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First Peoples

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Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT)'s submission to the Productivity Commission: Expenditure on Children in the Northern Territory. 

Key points:

  • The NorthernTerritory Government has so far failed to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility above 10 which is a major policy recommendation of the NT Royal Commission. This goes against what we know about the developing brain: that parts of the brain responsible for ‘higher’ functions including planning, reasoning, judgement and impulse control, often do not fully develop until well into a person’s twenties. The failure to raise the minimum age means behavioural issues continue to be framed as a crime to be punished, rather than holding young people to account for their behaviour in a way that prevents crime and addresses its causes by providing the necessary care and support to the young person.
  • AMSANT would like to see the Productivity Commission engage Aboriginal community controlled organisations to undertake consultations with communities, rather than relying on government or consultancy agencies.
  • This submission refers the Commission to Listening and hearing are two different things , a report on community and service provider workshops conducted by Danila Dilba Health Service (DDHS) and AMSANT in May-June 2018, where outcomes of the Royal Commission and expected reforms were discussed. As well as providing vital local perspectives about proposed reforms, services and community members expressed frustration about their experience with Government consultation processes and their preference for engagement through respected Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
  • Support services for vulnerable families are provided at two levels - intensive (families already in the child protection system) and targeted (families at risk). ACCCHs do provide these services in a few places, however, program funding is subject to competitive tendering, resulting in insecure and inconsistent services. In other places, services are completely lacking or provided by mainstream NGOs with variable relationships with communities and relatively poor records of employing and supporting Aboriginal staff.
  • There is also a significant lack of counselling services for children who have been a victim of sexual abuse, particularly in remote communities, although even services in regional towns and centres are limited. Children can be evacuated from remote communities for initial medical treatment and assessment at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek or Alice Springs. However, while SARC is able to provide ongoing counselling services in these towns, they are not funded to provide ongoing services to children who return to remote communities. This means that children are sent back to their communities without ongoing follow up.
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