Independent NTER Evaluation finds Aboriginal communities safer
An independent evaluation of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) has found Aboriginal people living in remote communities in the Northern Territory feel safer and receive better levels of government services than they did four years ago.
The evaluation report, the most comprehensive to be conducted on the NTER to date, also finds that improving school enrolment and attendance and providing employment opportunities are key challenges that need to be addressed in the future.
The evaluation report has been prepared by experts, including prominent Australian research agencies and bodies such as the Australian Council for Education Research and the Australian Institute of Criminology. An independent advisory group helped oversee the preparation of the report.
One of the major segments of the evaluation report is the Community Safety and Wellbeing Research Study, which incorporates the views and experiences of 1300 Aboriginal people from 16 communities.
Much of the work in this study was done by local Aboriginal people who were trained in research practices.
Almost three out of four people surveyed as part of this study said that their community is safer now than it was three years ago.
Almost 80 per cent of people said having a new police station in their community had made a big or some difference to safety and almost 75 per cent said better night patrols had made a big or some difference.
Since 2007, 62 additional police have been deployed to communities and police are now located in 18 communities that did not have a presence prior to the NTER.
As reflected in the recent Stronger Futures consultations, alcohol continues to be one of the main factors affecting how safe people feel in their community.
People also said that services had improved in their communities under the NTER, with around half of the people interviewed strongly agreeing that services had improved. This included services from schools, Centrelink, police and community stores.
Income management was supported by many people in communities who believed it was bringing about positive outcomes, especially for children.
More than half the people surveyed in communities feel that their lives are ‘on the way up’ thanks to things like having a job, better housing and more money.
Overall, the evaluation shows that outcomes have improved for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory across health, employment, and safety.
The report shows there has been a significant increase in child protection substantiations for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory since 2006-07, with more child protection workers providing additional resources to investigate and deal with child protection issues. Around three quarters of the increase in child protection substantiations has been for issues of child neglect.
The evaluation report also highlights the ongoing challenges that remain.
It finds there has been little overall change in school attendance and enrolment and while there have been some improvements in reading, the majority of children in NTER communities still do not meet national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy. Shortages of classrooms, teachers and teacher housing in communities have been significantly reduced as a result of Australian Government investment.
It also highlights that employment remains low and economic development will be essential to producing sustainable improvements.
The report shows that the initial roll out of the NTER by the previous Government was marked by a sense of crisis and limited consultation and while this delivered much needed services, it also caused ongoing anger and hurt among Aboriginal people and communities.
The Australian Government is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past but to work together with Aboriginal people to build stronger futures together.
This report is a critical body of evidence which complements many of the views expressed by Aboriginal people in the recent Stronger Futures consultations and throughout the NTER.
During these consultations, Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory told the Australian Government that having their kids go to school and get a decent education, having jobs for local people and tackling alcohol abuse are the priority issues for them in building a stronger future.
Existing legislation for the Northern Territory Emergency Response is due to cease in August next year.
The Government plans to introduce legislation to allow us to act on the issues that people have told us during consultations were the most urgent.
We will continue to talk and work with Aboriginal people as we develop the legislation and respond to what we have already heard and the findings of this evaluation.
The Government thanks the independent advisory group for the leadership and oversight they provided as part of the development of the evaluation report.
A copy of the report is available at: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/indigenous-australians/publications-articles/closing-the-gap-in-the-northern-territory-including-northern-territory-emergency-response