Education, jobs and tackling alcohol abuse the key to building stronger futures in the Northern Territory
The Australian Government has today announced new initiatives to tackle the priority issues for Aboriginal people living in remote communities in the Northern Territory.
The Government will work together with Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government to ensure children are going to school and getting a decent education; to do more to tackle alcohol abuse; and to deliver a $19.1 million jobs package to create more jobs in remote communities and help provide people with a sustainable economic base.
These initiatives follow extensive consultations with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and build on the work both governments have been doing over the past four years to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
During these consultations, Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory told us that they want to work with governments to continue to bring about change in their communities and address the unacceptable level of disadvantage too many people still face.
Aboriginal people told us that they want children to go regularly to school and that parents have a responsibility to ensure this happens.
In response to this, the Australian Government will expand the current Improving School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM) so that it aligns with the Northern Territory Government’s Every Child Every Day (ECED) strategy.
This will allow for greater involvement from the school community and provide support for parents to ensure their child attends school every day.
Under this initiative, if children fall below the set attendance benchmark, families will work with schools and Centrelink to develop attendance plans. If parents do not meet their part of the agreed attendance plan, income support payments will be suspended. Payments will be reinstated once the parent gives clear signals they are complying with their responsibilities and re-engages with the school.
Seminars will be held in each community before the start of the new model to explain to parents their responsibilities.
The current enrolment component of SEAM will also be continued and improved to address unacceptable levels of under-enrolment.
This will prevent children, particularly those in mobile families, from falling through the cracks.
This initiative will apply in schools in communities where the current model of SEAM applies including Hermannsburg, Katherine, Tiwi Islands, Wadeye, Wallace Rockhole, and will be extended to the communities of Yirrkala, Maningrida, Galiwin’ku, Ngukurr, Numbulwar, Umbakumba, Angurugu, Gapuwiyak, Gunbalanya, Milingimbi, Lajamanu and Yuendumu, the townships of Alyangula and Nhulunbuy, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and remaining schools in Katherine.
School attendance in these towns is particularly poor and it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure all children are getting a decent education and attend school every day. The measure will be able to apply to all parents in these areas.
Tackling alcohol abuse
Aboriginal people have also told governments that tackling the harm caused by alcohol abuse is key to building stronger futures.
We know that alcohol is still devastating the lives of too many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. The situation is too urgent for us to allow this to continue.
Through its Enough is Enough laws the Northern Territory Government has put in place strong laws to help curb problem drinking. The legislation the Australian Government is proposing will complement these efforts.
It will continue current alcohol restrictions and strengthen penalties for grog running.
The Government also recognises that restrictions are not a long term solution. That is why the legislation will also strengthen the arrangements for local alcohol management plans to be put in place if they meet stringent guidelines on harm reduction and the protection of vulnerable women and children.
The Commonwealth Indigenous Affairs Minister will have the power to approve these local alcohol management plans, and will only approve plans that meet these stringent guidelines.
Plans will be developed by Aboriginal communities, with support from the Northern Territory and Australian Governments, in order to best address local issues around alcohol.
The Government also intends to strengthen efforts to tackle alcohol abuse with a new income management measure.
Under this measure, Northern Territory authorities will be able to refer people for income management for alcohol related problems, on a similar basis to the way this currently occurs under the child protection measure.
Income management can help people with alcohol and substance abuse problems by reducing the amount of discretionary funds available to be spent on alcohol and illicit drugs. It also helps ensure that money is available for life’s essentials, such as food, clothing and housing.
We know that creating sustainable employment in communities, as well as opportunities for traineeships and skills development is critical to building strong futures.
That’s why the Australian Government is announcing a $19.1 million jobs package to give Aboriginal people in remote communities across the Northern Territory greater employment and economic opportunities.
This package will deliver 50 new Working on Country ranger positions in the Northern Territory, in addition to the 280 existing ranger positions.
Rangers help to maintain, restore, protect and manage Australia’s environment and provide sustainable jobs for Indigenous people. As well as providing jobs for Aboriginal people the rangers act as role models and educators for young Indigenous people.
In addition, a new ‘Local Jobs for Local People’ Indigenous traineeships will ensure that up to 100 Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are supported to fill service delivery jobs in their communities as these become available.
These traineeships will provide targeted job-specific training for people and offer a period of “job shadowing” so that trainees become job ready through supported on-the-job experience.
The package will also increase opportunities for young people who stay at school and finish year 12, with Australian Government support for the Northern Territory Government’s initiative providing a job guarantee to Indigenous students from Territory Growth Towns who complete year 12.
The Government will continue to talk and work with Aboriginal people as we develop the legislation to allow us to take these initiatives forward.
The Government is planning to introduce legislation next week and will ask the Parliament to agree that a Committee review the legislation over the coming months.
This will allow for Aboriginal people to continue to have a say about what the Government does next to build stronger futures. It is an opportunity that was not provided when the previous Government introduced their Northern Territory Emergency Response legislation.
As part of our commitment to building stronger futures for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, the Government will also be making further decisions about other funding as part of the budget process.
It will take time, determination and the commitment of all parties to address the unacceptable levels of disadvantage faced by too many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
Stronger futures can only be built in partnership with Aboriginal people.