Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Children eating healthier food in NTER communities

Joint Media Release with:

  • Warren Snowdon MP, Member for Lingiari

Indigenous parents living in Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) communities have reported that their children are eating more and are healthier, since the introduction of income management.

Three quarters of the people surveyed as part of an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report said they are spending more on food, and half are buying more fruit and vegetables.

The Report on the evaluation of income management in the Northern Territory collated existing data as well as conducting new surveys with 76 people on income management in four communities and focus groups involving 167 stakeholders.

In addition, the report took into account previous surveys of community stores and government business managers.

Key findings of the report include:

  • More than half of parents interviewed reported that their children were eating more (62.5 per cent), weighed more (57.4 per cent) and were healthier (52.1 per cent);
  • Three-quarters of people interviewed reported spending more on food (75.3 per cent), with half buying more fruit and vegetables (50 per cent); and
  • More than half of the people interviewed reported that there was less gambling (63.3 per cent), less drinking (60.9 per cent) and less harassment for money (52.1 per cent).

As part of the NTER, the Australian Government implemented income management in 73 NT Indigenous communities and town camps as a key measure to protect children and make communities safer. Around 16,000 people are currently subject to income management in the NT.

It is encouraging to see that parents in these communities are seeing measurable improvements in the health and wellbeing of their children, along with a reduction in alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour.

Under income management, 50 per cent of income support and family payments is set aside so it can be spent on items essential for the wellbeing of children including food, rent and clothing. Income managed funds cannot be spent on alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.

It means welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children and complements other NTER measures including substantially boosting the police presence to improve community safety.

More than 65 per cent of those surveyed viewed income management positively.

The survey also found that some people who resented being income managed themselves also acknowledged its positive impact on the safety and wellbeing of their communities.

Concerns were expressed about the way income management was originally communicated and implemented, and that it only applied to residents of prescribed communities as part of the NTER.

This report adds to existing evidence that demonstrates that income management is meeting the Government’s objectives of ensuring payments intended to benefit children are being used for that purpose, and mitigating some of the harmful behaviours present in communities.

Analysis of Centrelink data shows that during the first two years of income management, around 65 per cent of income managed money was spent in stores that trade primarily in food.

A survey by the Central Land Council of 141 residents from six communities in the first half of 2008 found that 51 per cent of those surveyed liked income management and reported perceived advantages such as increased household expenditure on food and children, young men contributing to family shopping, and reductions in gambling and drinking.

The NTER Review Board commissioned independent research by CIRCA in August and September 2008, which found that most support for income management came from women who were caring for young children, larger families and/or people with disabilities.

The AIHW report is available on the FaHCSIA website.