Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Northern Territory Emergency Response – One Year On

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

The response was launched on 21 June 2007 following the recommendations of the Little Children Are Sacred report and its shocking revelations about child abuse in some Indigenous communities.

The NTER is an important bipartisan commitment to protect children in Northern Territory (NT) Indigenous communities. The Government supported the NTER in Opposition and welcomes the current Opposition’s ongoing support as the NTER continues to make progress.

The NTER has been making important progress over the last 12 months.

  • Many families in remote communities report feeling safer because of the increased police presence, reduction in alcohol consumption and more night patrols and safe houses in communities. There are currently 51 extra police serving in communities that previously had no police presence at all.
  • More than 13,000 people are being income managed in 52 communities. Women in many of these communities say the new income management arrangements mean they can buy essentials for their children such as food and clothes. Shopping habits in licensed stores have changed – more is being spent on fresh food, sales of cigarettes have approximately halved and the incidence of ‘humbugging’ has fallen.
  • School nutrition programs, providing breakfast and lunch for children in 49 communities have resulted in a small, encouraging increase in school attendance rates.
  • Over 11,000 child health checks have identified children who require surgery. Follow-up treatment, including surgery, is underway. Audiology services have been provided to 669 children, non-surgical dental services to 350 children, 46 children have undergone ENT surgery and 40 children have undergone dental surgery.
  • 200 additional teachers are being recruited over the next five years to educate the 2000 young people previously not enrolled.
  • And the Government is investing $813 million in remote Indigenous housing in the NT which will include working with the NT Government to build around 750 new houses and undertaking 2500 housing upgrades.

The Government is determined to keep moving forward on this progress.

In line with a commitment to an evidence-based approach to Indigenous policy, the Australian Government has commissioned an independent Review to assess the effectiveness of the measures.

The NTER Review Board is expected to provide the Australian Government with a final report by 30 September 2008.

The review does not mean a slowing in progress. The Government will keep pressing forward with ways to improve child protection in Indigenous communities.

The NTER is an important element of the Government’s plan to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.