Saturday, July 07, 2007

Indigenous Abuse Plan Still Changing

On June 21 the Prime Minister and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough, announced their intention to help stop child sex abuse in NT indigenous communities. The announcement was made with much fanfare and gusto, even before a plan was conceived.

We have previously made comments soon after the announcement (here), and a week later about the lack of consultation with indigenous leaders and communities. (and here). Since then, many people have offered to assist, and Mr Brough has made a point of more tours of communities, where community members have been able to speak to the Minister. Always with the media along.

However, the initial announcement made much of plans to impose control on communities and ban specific things. Some critical aspects of the plan have changed in 2 1/2 weeks:

  • a ban the sale, import and distribution of alcohol
    --> maybe they're OK (6 July)
  • a ban on pornographic material
  • quarantining 50% of welfare payments to spent for the benefit of children
    --> possibly under review, but criticism from the Catholic Church, and the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne have been dismissed.
  • compulsory health checks and treatment for every child up to 16 years old
    --> ""When there is a suspected child abuse, normal protocols should occur and that can involve compulsory checking and that should not change" (6 July) ie not every child, as originally announced.
A representative of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations (CAO) of Alice Springs, Graeme Smith, told the ABC that there was still much confusion within communities (not surprising, since "the plan" is still changing), and that there is likely to be an influx of (indigenous) people to towns such as Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, because those addicted to alcohol and other substances will leave the communities where the plan is to control them. Mr Smith said:

"People are addicted to alcohol, to substance abuse - they need counselling.
I'd like to know what counselling measures are going to be put in place.
What additional funding is going to be attached to the Aboriginal health organisations to address these things - because people will need counselling."

Fair comments, and neither the NT Government nor the Federal Government have yet addressed these issues.

The Analyst