Aboriginal families cannot afford to lose Strong Aboriginal Families, Together

December 5, 2012

MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Aboriginal families cannot afford to lose Strong Aboriginal Families, Together

?The Northern Territory Government is taking child rights in the Territory backwards?, said Stephen Keim, President of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (?ALHR?).

?It is disappointing that the Government has rejected the recommendations of the ?Growing Them Strong Together Report 2010??, said Mr. Keim. ?It is disappointing that the Government is dismantling the new peak body for Aboriginal children and families ? Strong Aboriginal Families, Together (SAF,T).?
?The rate of children on care and protection orders in the Northern Territory was the highest across Australia in 2008?09?, said Mr. Keim. ?There is a disturbingly high number of Aboriginal children within the child protection system in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory are five times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be subject to a care and protection order?.

?Growing Them Strong Together? is a report produced in 2010 by the Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory. The report makes recommendations for promoting the safety and wellbeing of Northern Territory children. The recommendations call for the inclusion of Aboriginal people in the workings of the child welfare system. They recommend the establishment of an Aboriginal peak body to support the development of Aboriginal child wellbeing, safety and protection measures.

ALHR hosted a well-attended Child Rights Forum in Darwin on 29 November 2012. Chief Magistrate, Hilary Hannam, called for more funding to support at-risk children and families in community settings. This call was echoed by Northern Territory Children?s Commissioner, Dr. Howard Bath. Dr. Bath said: ?If the focus is on tertiary services [statutory child protection services] and we are neglecting preventive services, it is like funding the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Very little is going into building the fence at the top?.

?The NT Government should commit to investing in the long term wellbeing of children in the NT?, said Mr. Keim. ?SAF,T currently provides important rights protection for Aboriginal children and families and should continue to be funded to perform this role?.
?The Northern Territory Government?s actions have the tendency to conflict with Australia?s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child?, said Mr. Keim. ?The Convention sets out the basic rights of children and, importantly, the obligation of governments to deliver those rights.?

Stephen Keim SC,

President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

M: 0433 846 518


Australian Lawyers for Human Rights is a network of Australian lawyers active in practising and promoting awareness of international human rights standards in Australia. ALHR has a national membership of almost 2500 people, with active National, State and Territory committees.