In September 2007, Drug Free Australia formed a Task Force to work on issues impacting from the legislation resulting from the “Little Children are Sacred” Report and the Northern Territory government’s response to achieve positive change within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
This legislation was:
- Federal Legislation known as the: ‘Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, 2007’ Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Act 2007 Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007.Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency) Act (No.1) 2007 – 2008
- The Northern Territory Government Response known as ‘Closing the Gap’.
A report was compiled by the DFA Task Force and its major findings are contained within this report, together with findings subsequent to September 2007 as reported by two members of the Task Force who have worked in Darwin and Alice Springs.
Drug Free Australia’s top priority remains that many of the issues that need to be resolved are alcohol and drug related problems in indigenous communities, both in Town Camps and in more remote regions. Apart from the alarming facts portrayed in the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report, there are other statistics of concern such as the fact that:
- There is a disproportionately high rate of indigenous patients treated in Northern Territory hospitals;
- the life-span of indigenous people is 17 years less than the Australian average;
- significant numbers of aboriginal deaths are caused by alcohol and drug related health issues/motor car accidents/violence;
- that indigenous people comprise at least 80% of people incarcerated in jails; that nutrition and literacy rates are dangerously low; that the diabetes rates are up to 40% in some communities.
- that more than 60% of indigenous people smoke high levels of cannabis regularly1
- marijuana and alcohol-related suicides; mental health issues and brain damage linked to the high consumption of alcohol and cannabis.
DFA’s First Report acknowledged that Aboriginal people:
- have contributed many constructive suggestions regarding rehabilitation from drug/alcohol addiction.
- wish to be decision makers in relation to their families, their future and their land.
- have amongst their communities many outstanding individuals and families who are not only raising their own healthy, happy children, but are also contributing to the welfare of other children.
The research includes a literature review of current research and ongoing consultation with three main stakeholder groups – representatives of the indigenous peoples across the NT, political leaders in the NT and agency support workers who are at the grassroots of service delivery.
- Section A - Summary of Task Force findings as at September 2007
- Section B - Update notes from Task Force members as at July 2008
1. Emerging patterns of cannabis and other substance use in Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory: a study of two communities’, Alan R. Clough, Peter D’abbs, Sheree Cairney, Dennis Gray, Paul Maruff, Robert Parker and Bridie O’Reilly.