Australian Association of Social Workers
15 August 2008
Dear Sir / Madam
Northern Territory Emergency Response Review
The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is the key professional body representing more than 6,000 professional social workers in Australia, many of whom work in a range of leadership, management, academic, research and direct practice roles in relation to Indigenous issues in the Northern Territory and across Australia.
The Association appreciates the opportunity to make a submission to the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board.
The AASW submission provides examples of the current situation as reported by numerous experts, reports, Indigenous peoples and Indigenous communities. Analysis of these insights indicates there are huge gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and that government policies and program models have not, to date, been effective in curbing these gaps.
This submission poses a number of key questions in relation to the NTER Review process and outlines recommended options for the NTER Review Board to consider. It points to the need for new and innovative approaches to policy development and service implementation in Indigenous communities and provides options for the way forward for Government to address these gaps in partnership with Indigenous communities.
The submission recommends all levels of Government utilise a range of approaches to address the gaps such as:
- 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.
The AASW believes the issues of Indigenous disadvantage are not only limited to the NT and urges the Review Board to adopt a strategic approach to address Indigenous disadvantage across Australia.
We hope this review results in much needed changes in approach by all levels of Government to working with Indigenous Australians and their communities and long term positive outcomes.
Thank you again for this opportunity to contribute to the Review Board. We are happy to make a member of our National Social Policy committee available to meet with representatives of the Review Board during the review process. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like us to do so.
Professor Bob Lonne