The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the NT Emergency Response (NTER) Review Board. The AASW is the peak representative body for Social Workers across Australia with currently 6,500 members working in the health, education and welfare services sectors including representatives working in leadership, management, academic, research and direct practice roles in the Northern Territory.
The issues that led to the NTER are complex and we acknowledge that various policy approaches and program delivery models adopted by all levels of government to date have not been fully effective and at times have impacted negatively on Indigenous communities.
The AASW believes that a long term, whole of government, consultative, cross policy approach is required to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in the NT and indeed across Australia. Culturally sensitive and flexible approaches to service delivery are also required to overcome the disadvantage associated with a lack of essential services such as health, education, housing and employment experienced by many Indigenous people living in the NT.
The AASW recommends the NTER adopt the following approaches as a basis for a sustainable and better future for residents of remote communities and town camps in the NT:
- Reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and the NT Anti-Discrimination Act 1993 and subject the NT Intervention measures to the safeguards of NT and Commonwealth equal opportunity legislation.
- Provide long term commitment and resources to address identified gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the NT
- Adopt a partnership approach to working with Indigenous communities to meet needs flexibly
- Adopt a model of support and empowerment to Indigenous communities rather than a punitive model
- Develop systems to collect reliable and consistent base line data for the purpose of on-going monitoring and evaluation of intervention measures
- Ensure inter-departmental and cross government collaboration to address issues facing Indigenous communities, with recognition that all issues in Indigenous communities are interrelated
- Support initiatives that are working well in Indigenous communities and adopt flexible approaches to improving the overall health of Indigenous communities
- Make quarantining of income support voluntary, except in specific instances where circumstances warrant it and support the development of financial literacy programs for income support recipients
- Support the development of evidenced based education and employment strategies to encourage Indigenous workforce development and the provision of capacity building opportunities for Indigenous people to train and work in areas such as health, education, housing and other essential community infrastructure in their communities.