Good SMH article: Against the racist NT intervention

In the SMH today.

THE Government’s intervention in the Northern Territory has stagnated with no more children going to school now than two years ago and reports of substance abuse soaring.

A six-month progress report on the intervention, quietly posted on the internet this week, showed school attendance rates remained virtually static in affected communities with only two out of three children going to school.

It also states plainly the Government’s commitment to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act by October 2009, a promise it has broken.

The intervention was started under John Howard in 2007 and continued under the Rudd Government with extra funding amid criticism from affected communities.

”This is unacceptable treatment. Racism and divisions increase and living conditions deteriorate each day the Act remains suspended,” a petition signed by Aboriginal leaders said. ”We are like outcasts – denied basic rights afforded to other Australians.”

In communities targeted by the intervention, reports of domestic violence rose 61 per cent, substance abuse was up 77 per cent and there was a 34 per cent increase in alcohol-related crime, the report entitled Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory said. The last spike could be due to the criminalisation of alcohol possession in some remote communities.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the increases were due to higher police numbers. “An increased police presence in remote Northern Territory communities, particularly in places that previously had limited or no police, has resulted in more reporting in a number of offences including violence, alcohol and child abuse,” a spokeswoman said.

A trial to get parents encouraging their children to go to school had begun in six NT communities, she said. ”We recognise that increasing school attendance is essential to closing the gap.”

Convictions of child sexual abuse involving indigenous perpetrators has barely changed. Child protection was the reason given for the emergency response at the time.

In the two years before the intervention, there were 15 convictions for child sexual abuse involving indigenous perpetrators, the report said. In the two years of the intervention, that number was 18. Four other perpetrators were not indigenous. Welfare quarantining has not reduced the purchase of tobacco at all.

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