Nursing Online – December 2009

The Northern Territory Emergency Response Intervention (the Intervention) was initiated in the dying days of the Howard Government in response to the findings of the Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse.

Little Children are Sacred: Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse 2007
Rex Wild and Pat Anderson.

Our terms of reference required us to enquire into the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. We will, no doubt, receive some criticism for appearing to stray well beyond that limited brief. However, we quickly became aware – as all the inquiries before us and the experts in the field already knew – that the incidence of child sexual abuse, whether in Aboriginal or so-called mainstream communities, is often directly related to other breakdowns in society.

Put simply, the cumulative effects of poor health, alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, pornography, unemployment, poor education and housing and general disempowerment lead inexorably to family and other violence and then on to sexual abuse of men and women and, finally, of children. It will be impossible to set our communities on a strong path to recovery in terms of sexual abuse of children without dealing with all these basic services and social evils.

The NT Intervention, Two Years on
Pat Anderson • Social Justice Initiative, University of Melbourne, June 2009.

Pat Anderson, the co-author of the Little Children Are Sacred report into abuse of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory, reflects on the Inquiry that led to the report and the Intervention that used it as a justification, but failed to implement its recommendations.

She explores the differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perceptions of the issue, and argues that effective action to protect and nurture Aboriginal children is undermined when governments put their own agendas and priorities ahead of the evidence and the lived realities of Aboriginal life.

Tracking the Intervention
Matthew Carney, Four Corners, ABC. Broadcast: 05/11/2007.

In Canberra’s eyes, the rolling scandal of child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities demanded action, swift and certain. So the Federal Government grabbed control of 73 Territory bush communities, dispatching soldiers and police to ‘stabilise’ townships and squads of doctors and nurses to check the kids. It declared it would ban grog and porn, quarantine welfare payments and scrap the visitor permit system.

Four months on from the dramatic announcement, what impact is the Intervention having on the thousands of people it is supposed to help?

Stop the NT Intervention
Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).

STICS is an open collective of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people committed to forcing the Rudd Government to scrap the NT Intervention and create policies that support and empower Aboriginal communities. The Federal and NT Governments have come under increasing fire in recent months over the scandals emanating from the NT Intervention.

In August UN Special Rapporteur Professor Anaya described it as ‘clearly discriminatory’, and characterised the policies as ‘stigmatising an already stigmatised people’. Meanwhile, on the ground, affected Aboriginal people are struggling to survive and resist the conditions of hardship, division and racism imposed by the legislation.

In July, echoing the dramatic land rights struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, Alyawarr Elders at Ampilatwatja community, 300kms north-east of Alice Springs, walked off their community demanding an end to the Intervention and immediate action to address shocking housing conditions.

Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory
Whole of Government Monitoring Report.

This Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory (previously the Northern Territory Emergency Response) Monitoring Report provides an analysis of data captured between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2009.