15 March 2012
The Australian Council of Social Service has today called on the Commonwealth Government not to extend the flawed and unproven Northern Territory Intervention model, and instead to engage with local communities to put in place lasting solutions.
“There’s no doubt that opposition is mounting for the Federal Government, both to the extension of compulsory income management and social security payment suspensions where children don’t attend school,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.
“The overwhelming majority of submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry, and the reports from all parties represented on the Committee recommended that the legislation not be passed in its present form.
“Peak Aboriginal organisations and ACOSS expressed concern about the draft Stronger Futures law to give power to the Minister to extend compulsory income management referrals from (un-named) state and territory authorities
“There is widespread opposition to extending SEAM – the School Enrolment Attendance Measure – which allows for cuts to the welfare payments of parents whose kids do not attend school. There is also little support for extending income management to six communities outside the Northern Territory.
“The Commonwealth should instead engage with communities, peak bodies, the Territory Government, and experts over the detail of what works best to improve school attendance, employment and social conditions in the communities – such as the positive steps to improve engagement between schools and local communities in the NT Government’ Every Child Every Day strategy.
“All parents should be required to take reasonable steps to ensure their children are enrolled and attend school. However, we oppose any sanctions that discriminate against people because they are on income support or from Aboriginal communities.
“The Government needs to move away from mandatory income management to a voluntary scheme, where individuals or communities agree that this would help them manage money and resolve entrenched social problems in communities.
“Many submissions stressed the importance of case management and support programs that will help parents overcome barriers to school attendance, as well as help people overcome financial management problems and addictions, with penalties used as a last resort.
“ACOSS maintains that without substantive evidence to show that the Northern Territory intervention is necessary and having a positive effect on the lives of Aboriginal people, the Government should halt its plan to extend such measures more widely,” Dr Goldie said.
Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155
This will be one of the issues to be discussed at the up-coming ACOSS Conference on March 29-30 in Sydney. It will include a presentation by the co-chair of the newly formed National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Ms Jody Broun.
Find out more, including complete program >>