15. Where to from here?
Despite all the heat and hype generated by the NTER, after twelve months it is clear that it has not achieved as much as it might have and that the task it set itself is very much bigger and more complex than was anticipated by its architects. Arguably the most important outcome has been to reinforce the realities of the Aboriginal policy environment in the NT and beyond: the fundamental need for properly-resourced evidence-based measures; and for significantly increased government investment over the long-term to overcome decades of neglect in providing services and infrastructure to communities.
Bipartisanship too is an important ingredient to achieving rapid and sustained progress, however, bipartisanship with the wrong policies will lead us nowhere but backwards. In this regard the current review is a crucial tool for evaluating the NTER measures. AMSANT's view, as detailed in this submission, is that substantial modification to the current NTER measures is required.
An important immediate task is to transition the NTER measures to a long-term plan addressing Aboriginal disadvantage in such a way as to not loose the momentum and also the increased funding levels that we have long known (and that the experience of the NTER has once again reinforced) are essential to ‘closing the gap'.
The very significant expenditures of the NTER must be evaluated in terms of the apparent high levels of unnecessary or wasted spending, particularly in relation to its centralised bureaucratic, top-down organisation. The outcomes of such evaluation should be communicated to the public. The public also needs to be reassured that such waste is not inevitable and that increased investment in the long-term will be rewarded if it is linked to evidence-based measures and a comprehensive long-term plan to address Aboriginal disadvantage. Indeed, to not do so will cost much more in the long-term, not only in increased costs of addressing the avoidable health and social impacts of inaction, but in the terrible cost to the lives of Aboriginal children and families.