This Budget continues funding for the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). In total $323.8 million in 2008‑09 is provided for the NTER.
The measures introduced in the Northern Territory aim to protect Aboriginal children from abuse and build the foundation for stronger communities and families. It represents a major commitment of government resources and on-the-ground effort to address the chronic problems that have led to poor outcomes for people living in the communities and town camps of the Northern Territory.
This Government is committed to ensuring the NTER serves the interests of Indigenous children. At the 12 month mark, the Government will undertake an independent and transparent review to assess the effectiveness of all measures and make recommendations into the future.
This is a key focus of the NTER, following the Little Children are Sacred report and the Government's concern for the safety and wellbeing of children.
Family violence and child protection issues are complex as they are bound up with health issues, including alcohol and substance abuse, and socio-economic and environmental conditions as well as law and order challenges.
The Budget provides for the continuation of interrelated measures which together will improve community safety.
Through the Family Support Package ($9.8 million in 2008‑09) families and children in 22 remote communities will continue to receive support and assistance from a local Aboriginal family and community worker and/or a safe house. A mobile child‑protection team based in Darwin will provide outreach services to families in remote communities.
To support the maintenance of law and order in remote communities, the Government provided $18.5 million in February for the deployment of 66 extra police from the Australian Federal Police and $3.9 million to support night patrol services.
To complement this commitment the Budget provides $29.3 million to continue the operation of night patrols, support the deployment of the 66 additional police, and support activities linked to the new alcohol and pornography laws in the Northern Territory.
Further youth alcohol diversion projects will be funded ($9.5 million in 2008‑09) to reduce substance abuse among Aboriginal young people aged 12 to 18. Safe and healthy activities as an alternative to drinking and other substance abuse will provide positive experiences in areas such as the arts, sport and youth leadership. The activities will also promote school attendance and pathways to training and employment.
The National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Taskforce is undertaking targeted intelligence operations relating to child abuse violence within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. These activities will continue with funding of $4.2 million in 2008‑09. Intelligence will be provided to the Northern Territory Police to assist their investigations and prosecutions against the perpetrators of these crimes.
The Budget also provides $2.8 million in 2008‑09 to Indigenous Legal Aid and interpreter services to meet the increased demand generated by the implementation of particular NTER measures.
In February, the Government provided an additional $99.7 million over two years for the Improve child and family health and expand health service delivery measure to expand primary health care services for Indigenous people in remote areas of the Northern Territory. It is funding additional doctors, nurses and other health professionals in order to expand the capacity of health care services in the Northern Territory in the long term.
With more than 8700 child health checks completed, the focus is now on treating the health problems identified by the checks and continuing drug and alcohol services and special services for children and communities affected by child abuse and trauma. The Budget provides a further $13.6 million dollars in 2008‑09 for this purpose.
The Budget provides $3.4 million in 2008‑09 for the continuation of early childhood development services, five playgroups and ten crèches established in the first year of the NTER. These services provide vulnerable parents with assistance to develop their parenting skills and deal with complex issues such as family violence, alcohol and substance abuse and child neglect and abuse.
Access to early childhood programs will lead to improvements in life outcomes. Young children and their parents will gain learning and development opportunities, leading to a smoother transition to school and later employment.
Health follow-up in the Northern Territory
Almost a third of the children seen as a result of the health checks in the Northern Territory were found to have ear disease and approximately one in 14 children required specialist ear-nose-throat (ENT) services to help treat hearing impairment.
Accelerated ENT surgery for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory began in April 2008.
Successive sessions have been conducted by ENT surgeons in Central Australia. Five hundred children across the Northern Territory are expected to receive ENT surgery through visiting surgeons.
An analysis of the first 5598 health checks reveals that nearly two-thirds of children examined by medical teams have been referred for further treatment. Of these:
Mobile dental facilities will be used for dental follow-up across the Territory and extra dental staff will visit clinics.
With follow-up care well under way, child health checks are continuing for children who did not receive a check in the initial phase.
In 2006, the apparent retention rate of Indigenous students in the Northern Territory from Year 8 to Year 12 was 40.5 per cent compared to the non-Indigenous rate of around 75 per cent. The Australian Government considers education to be a key driver of change. The Government will invest a further $19.1 million in 2008‑09 in building a quality education workforce, providing additional classrooms and expanding literacy and numeracy programs to deal with the chronic education deficits in the remote Northern Territory.
This initiative will focus particularly on developing local Indigenous people already working in schools who are more likely to stay in communities and contribute to their development. Local Indigenous education workers will be supported to achieve higher qualifications, equipping them to play a greater role in the schools where they work. Quality teachers make all the difference, and Indigenous children must have access to teachers with the skills and knowledge to help them achieve the educational outcomes they need. The Government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous students, wherever they live, have access to educational opportunities equivalent to their non‑Indigenous peers.
A critical link to the investment in education is the continuation of the School Nutrition Program with funding of $7.4 million next financial year. The program provides breakfast and lunch to school-aged children (as needed) in the 67 community schools in NTER areas. The program, involving parents and community members, boosts school attendance and improves children's concentration and engagement in learning.
The Budget continues funding ($75.4 million in 2008‑09) for employment services, pre‑employment programs and literacy and numeracy training for Indigenous working age adults in the Northern Territory to increase access to skills development and jobs. Funding will also continue for Community Employment Brokers who work in communities to maximise job seekers' access to and retention in employment services. A further $5.8 million in 2008‑09 will continue the delivery of Centrelink services, infrastructure and support in remote regions of the NT.
The Northern Territory Jobs Package ($92.6 million over three years) has to date funded the creation of 647 off-CDEP jobs that support delivery of Australian Government funded services. These jobs have been created in a wide range of sectors — health, education arts, sport and recreation, broadcasting, language and culture, and night patrol services. Around 290 ranger and pastoral management jobs will start before 30 June 2008. A further 900 jobs are expected to be created across the whole of the Northern Territory.
Jobs in services delivered by local government will commence soon, with additional funding provided by the Northern Territory Government which is instituting a major reform of local government from 1 July 2008.
Jobs in services provided by the Northern Territory Government will be co-funded in 2008‑09.
The Government has announced the CDEP will be restored from 1 July 2008 in those communities where it was shut down as part of the NTER. The restoration is an interim measure while the Government consults with Indigenous people and other stakeholders about future directions for the program (see 'CDEP reform' above).
The Budget is providing $69.2 million in 2008‑09 to continue the implementation of income management in the Northern Territory (see 'Welfare reform' above). In 2008‑09 income management will apply to around 20,000 Centrelink customers in the Northern Territory.
The implementation of income management has revealed that some Indigenous families would benefit from training in money management. Funding for income management in 2008‑09 includes $3.1 million for financial management support services. These services will deliver financial education, training and financial crisis support to people in communities where income management has commenced.
The Government is committed to working cooperatively with the communities involved in the NTER and has been regularly consulting with an Indigenous Reference Group.
Government Business Managers (GBMs) are the local face of the Emergency Response, coordinating government business and living in and working with communities. Their knowledge of local progress of NTER measures and information on local issues and concerns guides coordinated government action and decision-making tailored to the particular needs of each community. The Budget provides $30.8 million in 2008‑09 for the continuation of their role. A further $7.0 million in 2008‑09 is provided for improved staff accommodation for government personnel currently residing in cyclone-prone remote Northern Territory communities.
Community engagement will be enhanced with $3.8 million in 2008‑09 for the employment of up to 20 Indigenous community members to act as community agents. Agents will be a conduit between community and government representatives, engaging families and individuals in the NTER and working to bring about greater community input into government decision-making.
Early lessons from the roll out of NTER measures show that effective engagement of local people in the design and delivery of activities is a key to achieving improved outcomes.
A further $32.4 million has been committed in 2008‑09 for NTER leadership and coordination activities. This funding will support NTER activities through providing logistical and administrative support. This measure will also provide for a community capability fund which can be used by GBMs for practical responses to the needs of local people, particularly in the areas of environmental health and safety. It will also support ongoing monitoring of NTER measures and the 12 month review of the NTER.
$0.2 million in 2008‑09 has also been committed to support the ongoing role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in the NTER. The presence of the Commonwealth Ombudsman provides assurance of fair and accountable public administration of the NTER.
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