The Review Board is confident that the Australian Government and the Australian people have the desire that the problems addressed by the NTER be resolved.
Genuine, continuing improvements in the lives of children and their families in the remote reaches of the Northern Territory will not be achieved through the strength of our feelings about the need for this to happen. The Intervention was fuelled, accelerated and flawed by the heightened emotion that surrounded its inception.
The improvements that are sought—in personal security and wellbeing, health, housing, education and productivity—will only be achieved through consistent engagement and partnership between community and government.
No matter how intensely we want things to change swiftly, they will not. We must be prepared for that. And be prepared to stay with it for the long haul. To commit the resources necessary to achieve a critical mass of change: to reach the tipping point.
Objectively the circumstances in remote Aboriginal communities are in such a state of accumulated need it will take years to lift their housing, infrastructure and services to a level comparable to those of other Australians. And nothing much will be achieved, even over years, unless the effort is intense as well as sustained.
Sufficient weight of financial effort over sufficient time is necessary to build momentum for real change. And the effective use of this money requires a stable structural framework.
The Board's recommendations regarding place-based agreements, governance arrangements, adjustments to the machinery of government, professional training and integrated data systems offer some of the elements necessary to provide a stable setting for long term and disciplined community development.
But the challenge remains immense.
No matter how good the framework, no matter how much money is available, you cannot drive change into a community and unload it off the back of a truck. That is the lesson of the Intervention.
Deep seated change—safe healthy families—must be grown up within the community. That is the challenge for Aboriginal people.
Developing the capacity to engage—genuinely and respectfully, mindful of Aboriginal culture—and to invite the active participation of Aboriginal communities in the determination of their own future. That is the challenge for government.