Central Australian Aboriginal Congress welcomes the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Expenditure on Children in the Northern Territory and in particular the focus on improving decision-making on the allocation of funding for children’s services. In responding to some of the key questions identified in the Issues Paper, we draw upon a substantial history of advocacy for, design of, and participation in collaborative decision-making processes in primary health care in the Northern Territory.
- The nurture and care of children is at the heart of Aboriginal culture. However, contemporary Aboriginal families have been profoundly affected by the processes of colonisation. Successive governments have failed to adequately address the resulting severe needs of Aboriginal children.
- Alcohol, housing, intergenerational trauma, and culture are key determinants of the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal organisations with experience in these areas should be involved appropriately in any planning and funding framework.
- Any new funding framework should also explicitly recognise the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care’s (SNAICC’s) five-point strategy for addressing the rising numbers of Aboriginal children being removed from their families and other key documents from Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APONT) and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT).
- Demand on child and family services in the Northern Territory, particularly in relation to Aboriginal people, has increased significantly in recent years. However, Government funding for child protection and out of home care services has not kept pace with the increasing demand, and funding for family and youth support services has significantly declined.
- Culture and spirituality are important in addressing intergenerational trauma through supporting resilience, positive social and emotional wellbeing, and living a life free of addiction to alcohol and drugs. In addition, all services for Aboriginal children and families should be resourced to be 'trauma-informed' such that they are able to recognise the different ways that the experience of unresolved trauma can manifest (for example, in mental health issues, or addiction, or violence) and address them in an informed way.