people require a greater level of holistic healthcare due to the trauma and dispossession of colonisation which is linked with our poor health outcomes.
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health is more sensitive to the needs of the whole individual, spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically.
  • The Aboriginal Community Controlled Model is responsive to the changing health needs of a community because it of its small, localised and agile nature. This is unlike large-scale hospitals or private practices which can become dehumanised, institutionalised and rigid in their systems.
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health is scalable to the needs of the community, as it is inextricably linked with the wellbeing and growth of the community.
  • The evidence shows that Aboriginal Community Controlled organisations are best placed to deliver holistic, culturally safe prevention and early intervention services to Indigenous women.
  1. About NACCHO
  • NACCHO is the national peak body representing 145 ACCHOs across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues. In 1997, the Federal Government funded NACCHO to establish a Secretariat in Canberra, greatly increasing the capacity of Aboriginal peoples involved in ACCHOs to participate in national health policy development.
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health first arose in the early 1970s in response to the failure of the mainstream health system to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the aspirations of Aboriginal peoples for self-determination.
  • An ACCHO is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate health care to the community which controls it, through a locally elected Board of Management. ACCHOs form a critical part of the Indigenous health infrastructure, providing culturally safe care with an emphasis on the importance of a family, community, culture and long-term relationships.
  • Our members provide about three million episodes of care per year for about 350,000 people. In very remote areas, our services provided about one million episodes of care in a twelve-month period. Collectively, we employ about 6,000 staff (most of whom are Indigenous), which makes us the single largest employer of Indigenous people in the country.

[i] https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/over-representation

[ii] Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record Coalition, 2017, Over-represented and overlooked: the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s growing over-imprisonment: NB: The foreword is written by Vicki Roach, a presenter in the next session of the Abolition conference

[iii] file://nfs001/Home$/doris.kordes/Downloads/748-Article%20Text-1596-5-10-20180912.pdf – John Rynne and Peter Cassematis, 2015, Crime Justice Journal, Assessing the Prison Experience for Australian First Peoples: A prospective Research Approach, Vol 4, No 1:96-112.

[iv] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2018. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. Canberra.

[v] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/20/indigenous-incarceration-turning-the-tide-on-colonisations-cruel-third-act

[vi] ‘A culture of disrespect: Indigenous peoples and Australian public institutions’.

[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/12/indigenous-women-caught-in-a-broken-system-commissioner-says

NACCHO Aboriginal Youth Health : AMSANT calls for urgent response to Don Dale crisis and a stronger focus on Aboriginal-led programs : Incarceration is not a road to rehabilitation.

We are calling for better and more effective engagement with Aboriginal leadership in dealing with this crisis

AMSANT’s offer to partner in brokering solutions still stands and we urge Territory Families to engage with us and other Aboriginal leaders more closely.

Moving to a youth development approach within these facilities, as recommended by the Royal Commission, is not being approached with the urgency required.

More should be occurring by this stage down the track, such as the establishment of an elders visiting and mentoring program, which is an obvious gap at present

We need the government to work in partnership with us.

Ultimately, a stronger focus on Aboriginal-led programs that support children and their families in communities, so they don’t end up in detention in the first place, is where we need to be

AMSANT CEO, John Paterson

Full Press Release AMSANT-Media-release-Urgent-action-required-over-Don-Dale

 ” It has been twelve months since the Royal Commission handed down its report into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory.

This week’s disturbing events are further proof that locking children and young people up in places like Don Dale does not prepare them for life as a responsible adult.

Incarceration is not a road to rehabilitation.

Aboriginal children and young people represent upwards of 95% of detainees in NT youth detention facilities. In recent times Aboriginal children and young people made up 100% of detainees in Don Dale.”

Making Justice Work Press Release Download read in full

Making Justice Work

“The Royal Commission final report recommendations aligns with the path of reform that we have undertaken since coming to Government, including sweeping alcohol reforms announced yesterday.”

 217 of the recommendations relate to action by the Northern Territory Government, which have been mapped into a framework of 17 work programs.

There are another 10 recommendations which we accept the intent and direction of, however they require actions by the Commonwealth Government and other organisations.

“We need coordinated effort to make effective, meaningful and generational change to our youth justice and child protection systems. Now more than ever, we need the support of the Commonwealth Government working in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government and the Aboriginal-controlled and non-government sector.”

March 2018 Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield announced that the Territory Labor Government will accept the intent and direction of all 227 Royal Commission recommendations, delivered in its final report late last year.

Download 35 Page NACCHO PDF

Download NT Government responses to 227 NTRC recommendations

Part 1 Media Coverage background from the Guardian

Another violent incident at the Don Dale detention centre has sparked widespread criticism of the Northern Territory government for continuing to operate the maligned facility, a year after the royal commission called for its closure.

The NT government said on Wednesday it couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a repeat of the previous night, after young detainees allegedly attacked a staff member, stole keys and burned down the facility’s school room.

It was the second time in three weeks that young detainees had stolen keys and caused damage, and was the latest in a long line of violence at the centre in recent years.

All 25 young people are now being held in the Darwin police watch house, and their lawyers are applying for immediate bail, saying it is an unsafe environment, the ABC reported.

Reports that the centre has been closed indefinitely were incorrect, Guardian Australia has confirmed, and it’s understood police are likely to return the unburned majority of the centre to the control of Territory Families once inspections are completed.

Part 2 AMSANT Press Release continued 

Download full Press Release HERE

AMSANT-Media-release-Urgent-action-required-over-Don-Dale

AMSANT today called for urgent change to the Northern Territory Government’s approach to youth justice reform following another serious incident at the Don Dale Detention Centre.

“AMSANT is extremely concerned about the welfare of the children and staff currently held or working in the detention facilities”, said AMSANT CEO, John Paterson.

“The fact that police were called and tear gas was used and that the children are now languishing in the Darwin Watch House indicates that what is currently being done at Don Dale is not working.

“At present there are serious questions over whether the Northern Territory Government has in place the capacity to manage the change processes required for these reforms.

“There remain significant issues around the training and numbers of staff, and an ongoing situation of children being subject to long periods of lock-down.

“It’s a pressure cooker situation that will keep resulting in serious incidents such as occurred this week .

“Of the children in detention at least half are in the child protection system and many are on remand.

“We call for urgent action for the release of young people held on remand (not yet sentenced) with non-serious offences to be returned to community and families as a matter of priority.

“Moving to a youth development approach within these facilities, as recommended by the Royal Commission, is not being approached with the urgency required.

“More should be occurring by this stage down the track, such as the establishment of an elders visiting and mentoring program, which is an obvious gap at present.

“With new facilities not due to open till 2021, this is too long to wait for the changes needed.

“AMSANT is also concerned that the government has decided to plan for only two, expensive, urban based facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs.

We have advocated for smaller, regionally based facilities that will enable the engagement of families in the development of their children.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and local #Adoption : @CAACongress @SNAICC and @AbSecNSW streamed live today August 14 from Canberra , public hearing local adoption : Plus @AMSANTaus full submission

 

We are aware that this Inquiry was called in the wake of recent media coverage relating to the issue of adoption of Aboriginal children, including the Minister’s own comments that adoption policies should be changed to allow more Aboriginal children to be adopted by non-Aboriginal families.

AMSANT would like to emphasise the importance of informed discussion on this issue and draws the Committee’s attention to the following, put forward in March of this year as part of a joint statement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in response to media coverage:

We need to have a more rational and mature discussion aimed at achieving better social, community, family and individual outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. We must work to ensure that the drivers of child protection intervention are addressed, rather than continuing with a poorly designed and resourced system that reacts when it’s too late, after families have already reached breaking point and children have been harmed1

See Full AMSANT Submission Part 2 Below

 

“As detailed in our submission, AbSec is strongly opposed to the coerced adoption of Aboriginal children by statutory child protection systems. Adoption orders are characterised by the absence of key safeguards to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal children.

They fail to uphold an Aboriginal child’s fundamental rights to family, community and culture, and the importance of these connections to our life long wellbeing and resilience. They are not in the best interests of our children.

In particular, it must be noted that past policies of the forced separation of Aboriginal children and young people from their families, communities, culture and Country is regarded as a key contributor to this ongoing over-representation. It is not a solution.

AbSec, alongside QATSICPP and SNAAICC, call for the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led approaches to the care of our children “

ABSEC Submission Download Here

ABSEC Adoption submission

SNAICC Submission Download Here

Snaicc Adoption submission

 Part 1 Next public hearing for local adoption inquiry

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs will hold a public hearing into a nationally consistent framework for local adoption in Australia.

The Committee will hear from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care – National Voice for our Children (also known as SNAICC), and the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW) (also known as AbSec).

A detailed program for the hearing is available from the inquiry webpage (www.aph.gov.au/localadoption).

Public hearing details: Tuesday 14 August, 4.40pm (approx) to 6.00pm, Committee Room 1R2, Parliament House, Canberra

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care) – National Voice for our Children

AbSec – the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW)

The hearings will be streamed live in audio format at aph.gov.au/live.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearing however there will be limited seating available.

Further information about the inquiry, including the terms of reference and submissions published so far, is available on the inquiry webpage.

Part 2 AMSANT submission to The Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs: Inquiry into local adoption

AMSANT welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to the Inquiry into Local Adoption. As the peak body for the community controlled Aboriginal primary health care sector in the Northern Territory AMSANT advocates for equity in health, focusing on supporting the provision of high quality comprehensive primary health care services for Aboriginal communities.

This submission provides an overview of AMSANT’s position in relation to Aboriginal children in Child Protection, including Out of Home Care (OOHC) and potential adoption, and also responds directly to Terms of Reference 1 and 2 of the Inquiry.

Overview

AMSANT embraces a social and cultural determinants of health perspective which recognises that health and wellbeing are profoundly affected by a range of interacting economic, social and cultural factors. Accordingly, we advocate for a holistic and child-centred approach to Child Protection that seeks first and foremost to address the underlying causes of abuse and neglect through prevention and early intervention.

We are aware that this Inquiry was called in the wake of recent media coverage relating to the issue of adoption of Aboriginal children, including the Minister’s own comments that adoption policies should be changed to allow more Aboriginal children to be adopted by non-Aboriginal families.

AMSANT would like to emphasise the importance of informed discussion on this issue and draws the Committee’s attention to the following, put forward in March of this year as part of a joint statement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in response to media coverage:

We need to have a more rational and mature discussion aimed at achieving better social, community, family and individual outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. We must work to ensure that the drivers of child protection intervention are addressed, rather than continuing with a poorly designed and resourced system that reacts when it’s too late, after families have already reached breaking point and children have been harmed1.

As captured in this statement it is essential that efforts to improve outcomes for children and families in contact with the Child Protection System stem from an understanding that abuse and neglect of children are most often the result of deeper family conflict or dysfunction, arising from social, economic and/or psychological roots.

In cases where children do need to be removed from family, decisions about what kind of placement, including adoption, is most appropriate for that child should occur in line with the following principles:

 Child-centred approach that allows for children to have a say in decisions that affect them

 OOHC for Aboriginal children delivered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Services (ACCSs)

 Adoption of a set of national standards for the rights of children in care

 Maintaining connection to family, community, culture and country, including prioritising adoption by extended family or if that is not possible, Aboriginal families who are not related.

 Improved support for kinship carers

1 See full statement here: http://www.snaicc.org.au/snaicc-statement-14-march-2018-joint-statement-aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-leaders-recent-media-coverage-around-child-protection-children/ Inquiry into local adoption

Stability and permanency for children in out-of-home care with local adoption as a viable option

Transition of OOHC to Aboriginal Community Control

Evidence clearly demonstrates that culturally competent services lead to increased access to services by Aboriginal children and their families2. Aboriginal led and managed services are well-placed to overcome the many barriers that exist for Aboriginal families and children to access services3, such as:

 a lack of understanding of the OOHC system and how to access advice and support;

 a mistrust of mainstream legal, medical, community and other support services;

 an understanding of the cultural or community pressures not to seek support, in particular perceptions of many Aboriginal families that any contact with the service system will result in the removal of their child4.

As the evaluation of child and family service delivery through the Communities for Children program identifies, “Indigenous specific services offer Indigenous families a safe, comfortable, culturally appropriate environment that is easier to access and engage with.”5 In addition, they are also going to be better at locating, training and supporting Aboriginal foster carers. This provides the opportunity to increase the quality of OOHC for Aboriginal children at significant lesser cost than the current “professional” foster care arrangements that are too often being put in place for Aboriginal children.

Following the lead of NSW, who in 2012 commenced a process of transfer to community control, there is a project currently being undertaken by the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT), in collaboration with the NT Government, to develop a strategy for the transition of OOHC to Aboriginal community control in the NT. Victoria has also confirmed that all OOHC service provision for Aboriginal children and families will be provided by community controlled services, with Queensland and Western Australia both exploring similar shifts.

AMSANT supports APO NT’s vision that Aboriginal children and young people in out of home care, as a priority, are placed with Kinship or Aboriginal foster carers and supported to retain culture, identity and language.

Strengthening the voice of children in decisions that affect them

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states; “Children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account” 6.

There is a need for Child Protection proceedings to be more responsive to the child’s aspirations and needs. An approach taken in Family Law known as child-inclusive family dispute resolution has been shown to produce better outcomes for families with parenting disputes, including greater stability of care and contact patterns, and greater contentment of children with those arrangements7. Central to this approach is the use of an independent, specially trained child health professional to conduct interviews before any decision is made about them.

There is no reason why a similar approach couldn’t be taken in terms of long term care arrangements for children but with specific provisions for continuing contact with family and community.

Maintaining connection with family, kin and country

In line with international convention, Aboriginal children and families have the right to enjoy their cultures in community with their cultural groups (UNCRC, article 30; UNDRIP, articles 11-13). This right has been enshrined in these conventions to reflect the wealth of evidence that show culture, language and connection to country are protective factors for at-risk communities8.

The Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Placement Principle (ATSIPP) has been developed to ensure recognition of the value of culture and the vital role of Aboriginal children, families and communities to participate in decisions about the safety and wellbeing of children.

Despite the commitment from all States and Territories to fully implement this principle under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, in 2015 only 34.7% of Aboriginal children in the NT were placed in care in accordance with the Child Placement principle, compared with a national average of 65.6%, and only 3.3% of children were placed with relatives or kin, compared with 48.8% at the national average9.

This reflects the need for better practice relating to kinship care in the NT including;

– early identification of kinship networks when the child first comes to the attention of Child Protection, rather than when a crisis point has been reached;

– increased access to supports and training for kinship carers (see below);

– support services to birth parents to strengthen the option for reunification;

– development of cultural support plans for all Aboriginal children to ensure meaningful connection to family, culture and community is maintained.

Improved support for kinship carers

A lack of adequate support for kinship carers can contribute to placement breakdown, and escalation for children and young people in the statutory OOHC system, including entry into residential care.

Conversely, home based care and placement stability are associated with a range of better health, education, economic and wellbeing outcomes.

Improved access to the following would support kinship carers in maintaining more stable placements for the children in their care:

– Ensure a comprehensive assessment of the child has been conducted and a care plan, incorporating cultural supports for Aboriginal children, is developed and fully implemented.

– Ensure access to training courses across a broad range of issues (parenting solutions, behavioural management, understanding and responding to trauma etc.)

– Increased financial support to bring payments in line with foster carers.

It is important to note that even for many long-term, stable care arrangements, including for children in kinship care, adoption may not be seen as a viable option due to the loss of supports that would be incurred in transitioning from ‘carer’ to ‘parent’.

In this way it is clear that the type of placement reflects neither stability and permanency nor wellbeing for the child, but rather the particular vulnerabilities and needs of the child and their carer. Adequately meeting these needs should remain the paramount focus of any efforts to create stable, loving homes for children in care.

Appropriate guiding principles for a national framework or code for local adoptions within Australia

In order to ensure that the rights and needs of the child remain central to all Care and Protection operations, AMSANT advocates that Australia adopt a set of national standards that set out the rights of children in care, which would be modelled on the Council of Europe’s 2005 Recommendation on the Rights of Children Living in Residential Institutions10.

This recommendations sets out a list of basic principles, specific rights of children living in residential institutions and guidelines and quality standards in view of protecting the rights of children living in residential institutions, irrespective of the reasons for and the nature of the placement. It advocates that the placement of a child should remain the exception and that the placement must guarantee full enjoyment of the child’s fundamental rights.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #YouthJustice : Download @aihw report : Highlighting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people under youth justice supervision over-represented in treatment for alcohol and other drug use

” Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people were over-represented among the study cohort. Of the just over 17,000 young people who received either an alcohol or other drug treatment episode or youth justice supervision, 3 in 10 were Indigenous.

In particular, Indigenous young people were over-represented among the ‘dual-service’ client population. During the 4-year period, Indigenous young people were 14 times as likely to experience both youth justice supervision and drug and alcohol services as their non-Indigenous counterparts.” 

Extract from AIHW Overlap between youth justice supervision and alcohol and other drug treatment services: 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2016

AIHW INFO PAGE and Data etc 

Download Copy HERE

aihw-youth justice system

1 in 3 young people under youth justice supervision receive treatment for alcohol and other drug use

Young people under youth justice supervision are 30 times as likely to receive an alcohol or other drug treatment service as young Australians generally, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Overlap between youth justice supervision and alcohol and other drug treatment services, shows 1 in 3 young people aged 10–17 under youth justice supervision during the 4 years to June 2016 also received alcohol and other drug treatment services at some point during the same period.

‘Today’s report highlights the considerable overlap between young people under youth justice supervision and those receiving drug and alcohol treatment services. Through bringing together data on both services, we have been able to determine that there were just over 2,500 ‘dual service’ clients – that is, young people that accessed both youth justice supervision and drug and alcohol services within the study period’ said AIHW spokesperson Anna Ritson.

Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) young people under youth justice supervision received treatment for cannabis as their principal drug of concern, 1 in 12 (8%) for alcohol and 1 in 20 (5%) for amphetamines. Less than 1% of young Australians in the general population received treatment for each of these principal drugs of concern.

Dual-service clients were, overall, more likely than other young people in the study to receive multiple alcohol and other drug treatment services and have multiple drugs of concern.

‘For dual service clients, almost half (47%) received 2 or more alcohol or other drug treatment episodes over the 4-year study period. However, where the young person was not under youth justice supervision, this falls to just under 1 in 5 (19%),’ Ms Ritson said.

Today’s report builds on established evidence about the overlaps that exist among young people who experience child protection, youth justice supervision, homelessness, mental health disorders, and use of alcohol and other drugs.

The high level of overlap between clients of the youth justice and alcohol and other drug treatment service sectors indicates a need for more integrated services and person-centered service delivery, to reduce future reliance on health and welfare services and improve outcomes for young people.

Summary

Some young people are vulnerable and experience multiple levels of disadvantage. Evidence shows that overlaps exist among young people who experience child protection, youth justice supervision, homelessness, mental health disorders, and problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. Understanding the pathways and interactions with the health and welfare sectors for these young people is crucial for effective service delivery and targeted early intervention services.

Despite the relationship between youth offending and the use of alcohol and other drugs, data about the overlap between the services provided to young people by these 2 sectors in Australia has not been previously available.

This report presents information on young people aged 10–17 who were under youth justice supervision (both in the community, and in detention) and/or received an alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment service between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2016. Those who received both these services are referred to in this report as dual service clients.

Young people under youth justice supervision were 30 times as likely as the young Australian population to receive an alcohol and other drug treatment service

Of young people who were under youth justice supervision from 1 July 2012 to

30 June 2016, 1 in 3 (33%) also received an AOD treatment service at some point during the same 4-year period, compared with just over 1% of the general Australian population of the same age.

Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) young people under youth justice supervision received treatment for a principal drug of concern of cannabis, 1 in 12 (8%) for alcohol, and 1 in 20 (5%) for amphetamines. Less than 1% of young Australians in the general population of the same age received an AOD treatment for each of these principal drugs of concern. This means that compared with the Australian population, young people under youth justice supervision were 33 times as likely to receive an AOD treatment for cannabis, 27 times as likely to be treated for alcohol, and more than 50 times as likely to be treated for amphetamines.

Young people who received an alcohol and other drug treatment service were 30 times as likely as the Australian population to be under youth justice supervision

Of young people who received an AOD treatment service, 1 in 5 (21%) were also under youth justice supervision at some point during the same 4-year period, compared with 0.7% of the Australian population of the same age. About 1 in 4 (26%) young people who received an AOD treatment as a diversion (police and court referrals) in 2012–13 subsequently spent time under youth justice supervision within 3 years.

Young people who received an alcohol and other drug treatment service for volatile solvents or amphetamines were the most likely to also have youth justice supervision

Of the 11,981 young people who received an AOD treatment service, those whose principal drug of concern was volatile solvents or amphetamines were the most likely to have also been under youth justice supervision.

Dual service clients were more likely than those who only received alcohol and other drug treatment services to have multiple treatment episodes and drugs of concern

Nearly half (47%) of dual service clients received more than 1 AOD treatment episode in the 4-year period, compared with about 1 in 5 (19%) of those who received only an AOD treatment service. One in 5 (20%) dual service clients received services for multiple principal drugs of concern, compared with 4% of those who received only an AOD treatment service.

Young Indigenous Australians were 14 times as likely as their non-Indigenous counterparts to receive both services

Young Indigenous Australians were over-represented among the dual service clients—

2% of young Indigenous Australians had contact with both services during the 4-year period, compared with 0.1% of non-Indigenous young people.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health News Alert : John Paterson CEO of @AMSANTaus demands #NT Government ‘Reform system’ to stop Indigenous child abuse

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

As published in the Australian

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.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NTRC Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children @AMSANTaus welcomes historic investment of $229.6 million over the next five years

AMSANT welcomes this plan to address the needs of vulnerable children and families. This announcement is consistent with the Royal Commission and the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory’s recommendations for a public health approach to focus on greater investment in early childhood and early intervention.

We now need the Commonwealth Government of Australia to work with us and look forward to collaboration through the Tripartite Forum.”

John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) said that the peak body welcomes this announcement.

Read over 60 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NTRC articles

 ” We have consulted and engaged with the sectors widely, and we will continue to do so as meaningful and long-term reform cannot be achieved by Government alone,

Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal peak bodies particularly have an important and central role in shaping the design and delivery of local reforms, as Aboriginal children are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice systems.

Together we will achieve the generational change that children, young people and families in the Northern Territory want and deserve.”

Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said that the implementation plan has been informed through hundreds of hours of consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, community sector organisations and representatives of NT government agencies.

The Territory Labor Government today announced that it will invest an historic $229.6 million over the next five years to continue the overhaul of the child protection and youth justice systems, and implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.

Download 1

Safe Thriving and Connected – Overview of the Plan

Download 2

Safe, Thriving and Connected – Implementation Plan

The Royal Commission delivered 227 recommendations in its final report late last year, and the NT Government accepted the intent and direction of all recommendations.

The 217 recommendations which relate to action by the NT Government have been allocated to 17 work programs. Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield today released the five-year implementation plan Safe, Thriving and Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families.

This Whole-of-Government approach will drive the changes to build safer communities.

“We are investing in generational change to create a brighter future for all Territory children and families. Too many of our vulnerable children are caught in the child protection and youth justice systems, and become adult criminals,” Ms Wakefield said.

“This record investment over five years will fund the systemic and long-term changes that are needed to put our children and families back on the right path.

“The implementation plan will deliver a Child Protection system that acts to support families early.

The plan will also deliver a Youth Justice system that will hold young people accountable for their actions while providing them with the best supports to make positive life choices.

“Health care, housing, education, family support, police and justice services, are all part of the implementation plan as they are crucial to tackling the root causes of child protection and youth justice.”

The funding includes $66.9 million over five years for a new information technology system that will enable better protection of children from abuse and improve youth justice.

The need for this new client information system and data brokerage service was highlighted again most recently in the review of an alleged sexual assault of a child in Tenant Creek.

“This new information system is crucial to help staff make informed decisions about children and keep them safe from abuse and harm. It will also link with health and police databases to allow for coordinated action,” Ms Wakefield said.

Other investments include:

  • $71.4 Million to replace Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres
  • $2.8 Million over four years to improve care and protection practice
  • $5.4 Million over four years to transform out-of-home care
  • $11.4 Million over four years to expand the number of Child and Family Centres from six to seventeen
  • $9.9 Million over four years to divert young people from crime and stop future offending
  • $22.9 Million over five years to improve youth detention operations and reduce recidivism
  • $8.9 Million over four years to empower local decision making and community led reform

Ms Wakefield said that the implementation plan has been informed through hundreds of hours of consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, community sector organisations and representatives of NT government agencies.

“The Territory Labor Government has been reforming the child protection and youth justice systems since August 2016.

We have consulted and engaged with the sectors widely, and we will continue to do so as meaningful and long-term reform cannot be achieved by Government alone,” she said.

“Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal peak bodies particularly have an important and central role in shaping the design and delivery of local reforms, as Aboriginal children are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice systems.

“Together we will achieve the generational change that children, young people and families in the Northern Territory want and deserve.”

NACCHO Media Alerts : Top 10 Current Aboriginal Health News Stories to keep you up to date

1. Aboriginal sexual health: The Australian : Was the syphilis epidemic preventable ? NACCHO responds

2.Royal Flying Doctors Service extra 4-year funding $84 million Mental Health and Dental Services

3.Nurses PAQ continues political membership campaign spreading false and misleading information about our cultural safety

4.AMSANT has called for re-doubled efforts to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the care and protection of children in partnership with NT Aboriginal leaders

5.Dialysis facilities worth $17 million are sitting padlocked, empty and unused in WA’s north

6.ALRC Report into Incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

7. Minister Ken Wyatt : Listening to Indigenous Needs: Healthy Ears Program Extended with $29.4 commitment

8.Tangentyere Alice Springs Women’s Family Safety Group visits Canberra

9.Minister Ken Wyatt launches our NACCHO RACGP National Guide to a preventative health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

10. Your guide to a healthy Easter : #Eggs-actly  

 

1.Aboriginal sexual health: The Australian : Was the syphilis epidemic preventable ? NACCHO responds

“These (STIs) are preventable diseases and we need increased testing, treatment plans and a ­culturally appropriate health ­education campaign that focuses resources on promoting safe-sex messages delivered to at-risk ­communities by our trained Aboriginal workforce,”

Pat Turner, chief executive of peak body the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, is adamant about this.

Read full article in Easter Monday The Australian or Part B below

2.Royal Flying Doctors Service extra 4-year funding $84 million Mental Health and Dental Services

Read full press release here

 

3.Nurses PAQ continues political membership campaign spreading false and misleading information about cultural safety

SEE NACCHO Response

SEE an Indigenous Patients Response

See Nurses PAQ Misleading and false campaign

4. AMSANT  has called for re-doubled efforts to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the care and protection of children in partnership with NT Aboriginal leaders

Read full AMSANT press Release

Listen to interview with Donna Ah Chee

Press Release @NACCHOChair calls on the Federal Government to work with us to keep our children safe

#WeHaveTheSolutions Plus comments from CEO’s @Anyinginyi @DanilaDilba

4.Dialysis facilities worth $17 million are sitting padlocked, empty and unused in WA’s north

Read full Story HERE

6.ALRC Report into Incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People;

Read Download Full Transcript

Senator Patrick Dodson

Download the report from HERE

Community Groups Call For Action on Indigenous Incarceration Rates

7. Minister Ken Wyatt : Listening to Indigenous Needs: Healthy Ears Program Extended with $29.4 commitment

The Australian Government has committed $29.4 million to extend the Healthy Ears – Better Hearing, Better Listening Program, to help ensure tens of thousands more Indigenous children and young adults grow up with good hearing and the opportunities it brings.

Read Press Release HEAR

8.Tangentyere Alice Springs Women’s Family Safety Group visits Canberra

This week the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group from Alice Springs were in Canberra. They shared with politicians, their own solutions for their own communities, and they are making an enormous difference.
Big thanks to all the Tangentyere women who made it to Canberra.

Read Download the Press Release

TANGENTYERE WOMEN’S FAMILY SAFETY GROUP (FED

9. Minister Ken Wyatt launches our NACCHO RACGP National Guide to a preventative health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Read press releases and link to Download the National Guide

10. Your guide to a  healthy Easter : #Eggs-actly  

And finally hope you had a Happy Easter all you mob ! After you have enjoyed your chocolate eggs and hot cross buns , this is how much exercise you will require to work of those Easter treats .

For medical and nutrition advice please check with your ACCHO Doctor , Health Promotion / Lifestyle teams or one of our ACCHO nutritionists

 

Part B Full Text The Australian Article Easter Monday

There is no reason it should have happened, especially not in a first-world country like Australia, but it has: indigenous communities in the country’s north are in the grip of wholly treatable sexually transmitted diseases.

In the case of syphilis, it is an epidemic — West Australian Labor senator Patrick Dodson ­described it as such, in a fury, when health department bureaucrats mumbled during Senate estimates about having held a few “meetings” on the matter.

There have been about 2000 syphilis notifications — with at least 13 congenital cases, six of them fatal — since the outbreak began in northern Queensland in 2011, before spreading to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and, finally, South Australia.

What’s worse, it could have been stopped. James Ward, of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, wrote in mid-2011 that there had been a “downward trend” over several years and it was likely at that point that the “elimination of syphilis is achievable within indigenous ­remote communities”.

But governments were slow to react, and Ward is now assisting in the design of an $8.8 million emergency “surge” treatment approach on the cusp of being rolled out in Cairns and Darwin, with sites in the two remaining affected states yet to be identified.

It will be an aggressive strategy — under previous guidelines, you had to have been identified during a health check as an active carrier of syphilis to be treated. Now, anyone who registers antibodies for the pathogen during a blood prick test, whether actively carrying syphilis or not, will receive an ­immediate penicillin injection in an attempt to halt the infection’s geographical spread.

This is key: the high mobility of indigenous people in northern and central Australia means pathogens cross jurisdictions with ­impunity. Australian Medical ­Association president Michael Gannon calls syphilis a “clever bacterium that will never go away”, warning that “bugs don’t respect state borders”.

Olga Havnen, one of the Northern Territory’s most respected public health experts, points out that many people “will have connections and relations from the Torres Strait through to the Kimberley and on to Broome — and it’s only a matter of seven or eight kilometres between PNG and the northernmost islands there in the Torres Strait”.

“This is probably something that’s not really understood by the broader Australian community,” Havnen says. “I suspect once you get a major outbreak of something like encephalitis or Dengue fever, any of those mosquito-borne diseases, and that starts to encroach onto the mainland, then people will start to get a bit worried.”

Olga Havnen, CEO of the Danila Dilba Health Service, says transmission is complex issue in Australia’s indigenous communities.
Olga Havnen, CEO of the Danila Dilba Health Service, says transmission is complex issue in Australia’s indigenous communities.

But it is not just syphilis — ­indeed, not even just STIs — that have infectious disease authorities concerned and the network of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations stretched.

Chlamydia, the nation’s most frequently diagnosed STI in 2016 based on figures from the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, is three times more likely to be contracted by an indigenous Australian than a non-­indigenous one.

The rate was highest in the NT, at 1689.1 notifications per 100,000 indigenous people, compared with 607.9 per 100,000 non-indigenous Territorians. If you’re indigenous, you’re seven times more likely to contract gonorrhoea, spiking to 15 times more likely if only women are considered. Syphilis, five times more likely.

As the syphilis response gets under way, health services such as the one Havnen leads, the Darwin-based Danila Dilba, will be given extra resources to tackle it. “With proper resourcing, if you want to be doing outreach with those people who might be visitors to town living in the long grass, then we’re probably best placed to be able to do that,” she says.

But the extra focus comes with a warning. A spate of alleged sexual assaults on Aboriginal children, beginning with a two-year-old in Tennant Creek last month and followed by three more alleged ­attacks, has raised speculation of a link between high STI rates and evidence of child sexual assault.

After the first case, former NT children’s commissioner Howard Bath told this newspaper that STI rates were “a better indicator of background levels of abuse than reporting because so many of those cases don’t get reported to anyone, whereas kids with serious infections do tend to go to a ­doctor”. Others, including Alice Springs town councillor Jacinta Price and Aboriginal businessman Warren Mundine, raised the ­spectre of the need for removing more at-risk indigenous children from dangerous environments.

Children play AFL in Yeundumu. Picture: Jason Edwards
Children play AFL in Yeundumu. Picture: Jason Edwards

However, Sarah Giles, Danila Dilba’s clinical director and a medical practitioner of 20 years’ standing in northern Australia, warns this kind of response only exacerbates the problem. She is one of a range of public health authorities who, like Havnen, say connecting high STI figures to the very real scourge of child sex abuse simply makes no sense. They do not carry correlated data sets, the experts say.

“One of the things that’s really unhelpful about trying to manage STIs at a population level is to link it with child abuse and mandatory reporting, and for people to be fearful of STIs,” Giles says. “The problem is that when they’re conflated and when communities feel that they can’t get help ­because things might be misinterpreted or things might be reported, they’re less likely to present with symptoms. The majority of STIs are in adults and they’re sexually transmitted.”

Havnen says there is evidence of STIs being transmitted non-sexually, including to children, such as through poor hand ­hygiene, although Giles says that is “reasonably rare”. And while NT data shows five children under 12 contracted either chlamydia or gonorrhoea in 2016 (none had syphilis), and there were another five under 12 last year, Havnen points to the fact that over the past decade there has been no increasing trend in under 12s being affected. Where there has been a rise in the NT is in people aged between 13 and 19, with annual gonorrhoea notifications increasing from 64 cases in the 14-15-year-old ­female cohort in 2006 to 94 notifications in 2016.

In the 16-17-year-old female ­cohort the same figures were 96 and 141 and in the 12-13-year-old group it rose from 20 in 2006 to 33 in 2016. Overall, for both boys and girls under 16, annual gonorrhoea notifications rose from 109 in 2006 to 186 in 2016, according to figures provided to the royal ­commission into child detention by NT Health. Havnen describes the rise as “concerning but not, on its own, evidence of increasing ­levels of sexual abuse”.

Ward is more direct. Not all STIs are the result of sexual abuse, he warns, and not all sexual abuse results in an STI. If you’re a health professional trying to deal with an epidemiological wildfire, the distinction matters — the data and its correct interpretations can literally be a matter of life and death.

Indeed, in its own written cav­eats to the material it provided to the royal commission, the department warns that sexual health data is “very much subject to variations in testing” and warns against making “misleading assumptions about trends”. Ward says: “Most STIs notified in remote indigenous communities are ­assumed to be the result of sex ­between consenting adults — that is, 16 to 30-year-olds. Of the under 16s, the majority are 14 and 15-year-olds.” He says a historically high background prevalence of STIs in remote indigenous communities — along with a range of other ­infectious diseases long eradicated elsewhere — is to blame for their ongoing presence. Poor education, health services and hygiene contribute, and where drug and ­alcohol problems exist, sexually risky behaviour is more likely too. The lingering impact of colonisation and arrival of diseases then still common in broader ­society cannot be underestimated.

But Ward claims that an apparently high territory police figure of about 700 cases of “suspected child sexual offences” in the NT over the past five years may be misleading. He says a large number of these are likely to be the result of mandatory reporting, where someone under 16 is known to have a partner with an age gap of more than two years, or someone under 14 is known to be engaging in sexual activity. Ward points out that 15 is the nationwide ­median sexual debut age, an age he suggests is dropping. At any rate, he argues, child sex abuse is unlikely to be the main reason for that high rate of mandatory ­reporting in the NT.

Areyonga is a small Aboriginal community a few hours drive from Alice Springs.
Areyonga is a small Aboriginal community a few hours drive from Alice Springs.

Data matters, and so does how it is used. Chipping away at the perception of child sexual abuse in indigenous communities are the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showing the rate of removals for that crime is actually higher in non-indigenous Australia.

According to a report this month from the AIHW, removals based on substantiated sex abuse cases in 2016-17 were starkly different for each cohort: 8.3 per cent for indigenous children, from a total of 13,749 removals, and 13.4 per cent for non-indigenous children, from 34,915 removals.

Havnen concedes there is a need for better reporting of child abuse and has called for a confidential helpline that would be free of charge and staffed around the clock by health professionals.

It’s based on a model already in use in Europe that she says deals with millions of calls a year — but it would require a comprehensive education and publicity campaign if it were to gain traction in remote Australia. And that means starting with the adults.

“If you’re going to do sex ­education in schools and you start to move into the area about sexual abuse and violence and so on, it’s really important that adults are ­educated first about what to do with that information,” she says. “Because too often if you just ­educate kids, and they come home and make a disclosure, they end up being told they’re liars.”

These challenges exist against the backdrop of a community already beset by a range of infectious diseases barely present elsewhere in the country, including the STIs that should be so easily treatable. It is, as Havnen is the first to admit, a complex matter.

Cheryl Jones, president of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, says the answer is better primary treatment solutions and education, rather than trying to solve the problem after it has ­occurred. “For any of these public health infectious disease problems in ­remote and rural areas, we need to support basic infrastructure at the point of care and work alongside communities to come up with ­solutions,” she says.

Sisters play in the mud after a rare rain at Hoppy's 'town camp' on the outskirts of Alice Springs.
Sisters play in the mud after a rare rain at Hoppy’s ‘town camp’ on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

Pat Turner, chief executive of peak body the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, is adamant about this. “These (STIs) are preventable diseases and we need increased testing, treatment plans and a ­culturally appropriate health ­education campaign that focuses resources on promoting safe-sex messages delivered to at-risk ­communities by our trained Aboriginal workforce,” Turner says.

The Australian Medical ­Association has called for the formation of a national Centre for Disease Control, focusing on global surveillance and most likely based in the north, as being “urgently needed to provide national leadership and to co-ordinate rapid and effective public health responses to manage communicable diseases and outbreaks”.

“The current approach to disease threats, and control of infectious diseases, relies on disjointed state and commonwealth formal structures, informal networks, collaborations, and the goodwill of public health and infectious disease physicians,” the association warned in a submission to the Turnbull government last year.

However, the federal health ­department has rebuffed the CDC argument, telling the association that “our current arrangements are effective” and warning the suggestion could introduce “considerable overlap and duplication with existing functions”.

“I think it (the CDC) might have some merit, if it helps to ­advocate with government about what needs to happen,” Havnen says, “but if these things are going to be targeted at Aboriginal bodies, it needs to be a genuine partnership. It’s got to be informed by the realities on the ground and what we know. That information has to be fed up into the planning process.”

Press Release @NACCHOChair calls on the Federal Government to work with us to keep our children safe #WeHaveTheSolutions Plus comments from CEO’s @Anyinginyi @DanilaDilba

” The sexual abuse of any Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal children has got to stop.

 It is not acceptable and in no way can our communities, the Australian community at large or Governments at all levels condone this continuing.

 I welcome a thorough investigation by the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce and Children’s Commissioner into this grave allegation.”

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation(NACCHO ) Chair John Singer said he is deeply concerned that some of our  children are being sexually interfered with.

Download Press Release NACCHO Calls on the federal government to work with us to keep our children safe – FINAL

 “According to media reports last this week, a four-year-old boy from the community of Ali Curung in the Northern Territory has been taken to Alice Springs for medical care after he was allegedly sexually assaulted on the weekend and police are investigating.”

See The Guardian article Part 2 Below

” High levels of disadvantage, alongside “vulnerable and very impoverished” communities, was putting children at risk.

What’s really tragic is that we’ve known about them [problems] for well over a decade and more, and there’s been very little sustained, concerted effort to deal with them,

What’s absolutely needed are more of the early intervention and prevention programs, better parenting programs, and a better level of education and awareness about child.”

Chief executive of the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Medical Service, Olga Havnen, is unsurprised by the most recent incident : Interview ABC

 ” The community was devastated, but not surprised by the latest allegations, and there had been a feeling of “absolute hopelessness” as community leaders beared witness to social dysfunction, alcohol abuse and child protection problems.

They are issues which are attribute to overcrowded public housing.

Resourcing across all sectors and services is what’s needed to support vulnerable families,

I think it’s just been a build-up of years and years of neglect and limited resources.”

At least 40 extra houses were needed in the area to reduce overcrowding, and reduce the risk for children.

It just allows for an explosion, if you like, to further dysfunction of Aboriginal families.

[It] just leads to total hopelessness… creating such incidents as what’s happening now where our children are being harmed.”

Barb Shaw, the chief executive of the Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, which takes in Ali Curung.

Interview ABC

Photo: Children in the Barkly region have been calling for change. (ABC News: Jane Bardon

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Media Alert March 20

CEO Pat Turner , Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba and James Ward appear on #Sunrise to respond to Indigenous child protection issues #wehavethesolutions

#WeHaveTheSolutions :Government must take off the blinkers over these issues, show leadership and take the actions outlined.

1.Immediate Government action to assist families to keep their children safe. We know these are complex issues requiring urgent responses but the abuse still continues.

2.We need a comprehensive approach to child and community safety with a focus on prevention and community education.

3. Establishing a Confidential Child Help Line within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services by regions which is a no-brainer for any government to fund and implement in this budget cycle.

In getting better rates of disclosure, we can respond to both victims and offenders.  This is particularly important when young people are perpetrators so that they can be held to account for their behaviour and receive appropriate rehabilitation and behavioural change programs.

4.Extra resources should also be made immediately available for wrap around Families and Children Support services to work with traumatised children and their families. This requires a multi-disciplinary professional team to provide full assessment and treatment programs in our local communities. A health-led therapeutic model will deliver much better outcomes for our people.

Often as the academic evidence now suggests, perpetrators have themselves often been abused and they too require treatment not punitive punishment regimes or they will not be rehabilitated and will re-offend.

5.National plan to redress the Social Determinants of Health in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.[1]

6.Liquor licenses :The NT Government needs to take a good hard look at the total number of liquor licenses granted and curtail them to stop the flow of alcohol. People must come before profits. The grog is killing our people and our children are exposed to the results of that every day.

Those dry communities are to be  commended for their efforts to control alcohol consumption, but the sheer number of liquor outlets at Roadhouses on the Highway and in the closest towns undermines their efforts to live safe and peacefully in their local community. Government must take off the blinkers over these issues, show leadership and take the actions outlined,” said Mr Singer.

Part 2 Boy, 16, charged with rape of four-year-old boy in remote Northern Territory community

Helen Davidson in The Guardian

Noting NACCHO press release was published in online article

A 16-year-old boy has been charged over the alleged rape of a four-year-old boy in a remote Northern Territory community.It is at least the second such incident in the Barkly region, after a two-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in Tennant Creek last month.

The 16-year-old is scheduled to appear in the Alice Springs youth court on Tuesday, to face one charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

The NT police child abuse taskforce was investigating the alleged attack, which reportedly occurred on Sunday, and said it was not seeking anyone else in relation to the matter.

The territory families minister, Dale Wakefield, said a full team of staff was on the ground as part of the child abuse taskforce.

“They are working alongside police and engaging with the family and the community,” she said.

“We have also spoken to the children’s commissioner and will keep her informed of any developments.

“It is heartbreaking for any child anywhere to be harmed. Every child deserves a childhood where they are safe and given pathways to reach their full potential.”

A 24-year-old charged with sexually assaulting a two-year-old in Tennant Creek is scheduled to appear in court in April.

That alleged incident prompted emergency measures by NT authorities, including the immediate deployment of extra Territory Families department staff and the implementation of strict alcohol restrictions on Tennant Creek.

The community where the latest alleged assault happened is one of about 100 in the NT with restrictions or bans on drinking alcohol.

Steve Edgington, the mayor of Tennant Creek, said there had been “immediate learnings” after the alleged assault in his town.

Edgington said there was a clear need to decentralise government resources and divert them to identified hotspots of disadvantage.

“What needs to be done is a full audit of where these particular incidents are happening,” he said.

“I’m sure they’re happening elsewhere. We need to allocate resources to where these incidents are, tackling issues from the ground up. It’s just critical – children need to be safe in our communities.”

Edgington said most resources in the Barkly region were based in Tennant Creek and there were a number of small remote communities nearby where governments could look at what resources were allocated for child protection and welfare, housing, and other areas.

On Monday the NT chief minister, Michael Gunner, said extra Territory Families staff had been deployed to the community and the incident would also be referred to the children’s commissioner.

“This is an extremely disturbing incident,” he told the ABC. “Every child, no matter where they live, deserves to be in a safe environment.”

[1] http://www.who.int/violenceprevention/publications/en/index.html and Canadian Red Cross, Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments, 2nd Edition How organizations and communities can prevent, mitigate and respond to interpersonal violence 2011

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #NTRC : Download 35 Page NT Government Response to the 227 Recommendations of the #RoyalCommission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

“The Royal Commission final report recommendations aligns with the path of reform that we have undertaken since coming to Government, including sweeping alcohol reforms announced yesterday.”

 217 of the recommendations relate to action by the Northern Territory Government, which have been mapped into a framework of 17 work programs.

There are another 10 recommendations which we accept the intent and direction of, however they require actions by the Commonwealth Government and other organisations.

“We need coordinated effort to make effective, meaningful and generational change to our youth justice and child protection systems. Now more than ever, we need the support of the Commonwealth Government working in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government and the Aboriginal-controlled and non-government sector.”

Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield announced that the Territory Labor Government will accept the intent and direction of all 227 Royal Commission recommendations, delivered in its final report late last year.

Download 35 Page NACCHO PDF

Download NT Government responses to 227 NTRC recommendations

Picture Above : NT Minister Dale Wakefield with the support  from some of the NT’s peak Aboriginal bodies, including NACCHO members Olga Havnen from Danila Dilba ACCHO and John Paterson from AMSANT saying the government’s approach is the right start

Our child protection and youth justice systems are broken and only fundamental, wholesale reform of the systems can improve outcomes for the Aboriginal children and young people in the Northern Territory,”

“These reforms need to be driven and led by Aboriginal organisations and people. We advocate for a new single act to regulate both youth justice and child protection systems.”

John Paterson, CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) said that the peak body welcomes the Territory Government’s response to the Royal Commission recommendations

Read over 56 NACCHO NTRC DonDale articles HERE

 ” The Northern Territory Government says it supports either in full or in principle all 227 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection, but does not appear to have committed funds to make the necessary sweeping changes ”

ABC Darwin Media Coverage see Part 2 Below or HERE in Full

Part 1 : NT Government Press Release

The report was borne out of the treatment of children in the care of the Northern Territory and it is a story of our failures to care, protect and build those who needed it most.

Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said that the Territory Labor Government took responsibility for those failures and, since August 2016, has embarked on historic youth justice and child protection reforms.

This includes the $18.2 million a year overhaul of youth justice in the Northern Territory, announced one year ago.

Last month the Territory Labor Government also announced that $70 million will be allocated to replace both the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the Alice Springs Youth

Detention Centre with two new youth justice centres.

“Making meaningful change that improves the lives of children and families is at the heart of the Territory Labor Government’s decision making,” Ms Wakefield said.

“We made an election promise that we would get young people back on the right path and away from a cycle of crime. In order for our communities to be safer and stronger, every Territory child MUST have pathways for a bright future.

The 17 work programs will come under four major objectives:

  1. Putting Children and Families at the Centre
  2. Improving Care and Protection
  3. Improving Youth Justice
  4. Strengthening Governance and Systems

The work programs framework is a Whole-of-Government approach to consider the most effective way to allocate budget, resources, and timeframes that will be required to implement reform.

The Territory Labor Government is considering a submission for resourcing impacts as part of the 2018-19 Budget development process and will provide an implementation plan for consideration in late March.

The key reforms that have been underway since August 2016 include:

  • $18.2 million Better Outcomes for Youth Justice reform package
  • $3 million invested in Family Enhanced Support Services (FESS)
  • Bail support services and accommodation facilities
  • Expansion of victim conferencing
  • Establishing five year NGO funding arrangements
  • The establishment of Youth Outreach and Reengagement Teams (YORET)
  • Recruitment of Transition Care Officers

Media Coverage ABC Darwin

NT royal commission: Government promises overhaul of ‘broken’ child protection and youth justice

By Neda Vanovac 

FROM ABC DARWIN

The Northern Territory Government says it supports either in full or in principle all 227 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection, but does not appear to have committed funds to make the necessary sweeping changes.

Key points:

  • The NT Government has offered “in principle” support for almost half the recommendations, supports the rest
  • It has not announced what funding it will put forward or for which measures
  • The announcement comes after a week of sustained fire after a toddler was allegedly raped following Territory Families’ failure to act on 21 notifications

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner apologised for the failings of successive NT governments, calling it “a stain on the NT’s reputation” and announced a comprehensive overhaul of the youth justice and child protection systems.

On Thursday it announced its full response; however, about half of the recommendations were listed as “supported in principle” and it was not clear what that meant in terms of government action and funding commitment.

“I am determined that this is not going to be another report that sits on a shelf.

“We have to make generational change to make a difference, and we are absolutely committed to that.”

“For those of us who have been working in the youth justice system for the past 10 or so years and seen these issues play out, these are really welcome steps,” Jesuit Social Services CEO Jared Sharp said.

“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. We’ve got a royal commission that’s given us the blueprint, we now have to implement it.”

The Government says 217 recommendations relate to action it can take, with another 10 recommendations requiring action by the Federal Government and other organisations.

The Government has split the recommendations into 17 work programs divided into four groups: putting children and families first; improving care and protection of children; improving youth justice systems; and strengthening governance.

Some of the major recommendations which have only been listed as having in-principle support included:

  • Increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12
  • That youths under 14 cannot be detained except in exceptional circumstances
  • Overhauling the foster care system
  • Overhauling the Care and Protection of Children Act NT
  • Creating, staffing and resourcing a Commission for Children and Young People
  • Having a ratio of one teacher to five students and teachers appropriately qualified in special education
  • Having sufficient female youth detention officers to oversee female detainees
  • Overhauling the case management system
  • Introducing body-worn video cameras
  • That children can only be held by police for up to four hours without charge.

Funding did not appear to be set aside for the extensive changes, but the Government said it was “considering a submission for resourcing impacts as part of the 2018-19 budget development process and will provide an implementation plan” for consideration in late March.

Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne has previously said she wanted a firmer commitment.”As a commissioner when I get those sort of responses from service providers I don’t accept that, I say ‘You either accept it or you don’t accept it’.”

Announcement follows alleged rape of Tennant Creek toddler

Territory Families has been under sustained fire for its response to the incident, after it was reported the family was subject to more than 20 notifications to Territory Families in the months before the incident but that little action had been taken.

But Mr Gunner said he supported Mr Davies and Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield, and that sacking them would be a step backwards.

“I don’t think those two issues around culture versus safety are actually mutually exclusive, I think you can do both,” she said.

There are currently 1,060 children in care in the NT.She also said the Government wanted to improve its partnerships with NGOs and Aboriginal communities.”

As a department, as whole of Government, we need to get better at working with communities, rather than doing things to communities.”

“Our child protection and youth justice systems are broken, and only fundamental, wholesale reform of the systems can improve outcomes for the Aboriginal children and young people in the NT,” he said.

You can view the full July 2016 story on the Four Corners website.