Archive for the ‘permits’ Category


May 21, 2008

The Intervention hasn’t been front page news for some time (besides the odd hiccup), but things have been quietly ticking over behind the natural disasters and scandals of the headlines.

The Intervention is in 3 phases, and we are currently in all three. Phase 1, the child health checks, are still going on, for reasons which remain unclear to me. Phase 2, the health ‘blitzes’, particularly for ENT surgery, are happening, and the planning for Phase 3, the permanent enhancement of health services, is underway.

The abolition of permits to enter Aboriginal Land has itself been abolished.

Welfare Quarantining
Has hit it’s first, very much expected, hurdle, and is being revised. Having found that the store cards were being traded for cash, the Govt has announced that it will phase out the store cards and introduce debit cards.

Slow but steady progress in being made. As pat of the intervention, house ‘surveys’ are currently being conducted. The surveys are identifying urgent work that is needed to be done to ensure that houses are safe to live in.
The NT and Federal Govt’s have come to some basic understandings on funding and objectives for housing. There is a new program, the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) which has a $647 m budget for the next 3 years. He plan is to build 750 new homes, demolish and replace 250 and refurbish a further 2500. The stated aim is to reduce the average occupancy rate to 2 people per bedroom. Not 2 per house, 2 per bedroom. It’s currently a bit higher than that. This isn’t enough funding to achieve the stated aim, so one objective of the program is to achieve significant reductions in building costs. Other than through economies of scale it doesn’t say how it will achieve this. By my reckoning, the cost savings will need to be in the region of 50%, which is highly unlikely.

Health Services
Phase 2, providing the follow-up services identified as required in Phase 1, is facing workforce problems. Dentists are hard to come by. In one central Arnhem Land community where Phase 2 services are meant to begin in a few weeks, the doctor shortage is such that the doctors from the Clinic have been approached to help out. Kind of defeats the purpose.
Looking to Phase 3, the boosting of Primary Health Care services across the NT, the Federal Govt has just called for tenders to establish the Remote Health Corps Agency. This will be the organisation/group charged with the weighty responsibility of finding all the extra health staff required to expand services. The unwise idea of looking for short-term appointees (fancy a holiday in the desert?) still seems to be a core strategy. $100 million has been allocated for these services over the next 2 years and the NT Govt, DoHA and AMSANT are working on basic criteria to ensure a conssitent and workable approach to distributing these services across the NT.

The Intervention has certainly changed significantly since June last year. Some of the pointless aspects have been jettisoned though a combination of common sense and a change of government, while some significant funding commitments, that were originally excluded, are now coming front and centre.

High Court Challenge

October 29, 2007

A High Court challenge is underway. The Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) and traditional owner, Reggie Wuridjal, from Maningrida appear to be the main actors in this. Both have made their disquiet about the NTER clear from the outset. BAC’s Senate submission (full list of Senate submissions here) made the depth of their concerns quite clear. The abolition of permits and the compulsory acquisition of land along with related assets, are the main fly in the ointment. BAC has considerable business assets which are at risk of Commonwealth takeover. BAC has a large shop, a fuel outlet, and several small horticultural projects (mud crab farm, sea-sponge harvesting and turtle rearing), all of which may be subject to the Commonwealth assuming ownership of any related assets.

And they aren’t the only Maningrida organisation sweating on this. The Maningrida Progress Association (MPA) runs the only hotel in town. A few years ago MPA doubled the size of the motel and it must be now worth well over a million dollars. Under the current legislation, the Commonwealth may be entitled to seize ownership of this asset, which currently is the private property of people in Maningrida.

Child Abuse and Permits.

August 1, 2007

Go together like……..well, like nothing really.

The latest announcement from the Federal Government regarding Entry Permits for Aboriginal land has nothing to do with the Taskforce, but does show their single-minded determination to scrap the permit system for Aboriginal Lands. At issue is the plan to cover remote townships by 99 yr leases. The reasoning is that this will help with private home ownership. There has been much controversy over the 99 yr lease plan, particularly in the community of Nguiu, on Bathurst Is, 80 kms north of Darwin. A spokesman for the Minister has now announced that permits will be scrapped for Nguiu as part of the 99 yr lease, despite residents being previously told that they would not be.

Whatever the problem, scrapping the permit system is the answer for the Federal Government.

The Minister has repeatedly suggested this as part of the answer to child abuse in remote indigenous communities. The ‘Operational Head’ of the NTERT, Maj-Gen David Chalmers, reiterated this just yesterday ,

I’m convinced there needs to be a broad strategy to address those problems, and I think the changes to the permit system are part of that strategy.

Yet, as many critics of the move have pointed out, there appears to be little credible thinking behind the strategy. David Chalmers explained it this way,

If we’re going to help children in these communities, we have to develop opportunities for them, educational opportunities, employment opportunities and the permit system is clearly acting to prevent those opportunities from developing.

Will removing the permit system lead to an increase in housing or health funding? More teachers? Better schools??

There are a series of reports at the top right of the page. They contain many recommendations and strategies for dealing with the issue. But there is one course of action that none of them recommend – removing the permit system. The consensus on this makes me suspect that this is because it is not a solution to the problem.

Which takes me to a general point that is worth repeating. Despite the talk of a child abuse epidemic, the evidence is lacking. The AIHW, Australia’s health and welfare stats agency, says that rates of child sex abuse are less than half that of the rest of Australia. Under reporting (see ‘State of Denial’) is likely a significant issue in these figures, but they are worth keeping in mind amongst the talk of ‘epidemics’.

The co-author of a Commonwealth commissioned child protection report says sex abuse figures for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory are among the lowest in Australia. Diedre Penhaligon from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirmed Indigenous children in suburban Victoria are more at risk than those in the Territory.