NACCHO Aboriginal Health @SNAICC @NationalFVPLS respond to the Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse : 14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

“Strong cultural identity, connections to family and community, and cultural care practices are non-negotiable factors in keeping our children safe.

It is imperative that, especially following such a thorough process, all of the recommendations from this report are accepted and implemented,” said Ms Williams.

The pain and injustices of the past have been acknowledged, and must now be redressed. At the same time, we must tackle current challenges to ensure our children are kept safe in family and culture.”

Sharron Williams, SNAICC Chairperson. 14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Those that shared their stories with the Royal Commission spoke not only of sexual physical and emotional abuse, but also of racism and cultural abuse. See Part 2 below

 ” The National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (National FVPLS Forum) welcomes the landmark findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The report identified the need for specific initiatives to be developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience child sexual abuse, as well as to prevent the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.”

Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor of the National FVPLS Forum.See Part 3

” We must focus our efforts on the future, but we must also ensure we properly deal with the past. Perhaps the single most important aspect of this is the redress scheme.

What happens now with redress?

The national redress scheme is behind schedule and must be finalised with sufficient funding, and government and institutional commitment.

What happens now with redress? See Part 4 Below

Part 1 Here’s What The Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse Said About Survivors

From Buzzfeed

Thousands of stories, and statistical insights, about Australians who suffered as children at the hands of sexual abusers have come to light in the 1000-plus page, 17-volume final report of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse, handed down on Friday.

The report paid tribute to the bravery of survivors for speaking out, in more than 8,000 private hearings, about what had been done to them, and the destruction and chaos it had wrought upon their lives.

“Many spoke of having their innocence stolen, their childhood lost, their education and prospective career taken from them and their personal relationships damaged,” the report said. “For many, sexual abuse is a trauma they can never escape. It can affect every aspect of their lives.”

The commissioners wrote that without the personal stories of survivors they could not have done their work.

“These stories have allowed us to understand what has happened,” the report said. “They have helped us to identify what should be done to make institutions safer for children in the future.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused. They deserve our nation’s thanks.”

The report published statistics based on the experiences, where information was available, of 6,875 survivors who testified at the commission up to May 31, 2017.

It found that the majority of survivors (64.3%) were male.

More than half said they were aged from 10 to 14 when they were first sexually abused.

Female survivors tended to be younger when they were first sexually abused than male survivors.

14.3% of survivors were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

4.3% of survivors said they had a disability at the time of the abuse.

3.1% of survivors were from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

93.8% of survivors said they were abused by a man.

83.8% of survivors said they were abused by an adult.

10.4% of survivors were in prison at the time they gave evidence to the royal commission.

The average duration of child sexual abuse in institutions was 2.2 years.

36.3% of survivors said they were abused by multiple perpetrators.

These stories were told in private sessions, with one or two commissioners present to give survivors as safe as possible an environment to share their distressing and traumatic stories.

Almost 4,000 of those stories have been published with the final report in the form of short, de-identified narratives.

One published narrative was about “Keenan”, an Aboriginal man who was abused as a child and has spent most of his adult life in prison.

He is one of the 10.4% of survivors who spoke to the commission from prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for attacking a man he thought was a paedophile.

“I’ve got a deadset hatred of sex offenders,” he told the commission. “An absolute hatred.”

Keenan told the commission that he was fostered by a “nice white family” in the mid-1980s when he was five, who he loved and who became his adoptive parents. But he felt different in the white neighbourhood as an Aboriginal child: “I was a bit worried about what people would think when my family is white and I was black.”

He started going to the local Catholic church when he was nine to learn about Holy Communion. It was here that the parish priest took an interest in him.

“He asked my parents if he could do private studies with me at the church and my parents thought, you know, the sun shined out of his arse, they thought he was the top bloke,” he said.

The priest abused Keenan when they were alone together, touching Keenan’s thigh and penis. Keenan said he didn’t want to do it, but the priest “roared” at him that no matter what he told his parents, they wouldn’t believe him.

After two more instances of abuse, Keenan tried to tell his father about what was happening, but was dismissed. “No, you’re probably looking at it the wrong way. He’s probably just mucking around with you”.

Keenan refused to go back to see the priest, and changed churches. The abuse shattered him — he lost faith in God, and felt betrayed by his father.

“The two main things I believed in the strongest weren’t there for me,” he said.

After that, Keenan decided to suppress the abuse, saying: “I’ll find a little part of my body I can fold it up into and I don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

But as with so many survivors, it dramatically changed the course of Keenan’s life. He said he became “a prick of a kid” and at 15 moved out of home with a girlfriend and lost touch with his adoptive family for years. In the ensuing years, he wound up in juvenile detention and later adult prison.

Keenan told his girlfriend about the abuse, and she was supportive. In his mid-20s, he told his mother, and she was upset he hadn’t told he earlier. His relationship with his father remained difficult.

Other than those conversations, sharing his story with the commission was the first time Keenan had spoken about the abuse in 30 years.

“Even now in court they asked if I’ve been touched as a kid I said ‘No’. ‘Cause it’s got nothing to do with them. It’s taken me a long time to talk about this. Opening up again today about it, it makes me feel like I’m a kid again. It’s bringing back a lot in my mind I’ve learnt how to put away,” he said.

“At the age I am now I’ve got to get rid of that burden that’s sitting inside me, I think that’s the thing that keeps bringing me back to jail. ‘Cause jail’s a good place to hide.”

The support services page for the Royal Commission is here.

If you or someone you know needs help contact your nearest ACCHO or , you can call 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or visit www.1800respect.org.au, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

Part 2 ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT RECOGNISES CULTURE AS A PROTECTIVE FACTOR FOR CHILDREN AND CALLS FOR HEALING FOR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

 SNAICC welcomes the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. We take this opportunity to acknowledge those who bravely shared their stories with the Royal Commission, and the barriers to disclosure that prevent many other survivors from coming forward.

The Royal Commission’s final report confirms the lived pain of past and present effects of child removal. The Royal Commission heard from many survivors who had been forcibly removed from their families as children and then sexually abused in institutions that should have kept them safe.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors who shared their stories with the Royal Commission spoke not only of sexual physical and emotional abuse, but also of racism and cultural abuse.

It is clear that child sexual abuse in institutions is not only a thing of the past; it is still a problem today.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly overrepresented in out-of-home care systems today, addressing vulnerabilities and implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations must be guaranteed as a matter of urgency.

The Royal Commission recognised the alarming over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home and called for reform of the contemporary system ensure children are safe from abuse in the future. It recognised that culture is an important protective factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The Royal Commission’s final report recognises the importance of the full and proper implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, and recommends partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and community representatives to ensure this is met.

The Royal Commission also makes important recommendations to fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches and improve support for kinship carers, including ensuring that financial support and training are equivalent to that provided to foster carers.

“It is imperative that, especially following such a thorough process, all of the recommendations from this report are accepted and implemented,” said Ms Williams.

“The pain and injustices of the past have been acknowledged, and must now be redressed. At the same time, we must tackle current challenges to ensure our children are kept safe in family and culture.”

The publication of the final report concludes an extensive and exhaustive process, spanning several years, thousands of private sessions with survivors, and close examination of traumatic personal experiences by six Commissioners, including Professor Helen Milroy, who has brought specific expertise and understanding to issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

SNAICC thanks the all those involved in the Royal Commission for their dedicated and sensitive approach to the examination of this national tragedy – one that has been unresolved for far too long.

Part 3 Greater investment into supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’ essential to preventing institutional child sexual abuse, says landmark Royal Commission report

The National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (National FVPLS Forum) welcomes the landmark findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The report identified the need for specific initiatives to be developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience child sexual abuse, as well as to prevent the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.

“The Royal Commission has acknowledged the importance of culture and developing specific initiatives to keep our children safe,” said Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor of the National FVPLS Forum.

“We work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children nationally who have experienced family violence, the Royal Commission identified that many of those have been victims of child sexual abuse.”

The National FVPLS Forum played a pivotal role in raising awareness of the Royal Commission and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their stories, receiving Federal Government funding to work in partnership with Knowmore Legal Services.

“It’s the trust and confidence that our people have in us that takes us into those communities to raise awareness and provide support. We engage and work with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally who experience ongoing trauma resulting from child sexual abuse” said Ms Braybrook. “Our people’s access to Aboriginal community controlled organisations, like FVPLSs, is essential”.

“Aboriginal community controlled organisations, like FVPLSs, are best placed to provide this support” said Ms Braybrook “Our services are holistic and culturally safe.”

“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have shared their stories, now we need greater investment in Aboriginal community controlled organisations to provide the support that our people need.”

Part 4 The royal commission’s final report has landed – now to make sure there is an adequate redress scheme

From The Conversation

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has performed its task magnificently. Its scale, complexity and quality is unprecedented. Its work is already being acknowledged internationally as a model of best practice.

As a nation, we can be proud of the commissioners and their staff. We should acclaim the courage of all survivors, including those who informed the commissioners about their experiences, and we should honour those who have not lived to see this day.

We must recognise the integrity and strength of those who advocated for the inquiry, including survivors, their families, journalists and police. We should applaud former prime minister Julia Gillard for initiating the commission, and the current federal government for ensuring it was adequately resourced.

But this is not the end. The real work begins now. Australian governments and major social institutions now have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to create lasting social change. Their responses will be monitored here, including through requirements to report on their actions, and around the world.

The royal commission’s impact

This watershed inquiry has created the conditions for a seachange in how society deals with child sexual abuse in institutions, which can flow to our treatment of sexual abuse in other settings.

Our society’s leaders can build progress from the pain of former failings. Not meeting this responsibility would surely stick as a lifelong regret for those in positions to cement change. Fulfilling this imperative can leave a legacy of which these government and institutional leaders can be proud.

Substantial progress has already been made. The commission’s earlier reports have influenced important changes to civil justice systems, criminal justice systems, organisational governance, and prevention, including situational prevention in child and youth-serving organisations.

The Child Safe Standards now promoted by the commission are substantially embedded in legislation in several states, requiring organisations to adopt comprehensive measures to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to child sexual abuse.

Civil laws have been amended in most jurisdictions to allow claims for compensation, holding individuals and organisations accountable.

In some states, new requirements to report known and suspected cases apply through special “failure to report” and “failure to protect” offences in criminal laws. They also apply through separate reportable conduct schemes that add essential independent external oversight.


Read more: Royal commission recommends sweeping reforms for Catholic Church to end child abuse


Yet much remains to be done. The reforms already made in some states must be adopted elsewhere to create national consistency.

Accountability of individuals and organisations is essential to create cultural change, and needs to be achieved through both civil systems (such as following Western Australia’s recent bill enabling lawsuits against organisations that previously could not be sued, such as the Catholic Church), and criminal systems (for example, prosecuting those who harbour offenders, and removing criminal law principles that compromise criminal prosecutions).

Other state and territory mandatory reporting laws need to be harmonised, as recommended by the commission. Many of the commission’s new 189 recommendations are rightly directed towards prevention, especially through the Child Safe Standards, including their requirements for education, codes of conduct, situational prevention, and the commitment required of organisations’ leadership.

 

The bill for the scheme remains before parliament, awaiting a committee report due in March 2018. It is yet to receive the commitment of all states, territories, and relevant organisations.

The commission recommended the scheme be operational by July 1, 2017, with an upper cap of A$200,000 and an average redress payment of $65,000. Under the bill, the scheme’s cap is $150,000, substantially below the recommendation, and even further below the average payment awarded in Ireland of more than €60,000 (about A$92,200). In Ireland, the highest payment was more than €300,000 (about A$461,000).

The Australian scheme contains three elements. First, a monetary payment as tangible recognition of the wrong suffered by a survivor. Second, access to counselling and psychological services (estimated at an average of $5,500 per person). Third, if requested, a direct personal response from the responsible institution(s), such as an apology.

Not all survivors will apply to the scheme, as many are not financially motivated. However, it is an essential part of a healing response. This has been shown internationally in Canada, Ireland and elsewhere.

Redress schemes are more flexible and speedy, with less formality and cost, and less trauma and confrontation, than conventional legal proceedings. Payments are not intended to replicate the amount that would be payable under a formal civil compensation claim, and instead are far lower.

Accordingly, institutions should recognise the lower financial commitment required to discharge their ethical obligation to participate compared with their liability in formal civil compensation amounts, especially since recent reforms to civil statutes of limitation have removed time limits and allow a claim to be commenced at any time.

Ten key aspects of the proposed Australian scheme are:

  1. People are eligible to apply to the scheme if they experienced sexual abuse in an institution while they were a child, before July 1, 2018.
  2. A lower evidentiary threshold applies, meaning that eligibility for a redress payment is assessed on whether there was “a reasonable likelihood” the person suffered institutional sexual abuse as a child.
  3. Applicants who have received redress under another scheme or compensation through a settlement or court judgment are still eligible, but prior payments by the institution will be deducted from the amount of redress.
  4. Only one application per person can be made; where a person was abused in more than one institution, provisions enable the decision-maker to determine the appropriate share of each institution.
  5. Applicants can access legal assistance to help determine whether to accept the offer of redress.
  6. A person who accepts an offer of redress must sign a deed of release, meaning the institution(s) responsible for the abuse will not be subject to other civil liability.
  7. Payments are not subject to income tax.
  8. Reviews of decisions are limited to internal review, and not to merits review or judicial review.
  9. Criminal liability of offenders is not affected.
  10. The scheme is intended to open on July 1, 2018, and operate for ten years; applications need to be made at least 12 months before the closing date of June 30, 2028.

Read more: When it comes to redress for child sexual abuse, all victims should be equal


Five further factors need to be accommodated by the scheme to ensure it functions properly and complies with the clear recommendations of the royal commission.

  1. The upper cap should be $200,000 to ensure sufficient recognition of severe cases.
  2. To ensure equal access to the scheme, legal assistance must be made available to assist people in making applications.
  3. Governments and institutions should opt in as soon as possible and commit resources to discharge their duty to participate in the scheme.
  4. Governments – federal or state – should be the funder of last resort in all cases where the institution is unable to reimburse the Commonwealth (for example, where the institution no longer exists, or lacks resources to participate).
  5. The method of determining the amount of the payment, based on the severity of the abuse, its impact, and other relevant factors, must be made available as soon as possible so it can be adequately debated.

The commission’s work contributes a historic, international legacy. The sexual abuse of children in institutions will be revealed in more nations in coming years. This will involve some of the same religious institutions in which it has been found here to be so prevalent, and so heinously concealed and facilitated. Simply due to population, countless children will be shown to be affected.

For this reason, our governments and institutions must now ensure their actions add to the royal commission’s example, and demonstrate to other countries how civilised societies should respond.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Prison System: New Ground breaking partnership for ACT Government and Winnunga having an ACCHO deliver health and wellbeing services to prison inmates

“ACT Corrective Services recognises that increasing Aboriginal led services within the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) a minimum to maximum security prison is essential to maintaining cultural connection for Aboriginal detainees and improving overall wellbeing and safety.”

Speaking at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) board meeting ACT Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury announced that Winnunga Aboriginal Health and Community Services (AHCS) will move soon into full service delivery at the AMC

Photo above Minister with some of the new NACCHO Board December 2017 : Pic Oliver Tye

Julie Tongs pictured above with Shane Rattenbury and NACCHO CEO John Singer  

‘Importantly, Winnunga will continue to be a separate independent entity, but will work in partnership with the ACT Government to complement the services already provided by ACT Corrective Services and ACT Health to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous detainees.

It is ground breaking to have an Aboriginal community controlled and managed organisation delivering health and wellbeing services within its own model of care to inmates in prison in this capacity’ Ms Tongs said.

‘Winnunga delivering health and wellbeing services in the AMC and changing the way the system operates is the legacy of Steven Freeman, a young Aboriginal man who tragically died whilst in custody in the AMC in 2016

It is also ground breaking for our sector, so it needs to be given the recognition it deserves’

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga AHCS) welcomed the announcement by Minister Shane Rattenbury

Winnunga has commenced enhanced support at the AMC focused on female detainees, and will move to full delivery of standalone health, social and emotional wellbeing services in the AMC in 2018.

The Independent Inquiry into the Treatment in Custody of Steven Freeman highlighted the need for improvements in a range of areas including cultural proficiency to more effectively manage the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

The ACT Government is working to develop a safer environment for all detainees, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

Minister Rattenbury welcomed the involvement of Winnunga AHCS in the delivery of health services within its culturally appropriate model of care in the AMC.

To achieve this ACT Corrective Services and Justice Health have been working closely with Winnunga AHCS to enhance their presence in the AMC. Winnunga AHCS has begun delivering social and emotional wellbeing services to female detainees who choose to access Winnunga AHCS in the AMC.

Over time, all detainees will have the option to access Winnunga AHCS services.

Winnunga AHCS will over time deliver services to all inmates in the AMC who choose to access this option, however the services will be implemented through a staged process initially focussed on female detainees. This will help inform system changes as we operationalise the model of care within the AMC.

‘In 2018, we will expand our role to deliver GP and social and emotional wellbeing services to all detainees who choose to access Winnunga AHCS in the AMC, Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am to 5pm’, Ms Tongs noted.

‘Winnunga does not want to be divisive in the AMC, we will be inclusive.

Obviously, there will be some issues particularly around – strong identity and connection to land, language and culture, and how the impact of colonisation and stolen Generations affects unresolved trauma, grief and loss that will be specific to Aboriginal people, however we will work with all inmates’, said Ms Tongs.

Ms Tongs stated, ‘The priority for us is to ensure in time all Aboriginal people are provided with an Aboriginal health check and care plan…the goal is for Winnunga to provide all services we do outside in the community, to prisoners also on the inside and this is a very good starting point’.

Aboriginal Children’s Health #FreetobeKids : Download the @Change_Record National plan of action to transform the #justice system for our kids

“ The time to act is now. This is an historic opportunity for the Federal Government to make a difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,”

Antoinette Braybrook, Co-Chair of Change the Record. See Part 1 below

Change the Record Website

Download the National Plan :

CTR_Free_to_be_Kids_National_Plan_of_Action_2017_web

Projected out-of-home care population growth suggests the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care will more than triple by 2036.”

The Family Matters Report report – due to be launched at Parliament House on 29 November – reveals a shocking trend in the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who are now nearly 10 times as likely to be removed from their family as non-Indigenous children – a disparity which continues to grow. See Part 3 Below 

Read over 270 NACCHO Articles about Aboriginal Children

Part 1 Change the Record National Plan

This week the Change the Record Coalition launched an eight-point plan –Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action – to transform the youth justice system and prevent abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in prisons.

“The Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory demonstrated shocking abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prisons, and we know that similar abuses are happening right around the country,” said Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record.

Art 2

7.00 am Monday morning Canberra press conference with the Change the Record team in the rain

Change the Record has said the Federal Government must:

  1. Support children, families and communities to stay strong and together
  2. Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14
  3. Get children who are not sentenced out of prison
  4. Adequately fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled legal and other support services
  5. End abusive practices in prisons
  6. Set targets to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison
  7. Improve collection and use of data
  8. Work through COAG to reform State and Territory laws that breach children’s rights

Download Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action [PDF]

 Part 2 Children suffer every day that PM Turnbull delays on Federal commitment to lead youth justice change says Amnesty International

 Amnesty International, as part of the Indigenous-led Change The Record coalition, released a National Plan of Action for Prime Minister Turnbull to end the abuse and overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australian prisons.

The eight-point plan includes strategies for children and families to be supported to stay together; raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14; setting national justice targets; and investing in Indigenous-led prevention and support programs.

The National Plan of Action release date marks 10 days since the Turnbull Government pledged national commitment on youth justice.

The plan was launched in response to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory report released on 17 November.

“The most shocking thing about the Royal Commission findings are that the abuses are happening in every state and territory,” said Claire Mallinson, National Director, Amnesty International Australia.

“Every day the Prime Minister delays taking action, children are self-harming, or being held in solitary confinement. They are being denied basic needs, being restrained or handled inappropriately, being verbally or physically abused in Australian child prisons.”

“What’s more, Indigenous children are 25 times more likely to be locked up than non-Indigenous children.”

Barely a week after the Royal Commission report, the NT Government has announced it will send the Territory Response Group, from the counter-terrorism taskforce, into Darwin and Alice Springs. The police will be equipped with military-grade assault weapons to patrol children at night over December.

The decision flies in the face of the NT Royal Commission report, which recommended a shift away from tough, brutal responses to a focus on prevention, diversion and supporting families. It shows, yet again, that we need Federal leadership to set a standard across the states and territories,” said Claire Mallinson.

Amnesty International’s recent ReachTEL poll found two out of three Australians believe the Turnbull Government should lead national action to end the injustice of too many Indigenous kids in prison.

“We welcome the Turnbull Government’s acknowledgement that the Royal Commission findings have national implications, and the Government’s commitment to lead national change of the youth justice system,” said Claire Mallinson.

A number of recommendations in the Royal Commission report would make a significant difference if implemented nationally. These include those about diversion; supporting families; raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility; bail support services and accommodation; and ending abusive practices in prison, like banning spithoods, restraint chairs and teargas.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the Government would develop a Royal Commission response, “not only here in the Northern Territory, but across every jurisdiction in Australia.

Every other jurisdiction will be looking to the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth for leadership about change throughout our jurisdictions, and I know that [Chief Minister Michael Gunner] and I are committed to working together to provide that leadership.”

“With today’s plan, Prime Minister Turnbull can turn those words into solid policies,” said Claire Mallinson.

“He must commit to work in partnership with Indigenous communities to nationally reform the youth injustice system. This is the only way to achieve real progress, not only for kids suffering in prison now, but for the next generation of Indigenous children

Part 3: WITHOUT URGENT ACTION THE NUMBER OF ABORIGINAL AND  TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CHILDREN REMOVED FROM FAMILY WILL TRIPLE IN NEXT 20 YEARS

The rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed from their families is an escalating national crisis.

Without immediate action from all levels of government further generations of children will be lost to their families, cultures and communities, according to a new report from the Family Matters campaign.

The report – due to be launched at Parliament House on 29 November – reveals a shocking trend in the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who are now nearly 10 times as likely to be removed from their family as non-Indigenous children – a disparity which continues to grow.

“If we continue on this path, carved out by the flawed approaches of consecutive governments, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care will more than triple in the next 20 years,” Family Matters Co-Chair Natalie Lewis said.

“Twenty years ago, the Bringing them Home report brought public and political awareness to the destructive impact of the Stolen Generations on communities, families and children – a historical pain that has caused trauma with lasting impacts. We cannot allow the history of trauma to devastate yet another generation of our children.

“In the 20 years since Bringing them Home, and nearly 10 years since the national apology, the numbers of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care have continued to escalate.”

The Family Matters Report shows that only 17 per cent of the child protection budget is spent on services aimed at preventing issues for families before they develop, while the bulk of spending is invested in reacting to problems when they arise.

“The Family Matters Report clearly shows we have a system that invests in failure and not success,” Ms Lewis said.

“Only one in every five dollars spent on child protection is invested in family supports.

Supportive and preventative services – designed to build the capacity of families to care for children and allow children to thrive – are crucial to addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.”

The Family Matters Report provides a comprehensive analysis of child protections systems in every state and territory, judged against a series of building blocks to ensuring child safety and wellbeing.

“The disproportionate representation of our children, and the failure to adequately provide for their wellbeing and ensure fulfilment of their rights, are characteristics common to all jurisdictions,” Ms Lewis said.

“Those of us working for our communities are striving to address these fundamental system failures, but what we really need is governments to resource our vision for a better future for our children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been forthcoming with solutions to these issues for many, many years. We need to work together now to prevent another generation of children growing up separated from their family, culture and connection to country.”

Notes :

Data from the Family Matters Report 2017 shows:

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.8 times more likely to be living in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.

• Projected out-of-home care population growth suggests the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care will more than triple by 2036.

• From 2010 to 2018, the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in child death statistics has grown from a rate ratio of 1.84 to 2.23.

• Only 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia are placed with family, kin, or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers.

Only 2 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children commenced an intensive family support service in 2015-16, a rate well below their rate of contact with child protection services.

• Only 17 per cent of overall child protection funding is invested in support services for children and their families.

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are significantly less likely to access antenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy.

CT REC

NACCHO 1 of 100 Organisations supporting @Change_Record #NationalAction4Kids #FreetobeKids call for PM @TurnbullMalcolm to take national action through #COAG

 

” We are horrified by the abuses and torture of children in detention in the Northern Territory, highlighted throughout the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (the Royal Commission)

We are deeply concerned at the worsening rate at which Australia is locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is now 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up more than half the total number of children in prisons Australia-wide.”

NACCHO has joined nearly 100 other organisations to call for immediate national action so we never see abuse again. The Federal Government must act now on make change for children in the justice system

See NACCHO post

NACCHO @AMSANTaus @CAACongress respond #NTRC #DonDale Royal Commission demands sweeping change – But how can we make it happen?

https://nacchocommunique.com/2017/11/20/naccho-amsantaus-caacongress-respond-ntrc-dondale-royal-commission-demands-sweeping-change-but-how-can-we-make-it-happen/

We note the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, following her visit to Australia in March 2017 who found “the routine detention of young indigenous children the most distressing aspect of [her] visit.”

We note that this abuse is not isolated to the Northern Territory. Throughout the past 18 months there have been independent Inquiries into youth detention in every jurisdiction except South Australia.

In addition to removing children from their families and communities, children are being subjected to prolonged abuse including isolation, restraint chairs, spit hoods and tear gas in youth prisons.

This is unacceptable.

All Australian governments must take immediate measures to reform our youth justice systems and address the recommendations of the Royal Commission. These must be developed collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to ensure that all of Australia’s children thrive.

The undersigned organisations call on the Australian Government, working with the Northern Territory Government and other State and Territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to seize the landmark opportunity presented by the Royal Commission to:

  • Work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representative bodies to deliver a comprehensive and ongoing response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission
  • Lead national reform through COAG of youth justice systems, laws, policies and practices. This must build on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, with a view to developing national minimum benchmarks for laws and policies
  • Prioritise this issue as a standing item at future COAG meetings to ensure an ongoing comprehensive Commonwealth, State and Territory response to this pressing national issue
  • Ensure there is independent oversight and monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

For media comment from Change the Record Co-Chairs Antoinette Braybrook or Cheryl Axleby, contact Rashmi Kumar, Principal Advisor, at 0409 711 061 or rashmi@changetherecord.org.au.

Signed by the following organisations:

Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Victoria

ACOSS

ACTCOSS

Amnesty International Australia

ANTaR

Article 26

Australian Association of Social Workers

Australian Capital Territory Law Society

Australian Child Rights Taskforce

Australian Council of Trade Unions

Australian Health Promotion Association

Australian Indigenous Alpine Sport Foundation

Australian Indigenous Doctors Association

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Physiotherapy Association

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition

Bar Association of Queensland

Canberra Police Community Youth Club

Centrecare Inc.

Child Rights Australia

Children and Young People with Disability Australia

Common Grace

Community Legal Centres NSW

Community Legal Centres Queensland

Community Legal Centres Association WA

CREATE Foundation

Democracy in Colour

Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre

Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria)

First Peoples Disability Network

Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre

GetUp

Human Rights Law Centre

Indigenous Allied Health Australia

Indigenous Eye Health

Infinite Hope

International Social Service Australia

Jesuit Social Services

Just Reinvest NSW

Justice Reinvestment SA

Koorie Youth Council

Law Council of Australia

Law Society of NSW

Law Society of South Australia

Making Justice Work

Melbourne City Mission

Muticultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN)

NACCHO- National aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

National Association of Community Legal Centres

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

National Children’s and Youth Law Centre

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children

National FVPLS Forum

NCOSS

NTCOSS

Oxfam Australia

People with Disability Australia

PIAC

Plan International Australia

Protect All Children Today Inc.

Public Health Association of Australia

QCOSS

Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation Victoria

Relationships Australia

SACOSS

Save the Children Australia

Sisters Inside

Smart Justice for Young People

SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children

Social Determinants of Health Alliance

Southern Aboriginal Corporation

St Vincent de Paul Society of Australia

TEAR Australia

The Bridge of Hope Foundation Inc.

The Kimberley Foundation

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

UNICEF Australia

VCOSS

WACOSS

Weave Youth & Community Services

Woden Community Service

Youth Action

Youth Advocacy Centre Inc.

Youth Affairs Council of Victoria

Youth Coalition of the ACT

Youthlaw

YSAS

NACCHO @AMSANTaus @CAACongress respond #NTRC #DonDale Royal Commission demands sweeping change – But how can we make it happen?

Adis

This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again.

 APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection.

Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight  and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’

 John Paterson CEO AMSANT and APO NT Spokesperson  :see Part 2 for full Press Release

Download 68 Page Summary Full report 2,000 Pages

Royal-Commission-NT-Findings-and-Recomendations

VIEW Press Conference HERE

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” We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works

“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee

“You don’t set up a royal commission and then walk away from the implementation of it. I urge the Federal and NT Government to give resources directly to Aboriginal community controlled groups, as white non-government organisations “need to get out of that space”. Those days are over.

“We are much more strategically placed and our service delivery is much wider.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations chief executive Pat Turner calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “put his money with his mouth is.

Hear ABC World News Today Interview Pat Turner and Olga Haven CEO Danila Dilba ACCHO

See Part 4 below or NACCHO Press release HERE  

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“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins see Part 5 below

Part 1: Don Dale royal commission demands sweeping change – is there political will to make it happen? From The Conversation

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory’s final report, which was handed down on Friday, revealed “systemic and shocking failures” in the territory’s youth justice and child protection systems.

The commission was triggered following ABC Four Corners’ broadcasting of images of detainee Dylan Voller hooded and strapped to a restraint chair, as well as footage of children being stripped, punched and tear-gassed by guards at the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres.

The commission’s findings demonstrate the need for systemic change. However, the commission will not, in itself, bring about that change. Its capacity to make lasting change lies with the government implementing its recommendations.

What did the commission find?

The commission found that the NT youth detention centres were not fit for accommodating – let alone rehabilitating – children and young people.

It also found that detainees were subjected to regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment. This included verbal abuse, racist remarks, physical abuse, and humiliation.

There was a further failure to follow procedures and requirements under youth justice legislation. Children were denied basic human needs, and the system failed to comply with basic human rights standards and safeguards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The commission also found that the NT child protection system has failed to provide appropriate and adequate support to some young people to assist them to avoid prison.

Importantly, the commission found that isolation “continues to be used inappropriately, punitively and inconsistently”. Children in the high security unit:

… continue to be confined in a wholly inappropriate, oppressive, prison-like environment … in confined spaces with minimal out of cell time and little to do for long periods of time.

What did the commission recommend?

Based on these findings, the commission recommended wide-ranging reforms to the youth justice and child protection systems.

Not surprisingly, a central focus of the recommendations relate to detention. They ranged from closing the Don Dale centre to significant restrictions on the use of force, strip-searching and isolation, and banning the use of tear gas, spit hoods, and restraint chairs.

There is a focus on greater accountability for the use of detention through extending the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s monitoring role. Recommendations also cover health care (including mental health and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder screening), education, training, and throughcare services for children exiting detention.

Among its suite of proposed reforms, the commission recommended developing a ten-year strategy to tackle child protection and prevention of harm to children, and establishing an NT-wide network of centres to provide community services to families.

Youth justice reforms include improving the operation of bail to reduce the unnecessary use of custodial remand; expanding diversionary programs in rural and remote locations; and operating new models of secure detention, based on principles of trauma-informed practice.

Adequate and ongoing training and education for police, lawyers, youth justice officers, out-of-home-care staff and judicial officers in child and adolescent development is also recommended.

The commission also emphasised the importance of developing partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities in the child protection and youth justice systems. Several organisations in written submissions to the commission identified the importance of appropriately resourcing community-controlled, and locally developed and led, programs for Indigenous young people.

Summary Key recommendations ( added by NACCHO)

1. Close Don Dale Youth Centre (and report progress on this by February 2018) and replace with a new, purpose-built facility.

2. Immediately close the high security unit at Don Dale.

3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 .

4. No child under 14 to be ordered to serve detention unless they have been convicted of a serious and violent crime, present a serious risk to the community and their sentence is approved by the head of the proposed new children’s court.

5. Set up a new Children’s Court.

6. Set up a specialist youth division within the police force and make sure all police cells are suitable for detaining children.

7. Establish a Commission for Children and Young People, with jurisdiction for all children and young people in the NT.

8. Stop the use of tear gas and continue to ban spit hoods and the restraint chair.

9. Set up at least 20 family support centres to help children and their families.

10. Develop a 10 year strategy for generational change around child protection and the prevention of harm to children. This would be led by the NT chief minister with specific targets and measures.

Increasing the age of criminal responsibility a good place to start

One of the commission’s most significant recommendations is to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, and only allowing children under 14 to be sentenced to detention for serious offences.

If this recommendation were to be implemented it is likely to have far-reaching implications across Australia. Currently, the minimum age is ten years in all states and territories.

Of particular relevance to the commission is the adverse affect of a low minimum age of criminal responsibility on Indigenous children.

The majority of children under the age of 14 who come before Australian youth courts are Indigenous. In 2015-16, 67% of children placed in detention under the age of 14 were Indigenous. This concentration is even higher among those aged 12 or younger.

Nationally, 73% of children placed in detention and 74% of children placed on community-based supervision in 2015-16 were Indigenous.

Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility opens the door to responding to children’s needs without relying on criminalisation, given its short- and long-term negative impacts.

It enables a conversation about the best responses to children who often – as the commission’s findings acknowledged – have a range of issues. These can include trauma, mental health disorders and disability, coming from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, having spent time in out-of-home care, and – particularly among Indigenous children – being removed from their families and communities.

A positive outcome from the commission will require political will and leadership to respond effectively to broader systemic issues. Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a good place to start

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Part 2 : APO NT welcomes Royal Commission final report and calls for immediate commitment from Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments

The Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) welcomes the Royal Commission’s final report, handed down in Darwin today.

Over the past 14 months, the Royal Commission has examined the failings of the youth justice and child protection systems in the Northern Territory and heard ideas for change including from Aboriginal young people and families directly impacted by these systems.

‘This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again’, said John Paterson CEO AMSANT.

The Commission has made unequivocal findings that the Northern Territory’s youth justice and care and  protection systems continue to fail young people and that wholesale reform is required.

‘APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection’, said Mr Paterson .

The report recognises the critical involvement of Aboriginal organisations and communities in reforming all aspects of the system to bring about real change for Aboriginal people across the Territory. As a first step, Government must immediately establish a process with Aboriginal organisations and community leaders to ensure Aboriginal people are actively involved in the change that lies ahead.

The Royal Commission represents a significant step in addressing the crisis facing our child protection and youth justice systems. ‘The work doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep the spotlight on these issues so the abuses our kids have faced in detention and in the child protection system don’t happen again. Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight  and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’, Mr Paterson said.

APO NT pays tribute to the courageous Aboriginal young people and families who came forward to tell their story to the Commission. It is through their crucial involvement that the Commission has been able to expose the systemic failings and abuses and provide a roadmap for a better future for all children in the Territory.

‘Engagement with Aboriginal organisations and communities has to be front and centre of the reform agenda. We know the extent of change required is going to take time. Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory are ready to work with government to implement the Commission’s recommendations. We want to see commitment from both levels of government so we know we are in this together for the long haul.’

The Northern Territory has the opportunity to lead the way in reforming care and protection and youth justice in Australia. We must build on the momentum for change and work together towards a future where all children have the opportunity to thrive as part of strong and loving families and communities.

Part 3 : Time to commit to action after NT Royal Commission

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Today, Congress welcomes the release of the final report from Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

“We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works” Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee said.

“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”

“We also know that the ‘get tough’ rhetoric in relation to youth offending does not work and that a preventative and therapeutic approach is what is required. This point was articulated by Commissioner White today drawing on evidence from all over the world. Commissioner White also made clear that a paradigm shift to a treatment and rehabilitation approach rather than a “lock them up” punitive approach could save the NT more than $300 million per year in ten years.

Congress welcomes Commissioner Gooda’s impassioned plea for change, acknowledging that throughout the Territory he heard that Aboriginal parents everywhere are ready for change and there is an acceptance that there is a need to do better.

Congress was pleased to see the major recommendations in our submission accepted including the need to increase the minimum age for criminality from 10 to 12, and the need to establish small scale secure care rehabilitation facilities for young people in need whilst also ensuring our young people are diverted away from the criminal justice system.

“The journey to this point has been a long one for those affected, beginning not just with the events that precipitated the Royal Commission. This report is the product of every similar enquiry, and every action – and inaction ­– that has taken place before this in our history.

“Recently, the NT Government has shown their commitment to tackling many of the issues that affect young people today including early childhood and alcohol.

“Congress looks forward to working with the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments and other leading Aboriginal organisations, including AMSANT and APONT to ensure that the recommendations detailed in this report do not just sit on the shelf, but are implemented in a timely manner with Aboriginal communities and organisations at the forefront of decision making and delivery.

Part 4 :The Northern Territory Government must work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in true partnership on Royal Commission recommendations

APT

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls on the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released today.

It is clear from the report that the current system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing our children and young people, leaving many more damaged than when they entered. The system of detention is punitive, harsh, and not in keeping with modern rehabilitative standards. We also know that the child protection system in the Northern Territory is letting down children and their families and is inextricably linked to youth justice issues.

Aboriginal children and young people living in the Northern Territory are overwhelmingly impacted with ninety four per cent of children and young people in detention being Aboriginal.

“The extent of this over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people compared with all other children and young people compels a special Aboriginal led response.” said NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Ms Pat Turner.

“The Northern Territory Government must now sit down with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work in true partnership on the implementation of the recommendations.”

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) have the greatest coverage across the Territory and work with Aboriginal children, young people and families everyday on child protection and youth justice system prevention and early intervention support.”

Ms Turner called on the Northern Territory Government to show national leadership in responding to the recommendations, “The Northern Territory Government has a unique opportunity to lead the rest of the nation in developing a children and family centered public health approach to youth justice and child protection, responsive to Aboriginal people needs.”

NACCHO acknowledges the young people and their families who shared their stories of trauma and survival and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations that supported them.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Danilla Dilba, led by Ms Olga Haven, in providing evidence based submissions to the Northern Territory Government and the Royal Commission to inform their considerations,” said Ms Turner.

“Danilla Dilba has also provided immense support to families and young people to share their own stories and experiences throughout this time, as well as ongoing health and wellbeing services to Aboriginal people across the top end.”

It is now time for the Northern Territory Government to take full responsibility and lead a change by working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations.

Part 5 Other REACTIONS TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY YOUTH JUSTICE REPORT:

“I think to be honest these recommendations should be not only for the Northern Territory, but for all states across Australia.” – Former Don Dale detainee Dylan Voller.

“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.” – North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins.

“This royal commission very much began there and it needs to end there.” – NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

“Early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation must be front and centre of Australia’s justice system to protect the lives of our children.” – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

“The children who suffered in Don Dale and all Australian children need a guarantee that our governments will do everything they possibly can to stop this happening again.” – Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Shaleena Musk.

“This is clearly a backwards approach – there must be more funding for the beginning of the cycle, with an emphasis on early intervention, prevention, rehabilitation and community-led diversion programs.” – Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod.

“The Northern Territory and federal government must listen and work with local communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to take these important findings and recommendations by the Royal Commission forward.” – Amnesty International’s Roxanne Moore.

“We need to heed the recommendations of the Royal Commission, not only to prevent another Don Dale-type scandal but to stop more crimes from being committed, because we all deserve to be safe.” – Red Cross executive director Andy Kenyon.

“We will take the time to scrutinise this report in detail.” – Ben Slade from Maurice Blackburn lawyers.

“Jailing children does not work – it harms them and the community.” – Kathryn Kernohan from Jesuit Social Services.

Adis

 

NACCHO Press Release : Aboriginal Health and #NTRC Download : The NT Govt. must work with #ACCHO’s in true partnership on Royal Commission recommendations

NT RC

The extent of this over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people compared with all other children and young people compels a special Aboriginal led response.

The Northern Territory Government must now sit down with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work in true partnership on the implementation of the recommendations.”

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) have the greatest coverage across the Territory and work with Aboriginal children, young people and families everyday on child protection and youth justice system prevention and early intervention support.”

NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Ms Pat Turner

Download the Report : The Report of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was tabled in Parliament on 17 November 2017.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls on the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released today.

It is clear from the report that the current system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing our children and young people, leaving many more damaged than when they entered. The system of detention is punitive, harsh, and not in keeping with modern rehabilitative standards. We also know that the child protection system in the Northern Territory is letting down children and their families and is inextricably linked to youth justice issues.

Aboriginal children and young people living in the Northern Territory are overwhelmingly impacted with ninety four per cent of children and young people in detention being Aboriginal.

Ms Turner called on the Northern Territory Government to show national leadership in responding to the recommendations, “The Northern Territory Government has a unique opportunity to lead the rest of the nation in developing a children and family centered public health approach to youth justice and child protection, responsive to Aboriginal people needs.”

NACCHO acknowledges the young people and their families who shared their stories of trauma and survival and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations that supported them.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Danilla Dilba, led by Ms Olga Haven, in providing evidence based submissions to the Northern Territory Government and the Royal Commission to inform their considerations,” said Ms Turner.

“Danilla Dilba has also provided immense support to families and young people to share their own stories and experiences throughout this time, as well as ongoing health and wellbeing services to Aboriginal people across the top end.”

It is now time for the Northern Territory Government to take full responsibility and lead a change by working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations

Background briefs

Link to briefing documents:

 

Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into protection and detention systems of the Northern Territory has revealed systemic and shocking failures

Fundamental reform is needed to end approaches that continue to fail children, families and the community

The closure of the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, a new Children’s Court, implementation of an early intervention family support program and a Commission for Children and Young People are key elements of a comprehensive reform program aimed at restoring the failed detention and child protection systems in the Northern Territory.

Increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 12, closing the High Security Unit at Don Dale, improving the youth justice system including the approach to bail, only allowing children under 14 to be detained for serious offences and new models of secure detention are also proposed.

The Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry has found shocking and systemic failures occurred over many years and were known and ignored at the highest levels.

Children and young people were subjected to regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment in detention and there was a failure to follow the procedures and requirements of the law in many instances.

The detention system failed to comply with basic binding human rights standards in the treatment of children and young people and the Commission has found that children were denied basic needs, such as water, and that isolation continues to be used punitively and inconsistently with the Youth Justice Act (NT).

The child protection system has failed to provide the support needed to some children in care to assist them to avoid pathways likely to lead into the youth justice system, and the Northern Territory Government has failed to comply with the statutory requirements that all children in out of home care have timely care plans.

“The Northern Territory and Commonwealth Governments were right to commission this Inquiry and what we have found vindicates their decision,” said Commissioner Margaret White AO and Commissioner Mick Gooda.

“These things happened on our watch, in our country, to our children.

“The time for tinkering around the edges and ignoring the conclusions of the myriad of inquiries that have already been conducted must come to an end.

“Only fundamental change and decisive action will break the seemingly inevitable cycle we have found of many children in care continuing to progress into the youth justice system and detention.

“Perpetuating a failed system that hardens young people, does not reduce reoffending and fails to rehabilitate young lives and set them on a new course, is a step backwards.

“The failures we have identified have cost children and families greatly, they have not made communities safer and they are shocking.”

In detention, the Commission has found that:

  •  youth detention centres were not fit for accommodating, let alone rehabilitating, children and young people
  •  children were subject to verbal abuse, physical control and humiliation, including being denied access to basic human needs such as water, food and the use of toilets
  •  children were dared or bribed to carry out degrading and humiliating acts, or to commit acts of violence on each other
  •  youth justice officers restrained children using force to their head and neck areas, ground stabilised children by throwing them forcefully onto the ground, and applied pressure or body weight to their ‘window of safety’, being their torso area, and
  •  isolation has continued to be used inappropriately, punitively and inconsistently with the Youth Justice Act (NT) which has caused suffering to many children and young people and, very likely in some cases, lasting psychological damage.

In child protection, the Commission has found that:

  •  the Northern Territory Government has failed to comply with the statutory requirements that all children in out of home care have timely care plans
  •  there is a major shortage of available foster and kinship care placements
  •  Territory Families and its predecessors failed to provide the support needed to some children in care to assist them to avoid pathways likely to lead into the youth justice system, and
  •  the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is under-resourced to perform its full range of statutory functions in relation to the care and protection of vulnerable children in the Northern Territory.

To address the failed child protection, youth justice and detention systems, the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry have recommended wide ranging reforms including:

1. Closing the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and High Security Unit.

2. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and only allowing children under 14 years to be detained for serious crimes.

3. Developing a 10 year Generational Strategy for Families and Children to address child protection and prevention of harm to children.

4. Establishing a network of Family Support Centres to provide place-based services to families across the Northern Territory.

5. A paradigm shift in youth justice to increase diversion and therapeutic approaches.

6. Developing a new model of bail and secure detention accommodation.

7. Increasing engagement with and involvement of Aboriginal Organisations in child protection, youth justice and detention

“Our recommendations are based on best practice and the proven experience of other jurisdictions that have experienced the same problems. They have taken bold steps and delivered paradigm change that has improved outcomes for children, families and communities.

“We recognise some of what we are proposing marks a profound shift from past practice in the NT. But it is necessary as what has been relied upon to date has and continues to simply fail the entire community.

“Increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 12, making greater use of diversion, ending detention for children under 14 unless there are exceptional circumstances and changing the model of secure detention are the bold but essential actions that must be taken if communities are to be safer and children protected.

“If no action is taken the financial cost to the Northern Territory will remain unsustainable in the short term, with detention costs rising from $37.3 million in 2016-17 to $113.4 million in 2026-27, according to Deloitte Access Economics.

“Conversely, changing the current approach to youth justice and detention as we recommend is estimated conservatively to deliver savings of $335.5 million by 2027.

“Human costs dwarf financial considerations and if no action is taken these will continue to escalate beyond the already unacceptable levels that are seen in the Northern Territory.

“The tragic conclusion we have drawn is that not only have the systems failed to address challenges faced by children and young people, that have in some cases made the problems worse.

“We now hope that both governments commit to a new course for child protection and detention based on our recommendations and the evidence that supports them,” said Commissioner White and Commissioner Gooda.

1. Key Detention recommendations in summary

The Northern Territory Government close the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and within three months report on the program for that closure.

  • Immediately close the High Security Unit at the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
  • Prohibit the use of tear gas, and continue to prohibit the use of spithoods and the restraint chair.
  • Prohibit force or restraint being used for the purposes of maintaining the ‘good order’ of a youth detention centre or to ‘discipline’ a detainee.
  • Prohibit isolation for the purposes of behaviour management or punishment, and that isolation be permitted only in certain circumstances, such as to protect the safety of another person or restore order but only after all reasonable behavioural or therapeutic options have been attempted.
  • Prohibit extendable periods in isolation beyond 24 hours.
  • Investigate alternatives to strip searches, such as body scanners, pat down searches or metal detectors.
  • Retain CCTV footage for at least 12 months.
  • Introduce video and sound recording, in the form of body-worn video cameras, in youth detention centres.
  • No child under the age of 14 years be ordered to serve detention unless they have been convicted of a serious and violent crime against a person, present a serious risk to the community, and the sentence is approved by the President of the proposed Children’s Court.
  • The powers of the Commission for Children and Young People to be expanded to allow free and unfettered access to detention facilities, children and young people in detention, people who work with them and documents and records in the possession of the department.
  • Ensure that an initial health risk assessment of any young person in detention take place within 24 hours of admission.
  • Implement monthly medical checks for those in secure detention and provide specialist drug and alcohol treatment to detainees after release if needed.
  • The Commonwealth enable the payment of Medicare benefits for medical services provided to children and young people in detention in the Northern Territory, and ensure that supply of pharmaceuticals to children and young people in detention in the Northern Territory is provided under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  • Design, develop and construct a new model of secure accommodation.
  • Ensure that the selection criteria for a youth justice officer include demonstrated experience working with vulnerable young people, that youth justice officers be required to obtain a Certificate IV in Youth Justice in the first 12 months of their employment, and they be required to participate in induction training before commencing work in youth detention centres.
  • Develop an integrated, evidence-based throughcare service to deliver adequate planning for release of young people from detention.
  • Appoint a female youth justice officer in each youth detention centre as a ‘Girl’s Officer’, who is responsible for monitoring female detainees’ access to education, training, recreation, health and facilities.
  • Ensure that staff members working in education in youth detention are appropriately qualified to conduct special education.
  • Tutors proficient in major Aboriginal languages deliver at least once a week a literacy program in Aboriginal language.
  • Transfers over long distances to or between detention centres should be conducted by air transport. If transfers occur by road, sufficient breaks (including toilet breaks) should be given and drinking water must always be available to the detainee.
  • Only transfer detainees to an adult facility with the approval of a Judge.

2: Key Child Protection recommendations in summary

The Northern Territory Government:

o commit to a public health approach to child protection and the prevention of harm to children

o establish consultation procedures with the sector, organisations and communities

o carry out prevalence, needs, service mapping and service referral studies (the studies) to gather information about the needs of children, families and subpopulations, and what services are currently available to meet those needs

o create and maintain a Services Register containing information about the services available in communities

o establish an early support research unit, which would implement a research agenda relating to risk factors, service needs and evaluated outcomes, and

o develop and implement an outcomes and evaluation framework.

Develop a 10-year Generational Strategy for Children and Families.

Establish a network of no fewer than 20 Family Support Centres, their location to be based on information gathered in the studies and specified in the Generational Strategy for Children and Families, to:

o provide services to and support families and children

o help families understand the child protection system

o act as Recognised Entities, and

o act as an entry point in a dual pathway model.

Amend legislation to enable organisations that are qualified and meet relevant criteria to participate and advise in child protection matters and be heard relation to a proceeding about a child.

Only use residential care as a therapeutic placement option for children with complex behavioural needs or disabilities, in accordance with therapeutic care criteria.

Phase out the current model of purchased home-based care over a 24 month period.

Develop a strategy to address the current backlog of overdue investigations.

Develop and implement a campaign in conjunction with Foster Carers Association NT, current carers and other relevant organisations to recognise the contribution of existing foster and kinship carers, draw attention to the current shortage of carers and encourage people in the Northern Territory, particularly in remote areas, to apply to become carers

Review the financial support provided to carers in the Northern Territory.

Work with Aboriginal organisations to implement a joint program dedicated to increasing the number of Aboriginal foster and kinship carers, using community awareness and individualised community engagement.

Ensure that quality respite care is available to foster and kinship carers.

Improve access for children and young people in out of home care to effective rehabilitation and counselling services including the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Ensure that all young people between aged 15 and 18 have leaving care plans in compliance with the relevant legislation.

Develop a new accommodation service model which meets the specific needs of young people leaving out of home care to live independently. The service should be responsible for finding and securing acceptable accommodation for all young people who have left care and be available to those young people until they are 25 years old.

Undertake further research in the Northern Territory to understand the characteristics and needs of children and young people who have been in both out of home care and detention.

Ensure that child protection caseworkers

o have regular face-to-face contact with any child in detention who is also under care and protection orders

o monitor the wellbeing of children in detention and ensure that their needs are being met, and

o be involved in transition planning for a child in detention from the time of their entry into detention, in consultation with detention staff, key stakeholders and the child.

Establish a Crossover Unit employing specialised case managers employing with training in supporting children in child protection and youth detention contexts, who are to provide flexible and dynamic support personalised to children in the crossover group who experience both out of home care and detention.

Establish a Commission for Children and Young People, with jurisdiction for all children and young people in the Northern Territory.

3. Key youth justice recommendations in summary

Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years.

Within the police, establish a specialist, highly trained Youth Division similar to New Zealand Police Youth Aid.

Expand the role of Aboriginal Community Police Officer to include the position of Youth Diversion Officer.

Ensure all police officers involved in youth diversion or youth engagement be encouraged to hold or gain specialist qualifications in youth justice and receive ongoing professional development in youth justice.

Amend the law so that a child or young person must not be interviewed by police until they have sought and obtained legal advice and assistance, or after exercising their right to silence.

Amend legislation to remove the restriction on police consideration of diversion.

Ensure that all police cells are made suitable for detaining children.

Ensure that appropriate facilities are available in Alice Springs for girls or young women who need to be held on remand.

Introduce a custody notification scheme requiring police to notify a lawyer from an appropriate legal service as soon as a child or young person is brought into custody.

Amend the bail legislation so that a child or young person is not denied bail unless:

(a) charged with a serious offence and a sentence of detention is probable if convicted

(b) they present a serious risk to public safety

(c) there is a serious risk of the youth committing a serious offence while on bail, or

(d) they have previously failed to appear without a reasonable excuse.

Provide bail support services for children and young people in Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy, together with other such locations as are appropriate, which include the following features:

o accommodation services in small homelike residences, and

o bail support plans developed with a specialist youth worker, covering education, employment, recreation and sporting goals.

Establish a separate court venue in Alice Springs for proceedings under the Youth Justice Act (NT) and Care and Protection of Children Act (NT) as a matter of urgency.

Establish a Children’s Court, which is independent of the Local Court, to hear and determine matters currently within the jurisdiction of the Youth Justice Court and the Family Matters Division of the Local Court.

The new Children’s court will have a President appointed by the Executive Council and who has extra judicial powers and functions modelled on those conferred on the President of the Children’s Court in NSW.

Ensure that all legal practitioners appearing in a youth court be accredited as specialist youth justice lawyers after training in youth justice which includes child and adolescent development, trauma, adolescent mental health, cognitive and communication deficits and Aboriginal cultural competence.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Alcohol : #NT set to lead the nation on alcohol policy reform says @AMSANTaus

 ” This report has the potential to be a game-changer in responding to the alcohol-related harms that are far too prevalent here in the Northern Territory.

“It is really heartening to see how much the review has listened to the long-standing policy solutions that AMSANT has been advocating for more than a decade.

Implementing this report will reduce premature death, hospitalisations, domestic violence and child neglect. It will help significantly to close the health gap in the NT. ”

Mr John Paterson CEO  Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) today welcomed the final report of the NT Review of Alcohol Legislation and Policy released last Thursday.

Download the Final Report HERE

NT Alcohol Policies and Legislation Review

“It is really heartening to see how much the review has listened to the long-standing policy solutions that AMSANT has been advocating for more than a decade”, he said.

“For a very long time we have been concerned about the harms being caused by cheap grog, too many outlets and take-away licenses, too much alcohol promotion and lack of adequate data, amongst other issues.

“This report addresses all of these issues and goes further, providing a comprehensive response to alcohol problems in the NT. Previous attempts at reform, such as the “Enough is Enough” program, not been far-reaching enough to have a major impact, but we are confident that this report provides the policy options to effectively deal with the NT’s alcohol problems.

“AMSANT thanks the Gunner Government for their immediate and emphatic response to the report in supporting all but one of the 220 recommendations.

The leadership shown by our Chief Minister on this key public health issue is commendable.

“The Territory is on the cusp of finally coming to terms with alcohol and the harm it causes. Instead of being the jurisdiction famous for its “bloody good drinkers”, we now have an opportunity to lead the nation in action to address alcohol.

“Implementing this report will reduce premature death, hospitalisations, domestic violence and child neglect. It will help significantly to close the health gap in the NT.

Research shows that in any population, the most disadvantaged people are most impacted by alcohol and have the most to gain from an effective public health response”, he concluded.

Riley review: Floor price on alcohol, 400sqm rule to be scrapped in wake of NT alcohol policy paper

Photo: Michael Gunner (centre) says he agrees with nearly all the recommendations of Trevor Riley (left). (ABC News: Felicity James)

Published HERE

The review by former chief justice Trevor Riley could usher in some of the biggest-ever changes to the Northern Territory’s alcohol policies.

Already the Gunner Government has said it will accept in principle nearly all of the 220 recommendations from the review, including a floor price or volumetric tax on alcohol products and a policy shift away from floor-size restrictions.

Major recommendations of the Riley Review:

  • The NT Liquor Act be rewritten
  • Immediate moratorium on takeaway liquor licences
  • Reduce grocery stores selling alcohol by phasing out store licences
  • Floor price/volumetric tax on alcohol products designed to reduce availability of cheap alcohol
  • Shift away from floor size restrictions for liquor outlets and repeal 400-square-metre restrictions
  • Reinstating an independent Liquor Commission
  • Legislating to make it an offence for someone to operate a boat or other vessel while over the limit
  • Establish an alcohol research body in the NT
  • Trial a safe spaces program where people can manage their consumption and seek intervention

“I got that one wrong going into the election and it has been good to see that Trevor [Riley] has come forward with this report with a much more considered, better way of dealing with density and sales of take-away outlets,” Mr Gunner said following the release of the report.

The Government has also said it will enact today a “complete moratorium” on all new take-away alcohol licences, including at greenfield sites.Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said the Northern Territory had the highest rate of alcohol consumption of anywhere in the world.

But the AHA’s opposition to Dan Murphy’s in the NT continues.

“We see that there are some recommendations in there in relation to additional licencing fees… to put an additional impost on businesses above the GST… we would see would be unfair,” he said.

“If the spirit of the review is followed in the Liquor Act, then the end result will be a reduction in alcohol in the volume of alcohol in the community.”

The national branch of the Australian Hotels Association does not support a floor price but the Northern Territory branch is in favour of it and has widely accepted the Riley review.

The figure would be indexed against ordinary wages and evaluated after three years.

“Floor space doesn’t impact on the amount of alcohol out there… it’s the price that makes the alcohol obtainable… if we’ve got people selling bottles of wine for $3, that’s cheaper than water, it seems to me you’ve clearly got a problem,” he said.

It said the relationship between the size of these premises and any increased harm is less clear, dismissing the claim that floor space was a contributing factor to alcohol related harm.

Floor price a more powerful way to reduce harm

He also acknowledged the Territory’s problem with alcohol-related harm and promised to sell liquor responsibly, if the licence was to be granted.

In a statement he said the company planned to move ahead with their application for a liquor licence in the Northern Territory.

Dan Murphy’s will try to operate in the NT

Other reforms include introducing licensing inspectors to help police at bottle shops, a move the NT Police Association has been pushing for.

Once the review is in place, one of the first priorities would be to reinstate an independent Liquor Commission, followed by a complete rewrite of the Liquor Act, which is expected to take 12 months.

“It is time that the Northern Territory gets rid of the tag of being an alcohol-fuelled community,” Ms Fyles said

He said details of how the floor price on alcohol will operate are yet to be determined, and any such price would be abolished if the Federal Government were to introduce its own volumetric tax.

Another recommendation that the Government has said it will back is a law to make it an offence for a person to operate or navigate a vessel on the water with a blood-alcohol content above 0.05 per cent.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner conceded that he made an error in pushing for the 400-square-metre rule, which had been dubbed a “Dan Ban” because it was seen as preventing Dan Murphy’s from opening a large store in Darwin.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Pat Anderson AO 17 th Vincent Lingiari Lecture ” Our Hope for the Future: Voice. Treaty. Truth “

 

” When delegates from the Dialogues assembled at Uluru in May this year, the exhaustive deliberations and informed participation through the Regional Dialogues led to a broad consensus, as articulated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart which was adopted by the Convention.

Specifically, Australia’s First Peoples overwhelmingly rejected any purely symbolic changes to the Constitution, such as through a ‘statement of recognition’.

……..Dialogue participants and the Uluru Convention showed significant agreement.

There was overwhelming consensus around three proposals.

First, for a constitutionally established representative body that would give First Nations a Voice directly to the Federal Parliament.

Second, for the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise the making of Treaties with us.

Third, for a process of local and regional Truth-telling which could form the basis for genuine reconciliation.”

Ms Pat Anderson AO  delivered the 17th Annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University on Wednesday, 16 August.Full Text and video below

The lecture commemorated the historic walk-off from Wave Hill Station by Indigenous stockmen and their families, planting the seeds for Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

For her lecture titled: “Our Hope for the Future:  Voice. Treaty. Truth” Ms Anderson reflected on her personal history and experience as an advocate for social justice during the last half-century of struggle for the recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Chair of the Lowitja Institute and co-chair of the former Prime Minister’s Referendum Council, former Chair of NACCHO and CEO of Danila Dilba ACCHO and AMSANT ,  Ms Anderson is a campaigner for advancing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in education, health, early childhood development, and violence against women and children. She is an Aboriginal advocate for social justice and winner of the 2016 Human Rights Medal.

Watch NACCHO TV Video of full speech

Or full speech transcript download in 16 Page PDF or read below

patanderson-lingiari-lecture-final2-16-august-2017

Ms Pat Anderson AO delivered the 17th Annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University on Wednesday, 16 August, which commemorated the historic walk-off from Wave Hill Station by Indigenous stockmen and their families, planting the seeds for Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

Good evening everyone,

I acknowledge and pay respects to the Larrakia people, traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting tonight.

I want to thank Charles Darwin University for asking me to deliver this Lecture. This is huge honour for me. It’s always hard presenting in your home town.

I was feeling a bit anxious about that because you all know everything about me.

I would like to acknowledge Wendy Ludwick who I think put my name forward for this honour.

We are here to honour the memory of Vincent Lingiari and his leadership in the 1966 Wave Hill strike.

I will return to that story, and to the place of the Gurindji in the contemporary struggle for the rights of Australia’s First Peoples shortly.

But first, I’d like to share another story with you, a personal story.

This story is from the 1950s, a decade before the Wave Hill Walk Off, and is set at Parap Camp a few miles from here (in the suburb now called Stuart Park), where I and my sisters grew up with our mum and dad.

For those who don’t know the history, Parap Camp was home to many Aboriginal and some Torres Strait Islander families in those harsh post-War years.

Many of those families had a Stolen Generations heritage, with the parents of Parap camp families having grown up in the nearby Kahlin Compound. Kids were rounded up from all over the Territory.

My mother was one of those, taken as a young girl sometime in the 1930s by white men on horseback from her Alyawarre family north east of Alice Springs.

She was brought here to the Compound, fifteen hundred kilometres away.

After growing up at Kahlin, she was sent to work as a young teenager on a farm on the other side of the Darwin harbour, near Belyuen.

Later, she met my dad, a Swedish merchant seaman who had jumped ship in Fremantle, and made his way to Darwin.

They married and settled at Parap Camp.

My story is from when I was about 9 or 10 years old, when I was in Grade 3 or 4 – like almost all children from Parap Camp, I and my sisters attended school without fail.

School attendance was non-negotiable in those days – we all just went.

Every year the class would have a Christmas Party at the end of the final term, and the idea was that all the kids would bring food from home for the party.

I was excited because I knew my mum made the best sponge cakes ever: great high, fluffy things.

I pictured myself taking one of these cakes into school – I was a bit vain, and wanted to show off what a great cook mum was.

But when I asked her to make the cake, she flatly refused.

No matter what I said, how I nagged at her, she just said no.

Finally, in frustration, I just burst out: “But why mum? Why won’t you make one of your cakes and let me take it to the school party?”.

She hesitated for a moment.

And then she said quietly: “I don’t like white people eating my food”.

I knew immediately from the way she said it that not only was this the end of the argument, but also that she was telling me something more.

I can still see her face and hear her voice.

I haven’t forgotten this: although I didn’t understand how at the time, it was clearly important.

And so I had to trudge off to my Christmas party with a packet of store bought biscuits, while all the other kids brought scones, cakes and biscuits baked by their mothers – none of which, I might add, were as good as what my mum could have made.

This sounds like an ordinary domestic, family event.

And it is.

But like so many stories that are part of every Aboriginal family in this country, there is a lot packed into this little scenario.

For a start, how did my mum get to be so good a cook?

I see now that her skill with cooking was something she had learnt from the white women she worked for as domestic, unpaid labour.

Her ability to cook a beautiful sponge cake was a direct consequence of the policy of assimilation by which all Australian governments aimed to eradicate us as distinct cultural groups.

At the same time, there were other skills that were withheld from her and so many other Stolen Generations.

Most importantly, growing up in Kahlin Compound she was never taught to read or write.

Despite the rhetoric about Aboriginal children being taken away to improve their chances in life, literacy was one skill that the administration clearly thought was of no use to a young Aboriginal woman.

That much is clear from our history.

However, on a personal level, much about my mother’s motivations in the story about the cake remains curious to me.

Did she not want white people to eat her food as an act of defiance?

Was it a reluctance – or a refusal – to place herself in a situation of being judged by them?

Was it her own brand of passive resistance?

I don’t know.

However, I do know it was a profound moment in our relationship as she revealed something of herself to me.

This moment has stayed with me over all these years.

And I believe this little incident points to the great gulf in experience between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia.

It points towards an experience carried by so many of our families: the experience of having been treated unjustly, but of that injustice not being acknowledged.

This experience has been analysed by Jill Stauffer in her 2015 book, Ethical loneliness: the injustice of not being heard1.

Stauffer describes the profound isolation and loneliness that arises as a consequence of such an experience.

Calling it ‘ethical loneliness’ she says that it is a condition undergone by persons who have been unjustly treated … who emerge from that injustice only to find that the surrounding world will not listen to or cannot properly hear their testimony. … ethical loneliness is the experience of having been abandoned by humanity, compounded by the experience of not being heard.

There is something of this ethical loneliness in my mother’s experience, and even in the story of the cake she would not make.

I believe that experience is common to many if not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

It stems from the complex, often damaged and damaging relationship between our First Nations and those who colonised this place from 1788 onwards.

Much of that damage remains embedded in the relationship between black and white Australia.

This nation has never properly dealt with that damage.

It has never properly acknowledged it, and acted upon that acknowledgement.

I believe we now, in 2017, all of us over the age of 18, this generation, have an historic opportunity to do that, to begin the process of repair, to re-set that relationship on a foundation of equality, justice and truth.

That opportunity is presented by the prospect of genuine and substantive reform to the Australian Constitution, and that is the topic I want to talk to you about this evening.

I would like to take you on the journey that I have been recently on as a member of the Referendum Council, which was tasked with making recommendations to the Federal Government on constitutional reform.

I would like to share with you our experience of the unique regional Dialogues with First Peoples and communities, and what we heard in them, culminating in the National Convention of First peoples at Uluru in May this year, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

And most importantly I want to describe the three essential demands to come from this process, which I summarise with these three words:

Voice.

Treaty.

Truth.

Before we trace that journey from the world of the Parap Camp in the 1950s, to where we stand today in 2017, I would like to acknowledge the importance of the Wave Hill Walk Off in 1966 in our history.

Mr Lingiari and the other Gurindji men and women first walked off their jobs on the Wave Hill station to demand fair pay and conditions, but ended up sitting down at Wattie Creek and demanding the return of their traditional lands.

They were demanding proper acknowledgment of the injustice done to them, and proper restitution of the harms done.

In doing so, they began the modern land rights movement.

But they were also re-asserting the struggle for self-determination, as summed up so elegantly by Mr Lingiari himself when he said:

“We want to live on our land, our way”

In those nine words, he captured the essence of what have been and continue to be the central demands of our First Nations since 1788.

First, recognition of our sovereignty, never ceded, of the land, of Country.

Second, acceptance of our right to continue in our unique and diverse cultures.

The Gurindji and Mr Lingiari powerfully re-asserted those demands, just as our First Nations have done since the beginning of the colonisation of Australia, and just as we have continued to do since.

This year, 2017, is a year of anniversaries of events which built upon and extended the rights of First Peoples as so clearly stated by the Gurindji.

It is

• 50 years since the 1967 Referendum;

• 25 years since the Mabo decision overturned the lie of ‘terra nullius’ in 1992; and

• 20 years since the Bringing Them Home Report in 1997.

It is also, crucially, 10 years since the Intervention was unleashed on our communities here in the Northern Territory.

The Intervention was the counter-revolution, the attempt to turn back the clock to the times before the Gurindji and Wave Hill, and the 1967 Referendum, and all the other achievements.

The Intervention was the attempt to take us back to the world of Parap Camp in the 1950s, when the powers of the nation-state reached into every aspect of how we lived our lives.

Now, ten years on, it is clear how profoundly and utterly the Intervention and the thinking behind it has failed.

It continues, however, to create much heartache and pain.

As John Lawrence in his recent Castan Centre Address3 has stated, tem years on, the Northern Territory gaols more people per capita than any country in the world.

The overwhelming majority of those incarcerated are Aboriginal.

The number of children being removed from their families is soaring: it rose by an average of 16% per year between 2011 and 2015.

This frightening increase is entirely due to the removal of Aboriginal children from their families4.

Family violence is out of control.

These figures – which many of you will know – are profoundly disturbing.

They demonstrate the tsunami of anger, frustration, despair and sadness that is engulfing our communities and families.

These type of figures are echoed across the country.

They reflect the kind of Intervention-thinking that has informed policy making over the last ten years, based on the idea that the nation-state knows best what is good for us.

Let us remember that the Intervention was trumpeted by its instigators as necessary to protect Aboriginal women and children.

It marked a shift in policy-making not just here but across the country.

Intervention-thinking sees self-determination as a failed idea, and blames us for the situation in which we find ourselves.

It believes that we do not have anything to offer, that we are at best ‘risks’ to be managed.

It ignores or condones or covers up the abuse of young people in detention, or our lack of housing or access to education.

I say again: it has utterly failed.

We can see this through the statistics, but more importantly through visiting many of our communities and listening to the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over these last few months.

I’ve been working in this field all of my adult life, and I can say honestly say that I have never seen things so bad.

This has to change.

We now sit in 2017 at what I believe is a critical junction in our history, not just for the First Nations of this country, but for the nation-state as a whole.

Six weeks ago, the Referendum Council of which I was Co-Chair handed a report to the Prime Minister, recommending what constitutional change should look like if it is to be acceptable to our First Peoples.

The report documents what we were told in a series of regional dialogues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities across the country.

Going out and talking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was our first priority under our terms of reference.

These twelve regional Dialogues were held from Thursday Island to Hobart, from Perth, to Ross River outside Alice Springs, to Sydney and Melbourne. People from across the regions came to these centres.

We also held a one-day information session in Canberra.

Each Dialogue was attended by around one hundred people, including Traditional Owners, representatives of local organisations, and individuals.

Each was held over three days to allow full consideration of a number of proposals for Constitutional reform. It was the same format and same agenda for each Dialogue. We needed a methodology which could, in some way, be empirically measured.

The reforms that each Dialogue considered had been inherited by the Referendum Council from the work of the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution (co-chaired by Patrick Dodson and Mark Leibler) and the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (co-chaired by Senators Ken Wyatt and Nova Peris).

They were:

• first, a statement acknowledging us as the First Australians, either inside or outside the Constitution;

• second, amending or deleting that part of the Constitution which empowers the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

• third, inserting a guarantee against racial discrimination into the Constitution; and

• fourth, deleting that part of the Constitution which contemplates the possibility of a state government excluding some Australians from voting on the basis of their race.

The Dialogues also considered a fifth option, that of a First Peoples’ Voice to be heard by Parliament, and the right to be consulted on legislation and policies that affects us.

The Dialogue process was unprecedented in Australia’s history: never before have we as First Nations sat down across the nation in such an intensive, structured manner to deliberate on constitutional matters.

It was a passionate process.

Delegates grappled with the technical and legal implications of these proposals, as well as with their political viability.

There were disagreements, there were even arguments: how could it be otherwise when 1,200 people from all the diversity of our Nations were brought together to talk about matters so closely connected with the experiences and history of their families, clans and communities?

But there was also an extraordinary level of agreement on some matters.

When delegates from the Dialogues assembled at Uluru in May this year, the exhaustive deliberations and informed participation through the Regional Dialogues led to a broad consensus, as articulated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart which was adopted by the Convention.

Specifically, Australia’s First Peoples overwhelmingly rejected any purely symbolic changes to the Constitution, such as through a ‘statement of recognition’.

There were two reasons behind the rejection of this narrow model of Constitutional recognition.

First, there was a concern that formal recognition in the Constitution might interfere with sovereignty – and all Dialogues were steadfast in asserting the fact that we as First Nations had never ceded our sovereignty.

In re-asserting the fact of sovereignty, the delegates echoed the conclusions of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples five years ago, which stated that5:

The … occupation of the country … proceeded on the fiction of terra nullius. It follows that ultimately the basis of settlement in Australia is and always has been the exertion of force by and on behalf of the British Crown. No-one asked permission to settle. No-one consented, no-one ceded. Sovereignty was not passed from the Aboriginal peoples by any actions of legal significance voluntarily taken by or on behalf of them.

Second, and more simply, participants in the Dialogues and at Uluru simply did not trust the likely process for drafting a constitutional statement of recognition

The concern was that by the time the lawyers were through with it, such a statement would end up being so bland as to be incompatible with the duty to recognise the difficult truths of Australia’s past.

Instead, our mob wanted substantive change, structural reform, for their communities on the ground.

And if it didn’t fit that criteria, they weren’t interested.

And this is where Dialogue participants and the Uluru Convention showed significant agreement.

There was overwhelming consensus around three proposals.

First, for a constitutionally established representative body that would give First Nations a Voice directly to the Federal Parliament.

Second, for the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise the making of Treaties with us.

Third, for a process of local and regional Truth-telling which could form the basis for genuine reconciliation.

These three things – Voice – Treaty – Truth – were the key consensus demands that arose from the Dialogues, were captured in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and form the core of the Referendum Council’s report.

I’d now like to turn to each of these three crucial concepts and unpack them, give you my view why they are important, what they might mean, and how they might provide a pathway out of our current situation.

These are not abstract notions, or intellectual constructs.

Changing the Constitution, many of us believe, is the only place left for us to go.

We have sat on the Committees, we have set up our own organisations, we have changed national policy agendas, but we still haven’t been able to achieve the substantive change demanded by our communities.

As Marcia Langton said at Garma recently, we have been Royal Commission-ed out, we have been committee-ed out, and we have been panel-ed out.

We still have to rely on other people’s good will.

And that is not good enough anymore.

We need more than that.

We need once and for all for our sovereignty to be recognised and our voices to be heard.

The recommendation for substantive constitutional change was for the establishment of a “representative body that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament”.

We believed – following the consensus at Uluru – that this is the only constitutional reform which would accord with the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Why is this important?

Establishing such a body in the Constitution has both substantive and symbolic value.

Symbolically, it recognises the unique place of First Peoples in Australian history and in contemporary Australian society.

It formally acknowledges our place here.

In asking Australians to vote ‘yes’ to such a proposal we would be asking us all to reflect on who we are, on what values and principles we hold dearest.

It would establish a significant national narrative about working together – about a genuine two-way conversation.

But such a body will also provide substantive benefits.

A constitutionally entrenched Voice to Parliament could address Australia’s poor history of consultation with our Peoples by government.

All too often we have been excluded from the key decisions that are made about our lives.

The Intervention itself is a key example, designed over three days6, in some offices in Canberra by people who took little account of the evidence, had no understanding of the realities of our lives and most significantly didn’t talk to any of us.

(No wonder it has failed!)

The Voice to Parliament would ensure we have input at the highest level into the policy-making that affects us.

It could also play a valuable monitoring role.

Properly resourced, it could hold Government to account, regularly reviewing and reporting on the implementation of recommendations from the host of inquiries and reports from the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody onwards.

It could also monitor the use of the Constitution’s ‘race power’ or attempts to suspend racial discrimination legislation so that measures like the Intervention could be properly scrutinised before their implementation.

Embedding the establishment of the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution is vital because the body’s existence would not then be at the whim of whichever government was in power in Canberra.

You know, every time there is a change of government, or a new Minister, or even a Head of Department, we all have to troop down to Canberra yet again and justify our existence. Pretty much, start all over again.

The Voice to Parliament would be a permanent and enduring feature of the nation’s body-politic.

It could only be abolished by going back to you, the people, in a new referendum.

To date, all our national organisations have disappeared with the stroke of a Minister’s pen.

We would be, at last, in the main building, not in the demountable out the back.

Of course, the details of how to establish such a body would need to be carefully negotiated with Parliament once its establishment was agreed through Referendum.

My vision – and that of many people we spoke to during the dialogues and at Uluru – is for a body that include representation from all the diversity of First Nations across Australia.

It would be a place for dialogue, a meeting place for us and with us.

And in my opinion, it is this diversity that would enrich the body-politic.

After 65,000 years or more on this continent, with all our different languages, histories and cultures, I think we would have something powerful and unique to offer the nation-state through such a body.

Let me turn to second proposal to come from the Dialogues and from Uluru: Treaty.

Australia is one of the few liberal democracies around the world which still does not have a treaty or treaties or some other kind of formal acknowledgement or arrangement with its Indigenous minorities.

It is something we have demanded since at least the mid-nineteenth century.

Despite the hard-won gains, such as through the Land Rights Act following the Gurindji Walk Off, and the Native Title Act sparked by Eddie Mabo, there is unfinished business that we need to resolve.

We used the word ‘Makaratta’ to describe this process of agreement or Treaty-making.

Makaratta is the process that guides the Yolngu Nation in North East Arnhem Land through difficult disputes, and its workings have been recently described by Galarrwuy Yunupingu in this way7:

… each party, led by their elders, must speak carefully and calmly about the dispute. They must put the facts on the table and air their grievances … The leaders must always seek a full understanding of the dispute: what lies behind it; who is responsible; what each party wants, and all things that are normal to peacemaking efforts. When that understanding is arrived at, then a settlement can be agreed upon.

Following the Uluru Statement, this means the establishment of a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to set up a national Framework and principles for negotiating treaties, and a possible a national settlement document.

A Treaty is a pathway to the recognition of sovereignty and to the achievement of self-determination.

It is an agreement between equals.

Such treaties could be regional or State-wide, and it would be the Makarrata Commission’s job to provide a national framework for, and supervise, these two-way processes.

Critically, treaties are inseparable from the third demand from the Dialogues and Uluru: Truth.

You cannot make a lasting and effective agreement unless you have a shared, truthful understanding of the nature of the dispute, of the history, of how we got to where we stand.

The true story of colonisation must be told, must be heard, must be acknowledged.

Because, this is still not the case.

This is difficult and painful territory – for us as well as for mainstream Australia.

It can be hard to hear.

As Jill Stauffer says in her book ‘Ethical Loneliness’ that I quoted from at the beginning of tonight:

Responding well to others, especially survivors of wrongdoing, may require that we open ourselves to hearing something other than what we expect or want to hear

But hearing this history is necessary before we can come to some true reconciliation, some genuine healing for both sides..

I was reminded of this just last month when I read media stories about an online digital map of more than 150 massacres developed by Professor Lyndall Ryan at the University of Newcastle8.

Through meticulous examination of the records, the map seeks to provide the evidence for those who still question whether massacres happened.

Professor Ryan has started documenting these facts for the eastern coast of Australia but plans to extend this to the rest of the country.

This is important work.

But I question how it is that we have had to wait until 2017 for this?

Why is this not part of the national conversation?

Our communities know about the massacres.

Our families know about the children being forcibly removed from their families.

But it seems that there is a need for many in mainstream Australia to pretend that all this didn’t happen, that it’s all just part of a ‘black armband’ view of history, made up to make you feel guilty.

One of the most moving episodes in the regional dialogues for me personally came at Ross River near Alice Springs.

There the Elders spoke of the distress they felt at the recent placement of a statue of the explorer John McDouall Stuart in Alice Springs to mark the the 150th anniversary of his attempt to reach the Top End from Adelaide.

The statue was shown holding a gun.

The Elders felt legitimately that this showed a painful lack of respect, given the fact that Stuart’s journey led directly to a series of massacres in the region as control of the land was wrested from the traditional owners.

Let me be clear: this process of truth–telling is not about guilt.

Guilt is a debilitating emotion that stops us moving forward or doing anything.

What I’m talking about is respect and acknowledgment.

As one participant in the Regional Dialogues in Broome said:

[We are] people who worked as stockmen for no pay, who have survived a history full of massacres and pain. We deserve respect.

And of course, this is not just the history of our First Peoples – it is the history of all of us, of all of Australia, and we need to own it.

Then we can move forward together.

The Dialogues opted for the development of a ‘Declaration of Recognition’ to be passed by all Australian Parliaments.

This declaration – outside the Constitution – would be free to articulate that difficult shared history.

It could provide a unifying statement about the three waves of people who make up the Australian story:

• our ancient First Peoples (65,000 years or more),

• those people who came in 1788 and after,

• the peoples who have come from out of Europe and Asia and who continue to try to come us today, often fleeing persecution and seeking a better life.

Three waves of people.

So, this where we stand now in 2017.

The unprecedented process of deliberation by Australia’s First peoples, through the regional Dialogues and at Uluru, led to the formulation of three clear demands:

Voice.

Treaty.

Truth.

Some commentators and others have expressed concern that these are new proposals, the examination of which will need yet more new processes to consider.

I respectfully disagree.

None of these issues are new.

We have been talking about these things for a long time.

Other commentators believe that these are impractical, left-field proposals.

Again, I respectfully disagree.

I believe these changes are challenging but achievable, and are proportionate to the level of distress, anger and powerlessness being felt in our communities.

In the international landscape of recognising Indigenous peoples, what we are asking for is modest, conservative even.

Many of our First Nation communities and families are plagued by a myriad of challenges including poverty, suicide, youth detention, family breakdown, and all kinds of health problems.

Worse, in my view, than any of this, is that too many of us feel hopeless.

To reverse this and to take our rightful place in this country, we need to create new places, new ways by which we can speak and get things done to deal with our complicated 21st century lives.

At the same time we will strongly and even fiercely guard who we are and our right to be different.

We need to create a future when we, and our children and grandchildren, are recognised as having something powerful and unique to offer this nation.

This needs to happen now, and not just for us as First Nations.

This is about the social and emotional wellbeing of the country as a whole.

It is a time of reflection, a time for all Australians to consider what kind of a society we are today, what are our values and our principles.

Surely, we are not the same people as we were in 1901 when the Constitution was drawn up.

Eventually we will have to sit down together, black and white in this nation, and deal with this.

For the truth is that this is our place.

We, the First Nations, are not going anywhere.

They can put it off for another ten years, twenty years fifty years.

But eventually you will have to sit down with as respectful equals and sort out this relationship.

But right now, we have an opportunity, a roadmap for doing that.

Simply this:

Voice.

Treaty.

Truth.

And I want to add:

Justice.

Hear us. Acknowledge us.

Thank you all for coming.

 

Aboriginal Health and Children in detention #NTCOSS2017 Speech @NTRoyalComm Mick Gooda reports ” What children have told us “

 

” There is a strong perception that that the system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing. It is failing our young people, it is failing those who work in the system and it is also failing the people of the Northern Territory who are entitled to live in safer communities.

We have heard that where detention systems are effective they are smaller centres with a therapeutic focus.

An approach that is appropriately child centred for children and young people, who at this critical time of their development, including their brain development, are not mini adults and should not be treated as such.

If a child must be removed then they must be provided with the care, support and stability that any child is undeniably entitled. “

Speech to the NT Council of Social Service 26 September 2017 Commissioner Mick Gooda see in full Part 2 Below

Read over 48 NACCHO articles NT Royal Commission #Dondale

 ” Yesterday we published a booklet which gives voice to the children who have experienced the child protection system – they have told us their stories either in evidence or by way of recorded story.

When we asked one boy  about what he had experienced and we asked him if there was any place out there that would be suitable for you to be placed into care?

He simply told us I only want to be with my Mother “

Download ” What children told us -Child protection  It’s time our children’s voices were properly heard.”

voices-what-children-have-told-us

Part 1 SNAICC calls for a response to the voices of children in the Northern Territory

SNAICC welcomes the recent report from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory for its ability to promote the voices of children and young people affected by a child protection system that is in crisis, which, vitally, provides an insight into the real impact of ongoing failures of government to appropriately respond to children in need.

The report, Voices: What children have told us – Child Protection, captures what is often lost in discussions about the best interests of our children – the voices of our children.

What these powerful stories demonstrate is a pattern of denial of basic rights, ongoing policy and practice failures from successive NT governments, and – bluntly – an uncaring approach to caring for our most vulnerable children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 89.1 per cent of all children in out-of-home care in the Northern Territory. This is completely unacceptable.

The experiences courageously shared by children and young people interviewed by the Royal Commission further evidence the extensive reform that is required in the NT child protection system, echoing recommendations from SNAICC’s submission to the Royal Commission submitted in February 2017.

This is the time for genuine partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the Federal and Northern Territory Governments.

We are hopeful that the voices captured in this report go someway to inspire an authentic response to the calls of children to create a new system that enables them to thrive, replacing the current system that perpetuates harm.

Part 2 Speech to the NT Council of Social Service 26 September 2017 Commissioner Mick Gooda

Thanks for that nice introduction Wendy and really thanks for making time for us to come along today and talk to NTCOSS about the Royal Commission.

We are now entering the phase leading into the handover of the report when a lot of work is coming together and gelling towards a set of recommendations that we hope will change the whole nature of how we treat children in the Northern Territory and hopefully like Wendy said show the way for the rest of Australia.

I acknowledge the Larrakia people the traditional owners of this place we now call Darwin, both personally as a Gangulu fella from Central Queensland and on behalf of the Royal Commission for making us welcome to base our work on your country.

I wasn’t here for the Welcome to Country but I saw the young ladies outside and isn’t it great to see the young people do a Welcome to Country.

It is a handing over of that particular ceremony, and I was reminded of a tweet the other day about the only thing we do in Australia that represents any cultural aspect of Australian culture is the Welcome to Country.

And I thought about that and again it shows that if we pay respects to Aboriginal people we pay respects to everyone in Australia.

I’d like to think of Australian culture as being a bit more than football, meat pies and Holden cars.

Like I said we are about eight weeks away from our reporting date of the 17th November and it is time for us to bring people together to talk about how we have done our work as a Royal Commission.

The first thing we found is that our Royal Commission isn’t remarkable.

There have been more than 50 inquiries, reports and reviews on issues of child protection and detention that go to the things we’re looking at.

Commissioner White and I understand that people are cynical and fatigued.

They told us that in pretty clear and unambiguous terms.

Once again another Inquiry had arrived to look at issues of long standing when the overwhelming experience of other inquiries had only seen the situation worsen.

Yet this community has continued to provide us with information, to attend community consultations, community forums and meetings.

During our time we have witnessed a tremendous desire of people not only to ensure that there is reform, but also as communities to accept responsibility for ensuring the safety of our children.

Commissioner White and I were taken aback when we had a meeting with the full Councils of the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council where half of our time was taken up by communities getting up and saying we’ve got to stop blaming government, we’ve got to start taking responsibility for what we have contributed to as parents.

And that tells me that there is a great appetite within the Aboriginal community for change and to take responsibility.

As we head to that 17th November deadline we are focused on presenting a pathway for children, families and communities across the Northern Territory.

A plan – with a big caveat – if implemented, that will deliver the necessary widespread reform and change for which Territorians have waited for so long.

Since the Commission was established we have:

  • held three months of public hearings in Darwin and Alice Springs covering both youth detention and child protection
  • heard from over 210 witnesses
  • received more than 480 witness statements and more than 430 personal stories
  • received over 250 submissions
  • taken site visits to detention centres
  • visited and engaged with communities including via our community engagement team
  • held open and private forums and meetings including with victims of crime, youth justice officers, police officers, foster carers, care and protection workers, organisations and peak bodies.
  • heard hundreds of stories from children, families and communities who have had firsthand experience of child protection and detention in the Northern Territory.

Commissioner White and I thank everyone who has provided information to us because without this we would not have been able to fully investigate and ultimately to formulate our recommendations.

We have to make particular mention of those children and young people who have had experiences of the youth detention and child protection systems who have courageously shared their experiences with us.

Their evidence, and that of their families, frontline workers and worker and others involved in the system, has at times been very confronting.

I think this Commission has changed all of us.

I was talking to Tony McEvoy our first Aboriginal QC the other day and he told me of a recent experience where just the issue of child protection in another jurisdiction just made him tear up at the memories of what we went through up here, people like us, imagine the young people inside that system.

So we’re committed to ensuring that their voices are heard throughout our report.

Earlier this year we published a booklet which set out what we were told by communities when we met with them last year.

Yesterday we published a booklet which gives voice to the children who have experienced the child protection system – they have told us their stories either in evidence or by way of recorded story.

This booklet is available on the ( NACCHO )  website.

Please feel free to distribute it far and wide.

It’s time our children’s voices were properly heard.

It comes as no surprise that one of the first things we say is that the detention and child protection systems appear to be broken

    • Chief Minister Gunner has publicly acknowledged that the systems are broken
    • Those in the frontline – current and former youth justice, case workers, foster carers, lawyers, judiciary, representatives and agencies and government past and present – as well as the children, families and communities impacted, have told us detention and child protection in the NT is failing.
    • In our Interim Report in March we said –

“There is a strong perception that that the system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing. It is failing our young people, it is failing those who work in the system and it is also failing the people of the Northern Territory who are entitled to live in safer communities”

All the evidence we have received indicates that locking children up in Don Dale like conditions does not lead to good outcomes.

It doesn’t rehabilitate young people, it doesn’t reduce recidivism and it does not make our community safer.

What we have seen is that if you pursue a punitive based approach, these goals of rehabilitation, of reducing recidivism and safer communities, are likely to be unattainable.

What we have also found is that we cannot fix the problems within detention centres if we don’t fix the pathways into those places.

What we have heard is that many young people can be diverted from this ‘inevitable path’ through changes to legal processes, early intervention and more young people going into diversion programs when they first encounter the youth justice system.

Not surprisingly the first contact a young person has with the justice system is generally with the police and is one of the first opportunities to set them on the right path.

We have heard that if their initial contact with police is handled appropriately, the young person can be guided towards rehabilitation rather than towards a detention centre.

That doesn’t mean a go easy approach – what it does mean though is recognising that the chance is there at an early stage to change the course of a young person’s life for good.

For the small number of children who will need to be kept in secure detention, we have heard about very different models to those which currently operate in the NT.

Experts here in Australia and overseas have told the Commission that purely punitive approaches are no longer effective nor successful in managing young offenders.

Further, we have heard that where detention systems are effective they are smaller centres with a therapeutic focus.

An approach that is appropriately child centred for children and young people, who at this critical time of their development, including their brain development, are not mini adults and should not be treated as such.

Commissioner White and I have said before that we will not be recommending to the Northern Territory Government that they build another big detention centre.

For the small number of children who require secure detention a different approach is needed – with education and training at its core, that provides well-resourced health and wellbeing programs for the children, so that when they do re-enter the community they are more likely not to reoffend.

Just as a new approach is needed for youth justice and detention what we have heard during the Commission about the child protection system in the Northern Territory also signals the need for a paradigm change.

The Commission has heard much evidence from those with experience of the child protection or welfare system – both personally and professionally.

From the children and families we have heard about the impacts of separation from culture, family and kin, resulting from the placement of children into care.

DF – one of our Vulnerable Witnesses – as a matter of fact the last witness to this Royal Commission – told us in out last public hearing he and his siblings were placed into care when he was the age of 10.

At the time he was removed he understood he would be placed into respite care for just two weeks – he was told it would be just enough time for his Mum to get a house and make some arrangements.

He described the heartbreak at the prospect of being separated from his Mum for two weeks. He didn’t know at the time but it would be much longer.

DF told us that some months after going into respite he found a ‘care order’ in his foster carer’s house. He said he took it into his room and read it.

It was the first time that he understood that he wouldn’t be going back to his mum any time soon. The order placed him into protection until the age of 18.

He told us that no one had bothered to speak to him, not his carer, not his case worker, not anyone. He found out about this life changing decision accidentally.

Not surprisingly, he absconded from care many times, he was reported to police just a many times.

So the system that was set up to protect him actually facilitated his entry into the youth justice system.

When we spoke to him about what he had experienced and we asked him if there was any place out there that would be suitable for you to be placed into care?

He simply told us I only want to be with my Mother.

Challenges in communication, with multiple placements, changes in foster and respite care arrangements, separation from families, interruption to education and a lack of continuity of case management are just some of the issues we have heard.

We have heard also of experiences which suggest that the placement into care has delivered poorer outcomes than if a child had remained within their community and within their family.

We also heard of cases where we were told that a child, in the care of the CEO, was in need of care.

If a child must be removed then they must be provided with the care, support and stability that any child is undeniably entitled.

We know that those who enter the child protection system have a higher chance of ending in the detention system – we call them the ‘Cross Over’ kids.

This speaks to the need for early intervention and to seek to close off that seemingly inevitable pathway.

Our goal should be to help prevent children entering protection by having greater capacity to identify the triggers that indicate a family is in need, that needs support early and well before the statutory system intervenes.

It is the early actions which will have the greatest impact for them and their communities.

For example, it has been found that pathways into juvenile justice can often stem from childhood trauma that remains unaddressed.

There are huge demands on child protection systems across Australia and too often children end up languishing in such systems and any assistance is provided too late.

And successive inquiries have repeatedly found that child protection systems are based on out of date assumptions yet we have failed to see reform efforts that are based on an understanding of the scale of child abuse and neglect.

We have had experts analyse the Niland Report Inquiry and they tell us the kids that were screened out for intervention in that State mostly me the benchmark for intervention.

We are also told that it is easy to translate those figures to the Northern Territory.

From our perspective that means that there is this great wave of children out there and families out there in dire need of support.

And the statutory child protection system, no matter how good you make it, won’t be able to cope.

The emphasis on early intervention and early support will be the cornerstone of our recommendations.

The goal for us all must be a system that is child focused, community involved, evidence based, locally tailored and providing support for children and families as early possible.

It is fitting I close with what a couple of stories from children and I’ll go to the second one first.

And they are positive stories and I think we have to be positive.

Commissioner White and I decided early in this Commission that if we can’t think positively about the future of children we should resign and let someone else do this job.

Because we have got to remain positive because if we don’t remain positive then I think it is all lost.

In all the negative stories we got told about child protection one young woman described her case worker taker her out to lunch and talking with her for about an hour.

This was apparently such an unusual occurrence for this young woman that it stuck in her mind for years.

Commissioner White and I made a habit of ensuring that we ask every vulnerable witness who came before us, particularly in the youth detention system, were there any good guards?

Were there any good youth workers?

Because we had heard plenty abut the negative youth workers.

And every one of those children said of course there were good youth justice workers and they were in the majority.

And then we asked a follow up question – what made a good youth justice worker?

And every one said the same thing.

They spoke to us, they treated us like humans.

And what does that tell us about the needs and wants of young people?

They just want people to talk to them and treat them like humans.

I have to end by acknowledging the work of the hundreds of people and organisations – many represented here today – who have contributed to the work we are undertaking.

Like I said we received more than 320 submissions from individuals, community organisations, peak bodies, academics, government, non-government and other organisations.

In the face of the challenges that children and young people confront in the NT, this is so encouraging and shows Commissioner White and I that there are so many people willing to work towards change and improvements in the system.

And indeed put the kids of the Northern Territory in the centre of all of our considerations.

Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen

NACCHO Aboriginal Children #SNAICC2017 : Download : UN Report Recommends : Reducing rates of Indigenous child incarceration and removal

 ” The United Nations has criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government for the soaring rates at which Australia locks up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

In her new report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said “the routine detention of young Indigenous children” was “the most distressing aspect of her visit” to Australia.

The report found that Australia locks up Indigenous children, as young as 10 years old, at 24 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.”

Download the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 

UN The Australia Report

 ” The lack of progress to improve education, health and employment standards for Indigenous people had fuelled “escalating” rates of incarceration and child removal.

The Special Rapporteur’s report said a plan of action to address high rates of Indigenous incarceration was a “national priority”.

The current claim by the Government that matters relating to incarceration remain the sole prerogative of states is untenable in the severe “

See ABC Report Part 3 Below  Australia’s progress on Closing the Gap ‘woefully inadequate’, UN says

 ” Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services have achieved remarkable success in delivering culturally appropriate services for primary health care.

However, the Special Rapporteur was informed by multiple stakeholders during her visit about inequalities in the resources available for rural and remote service delivery and of cuts to community managed primary health care, which play an essential role, for example in the prevention of chronic diseases.”

See Part 2 Below Close the Gap and ACCHO Health Services

Update September 20

CTG Press Release : Australian governments urged to act on scathing UN report

The Close the Gap Campaign urges Australian governments to act on the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Special Rapporteur, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said it is “woefully inadequate” that, after more than two decades of sustained economic growth, governments have failed to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The co-chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar and National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair, Mr Rod Little, call on Federal, State and Territory governments to make Indigenous health reform a top priority at the next COAG meeting and in their 2018 Budgets

Download the CTG press Release HERE CTG Special Rep MR Final

Ms Tauli-Corpuz emphasised that PM Turnbull’s Government, not states and territories, is responsible under international law for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s “national detention crisis”.

She called for the Federal Government to adopt a National Action Plan to address the crisis.

Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia, said today:

Download Report from Amnesty Amnesty Aboriginal Austrlia

“Locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in children’s prisons is a national shame. Children are being abused not only in Don Dale in the NT, but in Cleveland in Queensland, in Bimberi in the ACT, in Banksia Hill in WA. This problem is nationwide.”

“The good news is that we already know what will keep Indigenous kids out of children’s prisons and safe in their communities.”

“PM Turnbull must commit to a National Action Plan to fix the youth ‘injustice’ system. That plan must fund Indigenous-led community programs, which are the best at keeping Indigenous kids safe and thriving.”

 Other concerns and recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report include

  • The application of criminal responsibility as low as at the age of 10 years across the country is deeply troubling and below international standards. This situation is aggravated by the failure to apply diversion measures and community programmes and the placement of children in high-security facilities.
  • It is wholly inappropriate to detain children in punitive, rather than rehabilitative, conditions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are essentially being punished for being poor and, in most cases, prison will only perpetuate the cycle of violence, intergenerational trauma, poverty and crime.
  • Allegations of serious abuses, including violent strip-searches, teargassing, hooding and prolonged isolation committed against Aboriginal children in custody.
  • The focus urgently needs to move away from detention and punishment towards rehabilitation and reintegration. Locking up people costs tax payers vast amounts of money. For instance, the Special Rapporteur was told that detaining a child costs between $A170,000 and $A200,000 per year.
  • The Government must ensure that community-led early intervention programmes invest in families, rather than punish them, in order to prevent children from being in contact with the child protection system.

 

Part 2 Closing the Gap strategy

  1. The “Closing the Gap” strategy has been in existence for nearly a decade. However, in its 2017 report on health, education and unemployment targets,17 the Government recognizes that only one of the seven targets — to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment rates — is on track. The Government did not expect to meet targets to close or reduce the gap in the remaining six targets, including on life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to die on average 10 years younger than other Australians, with no major improvements being recorded. In the Northern Territory, the life expectancy of Aboriginal people is the lowest in the nation and the gap between the non-indigenous population is 16 years for men and 14 years for women.
  2. It is woefully inadequate that, despite having enjoyed over two decades of economic growth, Australia has not been able to improve the social disadvantage of its indigenous population. The existing measures are clearly insufficient as evidenced by the lack of progress in achieving the “Close the Gap” targets.

Health services

  1. Social and cultural determinants explain almost one third of the health gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people. In 2015, nearly 45 per cent of indigenous peoples reported having a disability or long-term health condition. Understanding the impacts of intergenerational trauma and racism are essential factors in order to address the health situation of indigenous peoples effectively.
  2. The Government has taken steps to improve the health of indigenous peoples through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, and the Special Rapporteur notes as positive that the plan adopts a human rights-based approach informed by the Declaration.18
  3. In order for the Implementation Plan for the Health Plan to be successful, the Government must invest in partnerships that recognize the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The workforce of indigenous Australian medical professionals has expanded in the past decade and developed valuable expertise. However, parity is still lagging as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still make up less than 1 per cent of the national health workforce. Support for training more indigenous health professionals is therefore required.
  4. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services have achieved remarkable success in delivering culturally appropriate services for primary health care. However, the Special Rapporteur was informed by multiple stakeholders during her visit about inequalities in the resources available for rural and remote service delivery and of cuts to community managed primary health care, which play an essential role, for example in the prevention of chronic diseases.
  5. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also told the Special Rapporteur about their feelings of powerlessness, loss of culture and lack of control over their lives. Suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are escalating at a shocking rate and are double that of non-Indigenous Australians. The current situation was described to the Special Rapporteur as a suicide epidemic. While visiting the Kimberley region in Western Australia, she learned about youth-developed and -driven projects to prevent suicide among Aboriginal adolescents. She strongly urges that such initiatives be supported and replicated. Adopting a holistic approach to social and emotional well-being that recognizes the need for cultural connection is essential to achieve sustainable improvement in health indicators.
  6. Aboriginal-led health research capacity has been established and should be drawn upon to inform policies. Strengthened financial and political support for Aboriginal- and Torres Strait Islander-led expertise, professional development and research is crucial in order to close the gap in relation to key health inequalities faced by indigenous peoples. In order for such measures to be sustainable, longer-term funding agreements are necessary.

Part 3 Australia’s progress on Closing the Gap ‘woefully inadequate’, UN says

The United Nations has described Australia’s lack of progress on Closing the Gap as “woefully inadequate”, saying the over-incarceration of Indigenous people is a major human rights concern

Key points:

  • The UN supported the call for a referendum to establish a First Nations advisory body in the constitution, the report said
  • It also recommended the Federal Government adopt new targets to reduce the rate of Indigenous incarceration
  • A plan of action to address high rates of incarceration was a “national priority”, it added

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz visited Australia earlier this year, and today released her report detailing her concerns on the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz said it was unacceptable that despite two decades of economic growth, Australia had not been able to improve the social disadvantage of its Indigenous population.

She said the United Nations supported the call for a referendum to establish a First Nations advisory body in the constitution and urged the Federal Government to establish a treaties and truth-telling commission.

“Such measures would carry momentous significance to resetting the relationship with the First Peoples of Australia,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz said.

The Special Rapporteur’s report also recommended the Federal Government adopt new targets to reduce violence against women and rates of incarceration and child removal.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz said the detention of young Indigenous children was “the most distressing aspect of her visit” to Australia.

“Detention of those children has become so prevalent in certain communities that some parents referred to it as an achievement that none of their children has been taken into custody so far,” she wrote.

“The extraordinarily high rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, including women and children, is a major human rights concern.

“There have been allegations of serious abuses, including violent strip-searches, teargassing, hooding and prolonged isolation committed against Aboriginal children in custody.”

She said the lack of progress to improve education, health and employment standards for Indigenous people had fuelled “escalating” rates of incarceration and child removal.

The Special Rapporteur’s report said a plan of action to address high rates of Indigenous incarceration was a “national priority”.

“The current claim by the Government that matters relating to incarceration remain the sole prerogative of states is untenable in the severe,” she said.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz praised the Children’s Koori Court in Victoria, which brings young offenders in front of a panel of elders and aims to reduce imprisonment and recidivism.

“Such culturally sensitive processes could significantly reduce recidivism rates if extended to other jurisdictions,” she said.