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Critical Reflection Part

Discuss about the Northern Territory Emergency Response.

In this essay, we would discuss the Northern Territory Intervention or Northern Territory Emergency Response. It is a range of controversial and complex measures that the government introduced in the year 2007. It was observed how the Indigenous community residing in the Northern Territory suffered from violence, sexual abuse, poor housing conditions and poor health. This intervention was a response to the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle Report which meant “Little Children are sacred”. This report focused on the sexual abuse that the children living in Northern Territory were facing (Evans, 2012). Through the graphic imagery, and striking facts the government wanted to recognize the social seclusion and extreme disadvantage that the indigenous and remote communities face in the Northern Community. This 587$ million worth of legislature had to change a lot in the Northern Territory. These changes ranged from the acquisition of land, health initiatives, alcohol consumption restrictions, education initiatives, restrictions on pornographic content and pornography, and initiatives for employment.

The Alma Atta declaration was made in the year 1978 that called for a comprehensive approach for healthcare with the combination of preventive, rehabilitative, promotive and curative activities creating a holistic approach towards health. According to statistics for the year 2011 in the Northern territory 30% of the population was that  of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in comparison to only 3% in other parts combined all over Australia. Australia has lagged for healthcare provided for the Indigenous people as they still experience inequalities in health. They have a 10 year lower life expectancy than a European settler population. Their employment rate is only 65 % in comparison to 75% to the general population, and their income is about 2.5% times lower in comparison to general population. With the introduction of NTER it was seen that government was facing issues in engaging the community in this intervention. The challenges they faced were usually in balancing evidence based medicine with the community desires. The Alma Atta declaration was also not followed when the strategies that were listed in this intervention was found out to be not culturally respectful to the Indigenous people. The Australian Indigenous doctors association has taken a health impact assessment (HIA) report which showed that the different components of NTER are missing the aspects that are mentioned in the “Dance of life” painting depicting wellbeing and health for aboriginal people. The different physical, cultural, spiritual integrity, health and psychological dimensions being depicted in the painting have been supported by factors such as training and education. This painting showed how an individual can remain grounded and healthy by being connected spiritually. While reflecting back on our culture can attain a good and balanced life for us. Through this assessment, it was seen how NTER is leaving a negative impact on the spiritual and cultural aspect of the community. For aboriginals, the spiritual connectedness is the crucial central point that balances all parts of their life. But the intolerance and misunderstandings related to their believes and values have hurt the progress of this intervention (Lowe,& Coffey, 2017). This has limited the Aboriginal leaders to incorporate their views in the policies and legislatures. Culture gives a person his position in the society. Due to the clash of cultural views of the European settlers and aboriginal people caused numerous misinterpretations that have given rise to institutional racism, and marginalization in the social and political structures (Walter, 2016).

Has the intervention worked so far?


Another question that arises is “has the intervention worked so far”?. Many organizations like Amnesty International and Australian Indigenous doctors association has become the voice of the affected communities and have termed this intervention as “Travesty”. Many argue that this act has only regulated the lives of the Aboriginal community as now they feel that they are more vulnerable and dependent on the state.

It was only in the year 2006 when Ms. Nanette Rogers who was Crown Prosecutor for Central Australia briefed about her controversial paper about sexual assault cases that she has come across in her 12 years of practice as a prosecutor. She stressed how Aboriginal community was suffering from violent crimes on women and especially children. In the past two decades, there were numerous commitments that were made for equal access to services and resources for the Aboriginal people. But it was only on 21 June 2007 that Northern Territory Emergency Response was announced by Minister Mal Brough. This intervention was supposed to introduce alcohol restrictions throughout the Northern Territory, it also had to introduce welfare reforms to streamline cash flow for children welfare, through this intervention the government wanted to enforce school attendance by linking the family assistance payments to the school attendance, the also introduced compulsory income support, compulsory health checks, cleaning communities through local workforce, improving housing reform, and banning pornography. It was introduced in the parliament on 7th August 2007. This intervention was a response to the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle Report which meant “Little Children are sacred”. But many stakeholders contest that numerous other factors influenced its implementation. Some of these factors are the announcement coincided with the federal elections, another factor is that there was an ongoing disinvestment in the Aboriginal movement by State and Australian government and lastly the Australian Government holds additional powers in the Northern community in comparison to the other states. Many say that this intervention was more like a “SHOCK” to the affected communities as this legislature required to keep aside provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act. Racial Discrimination Act was passed in 1975 which makes it unlawful to discriminate a person based on their ethnic origin, race, and color. It can also take place when an act or law treats some in a different way and has unfair effects on a certain group of people. Critics complained how this intervention was introduced without any notice even when it included numerous compulsory measures. (Hallberg et al.,2014).

External leadership, control, and governance


The two main factors that are hurting the outcomes of this intervention are external leadership, control, and governance along with compulsory income management. The NTER did work on the  Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle which means ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report but its implementation took the control from communities that were being affected and handed it to the government. Measures listed in the intervention were compulsory and mandatory whereas there was no mention of empowerment, culture, strong family, dialogue and ownership for the Aboriginal community.

In all they were not acknowledging the Aboriginal governance and leadership nor were they mentioning any steps to work in partnership with them. This gave rise to shock, shame and frustration on the part of the stakeholders that found that NTER was racist in nature. Many termed the implementation of NTER as a walk in the past where they have faced trauma since colonization on the hands of the European settlers. Another aspect of NTER is the compulsory income management scheme which resulted in abolishment of the racial discrimination act. Through this, almost fifty percent of the benefits that were being given to the poor aboriginal community was now reduced to provide for food to the children (Bramwell, et al.,2017),( Browne et al.,2017),( Helson, et al., 2017). Families receiving benefits were categorized under a universal income management. This step was taken to reduce the money available for substance abuse and alcohol through which violence and crimes can also be controlled in the community. The government wanted to provide money for the food, clothing, and nutrition of the children. This was based on the assumption that the children are abused when the government and their families are unable to provide for them.  There was a positive impact of this aspect on women in the NT reported that their lives have improved. As they were able to save money for food and clothing. Community interviews also reported that people who did not spend the money in one go had an advantage of that money being added to the next payment. But all in all compulsory income management scheme was meant to teach people to budget their money which it failed as this compulsory quarantining resulting in strengthening the belief that aboriginals can’t control their lives. It also failed to focus on the fact that whether the families were receiving enough money to budget. NTER has failed to address the underlining issues in the communities. The government did reduce the benefits to the families but failed to provide for work opportunities. Despite the support and improvements, the evaluation report pointed out that there was a gap in the projected outcomes and the views and experiences of the local Northern Territory Aboriginal community. (HIA) report showed how issues like low employment rates, housing issues, lack of interpreters and high rate of crimes still persist in the community. Many indigenous people believe the failure of this intervention is due to the fact that the government never collaborated with the affected communities to plan and implement this intervention. This loss of rights to even participate in the decision-making process caused outrage and shock in the affected communities. They complained how the lack of understanding of the Aboriginal values and culture by the Non-Indigenous Australians is responsible for the gap in the projected outcomes. (Walter, 2016),( Rehalia, &  Prasad, 2016),( Schmidt et al., 2017)

Compulsory income management scheme


It was only in the year 2010 that the Racial Discrimination Act was reinstated after being repealed. Later, in the year 2011, the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill was introduced to tackle issues such as food security, land reform and alcohol abuse. This bill was aimed at promoting food security to the aboriginals and reducing the self-harm rate due to alcohol consumption in the community. According to a report by The Public Health Association of Australia Incorporated (PHAA) while planning the Stronger future Bill the government did engage with the Aboriginal communities. While this is a right step many indigenous leaders believe that the time frame for consultation on the bill was too short. They believe that community ownership is needed. Through Stronger future bill the government is aiming to be flexible in the income management and school attendance. As they are planning to make income management voluntary or it would be triggered through referrals from agencies like Centrelink social workers and child protective agencies. These statutory authorities would determine the amount of income deducted. The original broad application of NTER income management had no regard for any personal responsibility or individual circumstances. There was no chance for community ownership to develop under NTER as there were no transparent decisions being made and no communication with the affected communities. (Taber, &Taber, 2013).

Conclusion

Through Northern Territory Intervention the government intended to address the issues like alcohol abuse, food security, unemployment, housing, child protection, land reforms, school enrolment, and community safety. But this intervention has only given people the right to question the motives of the Australian Government as for why due to this intervention the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended. The one size fits all approach does not fit the local circumstances and regional needs of these people (Young, 2016),( Khalemsky, &Schwartz, 2017). The improvised idea of governance that this Intervention has always represented has many far-reaching, serious negative impacts on the psychosocial, cultural and physical aspects of the indigenous people. There skills, knowledge, aspirations, and experience was ignored while drafting and planning this intervention. Current investments being made in the education and housing sector are unlikely to succeed in improving their lives until there is concrete strategies, capable governance so forth. This intervention was planned in haste that resulted in a confusing, ad-hoc and unplanned intervention that combined with band-aid strategies led to the funding being used in excessive administration and bureaucracy. It is recommended that the government work in partnership with the indigenous communities to structure and process the legislature. Local level participation is needed for building and supporting the aboriginal community. (Belizán et al., 2014),( Murdoch-Flowers et al., 2017).

References

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) 2015, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, viewed January 2015, .

Belizán, J., Salaria, N., Valanzasca, P. and Mbizvo, M. (2014). How can we improve the use of essential evidence-based interventions?. Reproductive Health, 11(1).

doi:  10.1186/1742-4755-11-69

Bramwell, L., Foley, W. and Shaw, T. (2017). Putting urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander food insecurity on the agenda. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 23(5), p.415.

doi: 10.1071/PY17073.

 Browne, J., Adams, K., Atkinson, P., Gleeson, D. and Hayes, R. (2017). Food and nutrition programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: an overview of systematic reviews. Australian Health Review.

doi: 10.1071/AH17082.

Evans, B. (2012). Northern Territory Emergency Response: Criticism, support and redesign. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 20(3), pp.103-107.

DOI:10.1111/j.1440-1584.2012.01265.x

Hallberg, N., Hallberg, J., Granlund, H. and Woltjer, R. (2014). Exploring the Rationale for Emergency Management Information Systems for Local Communities. International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management, 6(2), pp.16-37.

doi>10.4018/ijiscram.2014040102

Helson, C., Walker, R., Palermo, C., Rounsefell, K., Aron, Y., MacDonald, C., Atkinson, P. and Browne, J. (2017). Is Aboriginal nutrition a priority for local government? A policy analysis. Public Health Nutrition, 20(16), pp.3019-3028.

doi: 10.1017/S1368980017001902

Khalemsky, M. and Schwartz, D. (2017). Emergency Response Community Effectiveness: A simulation modeler for comparing Emergency Medical Services with smartphone-based Samaritan response. Decision Support Systems, 102, pp.57-68. doi>10.1016/j.dss.2017.07.003

Lowe, M. and Coffey, P. (2017). Effect of an ageing population on services for the elderly in the Northern Territory. Australian Health Review.

 doi: 10.1071/AH17068

Murdoch-Flowers, J., Tremblay, M., Hovey, R., Delormier, T., Gray-Donald, K., Delaronde, E. and Macaulay, A. (2017). Understanding how Indigenous culturally-based interventions can improve participants’ health in Canada. Health Promotion International.

https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dax059

Rehalia, A. and Prasad, S. (2016). Global harnessing of advanced mHealth for community mobilization. mHealth, 2.

doi: 10.21037/mhealth

Schmidt, C., Romine, J., Bell, M., Armin, J. and Gordon, J. (2017). User Participation and Engagement With the See Me Smoke-Free mHealth App: Prospective Feasibility Trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 5(10), p.e142.

doi: 10.2196/mhealth.7900.

Taber, M. and Taber, N. (2013). Exploring emergency response: theories of communities of practice, safety cultures, situation awareness and tacit knowledge. International Journal of Emergency Management, 9(1), p.46.

https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEM.2013.054096

Walter, M. (2016). Social Exclusion/Inclusion for Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Social Inclusion, 4(1), p.68.

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.17645/si.v4i1.443

Young, T., Chatwood, S., Ford, J., Healey, G., Jong, M., Lavoie, J. and White, M. (2016). Transforming Health Care in Remote Communities: report on an international conference. BMC Proceedings, 10(S6).

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12919-016-0006-0

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