Yesterday the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) sent out a press release detailing “some of the positive outcomes that have been reported so far.”

They included:

  • with an increased police presence of 51 police (33 Interstate and 18 NT Police) in 18 communities and night patrols in all 73 prescribed communities, people in a number of communities are reporting greater community safety;
  • the introduction of a school nutrition program operating in 49 communities and associated outstations and seven town camp provides breakfast and lunch to school aged children is improving child concentration and engagement in education;
  • the food security of communities is being assessed and upgraded on a region by region basis through new community stores licensing arrangements (59 stores licensed) and the introduction of bush orders;
  • licensed community stores are reporting increased sales of food, including fresh food, which should support better community health in the medium/long term;
  • 1147 jobs occupied by Aboriginal people have been formally recognised as Australian Government service delivery jobs for the first time, with superannuation and proper entitlements and
  • over 11,000 child health checks have identified children who require surgery. Some follow up has already taken place in Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine.

Crikey has obtained a copy of the full Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Work Plan for 2008/2009, including an NT Intervention situation report week ending 6 June (read full document here).

It paints a picture of progress in rolling out health checks to children, and provides a full list of the ’09 budget allocation and how it applies to the Intervention.

The report states:

There is a need to develop a new implementation plan that reflects the 2008/09 Budget measures, changes in scope of existing projects and the move to the second ‘normalisation’ phase of the NTER.

As the NTER lead agency, FaHSCIA will coordinate the drafting of the new plan, and agencies will be required to submit new work programs and risk plans for all sub-measures and components.  

The Rudd Government has pledged to re-implement the permit system and has begun re-introducing CDEP, and yesterday’s report card shows that while only 4630 children in 58 per cent of all communities had been visited and given health checks at the time the government changed hands in November, that figure reached 11,000 this month.

While the progress looks impressive, it must be acknowledged that many of the programs cited in the report had not begun by November. And some figures suggest that while more children have been checked, the rate of coverage has not improved substantially, and is still running at around two thirds of children. 

“My argument would be that implementing programs takes time and all we’re seeing is the normal lead time to ensure due process in delivery of services. But my qualifier would be if this is … truly a national emergency then we have to roll this out more quickly,” Jon Altman from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the ANU told Crikey.

“Given the appalling historical record, there’s no question they [the Rudd Government] have fast tracked the provision of basic services to indigenous people — but if they’re truly serious about tackling indigenous disadvantage, they have to look at key issues of collaboration and giving indigenous communities control and autonomy,” says Altman.

The Rudd government “must also look at the key issue of human rights,” says Altman, and the Intervention’s initial premise that Indigenous Australians must give those rights up just to be entitled to the basic infrastructure and services that are provided to all other Australians. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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