Open letter to Minister Mal Brough regarding the Indigenous Action Plan 26 June 2007

Dear all

Following is the text of an open letter sent to by ACOSS to Minister Mal Brough today regarding the Indigenous action plan. You will see a bit of media on this today. NCOSS is a signatory to the letter along with:

Patrick Dodson; Mick Dodson; Lowitja O’Donoghue; Jumbunna Learning Centre; ANTAR; Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation; Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Shelter; Amoonguna Health Service; Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation; Malabam Health Board; Central Australian Aboriginal; Alcohol Program Unit (CAAAPU); Darwin Community Legal Service Inc; Dawn House Inc; Foster Care NT; Central Australian Stolen Generations & Families Aboriginal Corporation; Tangentyere Council; Central Land Council; Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association; Institute for Aboriginal Development; Alice Springs Urban Housing; Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Program Unit; Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service; Arrernte Council; Footprints Forward; Lhere Artepe; Ingkerreke Outstations Resource Services; Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; National Indigenous Television Ltd; Institute for Aboriginal Development Alice Springs; Katherine West Aboriginal Health Board; Local Community Services Association; Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation; Mental Association of Central Australia; North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency; Northern Territory Shelter; Northern Territory Council of Social Service; Pintupi Homelands Health Service; ACOSS; ACT Council of Social Service; Anglicare Australia; Australian Institute of Welfare and Community Workers; Baptist Union of NSW; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre; CentreCare Western Australia; Congregational Federation of Australia and Aotearoa; Doctors Reform Society; Family Services Australia; Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for Youth; Jobs Australia; Justice Action; National Association of Community Legal Centres; National Council of Churches in Australia; National Council of Single Mothers and their Children; National Shelter; National Welfare Rights Network; New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council; Oxfam Australia; SANE Australia; SNAIC; Victorian Council of Social Service; Uniting Care Australia; Uniting Church in Australia; Uniting Care Queensland; Western Australian Council of Social Service; Women With Disabilities Australia; YWCA of Canberra; Malabam Health Board; The National Indigenous Youth Movement of Australia; Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO); Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Association; Sharijn King;

“26 June 2007

Open letter to The Hon. Mal Brough MP
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra
ACT 2600

Dear Minister Brough

The undersigned organisations write this joint and open letter in order to convey our views on action required to stop the abuse of children in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, and our concerns about aspects of the Australian Government’s response to this problem as outlined in your statement of 21 June 2007.

The safety and well-being of Indigenous children is paramount. We welcome your commitment to tackling violence and abuse in certain Indigenous communities. We are deeply concerned at the severity and widespread nature of the problems of child sexual abuse and community breakdown in Indigenous communities in the NT, catalogued in the Little Children are Sacred Report.

We wish to work collaboratively with Governments and the communities affected to ensure that children are protected. We would like to see greater investment in the services that support Indigenous families and communities, the active involvement of these communities in finding solutions to these problems and greater Federal Government engagement in delivering basic health, housing and education services to remote communities.

There is general agreement among the communities affected, Governments and service providers and in the wider Australian community that urgent action is required to address the abuse and neglect of children and to assist those affected by it.

We note that the services which most Australians take for granted are often not delivered to remote Indigenous communities, including adequately resourced schools, health services, child protection and family support services, as well as police who are trained to deal with domestic violence in the communities affected. We endorse the call in the Little Children are Sacred Report for the Australian and Territory Governments to work together urgently to fill these gaps in services.

There is also a need for a longer term plan to address the underlying causes of the problem, including community breakdown, joblessness, overcrowding and low levels of education.

Successfully tackling these problems requires sustainable solutions, which must be worked out with the communities, not prescribed from Canberra.

We are committed to working with the Government to ensure that in developing and introducing the proposed measures, support is provided to Indigenous communities’ efforts to resolve these problems. The proposals go well beyond an ‘emergency response’, and will have profound effects on people’s incomes, land ownership, and their ability to decide the kind of medical treatment they receive. Some of the measures will weaken communities and families by taking from them the ability to make basic decisions about their lives, thus removing responsibility instead of empowering them.

In their present form the proposals miss the mark and are unlikely to be effective in their present form. There is an over-reliance on top-down and punitive measures, and insufficient indication that additional resources will be mobilised where they are urgently needed; to improve housing, child protection and domestic violence supports, schools, health services, alcohol and drug rehab programs. These issues have been raised by many Indigenous leaders over many years.

We offer our support to Indigenous communities and the Government in:
developing programs that will strengthen families and communities to empower them to confront the problems they face;
consulting adequately with the communities and NT Government, and community service, health and education providers;
developing a long term plan to address and resolve the causes of child abuse including joblessness, poor housing, education and commit the necessary resources to this.

Yours sincerely”

Regards

Michelle Burrell
Acting Director
NCOSS
66 Albion Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: 9211 2599, ext 107
Fx: 9281 1968
Mob: 0427 951 355

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