Northern Territory Emergency Response: Report of the NTER Review Board

14 October 2008

The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), otherwise known as the ‘Intervention’, was announced on 21 June 2007 by the former Australian Government and received in principle bipartisan support from the then Leader of the Opposition. The immediate aims of the NTER measures were to protect children and make communities safe. In the longer term they were designed to create a better future for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. On 6 June 2008 the Australian Government appointed the Review Board (see Appendix 2) to conduct an independent and transparent review of the first 12 months of the NTER to assess its progress in improving the safety and wellbeing of children and laying the basis for a sustainable and better future for residents of remote communities in the Northern Territory (see Appendix 3). From early July until late August 2008 the Board travelled throughout the Northern Territory for community and other consultations, visiting 31 Aboriginal communities and speaking with representatives of 56 communities, together with officials of numerous government and service delivery agencies. Over 200 public submissions were received. High value was placed on consulting with Aboriginal people directly affected by the Intervention. The absence of a sound data baseline as a platform for evaluation gave greater weight to the consultations and discussions in assessing the impacts of the various NTER measures. Summary findings In many communities there is a deep belief that the measures introduced by the Australian Government under the NTER were a collective imposition based on race. There is a strong sense of injustice that Aboriginal people and their culture have been seen as exclusively responsible for problems within their communities that have arisen from decades of cumulative neglect by governments in failing to provide the most basic standards of health, housing, education and ancillary services enjoyed by the wider Australian community. Support for the positive potential of NTER measures has been dampened and delayed by the manner in which they were imposed. The Intervention diminished its own effectiveness through its failure to engage constructively with the Aboriginal people it was intended to help. Despite these very significant drawbacks the Review Board has observed definite gains as a result of the Intervention. It has heard widespread, if qualified, community support for many NTER measures. Aboriginal people welcome police stations in communities previously dependent on periodic patrols. They want to work cooperatively with police to build greater security and stability in their homes. Similarly, there is support for measures designed to reduce alcohol-related violence, to increase the quality and availability of housing, to improve the health and wellbeing of communities, to advance early learning and education leading to productive and satisfying employment—these matters are uncontentious. The benefits of income management are being increasingly experienced. Its compulsory, blanket imposition continues to be resisted, but the measure is capable of being reformed and improved. Executive summary and individual chapters are available from the NTER Review website link below.

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, 2008, Northern Territory Emergency Response: Report of the NTER Review Board, Northern Territory Emergency Response, viewed 26 March 2017, <http://apo.org.au/node/551>.

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