“In the Name of the Child”: An analysis and critique of The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (NTER)
“…the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians. It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion”.
Labor Prime Minister, (1991-1996), Paul Keating, Redfern Address, Sydney, 1992
“Mr Speaker, I move that this House… expresses its deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices… and believes that we, having achieved so much as a nation, can now move forward together for the benefit of all Australians”.
Liberal Prime Minister (1996-2007), John Howard, puts the Motion of Regret to Parliament,Thursday, 26 August, 1999
“We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians… And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry”.
Labor Prime Minister (2007 – present), Kevin Rudd, National Apology address, Wednesday, February 13, 2008
This paper looks at the social policies impacted on Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory with the passing of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007, (NTER) and other Acts, along with requisite legislative amendments[i], to facilitate these policies. The object of the NTER Act is to improve the well‑being of certain [Aboriginal] communities in the Northern Territory (NTER, 2007 – Section 5)[ii] . It is argued in this paper that while the social policy measures were intended to improve the quality of life of the Aboriginal peoples affected, such measures are paternalistic in their imposition, have had limited measurable outcomes (positive or otherwise), and that there has been little actual improvement in the overall quality of life of the Indigenous peoples of the NT.
This paper also briefly examines the history of Indigenous race relations within Australia, with a view to understanding how and why the “NT Intervention” came about.
Under the John Howard Liberal government, The Northern Territory National Emergency Response — NTER — also known as The NT Intervention, came into being, principally with the passing of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007. The Act was passed by the Federal Australian Parliament in August 2007 and received in principle bipartisan support from the then Leader of the Opposition, currently Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. The stated social policy outcome (George and Wilding, 1984) enacted by this legislation, “is a set of measures designed to protect children, make communities safe and build a better future for people living in Indigenous communities and town camps in the Northern Territory” (FAHCSIA - Department of Families, Housing, Community Service and Indigenous Affairs, 2007). Such measures initially included: • Widespread restrictions on alcohol;
• Welfare reforms — to stem the flow of cash going to substance abuse and to ensure funds meant for children’s welfare would be used for that purpose; • Enforced school attendance through linking income support and family assistance payments to school attendance, and provision of school meals at parents’ cost; • Acquisition of townships prescribed by the government through five year leases, including payment of ‘just terms’ compensation; • Increases in policing levels, including secondment of officers from other jurisdictions, including...
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