The Federal Government was motivated to act on the s-xual abuse of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal communities by Little Children are Sacred, which was handed to the NT government on 30 April.

But how closely does the Government’s plan follow the recommendations of the original report? Is the PM’s response a Trojan horse for his centralist ambitions, or a culturally appropriate course of action? Here we compare Canberra’s reaction to the recommendations which sparked it.

(To read all 97 recommendations from the report, click here. To read Minister Brough’s press release, click here.)

The role of government

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Little Children are Sacred:

  • [T]he Northern Territory Government must provide strong leadership on the issue of child s-xual abuse, and that this be expressed publicly as a determined commitment to place children’s interests at the forefront in all policy and decision-making, particularly where a matter impacts on the physical and emotional well-being of children.
  • That the Northern Territory and Australian Governments develop long term funding programs that do not depend upon election cycles nor are limited by short-term outcomes or overly bureaucratic reporting conditions and strictures.

Federal Government:

  • Prime Minister: “We’re very happy to work with the Northern Territory Government, but it will need to be on the terms that I am about to announce.”
  • The immediate nature of the Australian Government’s response reflects the very first recommendation of the Little Children are Sacred report into the protection of Aboriginal children from child abuse in the Northern Territory which said: “That Aboriginal child s-xual abuse in the Northern territory be designated as an issue of urgent national significance by both the Australian and Northern Territory Governments…”

The “rivers of grog”

Little Children are Sacred

  • [A]s a matter of urgency, the government makes greater efforts to reduce access to takeaway liquor in the Northern Territory, enhance the responsible use of takeaway liquor, restrict the flow of alcohol into Aboriginal communities and support Aboriginal community efforts to deal with issues relating to alcohol.
  • That the Licensing Commission be required to take into account advice from the Police and DHCS when considering all liquor licence applications…

Federal Government:

  • Ban the sale, possession, transportation and consumption of alcohol (initially for six months) in prescribed areas, excepting wet canteens operating with the approval of the Taskforce that have strict alcohol management practices and that do not allow take away sales.
  • Require licensees to view photographic identification and record purchaser addresses and proposed destination of alcohol purchases where the quantity exceeds five cartons for low strength and three cartons for full strength beer, or equivalent across the remainder of the Northern Territory.
  • Introducing welfare reforms to stem the flow of cash going toward substance abuse and to ensure funds meant to be for children’s welfare are used for that purpose.

Porn-graphy

Little Children are Sacred

  • The prohibition contained in the Criminal Code making it an offence to intentionally expose a child under the age of 16 years to an indecent object or film, video or audio tape or photograph or book and the implications generally for a child’s wellbeing of permitting them to watch or see such s-xually explicit material.

Federal Government:

  • We’re going to ban the possession of X-rated pornography in the prescribed areas and we’re going to check all publicly funded computers for evidence of the storage of pornography.

School attendance

Little Children are Sacred

  • The Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) implements the attendance strategies set out in the Education Chapter and any other strategies required to ensure all children of school age attend school on a daily basis, in accordance with DEET’s responsibilities to provide compulsory education for all school-age children

  • Introduce a universal meals program for Aboriginal students (breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea) with parents to contribute to the cost of providing meals and the community or volunteers to undertake food preparation

Federal Government:

  • Link the receipt of Australian Government income support and family assistance payments to school attendance for principal carers of children of compulsory school age in prescribed communities, with quarantining of 50 percent of income support payments and one hundred percent of family assistance payments … cases of poor school attendance … which would include mandatory deductions to provide for school breakfast and lunch for the school age children.

Housing

Little Children are Sacred

  • Given the extent of overcrowding in houses in Aboriginal communities and the fact this has a direct impact on family and s-xual violence, the Inquiry strongly endorses the government’s reform strategy of critical mass construction in targeted communities, and recommends the government take steps to expand the number of communities on the target list for both new housing and essential repairs and maintenance in light of the fact that every community needs better housing urgently
  • That, in recognition of the importance of community employment in addressing the existing dysfunction, and the need for more community housing, an intensive effort be made in the area of training and employment of local Aboriginal people in the construction and repair and maintenance of houses in Aboriginal communities, with input from DEET as appropriate.

Federal Government:

  • Improving housing and reforming community living arrangements in prescribed communities including the introduction of market based rents and normal tenancy arrangements.

Police

Little Children are Sacred

  • That the Police actively recruit more Aboriginal police officers, Aboriginal Community Police Officers and Police Auxiliaries and to station more female officers in remote communities with a preference for Aboriginal female police officers.
  • That the Police conduct effective, meaningful and ongoing consultations with individual Aboriginal communities with a view to developing protocols for working with the community and supporting each community’s own efforts at maintaining peace, law and order.

Federal Government:

  • As part of the immediate emergency response, increasing policing levels in prescribed communities, including requesting secondments from other jurisdictions to supplement NT resources, funded by the Australian Government.
  • The Northern Territory Government will be expected to … remove customary law as a mitigating factor for sentencing and bail conditions.

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Jess
Singapore

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