Child protection plan in NT 'needs help'
Child protection plan in NT 'needs help'Wednesday Aug 1 15:37 AEST
The federal government must engage more Aboriginal leaders if its radical plan to tackle indigenous child abuse is to work, health experts say.
Two leading health commentators have voiced concern that the sweeping reforms announced in June will not have any lasting effect in their current form.
Professor Ian Ring, professorial fellow at the Centre for Health Service Development at the University of Wollongong, and Dr Mark Wenitong, senior lecturer at James Cook University, have called for action in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
"The government measures involve considerable reliance on uniformed services and coercive intervention, and limited consultation with the Aboriginal communities and leaders concerned," they wrote.
"We urge that, at the earliest possible stage, the government consider enlisting the support and involvement of indigenous leaders in the health field, and give much more serious consideration to community-engagement strategies."
In late June, the government announced it would seize 74 communities in the Northern Territory and impose bans on alcohol and hardcore pornography, welfare restrictions and health checks for children.
So far more than 300 Aboriginal children have undergone voluntary health checks but no arrests have been made.
In their editorial, Prof Ring and Dr Wenitong warn of the need to tackle the broader social and health issues that underpin child abuse.
"The abuse of children cannot be dealt with effectively as a separate issue without also addressing the related health, social, education, and economic issues," Prof Ring said.
These included environmental and housing issues, deficiencies in mental and other health services, law enforcement, social services and the criminal justice system, he said.
"The federal government's intervention is a chance to make real gains in eliminating child abuse and the health, social, economic and other problems associated with it, but this requires bipartisan commitment for sustained, long-term interventions," they wrote.
"We must do whatever it takes to save these children from sexual abuse today, but we must also ensure safe, healthy communities and a meaningful life for the children born into these communities in the years to come."