Comprehensive consultation on redesigning the Northern Territory Emergency Response
The Australian Government today released the Report on the Northern Territory Emergency Response Redesign Consultations, detailing feedback from several thousand people at more than 500 meetings and workshops covering 73 remote Northern Territory communities and town camps between June and August 2009.
These extensive consultations with Indigenous Australians in the NT demonstrate the Government’s commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous people on the future direction of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).
Community views were heard and collated on the Government’s proposals to redesign NTER measures including income management, alcohol and pornography restrictions, five-year leases and community store licensing.
To overcome language barriers and ensure as many voices as possible were heard, interpreters were used in around two-thirds of the whole-of-community meetings.
Workshops were also held with regional leaders and stakeholder organisation representatives in Katherine, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy, Darwin and Alice Springs. The Northern Territory Government’s Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council was consulted as well.
This comprehensive consultation process reflects the Australian Government’s determination to build strong and positive relationships with Indigenous Australians based on cooperation, mutual respect and responsibility.
This was recognised by many people who welcomed the opportunity for genuine consultation and involvement in the development of policy to enable Indigenous people to take greater ownership of solutions.
While a broad range of views were expressed in consultation meetings, some common themes emerged:
- Overall, people said that children, women and the elderly were now safer, better fed and clothed; they were getting a better night’s sleep; and there was a reduction in humbugging for money for alcohol, drugs and gambling. This was attributed to a combination of NTER measures, in particular income management, alcohol restrictions, community store licensing and the increased police presence;
- People identified income management was delivering benefits, particularly to children, women and the elderly. The benefits included more money being spent on food, clothing and school-related expenses, and assisting with saving for large purchases, such as fridges and washing machines.
- Some people felt that those who had proven their capacity to manage their money should not be income managed, and many people commented that it unfairly targeted Aboriginal people;
- The most frequent comment on the pornography restrictions was that people do not want pornography in their communities and are satisfied to have the NTER controls on sexually explicit and very violent films and magazines continue, along with the controls on use of publicly funded computers;
- Many people (particularly women) indicated very strongly that the alcohol restrictions should stay in place but that local responses were needed to effectively address alcohol misuse;
- There were some strongly expressed views about the signs notifying the NTER alcohol and pornography restrictions;
- Community stores licensing was regarded positively and seen as contributing to improvements in the range and quality of food and household items available from local stores;
- People expressed the desire of Aboriginal people to take greater ownership of solutions to the problems that the NTER is seeking to address;
- People expressed strong support for the Government’s commitment to restore the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The results of the consultations have been carefully considered and taken into account by the Government in the redesign of the NTER measures.
The engagement process was monitored by the independent Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia which also provided a report on the openness and integrity of the consultations.
For a copy of the report, please see Northern Territory Emergency Response Redesign Consultations (www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/indigenous-australians/overview).