Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory: funding for community safety, outstations and homelands, ABC Darwin, Vicki Kerrigan
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VICKI KERRIGAN: The Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin says that with this money that is being promised, that has been promised, $620 million, she wants to control the trafficking of illegal drugs into communities. But what is the Government doing about the growing petrol sniffing problem?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’m just near Katherine right now in fact, a small community called Binjari, and in fact the biggest issue raised in the community today was alcohol. But you’re right the issues around petrol sniffing, the issues around other drugs are also important. Certainly the Dog Operations Unit is primarily around other drugs.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Is that the right focus though? I mean if you’re talking about other drugs I presume you’re talking about the trafficking of marijuana into communities for example. When the communities and the people they seem to be saying that petrol sniffing, it’s getting really bad in the top end?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s no question that the roll out of opal fuel, more consistent alcohol restrictions, so that we can see a lowering of petrol sniffing.
VICKI KERRIGAN: If you were to get a formal, a formal approach saying that the people of Katherine or around Katherine that they do want opal in the town of Katherine, would you look at that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re certainly expanding the provision of opal fuel not just in new places in the Territory but also in other remote parts of Australia. So of course we’re always keen to talk to people about where that’s going to be best used.
VICKI KERRIGAN: So the Government is going to spend $220 million as a part of the Stronger Futures Legislation on outstations. Now why is the Government now recognising the importance of homelands?
JENNY MACKLIN: What I’ve announced today is certainty around that funding for the next ten years. So the Commonwealth will put in just over $200 million over ten years to make sure that there is certainty for people who are living on outstations and homelands.
VICKI KERRIGAN: So money to outstations for essential services like access to power, water and sewerage. Do you know which outstations are a priority?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s really a matter for the Northern Territory Government.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Is this money for essential services, like power and water, is this an opportunity to train Indigenous people into that workforce and is that going to happen?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I would certainly hope so. Each and every one of these areas is an opportunity to provide employment for local people. So if we look at the announcement we’ve made today on night patrols, one of the very positive outcomes is that local people are employed to work on the night patrols.
VICKI KERRIGAN: You say Minister that you hope that people will take up some of these jobs. Isn’t it a very important part of your role to make sure that Indigenous people do actually get opportunities for extra training so that they have the confidence to go into the workforce?
JENNY MACKLIN: Absolutely, that’s why as part of the Stronger Futures announcement we put some extra money into providing additional range of positions. Talking with people here at Binjari today, they certainly want to make sure that where there are job opportunities, people are getting the training to take them up.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Minister as you know Stronger Futures, the legislation, has been criticised from various points of view. I notice some comments from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission, they say that the legislation is disproportionate with the people’s wishes and it catapults Indigenous communities back to the micromanagement of Mission days. How do you respond to that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t agree. And having just had an excellent couple of hours here in Binjari and having consulted widely with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory over the last four years, I know that one issue that people feel very strongly about is alcohol abuse and the damage it’s doing to their families and communities. And they want to make sure we can work together to get better alcohol controls so that people aren’t facing the violence that comes with alcohol abuse.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin in the Northern Territory here on 105.7 ABC Darwin. The Stronger Futures legislation which replaces the Intervention, it’s going to see your Government spend $620 million over the next ten years on extra police, night patrols, legal services. Has the Government given any thought to a point of view which I’ve heard quite a bit here in the Northern Territory, to putting a stop to all of the funding and welfare payments and allowing Indigenous Australians self-determination?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we certainly understand how important it is to work with people. If I can once again use the example of the community I’m at right now, Binjari. They have absolutely demonstrated their desire to make sure that the community is strong. But they also appreciate that they’ve got a health centre to work with, they had people from Good Beginnings running the playgroup here today, they’re very pleased to have the support of the housing workers from the Northern Territory Government. So I think the important thing is that we work together with respect.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Respected Indigenous leader Noel Pearson says that the Left refer to it as self-determination and the Right calls it responsibility, and he says they’re one and the same thing. Noel Pearson says that people have to take charge of their own destiny. Is this something at all, you know the self-determination idea, is it something at all that the Government would consider at any point in time?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think that’s exactly what we are doing. We understand how important work is. Everywhere I go people want to make sure that they are able to better control their own lives by getting off welfare and having a job that means that they bring home their own money, that they have more self-respect, that that comes so much from having a job. That they get their kids to school so that their children get a good education. That we deal with alcohol abuse, so that people feel much, much safer in their own homes and in their communities. So I think each and every one of us understand that they’re the issues we need to pursue and that’s exactly what we’re doing with Aboriginal people in the Territory.
VICKI KERRIGAN: Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin on ABC local radio right across the top end of the Northern Territory.