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Government proposals on Indigenous communities “miss the mark”

Queensland UnitingCare Director Ms Anne Cross was one of over 130 signatories on a letter to the Federal Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough expressing serious concerns about Australian Government’s response to the abuse of children in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory

Other signatories included prominent Indigenous land rights advocate Mick Dodson, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), President of the Uniting Church in Australia Rev Gregor Henderson, and Rev Sealin Garlett from the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).

While the letter welcomed the government’s commitment to tackling violence and abuse in Indigenous communities it expressed the view that “in their present form the proposals miss the mark and are unlikely to be effective”.

“We note that the services which most Australians take for granted are often not delivered to remote Indigenous communities, including adequately resourced schools, health services, child protection and family support services, as well as police who are trained to deal with domestic violence in the communities affected.”

The letter called for a longer term plan to address the underlying causes of the problems, including community breakdown, joblessness, overcrowding and low levels of education.

“Successfully tackling these problems requires sustainable solutions, which must be worked out with the communities, not prescribed from Canberra.”

“The proposals go well beyond an ’emergency response’, and will have profound effects on people’s incomes, land ownership, and their ability to decide the kind of medical treatment they receive.

“Some of the measures will weaken communities and families by taking from them the ability to make basic decisions about their lives, thus removing responsibility instead of empowering them.”

The signatories said the proposals show an over-reliance on top-down and punitive measures, and insufficient indication that additional resources will be mobilised where they are urgently needed; to improve housing, child protection and domestic violence supports, schools, health services, alcohol and drug rehab programs.