Statement on Stronger Futures legislation
21 March 2012
Strong and decisive action is needed to address the significant challenges that Aboriginal people face in the Northern Territory.
The Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory legislation, passed by the Senate on 28 June 2012, is a direct response to the issues that Aboriginal people identified as the most urgent during consultations held in 100 communities and town camps in the Northern Territory in 2011.
In addition to these whole-of-community meetings, hundreds of less formal discussions took place across the Territory with families, individuals and communities to ensure as many views as possible were heard.
During these consultations, Aboriginal people told the Government that they want to see every child attend school. They said they want strong measures in place to tackle the serious harm caused by alcohol abuse. They want safer communities, particularly for women and children. They want better housing, jobs for Aboriginal people and more opportunities for economic development.
While the consultation process also heard that remote community stores have improved over the past four years, the Government will continue to develop community store licensing arrangements to further support food security in remote communities.
The Stronger Futures legislation continues a number of measures to help make communities safer. The legislation will target alcohol abuse by strengthening alcohol management plans. The powers that enable the Australian Crime Commission to investigate violence and child abuse against an Indigenous person will be continued.
The Government’s Stronger Futures legislation will repeal, in full, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007. The legislation is consistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and adheres to key international human rights instruments.
The Senate referred the Stronger Futures legislation to the Community Affairs Committee for inquiry, and the Committee tabled its report on 14 March 2012. The Government considered the Committee's recommendations, and made a number of amendments to the legislation. These include confirmation that police can issue infringement notices for the possession and supply of small quantities of alcohol, and to ensure that notices to place a person on income management under the new legislation must meet specific conditions, including appropriate review processes.
The Stronger Futures legislation has a clear objective - to help close the gap on unacceptable levels of disadvantage for many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
I have received literally tens of thousands of emails about this legislation, and have certainly taken account of the consistency, quantity and strong views expressed in these representations.