NACCHO Aboriginal Youth Health : ‘Dark days of old Don Dale’: John Paterson CEO @AMSANTaus and Human rights groups condemn #NT Government and Minister Dale Wakefield’s new youth justice laws

“ The NT government talks proudly about its commitment to Aboriginal-led solutions, to co-design and to collaboration,

So why was this bill kept from those who are part of those solutions and collaborations until the moment it was introduced into the parliament?

The bill went “far beyond” clarifying technical matters,

It does not reflect the royal commission recommendations or the government’s previous policy position to accept and implement those recommendations.

These amendments bring back the draconian treatment of young people and will see children restrained and isolated at the discretion of detention staff.

Far from reducing ambiguity as the minister claims, the amendments reintroduce ambiguity with subjective definitions and powers.

The Chief Executive Officer of AMSANT, John Paterson The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT) today condemned the Labor Government and Minister Wakefield in the strongest possible terms for its behaviour in avoiding debate and scrutiny in order to ram through retrograde changes to the Youth Justice Act for the operation of youth detention.

Read The Guardian Amnesty coverage 

Read full AMSANT Press Releases Part 1 Below

Read over 60 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Don Dale detention articles 

“The Territory Labor Government is creating generational change and safer communities by overhauling the Youth Justice system and putting at-risk young people back on track.

“The safety of youth detention staff and detainees is absolutely paramount. These amendments will help to better manage security risks that puts lives in danger.

“Last year we amended the Youth Justice Act to ensure that force, restraints and isolation could not be used for the purpose of disciplining a young person in detention.

“The new amendments provide clarity by removing ambiguities in the Act to ensure that youth detention staff can better respond to serious and dangerous incidents. Laws often need adjusting to reflect operational realities

Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield Read Full Press release Part 2 Below 

Part 1

Mr Paterson, said “The Minister has been misleading and disingenuous in her speeches and answers to the limited questioning that was allowed in the Legislative Assembly. Despite the Minister’s assertions, these amendments are not mere technical clarifications.

They are substantive changes that erode the small improvements that were made in 2018 in response to the Royal Commission.

They will allow harsh treatment of young people in detention to continue unopposed and unscrutinised.”

WATCH TV NEWS COVERAGE

Mr Paterson said that the Bill passed this afternoon with no scrutiny, is clearly intended to retrospectively make lawful, actions that were unlawful under the law as it existed until today. “We must ask ourselves whether this unseemly and undemocratic haste is intended to defeat legal actions currently on foot by young people who believe their treatment in detention has been unlawful.

Does the government know that unlawful treatment occurred and is now seeking to avoid accountability? It is difficult to draw any other conclusion despite the Minister’s obfuscation in the Assembly” said Mr Paterson.

AMSANT believes that the harsh treatment of young people now permitted under the law will lead to increased tensions and incidents in detention. When the next major incident occurs, the government, not the young people, must be held to account. “Let’s not forget” said Mr Paterson “that a large proportion of young people in detention have significant cognitive disabilities.

The government is condoning the use of restraint, isolation and physical force against young people with disabilities because they do not have the capacity to comply with the demands of the detention environment.

Right now, young people are being restrained in handcuffs and waist shackles to simply walk from one part of Don Dale to another under the control of a guard.”

“AMSANT is disgusted by this behaviour by a government and calls on the Chief Minister to withdraw this legislation prior to it receiving the assent of the Administrator. To do otherwise is to walk away from the Royal Commission recommendations.” said Mr Paterson. Mr Paterson seeks to remind the Chief Minister of his words and apparent distress when he responded to the Royal Commission.

The Chief Minister said in November 2017, “Our youth justice and child protection systems are supposed to make our kids better, not break them, they are supposed to teach them to be part of society, not withdraw”. “This legislation is not consistent with that statement”, Mr Paterson concluded

Protestor at Alice Springs Market yesterday 

1.2 Youth Justice Amendment Bill a return to the bad old days!

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT) Chief Executive Officer, John Paterson, today called on the Chief Minister to halt the progress of the Youth Justice Amendment Bill 2019 through the Legislative Assembly until Aboriginal people and organisations have the chance to have a say.

“The government talks proudly about its commitment to Aboriginal led solutions, to co-design and to collaboration” said Mr Paterson.

“So why was this Bill kept from those who are part of those solutions and collaborations until the moment it was introduced into the Parliament?”

“The Minister has said the Bill simply clarifies technical matters and keeps faith with 2018 amendments.” Mr Paterson said.

“The Bill goes far beyond that. It undoes the positive progress in the 2018 changes which were a start in implementing the Royal Commission recommendations. The government consulted with Aboriginal organisations and other youth advocates and we supported the 2018 amendments.”

Mr Paterson said that this Bill is a u-turn on the progress in 2018. It does not reflect the Royal Commission recommendations or the Government’s previous policy position to accept and implement those recommendations.

“These amendments bring back the draconian treatment of young people and will see children restrained and isolated at the discretion of detention staff. Far from reducing ambiguity as the Minister claims, the amendments reintroduce ambiguity with subjective definitions and powers.”

Mr Paterson also questioned the need for retrospective effect of these amendments. “The only reason for retrospective effect is to legalise actions that were illegal when they were taken.” AMSANT said that the safety of both staff and young people is important and called on the government to work with Aboriginal organisations and other experts to explore the safety concerns and solutions. The government needs to think more carefully about the way forward. “

If the workforce cannot safely deliver a detention system under current laws which give quite considerable powers over the young people, the government needs to look at the skills, training and support of the workforce to ensure that they can. Attacking the human rights of young people is not the solution” Mr Paterson emphasised.

Mr Paterson noted that under the Diagrama Foundation which runs 70% of youth detention in Spain, for example, highly qualified staff with expertise in youth development, trauma and de-escalation work with young people in a therapeutic way that does not involve restraint, force and isolation. “Diagrama facilities rarely experience incidents of the kind seen last year at Don Dale.

Mr McGuire from Diagrama told audiences in Darwin last year that it is at least 10 years since there was a significant incident at a Diagrama facility. And Diagrama experiences a reoffending rate of only 20% across all its residents compared to 80% in the NT.”

Part 2

Passage of Youth Justice Act Amendments to Manage Security

Risks in the Territory’s Youth Detention Centres

March 2019

Today the Territory Labor Government passed amendments to the Youth Justice Act which will clarify and tighten the existing framework for managing safety and security risks within the youth detention centres.

The amendments will provide youth detention centre staff with a clear and unambiguous framework for exercising their powers, and will enable them to have a very clear guideline in their decision making when responding to dangerous and challenging situations.

The amendments include:

  • Clarify the circumstances in which force and restraints may be used, to account for situations where detainees mayact in a way that threatens the safety or security of a detention centre, but not in a way that presents an imminent risk
  • Create a consistent test to determine what is a reasonable use of force and restraints
  • Clarify the meaning of an emergency situation, which is relevant to the general application of all uses of force • Clarify the definition of separation
  • Enable screening and pat down searches of detainees in a broader range of circumstances
  • Include an express power to transfer a detainee from one detention centre to another

The amendments will remove any uncertainty around the operation of existing powers in the legislation, for both youth detention centre staff and detainees.

The amendments will apply retrospectively to the date in which the original provisions of the Act commenced (May 2018). This will remove any doubt about the original intention of these key provisions in the legislation.

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

 

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

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

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

See Full AMSANT Submission Part 2 Below

 

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

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

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

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

ABSEC Submission Download Here

ABSEC Adoption submission

SNAICC Submission Download Here

Snaicc Adoption submission

 Part 1 Next public hearing for local adoption inquiry

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

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

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

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

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Improved support for kinship carers

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

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

Transition of OOHC to Aboriginal Community Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengthening the voice of children in decisions that affect them

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

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

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

Maintaining connection with family, kin and country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improved support for kinship carers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #TopEndFASD18 : “Let’s Make #FASD History” says Top End Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) forum with 6 key messages to be taken into account addressing FASD:

 ” The forum delegates agreed that there was an urgent need for action to prevent FASD in our Top End communities, and across the Northern Territory.

It is essential that our responses do not stigmatise women or Aboriginal people.

It is important that we don’t lay blame, but instead work together, to support our women and young girls.

Everyone is at risk of FASD, so everyone must be informed the harmful effects of drinking while pregnant.

Our men also need to step up and support our mothers, sisters, nieces and partners, to ensure that we give every child the best chance in life.”

A landmark Top End Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) forum* was held in Darwin on 30-31 May 2018

Read over 25 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and FASD articles published over 6 years

“ Territorians want and deserve access to high quality health services,” Ms Fyles said.

Alcohol abuse impacts on individuals, families, businesses and our community in many different ways, including the risk of causing permanent and irreversible damage to a baby if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy.

That’s why reducing alcohol related harm is a key priority of the Territory Labor Government.

Our Government will develop a whole of government framework to prevent FASD with universal and targeted strategies to address FASD “

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, today welcomed 180 delegates to the inaugural Top End Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Forum in Darwin see Ministers Press Release Part 2 below

#TopEndFASD18  Bringing together Aboriginal leaders, FASD experts, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, government representatives, medical professionals, and Non-Government organisations. Approximately 180 delegates representing 37 organisations across the Northern Territory.

FASD is often considered to be a ‘hidden’ disability, because more often than not, the physical characteristics of the individual are not easily recognised. Instead, an individual may present with learning and behavioural difficulties, which may present for a range of disorders.

As a result, FASD is not easily identified and individuals can go undiagnosed and receive inadequate treatment and support.

The forum heard from the NT Minister for Health and the Attorney General Natasha Fyles, NT Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne, Professor Elizabeth Elliott, Dr James Fitzpatrick, NOFASD and FASD Hub.

The forum also heard from Aboriginal community controlled organisations Danila Dilba, Wurli Wurlinjang, Anyinginyi Health Services, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.

Over two days, the forum delegates discussed the impacts of FASD on individuals, families and communities and acknowledged that alcohol misuse and its consequences are an issue for all Territorians, particularly our most vulnerable. Delegates also heard the evidence on how the prevalence of FASD impacts many of our services, including health, education and justice. Delegates learnt that trauma runs deep, and healing and making the right connections is crucial.

The delegates raised the following key messages to be taken into account in addressing FASD:

 1.Prevention and raising awareness

FASD is entirely preventable, much of its impacts are also irreversible. The harms caused by alcohol in our communities are not acceptable and we will all work together to develop prevention and intervention strategies that are culturally appropriate and relevant for our 2

people and communities. It is acknowledged that current and proposed alcohol control measures in the NT are a critical component of prevention.

2. Collaborative Approaches

The forum identified an urgent need for Aboriginal organisations, government agencies, NGOs and local communities to work together to develop policies and programs for women, men, children and communities in the Top End communities and to contribute to the development of an NT FASD Strategy. This needs to be Aboriginal community-led by the health, education, justice and child protection sectors.

 3.Access to FASD resources

It was evident that there is a need for more investment in developing culturally appropriate tools and resources for local Aboriginal communities and key stakeholders working on the frontline and also at the strategic level.

4.Assessment and Treatment services

An identified priority need is for the establishment of multi-disciplinary neuro-developmental assessment and treatment services that are strategically linked with existing service settings, including primary health care, education, child protection and the justice system.

5.Support for children and families

Research is needed to better understand how best to support children and families with FASD and other related issues that also often affect families, such as trauma. We refer to the Fitzroy Valley as a best practice model, as many strong women and leaders in the community worked in partnership with FASD experts and research institutes.

6.Workforce

The skilling and expansion of the workforce needed for prevention, assessment and treatment of FASD, particularly the community based remote Aboriginal workforce, was identified as an important need.

From this forum, we have heard the experiences about the high levels of despair and sense of disempowerment and hurt of our people and these are sad stories. We were also enlightened by the enthusiasm, dedication, passion and hope from local communities, all professions and services, that want to do more and can do more to make FASD History!

*APO NT will be producing a full report on the outcomes of the FASD Forum over the coming weeks.

Generational Change: Putting the spotlight on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

30 May 2018

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, today welcomed 180 delegates to the inaugural Top End Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Forum in Darwin.

“Territorians want and deserve access to high quality health services,” Ms Fyles said.

“Alcohol abuse impacts on individuals, families, businesses and our community in many different ways, including the risk of causing permanent and irreversible damage to a baby if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy.

“That’s why reducing alcohol related harm is a key priority of the Territory Labor Government.

“Our Government will develop a whole of government framework to prevent FASD with universal and targeted strategies to address FASD.

“This strategy was supported by recommendations in the recent Riley Review into Alcohol Policy and Legislation Alcohol Report and is now an important part of the Territory Labor Government’s Alcohol Harm Minimisation Action Plan to deliver sweeping alcohol reforms for generational change.”

The NT Department of Health funded the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APONT) to deliver the 2 day forum.

The themes of the Forum are:

  • Increase knowledge and raise awareness about FASD in Top End communities and the impact of alcohol during pregnancy on the developing baby;
  • Understand the impact of FASD on children, youth and their families
  • Identify the challenges, issues and solutions for governments, service providers and other key stakeholders;
  • Identify culturally appropriate resources, tools and protocols
  • Establish a Top End FASD Network.

Minister Fyles said that Forum provides an important consultation opportunity with the health sector and community to feed into the development of the NT’s FASD Strategy, for release later this year.

“Stories will be shared and ideas and actions generated to inform the Strategy, which in turn will help guide communities and Government to work together in partnerships to prevent FASD,” Ms Fyles said.

“The NT FASD Strategy will promote the screening of alcohol use before and during pregnancy; appropriate multi-disciplinary assessment; early intervention, support and case management; and will develop targeted education campaigns for those who are most at risk from alcohol-related harms.

“This work is supported in our Government’s 10-Year Early Childhood Development Plan to lead cultural change in reducing alcohol consumption and harms in the community.

“Our whole of government approach to respond to FASD will be crucial to preventing this completely preventable lifelong and permanent condition.”

 

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

The current system is clearly not working and the fragmentation and duplication of family support services is part of the problem, and these are largely delivered by non-Aboriginal organisations, which impairs their ability to work with the most vulnerable Aboriginal families,

The “most urgent system reform” was the establishment of a tripartite forum between the commonwealth and territory governments and the community sector, as recommended in the royal commission into child detention in the NT,

This would enable Aboriginal leaders to “plan in partnership with governments to do what is needed to fix the child protection and out-of-home care systems” and lead to the development of “a more structured intensive family support service system throughout the NT”.

John Paterson, chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory, yesterday criticised the “many system failures” that led to the attack, which included the fact the child had not been removed despite the family involved having been the subject of 52 notifications to Territory Families since 2002

As published in the Australian

Aboriginal medical providers in the Northern Territory have lashed departmental failings that saw a Tennant Creek toddler sexually abused, saying problems would continue unless family support services were delivered in conjunction with Indigenous-led organisations

Mr Paterson said this approach would require increased funding from both levels of government for prevention services and programs, to counter the fact that the NT government had “directed more than 80 per cent of new funding to the crisis end of the system”.

He said the “wholesale removal of children from vulnerable families is not the answer” but warned the system needed to shift “from statutory responses to better preventative services and programs”.

“We know that children in out-of-home care are more likely not to complete their education, to be unemployed and for women, more likely to have their children removed,” Mr Paterson said. “The issues are long term and systemic, which require long-term predictable funding from both levels of government as well as a commitment to the tripartite forum.”

The Australian can reveal that neither the NT government nor the territory’s Children’s Commissioner has sent Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion the full copy of a report into the matter, which, when delivered to Chief Minister Michael Gunner last week, was heavily redacted to cover up the department’s failings.

This is despite Senator Scullion describing it as “look(ing) like arse-covering of the highest order” and saying he had “asked the NT government for a copy of the full report, without redactions, to see what Michael Gunner is hiding”.

Senator Scullion did not respond to questions yesterday.

The inquiry’s redacted section includes the fact that older siblings of the toddler had also been subjected to attacks and that one of them had been taken away by a known sex offender after being left at home alone.

The toddler and another child have been removed from their parents’ care by authorities and a 24-year-old NT man charged with sexual assault, after the toddler underwent surgery for genital injuries, required a blood transfusion and tested positive for gonorrhoea.

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

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

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

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

Read over 60 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NTRC articles

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

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

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

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

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

Download 1

Safe Thriving and Connected – Overview of the Plan

Download 2

Safe, Thriving and Connected – Implementation Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other investments include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download 35 Page NACCHO PDF

Download NT Government responses to 227 NTRC recommendations

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

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

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

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

Read over 56 NACCHO NTRC DonDale articles HERE

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

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

Part 1 : NT Government Press Release

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

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

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

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

Detention Centre with two new youth justice centres.

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

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

The 17 work programs will come under four major objectives:

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

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

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

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

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

Media Coverage ABC Darwin

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

By Neda Vanovac 

FROM ABC DARWIN

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

Key points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcement follows alleged rape of Tennant Creek toddler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Male Health #OchreDay2017 Conference @KenWyattMP and @jpatto12 raising awareness of issues in Aboriginal men’s health

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men experience a number of additional challenges compared with non-Indigenous youth and have much higher rates of high/very high levels of psychological distress.

The 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework report paints a disconcerting picture of mental health issues among Aboriginal men, highlighting the need for holistic and culturally appropriate programs to tackle the epidemic,”

John Patterson, Executive Officer, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), said Australia is currently in the grips of a suicide epidemic, which disproportionately affects young Aboriginal men :

Pictured below with the Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt and Conference Facilitator Dr Mick Adams

see John’s full speech part 2 below

“ Ochre Day aims to raise awareness of issues in Aboriginal men’s health, celebrate the work being done by Aboriginal medical services on the ground in our communities, and encourage indigenous males to have their health checked and seek support,”

Addressing gaps in male Aboriginal health is a key step in reaching the seven targets set by the Council on Australian Governments (COAG) to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians,”

Patrick Johnson, Leadership Project Officer, Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance NT said he hoped the two-day policy summit would assist in identifying gaps in male Aboriginal health care and the development and adoption of a national men’s health strategy

NTGPE Senior Cultural Educator Richard Fejo conducted the Welcome to Country.With Onemobdance group linking arms acknowledging their support of eliminating violence against women.

Pictures Normie Gee

Hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and health leaders from across Australia will be meeting  in Darwin for a two-day policy summit on the 4th and 5th October to raise awareness of the suicide epidemic and a plethora of other issues in Aboriginal male health.

Mental health and suicide prevention will be among the key issues addressed at this year’s Ochre Day Policy Summit, which will hear from a number of prominent policy makers and public health experts.

The 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework report cites the 2015 Youth Survey which found that 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people surveyed had high levels of concern about suicide (compared with 11% non-Indigenous), 18% were concerned about discrimination (compared with 10% non-indigenous) and one in five reported bullying and emotional abuse as a concern.

The same survey found that young Indigenous males were more likely to report very low levels of happiness (10%) than Indigenous females (5%) or non-Indigenous youth (1.2%).

“Aboriginal people are six times likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal people, with the Kimberley region in Western Australia recording one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

“We are talking about whole generations of young Aboriginal men and women who are born into families where suicide is normalised and where the grief from suicide persists across multiple generations,” said Mr Patterson.

The first Ochre Day was held in Canberra in 2013.

This year’s Ochre Day, will feature a major address from The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health, who will present on the five most serious health problems facing Aboriginal men today and what needs to be done to readily address them.

View full Program

final 2017-Ochre-Day-Program

Other presentations at the policy summit include an overview of Aboriginal men’s health, sexual health, intergenerational trauma, family violence, anger management, youth detention, addiction solutions and healing circles.

Mr Johnson said he hoped the two-day policy summit would assist in identifying gaps in male Aboriginal health care and the development and adoption of a national men’s health strategy.

“Addressing gaps in male Aboriginal health is a key step in reaching the seven targets set by the Council on Australian Governments (COAG) to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians,” said Mr Johnson.

“Aboriginal men must have the same access to health care as other Australians and in particular, tailored, culturally appropriate programs must be developed to address mental health, social and emotional well being and suicide prevention.

“We need to invest more in grassroots programs delivered by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people, if we want to have a fighting chance to turn around the harrowing statistics which have seen too many of our sons, fathers and uncles die young.

“We have made great strides already, however there is much more work to be done before we reach the point where a new generation of young Aboriginal men emerges where issues such as suicide are no longer entrenched and normalised,” said Mr Johnson.

National Ochre Day Opening Remarks – AMSANT CEO, John Paterson

Darwin, 4 October 2017

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge we’re meeting today on Larrakia traditional land and thank Richard and Tony for their welcome.

I would also like to welcome participants to this national Ochre Day event, and to acknowledge dignitaries here with us today

This is an important gathering as it is too seldom that we are able to come together as a group of Aboriginal men to work on how we want to address the health challenges that continue to confront Aboriginal men in Australia today.

NACCHO is to be congratulated for developing Ochre Day as a national opportunity for us to do this.

Over the next two days we will explore our theme “Men’s Health, Our Way. Let’s Own It!” The theme reminds us that we do have to take ownership of our health and, just as importantly, provide leadership in telling government what is needed to bring the health of Aboriginal men up to where it should be.

I don’t need to tell any of you that the state of Aboriginal male health is not good. The gap in life expectancy alone remains far too great. Nationally, while life expectancy for Aboriginal men has increased from just over 67.5 years in 2005-07 to 69.1 years in 2011-12, the gap between Aboriginal men and non-Aboriginal men is still too large at 10.6 years. However, if we look at the gap between Aboriginal men in the Territory and national male life expectancy, the gap is 16.4 years!

It’s important, gathering where we are here in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, that we acknowledge just how significantly worse the health of Aboriginal Territorians is than the health of Aboriginal people nationally. For Aboriginal men in the Territory this translates to a life expectancy that is on average 4 years less than for Aboriginal men nationally.

Overall, the mortality rate for Aboriginal Territorians is 50% higher when compared with Indigenous people interstate, and 85% higher than non-Aboriginal Territorians.

And for Aboriginal men in the Territory, we experience a 10-15% higher mortality than our Aboriginal women.

Clearly, there is a long way to go in closing the health gap for Aboriginal men and achieving the standard of health and wellbeing that we would all like to see.

This raises an important issue. Beyond just the statistics, what does health and wellbeing mean for us as Aboriginal men?

The Aboriginal concept of health is not just an absence of illness. It is not just the physical well-being of an individual. It refers also to the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole Community. It means each individual being able to achieve their full potential as a human being and contributing to the total well-being of their Community. It is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.

So, when we talk about “Our way” and about “Let’s own it”, we’re talking as much about our spiritual and psychological health as we are about our physical health.

For us to achieve our full potential as human beings, we must deal with the legacies of our own lives, and also the lives of our fathers and grandfathers and the generations before them. Some of these are heavy legacies.

Aboriginal men have been wounded by the impacts since colonisation which devalued our cultures, dispossessed and dislocated our families and communities and introduced diseases.

Our elders lost their roles with authority and status, and young males lost their role models.

This has diminished the status, self-esteem and sense of purpose of Aboriginal males and contributed to alcohol abuse, self-harm and violence.

It has caused trauma to successive generations, and that trauma continues.

The impacts of trauma will be discussed later this morning, but I wanted to raise here one source of impact from recent years that has impacted heavily on Aboriginal men in the Territory – the NT Intervention.

This top-down, punitive attack on Aboriginal communities in the NT, maliciously targeted Aboriginal men as child abusers, as corrupt and devoid of basic humanity. It was used to strip us of our dignity and as an excuse to subject us to coercive controls on our lives and on our communities.

The extent of the damage to communities caused by the Intervention will probably never be fully known, but I do know that every Aboriginal Territorian man in this room will have felt its impact in some way.

As a policy, its failure is perhaps most evident in the billions of dollars spent with so little to show in terms of positive outcomes.

And only in the last couple of years has the tide begun to turn, with governments at both Commonwealth and Territory levels starting to recognise the need to positively re-engage and to work with us. To bring us back into engagement over policy design and decision-making, and hopefully increasingly into delivering our own services to our communities. As we are doing successfully in the Aboriginal community controlled health sector.

Such rethinking by government I’m sure is also mindful of the ongoing failure of recent policy approaches and funding to improve the structural and social factors or the social determinants of health, that underlie poor health outcomes. Housing, education, employment, access to services, unacceptable rates of imprisonment and children in care.

The inescapable fact, as evidenced by the painfully slow progress on Closing the Gap targets, is that a fundamental change in approach must occur. Such change must start with improving support for the positive social determinant enablers: control, empowerment, and the strength of culture and connection with land.

Being healthy builds on strengths and Aboriginal men have many strengths. We are fathers, husbands, brothers and our communities rely on us. We are resilient and we have the opportunity to use that resilience both for the current generation and for young males and the next generations.

It is important that Aboriginal males continue to be active participants in defining our social roles, both within our own communities and in the broader Australian society.

We need to take back responsibility for traditional practices, parenting and spirituality, as these will contribute to better health.

We have to find ways to contribute our knowledge, skills and authority to initiatives and interventions that concern our health.

Events like Ochre Day and putting together Aboriginal Men’s health strategies are one way we can do this.

We will have a significant focus during this Ochre Day conference on issues related to trauma, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide. These are not easy issues to talk about but they are so important to men’s health.  Suicide continues to be a major and avoidable cause of death for Aboriginal men and an issue that we must talk about. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men between 25 and 29 have the highest suicide rates in the entire world, according to a study of youth health released last year.

If anyone is feeling upset or distressed about these conversations, staff from Danila Dilba Health Service are here and you can talk to them about any support you might need. Joseph Knuth is the best person to approach if you need any support at all.

The Conference though will be positive, we will be working on solutions and ideas for the future. We will be taking control!

Today we will hear about men’s health issues and about some of the services that have been developed here in the Northern Territory to bring men into health services in appropriate ways and to empower men to take control of their own health.

We will hear from the top Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal experts in men’s health.

Tomorrow, we will take what we have learned today and start to work towards the future, towards our own solutions and strategies.

We are fortunate to have Dr Mick Adams with us to facilitate discussions towards developing a national Aboriginal men’s health strategy.

This has been a long-held aim in Aboriginal health and has met with considerable difficulty in getting government buy in and commitment.

But we won’t give up, a national strategy is a necessary first step in closing the health gap and building on the strengths of Aboriginal men, families and communities.

I look forward to Dr Adams’ advice and direction on how we might move forward to achieve this.

There will be a lot of opportunity to work together and for all voices to be heard so I encourage everyone to take these opportunities and speak up over the next two days.

Thank you.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism : #UN #HRC36 told Australia must abandon racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program

Thank you Mr President,

Australia is denying access to basic rights to equality, income and work for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through a racially discriminatory social security policy.

Australia should work with Aboriginal organisations and leaders to replace this discriminatory Program with an Aboriginal-led model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development “

36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 20 September see in full part 2 below

The program discriminates on the basis of race, with around 83 per cent of people in the program being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This is a racially discriminatory program that was imposed on remote communities by the Government and it’s having devastating consequences in those communities,”

John Paterson, a CEO of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, told the Council that the Government’s program requires people looking for work in remote communities to work up to 760 hours more per year for the same basic payment as people in non-Indigenous majority urban areas.

Picture above Remote work-for-the-dole scheme ‘devastating Indigenous communities’

The Australian Government is denying access to basic rights to equality, work and income for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through its racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program.

In a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council overnight, the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT and Human Rights Law Centre urged the Council to abandon its racially discriminatory ‘Community Development Program’ and replace it with an Aboriginal-led model.

Adrianne Walters, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the program is also denying basic work rights to many people in remote communities.

“Some people are required to do work that they should be employed to do. Instead, they receive a basic social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia. People should be paid an award wage and afforded workplace rights and protections to do that work.” said Ms Walters.

The statement to the Council calls for the Federal Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development. Communities need a program that sees people employed on decent pay and conditions, to work on projects the community needs. It’s time for Government to work with us,” said Mr Paterson.

The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT has developed an alternative model for fair work and strong communities, called the Remote Development and Employment Scheme, which was launched in Canberra two weeks ago with broad community support.

“The new Scheme will see new opportunities for jobs and community development and get rid of pointless administration. Critically, the Scheme provides incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people already struggling to make ends meet,” said Mr Paterson.

The Human Rights Law Centre has endorsed the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT’s proposed model.

“Aboriginal organisations have brought a detailed policy solution to the Government’s front door. The Scheme would create jobs and strengthen communities, rather than strangling opportunities as the Government’s program is doing,” said Ms Walters.

Part 2 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Items 3 and 5

Human Rights Law Centre statement, in association with Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Australia

Thank you Mr President,

Australia is denying access to basic rights to equality, income and work for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through a racially discriminatory social security policy.

The Council has received the report of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples’ rights following her mission to Australia in 2017. This statement addresses one area of concern in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

The Australian Government’s remote ‘Community Development Program’ requires people looking for work in remote communities to work up to 760 more hours per year for the same basic social security payment as people in non-Indigenous majority urban areas.

The program discriminates on the basis of race, with around 83 per cent of people covered by the program being Indigenous.

High rates of financial penalty are leaving families without money for the basic necessities for survival.

In addition, the program denies basic work rights. People are required to do work activities that they should be employed, paid an award wage and afforded workplace rights to do. Instead, they receive a basic social security payment that is nearly half of the minimum wage in Australia.

The program undermines self-determination and was imposed on Aboriginal communities with very little consultation.

Australia should work with Aboriginal organisations and leaders to replace this discriminatory Program with an Aboriginal-led model that treats people with respect, protects their human rights and provides opportunities for economic and community development.

Mr President,

Australia is a candidate for a seat on the Human Rights Council for 2018. We call on the Council and its members to urge Australia to respect rights to self-determination and non-discrimination, and to abandon its racially discriminatory remote social security program and replace it with an Aboriginal-led model.

Part 3 Fair work and strong communities

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT Proposal for a Remote Development and Employment Scheme

NACCHO is one of the many organisations that has endorsed this scheme

See full Story here

Download the brochure and full list of organisations endorsing

RDES-Summary_online

All Australians expect to be treated with respect and to receive a fair wage for work. But the Australian Government is denying these basic rights to people in remote communities through its remote work for the Dole program – the “Community Development Programme”.

Around 84 per cent of those subject to this program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Most people in remote communities have to do more work than people in non-remote non Indigenous majority areas for the same basic social security payment.

In some cases, up to 760 hours more per year.

There is less flexibility and people are paid far below the national minimum wage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also being penalised more because of the onerous compliance conditions.

In many cases, people are receiving a basic social security payment for work they should be employed to do.

The Government’s program is strangling genuine job opportunities in remote communities.

The Government’s remote Work for the Dole program is racially discriminatory and must be abandoned. Better outcomes will be achieved if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given the opportunity to determine their own priorities and gain greater control over their own lives.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : #Indigenous groups say work for the dole scheme racially discriminatory and “unhealthy “

“ Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APONT ), and our members have received widespread concerns about the debilitating impacts that CDP is having on its participants, their families and communities.

Financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry.

Such consistent and strong concerns expressed by those at the coalface must be taken seriously and acted upon,

Onerous and discriminatory obligations applied to remote CDP work for the dole participants mean they have to do significantly more work than those in non-remote, mainly non-Indigenous majority areas, up to 670 hours more per year.”

The chief executive of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, John Paterson, said the program was causing significant harm to communities. He said financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry (see Guardian article in full below Part 2 )

In press conference picture below

  • John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (APO NT)
  • David Ross, Director, Central Land Council (APO NT)
  • Rod Little, Co-Chair, National Congress
  • David Thompson, CEO, Jobs Australia
  • Ged Kearney, President, Australian Council of Trade Union
  • Maria Harvey, CEO, Tiwi Islands Training & Employment Board
  • Dickie Bedford, CEO, Marra Worra Worra

 

Part 1 Fair work and strong communities

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT Proposal for a Remote Development and Employment Scheme

NACCHO is one of the many organisations that has endorsed this scheme

Download the brochure and full list of organisations endorsing

RDES-Summary_online

All Australians expect to be treated with respect and to receive a fair wage for work. But the Australian Government is denying these basic rights to people in remote communities through its remote work for the Dole program – the “Community Development Programme”.

Around 84 per cent of those subject to this program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Most people in remote communities have to do more work than people in non-remote non Indigenous majority areas for the same basic social security payment.

In some cases, up to 760 hours more per year.

There is less flexibility and people are paid far below the national minimum wage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also being penalised more because of the onerous compliance conditions.

In many cases, people are receiving a basic social security payment for work they should be employed to do.

The Government’s program is strangling genuine job opportunities in remote communities.

The Government’s remote Work for the Dole program is racially discriminatory and must be abandoned. Better outcomes will be achieved if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given the opportunity to determine their own priorities and gain greater control over their own lives.

A Fair Wage for Work

There is an opportunity for the Australian government to meaningfully partner with remote communities, rather than impose a “one size fits all” model from Canberra.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development initiatives.

Remote communities need a program that sees people employed to work on projects the community needs.

And to do so with decent pay and conditions, and the right to earn more for extra effort. The current program keeps people in the welfare system and excessive penalties see people just disengage. It provides no reward for effort and does not address the need to support people into the workforce.

Remote communities need a program that encourages school leavers to move straight into employment or training.

Not one that leaves young people trapped in a welfare cycle or disengaged.

Tailored community-led approaches are needed that reflect the diverse cultural, economic and social aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the realities of the remote job market.

A Fair and Positive Scheme for waged work and strengthening communities

Five Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote service providers, have developed a new, fair and positive model for job creation and community building – the Remote Development and Employment Scheme.

The Scheme will see people placed into part time work with award wages and conditions.

People will be protected by the workplace rights so many Australians take for granted. It would reduce the role that the welfare system plays in people lives. It will see more time and money spent creating new opportunities for jobs, enterprise and community development and less on pointless administration.

The Scheme is a place-based and community-driven model.

It will establish long term collaboration across governments, employers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to increase opportunities in remote communities.

Critically, the Scheme provides incentives to encourage people into work, training and other activities, rather than punishing people already struggling to comply.

Keys features of the Remote Development and Employment Scheme :

  • Establish a wages fund to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other local organisations to create 10,500 part time jobs on award wages and conditions, working on services and projects important to their communities, with the ability to “top up” these wages from other funds when extra work is done.
  • Create 1,500 paid work experience and training places for young people, supported by locally driven youth development strategies.
  • Remove the discriminatory requirement for people in remote communities who remain on social security payments to work more hours than people in non- remote areas.
  • Create Remote Job Centres, with local governance bodies, focused on long term support to help people get into work, stay in work, and progress into better jobs based on their skills and aspirations.
  • Retain activity obligations for people who can work and receive social security but aren’t in a job. Obligations will be based on their capabilities and the needs and views of communities.
  • Support people with disabilities and family responsibilities to meet their gaols and contribute to their communities in a manner appropriate to their capabilities and aspirations.
  • Maintain and improve access to government services in remote communities, including Centrelink, and help people with disabilities access the right payment through the support of Remote Job Centres.
  • Ensure the Scheme is managed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through shared learning and evidence, by establishing an independent body with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led board.

Part 2 from The Guardian

Indigenous groups say work for the dole scheme racially discriminatory

An alliance of Indigenous groups has called the government’s remote work for the dole scheme a racially discriminatory, onerous and debilitating program that is causing children to go hungry.

The community development program was introduced in 2015, aiming to reduce welfare dependency in rural and remote areas.

The scheme relies heavily on private job service providers, and places more onerous requirements on jobseekers, who are required to work or engage in related activities for 25 hours a week across 46 weeks of the year.

Its 35,000 participants, who are 83% Indigenous, earn about $11 an hour, and those who fail to meet their obligations face financial penalties.

Witnesses told a Senate inquiry on Friday that a lack of job opportunities in remote communities made it unworkable and impractical.

Participants have been left to engage in “activity for activity’s sake” with little prospect for learning new skills or gaining a job.

If they fail to comply with rigid requirements, jobseekers face financial punishment. The government issued 35,122 financial penalties in the final quarter of last year, mostly through no show no pay penalties, usually of about $53.

An Australian National University study showed Indigenous people were 27 times more likely to be penalised by a loss of income than those on a similar program in a largely white area.

On Friday the Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (Apont), an alliance of five groups, gave evidence to a Senate inquiry into the program.

One of the members, the chief executive of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, John Paterson, said the program was causing significant harm to communities. He said financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry.

“Apont and our members have received widespread concerns about the debilitating impacts that CDP is having on its participants, their families and communities. Such consistent and strong concerns expressed by those at the coalface must be taken seriously and acted upon,” Paterson said.

“Onerous and discriminatory obligations applied to remote CDP work for the dole participants mean they have to do significantly more work than those in non-remote, mainly non-Indigenous majority areas, up to 670 hours more per year.”

Apont, which was created to end the top-down approach of Indigenous policy, has proposed a new model, which focuses on increasing jobs, boosting community development, and lessening the welfare system’s intrusion into people’s lives.

“The CDP is racially discriminatory, and Apont believes it must be abandoned. In seeking this we are not just coming here armed with criticisms, but with a solution, an alternative.”

Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian council of social service (Acoss), said the significant resources being spent on the CDP – about $268m in 2015-16 – would be better directed to creating employment in rural communities.

“When the term ‘welfare dependency’ is used, it’s often understood that it’s the social security payment that’s the problem,” Goldie said.

“But … the very important task of generating local employment, real employment opportunities, that is where the significant capabilities of the commonwealth, institutionally, should be coming in behind the deep desire by Atsi [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander] leadership, and also Indigenous people locally, to drive this agenda,” she said.

That was a position backed by non-profit job service providers, represented by the chief executive of Jobs Australia, David Thompson. “There’s been nothing done, nothing of any significant note, to actually increase the stock of jobs in those communities,” he said.

The Department of Social Services was questioned about why it imposed stricter requirements on participants of the CDP.

Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy asked, “If there are less jobs in a remote and rural region and less opportunities, why would there be a higher expectation of the hours?”

The DSS’s Bronwyn Field said the government had heard significant concerns from community leaders about sit-down welfare. To resolve that, it had decided daily activities from participants would be required.

“The government, when they started consultation prior to introducing the CDP, spent a lot of time with communities. One of the clear pieces of feedback was the fact that many Indigenous community leaders were concerned about people … doing sit-down welfare,” Field said.

McCarthy responded, “So you’re saying that was a result of government consultations to have those hours – 25 in the community, and 15 in town?”