This report is about how the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments can work more collaboratively so their expenditure decisions improve outcomes for children and families.

Key points:

  • Children in the Northern Territory are three times more likely than Australian children overall to come into contact with the child protection system, and face higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage. To help address this, the Commonwealth and NT Governments commit significant funds to children and family services. In 2018‑19, they collectively spent about $538 million through 9 funding agencies, making more than 700 grants to over 500 service providers. This does not include the significant expenditure directed to primary services, such as health care and education, which also influence child and family wellbeing.
  • Despite these significant resources, the Commonwealth and NT Governments continue to make funding decisions in relative isolation. This has led to fragmentation, inefficiencies in service delivery, and significant overlap in expenditure effort.
  • Positive reforms are being implemented and there are pockets of good practice, but a fundamental shift in approach is needed — one that is underpinned by a stronger commitment to transparency and collaboration between governments, service providers and communities. This would help to ensure that governments are collectively accountable for achieving their shared objective — of keeping children and young people safe and well.
  • Governments should transition to longer‑term contracts (a minimum of seven years) that reflect the cost of service provision and take into account the capacity of providers to deliver outcomes, particularly for Aboriginal communities. This should be supported by a relational approach to contracting, where regional government staff visit providers and engage in regular collaborative discussions on service outcomes and continuous service improvements.
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