ADDENDUM: Letter to Chair of NTER Review Board, 24 September 2008
24 September 2008
Mr Peter Yu
NTER Review Board
Dear Mr Yu,
Addendum to AMSANT's submission to the NTER Review Board
I refer to AMSANT's submission to the current review of the Northern Territory Emergency Intervention.
Following recent communication with you and subsequent discussions by AMSANT's Board, I am writing to clarify certain factual issues relating to AMSANT's submission. I would request that this letter be accepted as an addendum to our submission.
Extent of child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities
Section 8 of our submission deals with issues relating to child protection. We are concerned that it may be incorrectly inferred from comments in this section that AMSANT considers that child sexual abuse is not a significant issue in Aboriginal communities. This is not the case. Rather, our submission sought to place in context the more extreme examples of media and political rhetoric concerning pervasive levels of child abuse that were used to justify the blanket application of intervention measures in Aboriginal communities in the NT, against the lack of evidence of, and difficulties in determining, the actual extent of child sexual abuse.
Further, the fact that increased policing levels have uncovered very few additional cases of child sexual abuse should not be interpreted as indicating a view on AMSANT's part that additional police are not needed or wanted in Aboriginal communities. On the contrary, AMSANT has long advocated the need for additional police in Aboriginal communities commensurate with policing levels in the broader community.
Removal of NTER staff for inappropriate behaviour
In Section 4 of our submission it is stated that a few members of the Australian Government Child Health Check teams were extracted for inappropriate behaviours. While AMSANT is aware that inappropriate behaviours occurred in some instances, we accept advice from OATSIH that no team members were extracted for such reasons.
The Child Health Checks
The major concern that AMSANT expressed about the child health checks was the opportunity cost of the former government's decision to do them as a vertical program rather than recurrently increase the investment in comprehensive primary health care. The costing comparison in our submission using data from one of our member health services was used to highlight this opportunity cost. However, it would not have been possible to do the 11,000 child health checks that were carried out, in the short 12 month time frame required by the former government within the existing resources and capacities of Aboriginal health services. It was in this context that the consequent decision to use external child health check teams then created the many problems detailed in our submission. The lesson to be drawn from this is that child health checks and the necessary follow up need to be fully integrated into an expanded primary health care system. This is now occurring through Phase 3.
Thank you for the opportunity to put these additional clarifications before the Review Panel.