Rollback the NT Intervention!

When Australians reflect on the horrific events and effects of the Stolen Generation it is said that ‘more wrongs’ have been perpetrated against Indigenous Australians in the name of benevolence than were ever perpetrated in the name of malevolence.

What will Australians say when they reflect on the Northern Territory Intervention into Indigenous Communities? The following article gives a sense of the human toll as it stands. If nothing else – the damning statistics should be argument enough to roll back the Intervention immediately. Bold and italics original.

‘The intervention is dead, long live the intervention’

‘The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) intervention officially referred to as “Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory” but more commonly as “the intervention” is less than a year away from its statutory end in September next year. It has entered a potentially transformative stage that is a critical time for sound policy making and a dangerous time for Aboriginal people in “prescribed” communities especially if bad policy is legally locked in again.


Last month the Australian government released its latest Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Report January — June 2011 in two parts. The most recent data on progress suggests that the intervention is failing, at least if its aim is to close gaps of socioeconomic disadvantage between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in the NT. This view can only be surmised because evidently measuring gap reduction, at least in the bizarre world of indigenous public policy in Australia, can be magically undertaken without any comparative data on non-indigenous outcomes.


The report notes that while policies designed to improve can have a significant immediate effect (negative as well as positive?) this is the exception rather than the rule, as it will take a concerted effort over many years to achieve lasting change. This is undeniable, but it raises the question of why the Australian government is expending millions on six-monthly monitoring?


Even assuming that the policy aim is to improve the absolute well-being of Aboriginal residents of NTER communities — a more realistic and appropriate goal than closing statistical gaps — according to time series information available for four areas this is just not happening.


Since 2007–08 indigenous hospitalisation rates NT-wide (not just in NTER communities) have increased from 229 per 1000 to 262 per 1000. These are extraordinarily high rates unimagined in the broader community.


Recorded school enrolment and attendance has declined from 64.5% in February 2009 to 62.7% in February 2011 with total enrolments declining from 8960 to 8914, despite rapid population growth.


Income support recipients have increased from just on 20,000 in June 2009 to nearly 24,000 in June 2011, with some of the change explained by new (“non-grandfathered”) CDEP participants being shifted onto Newstart. In the name of job creation, welfare dependence is increasing.


Reports of child abuse in NTER communities have increased from 174 in 2007–08 to 272 in 2010–11; as have domestic violence reported incidents, from 1612 to 2968. And the gap in child protection indicators between indigenous and non-indigenous has increased across the NT for a range of indicators.


The most shocking statistic is on confirmed attempt suicide/self-harm incidents that have increased from 109 in 2007–08 to 227 in 2010­–11 in NTER communities. This statistic is embedded in Figure 6.4 of the report without any commentary.


If such a per capita rate was replicated in Sydney it would be about 22,700. Imagine the outcry! It was buried in the report, but registered as “a concern” according to a spokeswoman speaking for the minister Jenny Macklin.’


You can read the rest of the article via The intervention is dead, long live the intervention | Crikey.

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