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Northern Territory Intervention and Controversies

Northern Territory Intervention and Controversies. The Northern Territory Intervention was developed by Mal Brough, the Indigenous Affairs Minister of the Howard Government in the year 2007. These measures were complex and very controversial but they were meant to curb the increased cases of violence among the indigenous communities who were living in the Northern Territory (Nicholson, 2010). This was also transpired by the ‘Little Children are Sacred Report’ that indicated sexual abuse among the indigenous children was paramount. Therefore, this paper will focus on the Northern Intervention, the controversies around it, how it was received by the locals and if it had any improvements on the indigenous children.

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The Northern Territory Intervention was introduced in the year 2007 as a measure to curb the increased levels of violence among the indigenous communities that were living in the Northern Territory. According to Kacha (2009), these communities suffered in terms of health, social and legal justice, housing and lack of employment opportunities among others. The federal government through its allied agencies noted that violence and sexual violence on children was beyond measure and immediate interventions were required to save these communities. The Little Children and Sacred Report that was released to the members of the public in June, 2007 gave striking facts and graphics that made call for actions from all the stakeholders (Parliament of Australia, 2007). Thus, the intervention was enacted after only two months from when it was released to the public where the involved indigenous communities involved were never consulted. Troops were immediately deployed in the Northern Territory.

The Intervention was characterized by a number of changes and measures that affected specific communities in the Northern Territory. These included the changes on the existing welfare systems, restrictions were made on alcohol, the acquisition of land, employment, the health initiatives, pornography and education among others. According to the Social Justice Report (2017), some of the existing laws were also suspended to fully enact the intervention. Good examples of these were the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Social Security Act 1991, Aboriginal Land Rights act 1976 and Income Tax Assessment Tax among others.

Northern Territory Intervention and Controversies

Northern Territory Intervention and Controversies. There were a number of controversies in the NT intervention which are widely discussed below. To start with, children of the indigenous communities were subjected to regular health check-ups. Medical teams were flown into this territory by the troops to conduct these compulsory checks on all the children of the ages between 0-15 years (Monash University, 2010). The main aim of the checks was to identify and treat any health problems detected. This was also meant to investigate any effects or evidences of social violence on these children. Some of the controversies linked to this policy were the fact that the check-ups were intrusive and the assessments were done without the consent of their parents. The policy faced huge resistance from the local communities. There were also staffing issues as clinicians who responded to this had no experience on the remote health. The checks also failed to integrate the existing healthcare systems as it undermined the nature and the authority of the existing healthcare professionals and providers. This led to increased turn-over of healthcare staff in these remote areas.

Secondly, there was a complete alcohol ban in the territory. Restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol were implemented in the prescribed areas (D’Abbs, 2017). This means that alcohol was prohibited in certain regions and not others. This led to the introduction of the penalty provisions on the offenders. Merchants were also required to make collections of information when they were doing their purchases. They were also not allowed to sell alcohol to children. Currently, the Commonwealth has restored the right to sell alcohol on the condition that the merchants acquire alcohol permits with consultations from the NT Government. The policy aimed at controlling damage done by alcohol on the communities. An alcohol management plan from the local leaders is expected to change this policy after it is accepted by the government.

Further, there was the introduction of special bank card that were used by indigenous communities to pay for food, clothing and rent. These cards imposed restrictions on how the indigenous communities spent their money. This cards disempowered people, increased stigma and also had punitive perceptions on these people. Although the indigenous communities accepted these support from the government, this differentiation of treatment had negative repercussions on them as they were viewed like second citizens in their own country (Everinghan, 2017). Apparently, most locals were against the policy as their rights were infringed on and treated with stigma and discrimination. It is important to note that there were measurable impacts on the indigenous children 94% of children identified with various issues were referred to the healthcare providers (Vivian & Schokman, 2009).

Conclusion

The Northern Intervention of 2007 had positive and negative implications on the indigenous communities. As discussed above the compulsory health check-ups had measurable health impacts on the community despite that they were intrusive and undermined the consent of their parents. The complete ban on alcohol encouraged the local communities to develop and manage alcohol management plans to reduce the negative impacts of alcohol on their communities. Despite the controversies associated with the policy, I believe the policy helped the indigenous communities in a great way.

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