Ampe akelyernemane meke mekarle: “little children are sacred”. Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse.
The 2007 inquiry into The Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse was prompted after a number of allegations were made relating to the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. Also known as the Little Children are Sacred, the purpose of the inquiry was to investigate child sexual abuse allegations in Aboriginal communities and identify improved means to protect Aboriginal children from such abuse.
Summary of ‘The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry’
(Please see Appendix 1 for the full Terns of Reference for the Inquiry)
The inquiry was solicited to:
•Examine cases of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children, focusing on unreported cases. •Study the factors contributing to abuse.
•Investigate the ineffective reactions to Aboriginal child sexual abuse, seen as resulting from: isolation, language barriers, inadequate reporting systems and the fact that Aboriginal families and communities to not understand the reporting system. •To consider the effectiveness of government responses to and efforts protecting Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. •Establish why cases of child sexual abuse are not being reported. •Identify how both government and non government agencies might work together to construct a more effective system of child protection •Discover how the NT Government could better support Aboriginal communities to better prevent and manage child sexual abuse. •Establish ways the government could assist in the education and support of Aboriginal people to prevent the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children.
Due to the myriad of contributing factors associated with child abuse, some have said the terms of reference were not wide enough (James, 2006) however, rather than being overwhelmed by volume, the terms of reference included the most relevant issues (Anderson, 2006).
The inquiry visited 45 Northern Territory communities, held 262 meetings and received 65 written submissions from individuals and organisations. From this, the inquiry gathered a large amount of information which was assembled into 97 recommendations. The landmark report exposed a deeply disturbing environment of sexual abuse across the Northern Territory requiring an urgent but multidimensional long-term response to a very complex problem.
The report was released in the middle of 2007, with a great deal of surrounding political attention. Irrespective of the reports ‘integrity and worthiness’, it is regarded by many as merely another to add to the alarmingly large number of reports whose recommendations relating to the ill health and clear disadvantage of Indigenous Australians have been largely ignored (Brown & Brown, 2007). The terms of reference in the report were supposedly guided by and ‘the impetus for the federal government’s intervention’, however ironically only a small number of the reports terms of reference have been considered or put into practice (Brown & Brown, 2007).
According to the inquiry, sexual abuse of Indigenous children is alarmingly rife and often unreported in Northern Territory Indigenous communities. The inquiry suggests that the sexual abuse of Indigenous children is occurring largely due to the combined consequences of alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, pornography, and poor health, education and housing; the collapse of Aboriginal culture and society (Highland, 2007/2008). The inquiry specified that alcohol prevailed as the most serious danger to the health and safety of Indigenous children (Highland, 2007/2008).
The report made a total of 97 recommendations to attempt to overcome Indigenous child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory. Recommendations included working on: educational services; strengthening support services;...