Building Stronger Futures for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory
Initiatives to improve children’s attendance at school and further action to tackle alcohol abuse and strengthen food security are key parts of Stronger Futures legislation passed by the Federal Parliament today.
Stronger Futures is the Australian Government’s $3.4 billion commitment to work with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory to tackle the unacceptable levels of disadvantage too many people still experience.
The key measures in the legislation are:
- Tackling alcohol abuse, with alcohol restrictions and strengthened penalties for grog running. The Government will also strengthen arrangements for local alcohol management plans to ensure they focus on harm minimisation.
- Ensuring children are attending school and getting a decent education, through expanding and improving the current Improving School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM). Under this initiative, if children fall below the set attendance benchmark, families will work with schools and Centrelink to develop attendance plans. As a last resort – if parents do not meet their part of the agreed attendance plan – income support payments will be suspended.
- Strengthening store licensing to have a greater focus on improving food security.
- Extending opportunities for voluntary leasing to community living areas and town camp land to enable economic development and home ownership opportunities.
The funding provided as part of the Stronger Futures package will provide for vital services like health professionals, drug and alcohol workers, police and teachers.
The legislation has been designed to comply with the Racial Discrimination Act. The legislation explicitly states that it does not affect the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. It also repeals the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act 2007. The legislation has been prepared in line with Australia’s human rights obligations.
Stronger Futures responds directly to what Aboriginal people told the government are the areas of most need during consultations held in 100 communities and town camps across the Northern Territory in 2011.
The legislation was also examined by a Senate Committee. Following its recommendations, the Government has made amendments to confirm that police can issue infringement notices for the possession and supply of small quantities of alcohol.
Amendments also ensure that only authorities that can give a notice to place a person on income management under the new state and territory referral measure meet specific conditions, including that they have appropriate review processes.
Most measures in the Stronger Futures legislation will be in place for ten years. This will help to provide stability and certainty for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
The Stronger Futures measures will be independently reviewed in three years from commencement of the legislation.
While progress has been made on the ground, the situation in the Northern Territory remains critical.
Aboriginal people continue to experience significant levels of disadvantage and more needs to be done to achieve the change we all want to see.
The Stronger Futures package is the Australian Government’s commitment to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory to work with them over the next ten years to build a stronger future and drive positive change.