NACCHO Aboriginal Health #history : Cabinet papers 1992-93: Aboriginal deaths in custody inquiry prompted $400m package

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“ The trend will ­inevitably continue unless there is decisive intervention now” and it considered measures costing $570 million across five years to ­address “the underlying causes, ­including lack of employment ­opportunity, a low level of economic development, inadequate education, welfare dependency, appalling health and cultural deprivation”.

Too many face a bleak future as a result of poor living conditions, locational disadvantage and discrimination, substance abuse and lack of ­opportunity for constructive ­activity as major causes of Aboriginal young people’s conflict with the law and justice systems”.

From the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, delivered in 1991 after four years of work, was described in a March 1992 cabinet briefing as “the most searching analysis of Aboriginal society ever undertaken and one of the most significant social documents of con­temporary Australia”.

Image above  : See Background facts and timeline

Article originally published 2 Jan 2017 The Australian

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Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Patrick Dodson, centre, with Prime Minister Paul Keating and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Robert Tickner, February 1992. Picture: National Archives of Australia
2 of 17 see article 2 below

The commission inquired into 99 deaths, the circumstances that gave rise to them and their underlying causes, and came back with 339 recommendations, two-thirds about changes needed across the criminal justice system.

The urgency was underscored by the 25 deaths since the report was concluded, and a 25 per cent increase in indigenous imprisonment rates over four years.

The centrepiece was an expansion of the federal Community Development Employment Projects scheme, which “provides not only employment but a basis for communities’ economic and social development. Its emphasis on self- management and self-reliance provides hope and boosts morale for communities that have little or no access to the labour market”.

The government’s comprehensive response to the commission was to be tailored to youth, with more than 40 per cent of all indigenous Australians aged under 15, and 50 per cent younger than 20.

“Too many face a bleak future as a result of poor living conditions, locational disadvantage and discrimination,” cabinet was told, with the commission identifying “substance abuse and lack of ­opportunity for constructive ­activity as major causes of Aboriginal young people’s conflict with the law and justice systems”.

Indigenous affairs minister Robert Tickner — also then minister assisting the prime minister for Aboriginal reconciliation — and Brian Howe, assistant social justice minister, also sought funding for land acquisition.

This was the hardest element of the package to sell and was eventually ruled out in the $400m deal that was struck — although Mr Tickner says now that it was not the key element and came to fruition in a different way with the passage the following year of the Native Title Act.

The Departments of Finance and Treasury objected to the ­proposal.

Robert Tickner calls on PM to take control of relationship with Indigenous people

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Article 2

Australia’s longest-serving indigenous affairs minister has called for Malcolm Turnbull to seize control of a moribund relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, describing the state of indigenous disadvantage as “truly a national embarrassment of successive governments”.

Robert Tickner, who held the portfolio for six years in the Hawke and Keating governments and was instrumental in both the 1992 response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1993 native title legislation following the High Court’s Mabo ruling, said the matter was “not a job for an indigenous affairs minister”.

Instead it must be tackled, he said, by “a prime minister who can command the authority of the

nation and his own agencies to engender a whole-of- government response”.

Mr Tickner called on the Prime Minister to establish an immediate audit of any progress on the royal commission’s 339 recommendations, which he said “overwhelmingly … have not been implemented, either by the national government or by successive state and territory governments; worse still, governments of all political persuasions (have) covered up that failure”.

He said Mr Turnbull should use the 50th anniversary of the referendum which gave the Commonwealth power in indigenous affairs, on May 27, to “capture the moment … to announce major policy commitments to address these issues”.

“I desperately hope he seizes the moment on this … but he needs to do so in a way that enjoys strong support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as the opposition, as the

referendum did almost 50 years ago,” he said, in remarks unveiling select cabinet papers from the 1992-93 Keating government.

“Keating did it on Mabo, someone’s got to do it now,” he said, describing indigenous affairs policy as “ineffectual, half-hearted and (without) the full resources of the Commonwealth behind it, which was envisaged by the ’67 referendum”.

He called for bipartisan support, saying he believed Mr Turnbull was “a good and decent person who wants to do the right thing in Aboriginal affairs — but good intentions are not enough without the necessary leadership to generate real change” and said the issue was “above party politics, and one where Mr Turnbull and (Bill) Shorten could stand together”.

A key shift, he said had to be moving away from “the old paternalistic way” of dealing with indigenous people and organisations, with the royal commission noting in 1991 that “unless those underlying issues were addressed there would be no change; it’s about the marginalisation of Aboriginal people which contributed to that incarceration”.

He said Mr Keating had “showed great political courage to deliver a just outcome for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people after 204 years of the legal system denying their rights with that pernicious doctrine of terra nullius”. The former prime minister’s “diligence and dedication” over the 18 months following the High Court’s 1992 Mabo ruling establishing native title in the face of “the non-stop, torrid and at times vitriolic public attacks” had defined a critical time in Australian history, he said.

“It’s fair to say the reconciliation process has helped shape modern Australia,” Mr Tickner said. “Most important, Keating was the one who put meat on the bones of the reconciliation process through the Mabo response.”

GALLERY: 1992-93 cabinet papers

He said the Keating government had welcomed the High Court’s decision because it “removed a great barrier to reconciliation,” but that it knew from the outset “the huge challenge that lay ahead, with state and territory governments having traditional responsibility for and management of (the) issues, and an Australian community which did not yet understand the implications of the high court decision”.

Six months on from Mabo, he said, Mr Keating’s famous Redfern Park speech acknowledging responsibility for the dispossession of indigenous Australians “set the bar very high for the government to respond in a principled way to the judgment, and to meet the expectations of the reconciliation process”.

The cabinet papers reveal details of the complexity introduced with the Wik claim in June 1993, with the cabinet by then having considered nine distinct approaches to legislation. “We considered but rejected options relating to extinguishment of native title (it would lead to deep domestic divisions and strong international condemnation) and entrenchment (amending the constitution to put land under native title beyond the control of parliament raises very major issues,” they reveal.

In the end the decision was made to “feel the way forward” but Mr Tickner said many younger Australians now “would have no real appreciation of the vitriol, intolerance and scaremongering that was perpetuated in the debate”, some of which “makes Donald trump’s election campaign look like the free-flowing milk of human kindness”.

He said that during the cabinet process it “very often … got very lonely for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Minister, as some of my other colleagues were fierce advocates either for the interests represented in their portfolios or in some cases for a state Labor government. I frequently clashed both with those ministers and public servants who held similar views. They were wrong on both history and principles”.

He said Mr Keating had “cemented his place in history” by seeking to reach “a negotiated outcome with Aboriginal leadership” rather than pushing for a deal with the states that failed to meet Aboriginal aspirations.

“This was the first time since 1788 when the Aboriginal people of the land were in face-to-face, genuine negotiation with a leader of a state or territory government,” he said, singling out then-

ATSIC chair Lowitja O’Donoghue for being “magnificent as a leader” who “set a cracking pace for the younger members of the negotiating team”.

The result, he said, was an outcome “that both respected the high court decision and gave important additional rights and interests, while making sure that the rights of non-indigenous Australians were protected”, before finally being “painstakingly negotiated through the senate” as the Native Title Act on December 21, 1993.

However it came at considerable personal cost, he said, including being sent a dead rat in the mail, having his electorate office partly destroyed in an arson attack and receiving repeated death threats.

He also revealed a tightly guarded secret: during the tumult of negotiations in early 1993 he was for the first time “reunited with my birth mother on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, and began a journey as transformative for me as the public journey was as Australia travelled the Mabo response”.

He described John Howard’s 1998 amendments to the native title act, in response to the Wik

decision and which put restrictions on claims, as “regrettable”, saying he was “sorry for John because I think he did some other important things, like gun control, but I don’t think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs was where he left a mark politically, and I’m sad about that”.

NACCHO #NTRC Aboriginal Health : Two NT #ACCHO ‘s funded for support services for people impacted by the Commission.

royal-commission

 ” The Commonwealth Department of Social Services has announced that funding has been provided for support services for children, young people, their families and others impacted by the Commission.

Royal Commission website

Discussing experiences of the child protection system or time spent in youth detention can be difficult. This is especially so for people who experienced abuse and are telling their story for the first time.”

The Territory-wide Helpline is 1800 500 853

  • This is a free helpline which will be answered locally, available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
  • Experienced and qualified staff can refer people to a range of services including counsellors, therapeutic support, and health professionals
  • Calls made from a mobile phone may incur additional costs

Update : CANCELLATION OF HERMANNSBURG COMMUNITY MEETING

The Commission confirms that tomorrow’s proposed community in Hermannsburg (20 October 2016) has been cancelled due to other business in the community.

Details of the individual services funded and how to contact them directly are

Danila Dilba Health Service – services include:

  • trauma-informed and culturally safe face to face and telephone counselling and support services delivered by psychologists and qualified counsellors
  • practitioners experienced in pre, during and post Royal Commission counselling and support;
  • therapeutic group services
  • culturally safe support and advocacy services to young people impacted by youth detention delivered by experienced Youth Support and Engagement practitioners
  • a broad suite of primary health care services tailored for men, women and children delivered by Aboriginal Health Practitioners, GP’s and maternal, paediatric and allied health, etc, specialists;
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs services
  • chronic disease care coordination; and health education and promotion

Phone

(08) 8942 5400 Darwin, Palmerston and Malak

Website www.daniladilbaexperience.org.au/about-us.html

Relationships Australia NT – services include:

  • trauma-informed culturally appropriate support and information on how to engage with the Royal Commission and what to expect from the enquiry process
  • face to face and telephone counselling by qualified counsellors
  • support through legal processes
  • referrals to legal and advocacy services
  • pre and post counselling support to those directly affected who are giving evidence as well as their families
  • mentoring by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural advisors, and healing camps on Country.

Phone

(08) 8923 4999 Darwin and Katherine office with outreach to other areas

(08) 8950 4100 Alice Springs office with outreach to other areas

Website www.nt.relationships.org.au/locations/darwin

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress – services include:

  • trauma-informed and culturally safe counselling and support services for Aboriginal children, young people and families affected by the events and stories of the Royal Commission in Youth Detention
  • a holistic suite of primary health care services for men, women, young people and children
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs services
  • youth mental health services
  • Family Support Programs
  • chronic disease care coordination; sexual health and health promotion

Phone

(08) 8959 4750 Alice Springs and surrounding areas

Website www.caac.org.au

other support

Hearing and talking about child protection and kids in detention can be hard for young people, parents, families and communities.

There are a number of other  services available which can provide support wherever you are in the NT. If you need support you can call the following services:

Lifeline Freecall 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
NT Mental Health Help Line 1800 682 288
Headspace (12-25 years)     1800 659 388 or 8931 5999
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

NACCHO #NTRC Aboriginal Children’s Health : Update this weeks community consultations Royal Commission #DonDaleKids

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Indigenous infants were still suffering damage to brain growth from the impact on parenting on the colonial frontier with “trans-generational psychic trauma” disabling normal pathways of neurological maturation and effecting the capacity to manage stress.

A back of the envelope extrapolation on the figures of keeping children in detention or out-of-home care was also in the tens of millions,”

Paediatrician and Emeritus Professor at the University of Newcastle, John Boulton

Picture above : The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was told by several speakers at a public meeting in Darwin that the Department of Families and Children was “broken” and should be shut. Photo: Glenn Campbell Reported by SMH

Next weeks Community Consultations

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Eighty per cent of boys at the controversial Don Dale Youth Detention Centre had been sexually abused prior to their incarceration.

This was one of the bewildering claims made at a public meeting in Darwin where speaker after speaker attacked NT governments for cutting funds to child protection and allowing generations of public servants to take Indigenous children away from families reports by SMH Damien Murphy          

Many said the Department of Families and Children was “broken” and should be shut.

Most demanded that care of Indigenous children be the sole preserve of kin and were highly critical of favouritism given to white foster families who they claimed were not subjected to the same checks and balances by a public service culture that existed to perpetuate itself.

“You want to know why our kids end up in Don Dale? This is a new generation of stolen children,” a woman who said she had been subjected to undue red tape when applying to take a relative into care.

Stuart Davidson, the first deputy superintendent of Don Dale, said 80 per cent of teenagers under his care at the centre had been sexually abused prior to their incarceration.

“The system just didn’t recognise the trauma it is dealing with. And gradually those charged with looking after the boys started to reflect the lack of care of the management and, ultimately, the politicians.”

Welfare worker Lindsay Ah Mat said political parties courted the black vote when it suited them: “But soon as they get it they piss all over us.”

The meeting on Friday at Darwin’s Marrara Sports Complex was called by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory as part of its community consultation program. It followed three days of public hearings this week.

The royal commission came in the wake of a July Four Corners program with footage showing teenagers at the Don Dale being tear gassed and one in a spit hood handcuffed to a chair.

One of the whistleblowers behind the Four Corners report, Darwin lawyer John Lawrence, told Fairfax Media the royal commission was on track to succeed where scores of other government inquiries on child protection had failed.

“This royal commission exists due to the failure of those in authority in the Territory to stand up for what is right,” he said.

“We’re all guilty. Lawyers, judges, politicians … We’re supposed to protect society. How did we get to a place where a spit hood is an appropriate way to treat a child? Years of complacency gave way to complicity and now process and budgets have usurped principles and ethics.”

The elite of the NT legal fraternity on Tuesday gathered in the NT Parliament just hours after the royal commission sat for the first time in the neighbouring Supreme Court building. One of the few Indigenous people present, James Parfitt, gave a welcome to country and then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Marilyn Warren, delivered an oration honouring Austin Asche, a doyen of the Darwin legal establishment, on the topic of young people offending in which she tip-toed around the royal commission.

Down the road in Mitchell Street, an Irish pub and restaurants Thailicious, Hunaman and Monsoon chased tourist dollars while Indigenous men and women sat on footpaths begging, singing and playing clapsticks, their songs drowned out by Neil Diamond and Dire Straits on sound systems.

Life went on in Darwin as if the royal commission was some unwanted outsider. Local media carried the stories but not prominently. One witness, Lowitja Institute chairwoman, Pat Anderson, suggested to the commission the dearth of local interest was shown by the fact that a crocodile story was on the morning’s NT News front page. A desultory process was staged the first day outside the Supreme Court.

The first three days of hearings saw bureaucrats and health professionals give evidence of the plethora of reports carried out on child protection for NT governments. Many were shelved or not acted upon. Meanwhile, funds to child welfare agencies continued to be cut by the federal governments and the Darwin administration failed to step in.

Commissioners were also told of the role that hearing loss and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder had come to play in the lives of teenagers in detention in the NT.

Paediatrician and Emeritus Professor at the University of Newcastle, John Boulton, cited research he conducted in the Kimberley on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder saying communities were breaking down, especially since the 1980s when women started drinking.

“A back of the envelope extrapolation on the figures of keeping children in detention or out-of-home care was also in the tens of millions,” Professor Boulton said.

He said Indigenous infants were still suffering damage to brain growth from the impact on parenting on the colonial frontier with “trans-generational psychic trauma” disabling normal pathways of neurological maturation and effecting the capacity to manage stress.

Commissioners also heard 94 per cent of Indigenous prisoners suffered impaired hearing and research found six out of 10 boys at the notorious Don Dale Detention Centre had hearing difficulties.

A deaf Indigenous community consultant, Jodie Barney, slammed the use of spit hoods and handcuffs on young offenders shown on Four Corners.

“I have had a few young people who have had a spit hood and they have also been bound. So therefore their form of communication is lost in every sense of the word,” she said.

The commission continues with community consultation meetings next week and will conduct further hearings next month.

How you can share  stories about Aboriginal Community Controlled Health issues ? Closing this week

  • newspaper-promoEditorial OpportunitiesWe are now looking to all our members, programs and sector stakeholders for advertising, compelling articles, eye-catching images and commentary for inclusion in our next edition.Maximum 600 words (word file only) with image

More info and Advertising rate card

or contact nacchonews@naccho.org.au

NACCHO #NTRC Royal Commission and Aboriginal Health : #FASD , Malnutrition, hearing and #mentalhealth are major factors

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 ” The profoundly damaging consequences of heavy drinking by pregnant women, malnutrition in early childhood and intergenerational “psychic trauma” are neither properly diagnosed nor treated in Aborigines coming into contact with the law, a royal commission has heard.

The effects of these conditions, which can stunt a child for life, meant affected youngsters were both more likely to become involved in criminal activity and less likely to benefit from punitive forms of rehabilitation.”

As reported in the Australian today

 ” Studies linked FAS-D to a “profound level of social morbidity in terms of violence, engagement in the justice system, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, very low chance of meaningful occupation and a very high risk of being in prison as adults requiring mental institution and support with drug addiction

Professor Boulton and NACCHO FASD Articles

 ” Most infants with FASD are irritable, have trouble eating and sleeping, are sensitive to sensory stimulation, and have a strong startle reflex. They may hyperextend their heads or limbs with hypertonia (too much muscle tone) or hypotonia (too little muscle tone) or both. Some infants may have heart defects or suffer anomalies of the ears, eyes, liver, or joints.

Adults with FASD have difficulty maintaining successful independence. They have trouble staying in school, keeping jobs, or sustaining healthy relationships. They require long-term support and some degree of supervision in order to succeed. “

Make FASD History  Image above a full story see below

 “Many boys caught up in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system suffer a “disease of disadvantage” that has crippled almost every aspect of their lives, the Northern Territory’s royal commission into youth detention and protection has heard.

Jody Barney, who works as a deaf indigenous community consultant, told the inquiry she has spoken to several young Aboriginal people with hearing impairments who have had their faces covered by spit hoods and bound behind bars.

News Report

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The Royal Commission website is available at https://www.childdetentionnt.royalcommission.gov.au.

Moreover they were perpetuating, meaning the effects could be passed through neurological and genetic means from generation to generation, the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT heard today.

The Commission looks likely to probe these effects more deeply, following depressing but insightful evidence given by University of Newcastle professor of pediatrics John Boulton, who clearly captured the commissioners’ interest.

“I think the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder issue, together with the evidence that we have had this afternoon about deafness, throws such a complexion upon the participation of so many of these children in the criminal justice system, not to mention the child protection system, that we need to look at this carefully,” Commissioner Margaret White said.

“I think it’s fairly original inasmuch as the other many reports that we’ve been exposed to … have not had an opportunity to consider these areas of study.”

Professor Boulton told the Commission there was an urgent need for FAS-D and to be recognised under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He said estimates in Canada of the lifelong cost of treating the condition reached into the millions of dollars.

“If there are one or two per cent of the total population of whom a fraction are severely affected with FASD, and therefore suffer the huge mental health and other subsequent complications and disabilities with FASD, then we are talking about an enormous burden to the overall Australian community in the tens of millions of dollars,” he said.

Studies linked FAS-D to a “profound level of social morbidity in terms of violence, engagement in the justice system, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, very low chance of meaningful occupation and a very high risk of being in prison as adults requiring mental institution and support with drug addiction” Professor Boulton continued.

He likened FAS-D to the thalidomide disaster, heavy metal poisoning or radiation sickness.

Professor Boulton said progress had been made through alcohol restrictions brought about in the Kimberley towns of Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing by local women. He said the restrictions had produced a “massive reduction in the amount of violence and of women seeking refuge”, and that there was evidence young children were growing better.

Earlier in the day the Commission was told many Aboriginal youngsters from the remotest areas suffered hearing problems related to ear infections in early life. In one example retold before the Commission, a boy before court had been crash tackled by a guard who thought he was trying to escape, when in fact the boy simply hadn’t heard an instruction.

Deafness holding NT’s indigenous kids back

Many boys caught up in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system suffer a “disease of disadvantage” that has crippled almost every aspect of their lives, the Northern Territory’s royal commission into youth detention and protection has heard.

Jody Barney, who works as a deaf indigenous community consultant, told the inquiry she has spoken to several young Aboriginal people with hearing impairments who have had their faces covered by spit hoods and bound behind bars.

“Taking away another sense from a person who already has a limited sense is frightening. And that fear stays forever… long after their sentence,” she said.

Footage of boys being tear gassed, shackled and put in spit hoods at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre was aired on national television in July, sparking the royal commission

Psychologist Damien Howard told the inquiry a chronic housing shortage is creating an “epidemic” of hearing loss in indigenous children that leads to learning difficulties, family breakdown and criminal involvement.

“It’s very much a disease of disadvantage,” Dr Howard told Darwin’s Supreme Court.

Crowded housing overwhelms a child’s capacity to maintain hygiene, allows infections to pass quickly, and increases exposure to cigarette smoke and loud noises, while the poverty limits nutrition.

On average, non-Aboriginal kids experience middle ear disease for three months of their childhood while indigenous children can get fluctuating hearing loss for more than two years.

This can result in a permanent condition, which Dr Howard says is a “smoking gun” leading to over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Make FASD History

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are 100% preventable. If a woman doesn’t drink alcohol while she is pregnant, her child cannot have FASD.

There is a humanitarian crisis in the Fitzroy Valley region of remote North Western Australia, which has one of the highest Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the world.

The effects of alcohol on the fetal brain are a common cause of intellectual impairment in developed countries. Problems that may occur in babies exposed to alcohol before birth include low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, behavioural problems and intellectual disability.

Most infants with FASD are irritable, have trouble eating and sleeping, are sensitive to sensory stimulation, and have a strong startle reflex. They may hyperextend their heads or limbs with hypertonia (too much muscle tone) or hypotonia (too little muscle tone) or both. Some infants may have heart defects or suffer anomalies of the ears, eyes, liver, or joints.

Adults with FASD have difficulty maintaining successful independence. They have trouble staying in school, keeping jobs, or sustaining healthy relationships. They require long-term support and some degree of supervision in order to succeed.

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Bright Blue is very proud to partner with Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services to support the development and implementation of a comprehensive, evidence-based prevention and community capacity building programme, which aims to make FASD history.

The outcomes of this programme will work to:

  • Improve the health, quality of life and social and economic potential for the next generation of Fitzroy Valley children, and thus the fabric of the community itself;
  • Identify practical strategies that can be implemented elsewhere in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to reduce and eliminate FASD;
  • Make WA a leader in FASD prevention;
  • Decrease costs associated with service provision, productivity, welfare and justice.

stacks_image_6848Led by Aboriginal community leaders Maureen Carter and June Oscar; and Paediatrician Dr James Fitzpatrick, it is important that the leadership of the Marulu strategy reflects the community ownership of the process.

Bright Blue needs your support to assist in prevention and capacity building, to develop an effective community – level support for women to abstain from drinking during pregnancy and child bearing years, so that all babies born in this community and across Australia have a full potential for a long and productive life.

Become a part of history. Together, let’s make FASD history.

The inquiry led by co-commissioners Margaret White and Mick Gooda continues.

NACCHO #NTRC Aboriginal Health News: Aboriginal survival rests on NT Royal Commission

pat
We spend a lot of time talking about Aboriginal problems but very little has been done. I hope commissioners that this isn’t the fate of this report. In fact I would go so far as to say the very survival of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory depends on this inquiry. 
 
Please, I beg you, do not just put it in the filing cabinet, you’re morally bound to do something about it, not just talk about it. That’s all this country does is talk about blackfellas … nothing ever happens. 
 
“We’re not going to be here in another 25, 50 years.”

Patricia Anderson, chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute and former NACCHO Chair : Pictured above recently talking with the PM

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  Watch video of plea for action here

The survival of Aboriginal people depends on the findings of the Northern Territory’s royal commission into youth detention not just being “dropped into a filing cabinet”, a social justice advocate says.

Patricia Anderson, chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, a national Aboriginal health research organisation, has made an impassioned plea to the inquiry to enact real change.

She said commissioners were morally bound to ensure the inquiry wasn’t just a talkfest where “we all go away feeling all warm and fuzzy”.

“That cannot happen here today. Please, I beg you, do not just put it in the filing cabinet,” she said on Wednesday.

“In fact, I would go so far as to say the very survival of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory depends on this commission making a real impact here.”

Ms Anderson, who co-wrote the 2007 Little Children Are Sacred report, said there’s been no progress in the 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, despite countless reports and recommendations.

“All this country does is talk about black fellas,” she told Darwin’s Supreme Court.

“That’s got to stop. We are not going to be here in another 20, 25, 50 years.”

Ms Anderson added that advances are constantly derailed because government commitments don’t stretch beyond “election cycles”.

In researching the 2007 inquiry into the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse, Ms Anderson said she interviewed countless families who shared deeply intimate stories in the hope of finding a solution.

“The government’s response was to have the Intervention. This was a huge betrayal – trust was lost,” she said.

One of the report’s urgent recommendations was indigenous consultation on policy that directly affects them, including alcohol and domestic violence.

But the federal government’s NT National Emergency Response, or “the Intervention”, was a package of changes to welfare, housing and law enforcement that Ms Anderson said only added to indigenous trauma.

“It’s a further abuse of Aboriginal people and it continues today. We’re on our knees here. The last 10 years have just been appalling,” she said.

She said a media frenzy followed in which “every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man in the country was suddenly a pedophile”.

NT Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne told the inquiry more indigenous children who are victims of abuse should be placed with Aboriginal families for foster care.

The Territory has the highest child placement rate in the country but a comparatively low rate of placement of Aboriginal children in kinship care.

She said many kids in child protection leave their official foster carers and live somewhere else.

“It’s kind of a vicious cycle where the young people are placed in a placement where there’s no cultural connection. There’s this constant absconding,” she said.

Ms Gwynne also supported more decentralised protection services, saying workers would never be able to fully support children in communities from Darwin or Alice Springs.

Her predecessor, Dr Howard Bath, had recommended that a family placement approach be adopted, which empowers and resources the extended family of an at-risk child in making decisions about their protection.

The inquiry led by co-commissioners Margaret White and Mick Gooda continues.