Senate debates

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011; Second Reading

6:34 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

(—) (): The incorporated speech read as follows—

The Australian Greens oppose this package of legislation.

But we are not the only ones.

I read here from the statement of the Yolngu Nations Assembly, who represent the people of 8 Aboriginal nations in Western, Central, and East Arnhem Land:

To the Leaders of the Australian Federal and Northern Territory Parliaments:

The Yolngu Nations reject the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) and call on the Senate to discard these Bills in full. We have clearly informed you that we do not support the legislation.

The Australian Federal Government can achieve all its aims through partnership in our communities. They have no need to grant themselves the continued and new powers contained within these Bills....

The Yolngu Nations call on both the Australian Federal and Northern Territory Governments to end their interventionist policies and agendas, and return to a mindset of partnership based on the principles of Self - Determination.

Partnership and Self-Determination

I'd also like to share with you comments from the CEO of Malabam Health Board in Manningrida

Do you all know what a lorrkon is? It is a hollow log. We use logs for coffins. Since the intervention and since this new policy has come in that is all we are seeing. We are seeing hollow people walking around. This place is definitely different from the place it was before the intervention. That is not to say that we do not have our issues; we do, as do a lot of other communities. Personally, and again this is only my personal view, they seem to be exacerbated and have been since the intervention. I am not confident that Stronger Futures is going to rectify any of that, but that is what we have got to deal with.

Sentiments like this were expressed by many witnesses we spoke to during the Community Affairs Committee inquiry. I cannot overstate the opposition to these Bills. It came from Aboriginal leaders, Aboriginal people, Aboriginal organisations, community service organisations, the NT anti discrimination commissioner; teachers; social workers; academics and the Australian Human Rights Commission—our National Human Rights Institution. And just recently, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia issued a statement, calling on us—on Federal Senators not to pass this legislation

I could go on and on listing organisations and eminent persons that reject these Bills. Rarely in my time as a Senator have I seen such consistent, fierce and wide ranging opposition to a suite of legislation.

The Stronger Futures package effectively extends the measures put in place by Northern Territory 'Intervention'. The Australian Greens opposed the Intervention and we likewise oppose the Stronger Futures legislation.

There is no substantive evidence to show that the Intervention has had a positive effect on the lives of Aboriginal people in the NT. Rather, it is clear that the top-down, punitive nature of the Intervention is actually undermining and disempowering Aboriginal people and communities.

The ineffectiveness of these measures is not surprising considering international research on Indigenous economic development points to the success of community driven measures over top-down approaches.

Let me repeat—we oppose this legislations. Time after time we have criticised the Intervention, and this policy is no different.

I'll explain why.

Extension of an Ineffective and Expensive Approach

            The safety and wellbeing of children in remote areas and town camps is severely under threat in the Northern Territory and remains so. Their circumstances are perilous, even when compared to the circumstances of Indigenous children in other Australian jurisdictions. There is a mass of data supporting that contention. They have been documented widely. There have been a few improvements.

                School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM)

                    The official evaluation of the SEAM trials is incomplete. Nevertheless, the 2009 Evaluation Report makes clear that in 2009 there was no observable improvement in school attendance. On this basis, APO NT submits that the introduction of the Social Security Bill, seeking to continue and in fact extend SEAM, is unjustifiable.

                                                                          Income Management

                                                                                    Tackling Alcohol Abuse

                                                                                                Customary Law

                                                                                                    There is an American academic, Patricia Williams she is a black woman who describes the majoritarian privilege of not noticing one's self. That is the danger with this sort of law, that we, being white fellows, do not recognise our culture and our custom as we think that is the status quo. When it is Aboriginal people it is custom and culture and it is excluded. That is why at the core of this law there is something that really should trouble us.

                                                                                                        Land Reform


                                                                                                            Food Security

                                                                                                                  A call for a culturally competent approach which supports local governance

                                                                                                                            There is extensive Australian and international research which consistently concludes that active participation of Aboriginal people in decision-making on issues affecting their communities is fundamental to effective governance and a precursor to sustained development ...

                                                                                                                                Cultural Competency

                                                                                                                                  The Stronger Futures engagement mechanisms and consultation processes will be ineffective unless they are supported by a skilled and culturally competent government workforce. The NTER Review Board found that new attitudes must be developed to redefine the relationship between the bureaucracy and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples including a greater understanding of Indigenous cultures and world views.



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