Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Towards a sustainable development phase: Discussion paper on Future Directions for the NTER

The Australian Government is today releasing a discussion paper which will form the basis for intensive consultation with Indigenous Northern Territory (NT) communities on designing a compulsory income management policy which does not require the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA).

The discussion paper outlines the current NTER measures, including what has been achieved so far and the challenges ahead.

The Government is moving the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) to a sustainable development phase to ensure measures will be effective in the long-term, including stronger engagement and partnerships with Indigenous communities.

In moving towards the sustainable development phase the Government will maintain and improve core NTER measures including compulsory income management, alcohol restrictions and pornography controls, while placing a greater emphasis on community development and community engagement.
Measures like compulsory income management are essential for protecting vulnerable women and children.

The discussion paper proposes possible improvements to current NTER measures, canvasses changes which conform to the Racial Discrimination Act, and raises specific questions for discussion as part of the consultations.

Particular attention is given to the rights of vulnerable groups, including women and children to lead safe and healthy lives.

Following extensive consultations with Indigenous communities in the NT, the Australian Government will introduce legislation into Parliament to lift the suspension of the RDA and restore its application to the NTER.

Consultations will also inform the Government’s design of a compulsory income management policy which does not require the suspension of the RDA.

People living in each of the NTER-affected communities will be encouraged to contribute their views as part of on-the-ground consultations.

Trained interpreters will be available and the process will be independently monitored to make sure the opinions of all groups within each community are accurately recorded.

Regional leaders’ meetings will be held as well as discussions with a wide range of non-government organisations working in health, education and service delivery.

Consultations will start next month and continue until September. We expect to introduce the amendment Bills in October.

The consultation process will be fully documented in a final report.

Mr Tom Calma, who is both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner, was consulted on the discussion paper and planned process.

The discussion paper is available at: Future Directions for the Northern Territory Emergency Response