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NT ELECTION

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NTCOSS Election Forum 2016
Monday 15 August 6pm – 7.30pm
Charles Darwin University Theatre Blue 1

Join us in a Q&A style panel discussion that will place together the electorate, political leaders and community sector experts to thrash out the hot social justice issues affecting the Northern Territory .
Democracy – close up!

Panel members:
Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
Michael Gunner, Northern Territory Opposition Leader
Olga Havnen, CEO Danila Dilba Health Service
David Pugh, CEO Anglicare Northern Territory
Moderator:
Caitlin Perry, Executive Director, Darwin Community Legal Service and NTCOSS Board Member.

NT ELECTION ASKS

Preamble The Northern Territory Council of Social Service has developed the Vision for a Coordinated Service System to Promote Child & Family Wellbeing Framework.

The Framework informs the priorities that we as a community need to address in order to create a fair, inclusive and safe NT. It works across all areas of government the community service sector, including the key areas of housing, justice, governance, and culturally appropriate service design.

Improving the wellbeing of children and families in the Northern Territory goes a long way towards ensuring the growth of the NT both socially and economically. Our priority is to continue to work with the NTG and community service sector on implementing the Framework.

Guided by the Framework, the following 4 election Asks are critical to assisting those experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage in the Northern Territory.

ASKS:

  1. Child Protection
    Out of Home Care services including foster
    and kinship care to be outsourced to the NGO sector over a 7 year transition period. The transition will also include establishing an Aboriginal-controlled Out of Home Care sector.

The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia where government is the primary provider of Out of Home Care services, including foster and kinship services. NTCOSS believes that like other states and territories, the NGO sector here is better placed to deliver these services and achieve better outcomes for children, families and communities.  The overstretched child protection system in the NT is responsible for complex forensic work across culture and vast distances, as well as case management for children in care, support for foster and kinship carers, and planning for family reunifications or children leaving care. 

Transitioning Out of Home Care Services from the Department to the NGO sector would free up the Department to focus its energy and resources more towards the forensic requirements of its role.

Consequently, many of DCF’s functions frequently fall between the cracks of high turnover and high demand.  Only 20% of eligible young people in care have a leaving care plan and many children in care do not have a completed case plan. Growing demand for foster care has meant DCF is increasingly allocating foster care placements to private providers through a family day care model, avoiding rigorous screening processes for foster carers but also resulting in very high costs of ‘educator’ payments. 

The Northern Territory must follow other jurisdictions and utilise the evidence of the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (Carmody Report), and other inquiries, that conclude that Out Of Home Care is better managed by the NGO sector.

Currently there is only one Aboriginal organisation in the Northern Territory funded to deliver Out of Home Care Services. Close to 85% of children currently in Out of Home Care are Aboriginal. Any transition of Out of Home Care services to the NGO sector must involve establishing a strong Aboriginal-controlled sector to provide quality, culturally safe services to Aboriginal children across the NT.

2.    Cost of Living

Review the eligibility criteria for access to the NT Pensioner and Carer Concession Scheme (NTPCCS) to ensure those who are most disadvantaged are able to access the scheme. This would include all those who are on Newstart and Youth Allowance.
NTCOSS welcomes the recent announcement by the Northern Territory Government that it is undertaking a review into the NTPCCS scheme. NTCOSS believes it is imperative that the scheme is targeted to those households who are most in need.

The electricity, water and sewerage concessions provided under the NTPCCS do make a difference for those who are eligible to access them. We have seen a rise in the cost of utilities in recent years, and utilities bills are unaffordable for many of the low income households who do meet the eligibility criteria for the NTPCCS, increasing the risk of disconnection of utilities and financial hardship. Many low-income Territorians miss out on the utilities concessions because of the tight eligibility criteria (e.g. concessions not extended to all health care card holders).  A single person on Newstart receiving $524.40 (per fortnight) does not qualify for the NTPCCS. This inequitable approach to utilities concessions needs to be addressed as a matter of priority, to ensure people currently missing out receive the vital support they require. The Northern Territory should follow that majority of Australian states which do cover all health care card holders including those on Newstart and the Youth Allowance.

NTCOSS produces quarterly Cost of Living Updates which contain in-depth analysis of trends in areas of concern in relation to cost of living pressures on vulnerable and disadvantaged Northern Territorians. These updates are available on the NTCOSS website.

4. Justice
We call for the development and resourcing of an Aboriginal Justice Agreement that sets out how government and Aboriginal people will work together to make justice work in the Northern Territory.

The Agreement will be the result of a process that is based on, and builds trust and engagement and will lead to practical solutions that meet the needs of our community.

To reduce the rate of crime and recidivism in the NT we need a new approach to law and justice issues, which particularly reflect a real commitment by government – including courts, police and corrections – to work with Aboriginal people on finding solutions. This will strengthen child and family wellbeing across the Northern Territory.

A new approach must have bi-partisan support: this is not and cannot be about politics or political point scoring. Currently 98% of young people in detention are Aboriginal and 83% of adults in prison are Aboriginal

An Aboriginal Justice Agreement will provide the foundation for this new approach. It will give Aboriginal people a real stake in making justice work and help build a justice system that is responsive to the needs of the community. This approach has been tried successfully in Victoria, which is now in phase three of its Aboriginal Justice Agreement. The Northern Territory will obviously need to develop and implement an Aboriginal Justice Agreement in its own way, but the Victorian experience shows us that it can be done successfully.

The Aboriginal Justice Agreement will also include a commitment to targets such as those set out in the NT Aboriginal Affairs Strategy’s 4 justice targets released in February 2016:

  1. To reduce adult incarceration by 50% by 2030
  2. To reduce juvenile incarceration by 50% by 2030         
  3. To reduce prisoner recidivism by 50% by 2030
  4. To reduce by 10% per annum victim-based crime offences against the person or property per 100,000 population, respectively.
  • The Northern Territory locks up young people more often than anywhere else in Australia.
  • For what it costs to keep one young person in detention for a year, the government could employ 3.5 mid-level nurses
  • For the same amount it costs to keep on person in prison each year, the government could employ one senior classroom teacher

4. Alcohol
We call for an independent review of past and current initiatives to inform a comprehensive, evidenced-based, long-term Alcohol Plan for the Northern Territory.

The cost per person of alcohol-related harm in the NT is more than four times the national level. Various Northern Territory governments have implemented new policies and strategies around alcohol. Most recently these policies have had a punitive focus such as forcing problem drinkers into mandated treatment programs, rather than focusing on health and harm-minimisation approaches. Rarely have past programs been developed from an evidence base nor have they been properly evaluated.

Harmful alcohol use across our community contributes to the significant burden on our heath system, increasing imprisonment rates, and the instances of family and domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and homelessness.

Reducing harm is a key part of improving the lives of children and families in the Northern Territory.

The NT needs a bi-partisan approach to developing a long-term alcohol strategy to reduce the harm to our community. This must be developed from an evidence-based health perspective, be culturally appropriate, and have evaluation of effectiveness built into the design.

It should include targets for the reduction of alcohol related harm and commit to resourcing them. It should also commit to implementing the recommendations of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory Select Committee on Action to Prevent Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (2015) and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs report on the harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (2015).

Territorians drink about 15 litres of pure alcohol each year – three times the global average.

The National Alcohol Sales Data Project at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtain University, in Stage 4 of the study (2010-11) found that per capita consumption in the NT is 13.3 litres. This indicates that NT consumption decreased slightly, but is still above the national per capita consumption estimate of 10.3 litres.