Stronger Futures won’t protect children: SNAICC

BY AMY MCQUIREFEBRUARY 10, 2012

 Originally published by Tracker Magazine.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard releasing the discussion paper Stronger Futures, which announced six weeks of consultations over the future of the NT intervention. (AAP IMAGE/ALAN PORRITT)

NATIONAL: A peak Aboriginal children rights body has called on a parliamentary committee to reject the Stronger Futures legislation, stating the NT intervention has failed to protect Aboriginal children.

Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin introduced the controversial Stronger Futures legislation to the lower house in November last year. It has since been referred to a senate committee, with a reporting date of February 29th.

Stronger Futures is intended to replace the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), which expires in August this year.

But the legislation has largely been billed as the mark II of the NTER. The government will keep many of the planks of the original intervention in place, including the alcohol and porn bans, compulsory income management (including the rolling out trials linking welfare payments to school attendance), star chamber powers for the Australian Crime Commission, and bans on considering customary law in sentencing and bail decisions.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) is the peak body representing Aboriginal children and families.

It has made a submission to the Stronger Futures inquiry, strongly urging it against the package of legislation.

The submission states the measures must be re-developed to fit in with Australia’s international human rights obligations, and with the recommendations of the report that originally sparked the intervention – Little Children Are Sacred.

It claims the intervention hasn’t fully addressed the “serious and complex issues around child protection, and underlying problems of alcoholism, violence, poverty and generational trauma”.

SNAICC also argues that the Stronger Futures has the same fundamental flaws as the original NTER legislation.

“SNAICC is adamant that solutions imposed on communities that continue to undermine their autonomy
and strengths, and are in breach of their fundamental human rights, will not succeed. These are
important issues: the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and thriving communities are matters of
critical concern to us all,” the submission says.

It says the measures do not comply with the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Labor signed in 2009.

SNAICC has raised concerns that the following rights are not protected through the Stronger Futures legislation:

• The right to self-determination. in short, the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people to have control over their lives and future including their economic, social and cultural
development

• The right for communities to participate in government decisions that impact on them, and to give
their free, prior and informed consent to measures that may affect them

• The right not to be discriminated against, directly or indirectly

• The right to develop and maintain cultural institutions, norms and practices, and

• The right to education.

The body says instead the government should be looking at “integrated children and family support services” and “adequate and appropriate housing and infrastructure”.

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