NT Intervention: Deterioration of social conditions still evident

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SKY NEWS
School attendance
Before NTI Nov 2009 Nov 2010
62.3% 62.1% 56.5%
Hospitalised for malnutrition (per 1000)
Nov 2009 Nov 1010  
4 undisclosed  
Self Harm Statistics
2008 2010 Increase
123 182 59
Children Taken Away (per 1000)
2004-05 2009-10 Increase
13.7 13.9 .2
School attendance
2009 2010 Decrease
446 376 70
Centrelink Payments Cut
Jun - Dec 2009 Jun - Dec 2010 Increase
9 110 101
Centrelink "No show No pay"
2009 2010 Increase
8 441 433

By Paddy Gibson (MAIC)

There is a lot to be said about the latest Closing the Gap in the NT Monitoring report (July-December 2010)

The evidence is still of deteriorating social conditions
The paternalistic bureaucratic language being used hasn't improved, such as the reports on 'governance programs' in communities which are apparently 'needed in order for Indigenous people to play a greater role in exercising their rights and responsibilities as citizens' ... and the 'Let's Start preschool' program which is designed to 'develop children's social skills and reduce problematic behaviour'.

The statement "there is significant evidence that violence is normalised in some remote Indigenous communities" is justified by reference to a speech given at a Bennelong Society conference - which tells you a lot about the mindset of the department.

Statistics
Here are some statistics from the report to coincide with Julia Gillard's visit to Alice Springs.

School enrollment and attendance
Average school attendance rates (preschool, primary and secondary) were 62.1% in November 2009 and fell to 56.5% in November 2010. Prior to the Intervention, attendance rates were 62.3%.

From November 2008 - November 2010, preschool enrolments decreased by 125 students (from 1025 to 900). Primary schools enrolments decreased by 92 students. An increase of 30 student enrolments was reported in secondary schools.

Child hospitalisation
The department is still refusing to print any new statistics on the rate of child hospitalisation for a range of problems (they have published raw data in all but the last two reports).

They have published a new way of demonstrating the earlier data however. In terms of children being hospitalised for malnutrition, the rate 2008-09 was 4 per 1000 children (a quite incredible statistic). This is the highest rate in the previous decade.

Children being taken away
Increase in the rate of children being placed in "out of home care" - from 10.8 per 1000 children to 14.9 per 1000.

Self-harm
Reported incidents of attempted suicide and self harm rose from 123 in 2008 (already increased since before NTER) to 182 in 2010.

Assault
The one statistic that the government jumped on from the report northern...> was a decrease in rates of people being convicted for assault. This was presented as being evidence that there was "less violence in the`
communities". Assault rates were still higher than prior to the NTER - but this is explained as being a result of extra police.

In the prescribed areas, assault convictions dropped from 446 in 2009 to 376 in 2010 - or 70 less cases.

However, the rates of conviction for assault outside the "prescribed areas" (ie in the NT's urban centres) increased during the period from 1361 to 1465 - or 104 more cases.

Centrelink Breaches
2010 saw a greater 'crackdown' on the unemployed. More people are being breached for not complying with Centrelink orders - predominantly people not turning up to 'work for the BasicsCard' on the new CDEP.

There were only 19 cases of people being cut off Centrelink entirely for eight weeks from June - December 2009. This jumped to 110 eight week breaches June - December 2010.

There was also an increase in the use of the relatively new principle "no show, no pay", which allows people on CDEP and other "workfare" programs to be penalised a smaller section of their payments, before the move to an eight week breach. Only 8 "no show no pay" penalties were imposed in 2009 - but 441 were imposed in 2010.

The employment and Income Management sections also needs to be analysed in detail - the stats don't really tell the story but there are some crackers in the report.

Reference: Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory - REPORTS

A second federal intervention is on the table

Mark Schliebs The Australian April 16, 2011

Ms Macklin said significant action was still needed to improve conditions on remote communities.

In Adelaide yesterday, Ms Macklin said the Gillard government would not rule out a another federal takeover of key services when the intervention, initiated by the former Howard government in 2007, ends next year.

"The legislation for the NT emergency response goes until August next year, so all of these issues will be considered over the next year or so," Ms Macklin said.

"If we look around the Northern Territory, we can see that there has been some significant improvements," she added.

"But I'll be the first person to say there needs to be a really, really serious long-term investment by the commonwealth and the Northern Territory in services and support."

Ms Macklin said indigenous communities needed a good police presence, strong school attendance rates and healthy children.

The NT government refused to comment on the possibility of another intervention.

However, Opposition Leader Terry Mills said he would support one if Aboriginal people were involved in the development of programs, and it was carried out "with conviction" by the people on the ground.

"There is no question as to the requirement of an urgent response," Mr Mills said. "We can't afford a casual or a delayed response."

Both the Central and Northern land councils refused to comment.

The Howard government launched the intervention in 2007, on the back of the Little Children are Sacred report, which identified high levels of child abuse in indigenous communities.

Last month, Tony Abbott called on Julia Gillard to work with him on developing a new intervention, which would see more police and teachers sent into the Territory, compulsory work-for-welfare programs established and stricter enforcement of alcohol restrictions.

Ms Macklin's comments yesterday comes as the Australian Federal Police's role in the intervention and a trial program to boost school attendance rates wind down.

Officers from the AFP were sent into remote communities in 2007, with the goal of establishing police stations and building trust between law enforcement and locals.

The officers will leave the Territory by July 1.

A school enrolment and attendance trial at six Territory communities will also end on June 30.

The program cuts the welfare payments of families whose children don't enrol or repeatedly skip school.

Last October, school enrolment rates hit 98 per cent in the targeted communities, with nine parents having their payments suspended.

Get Involved!
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