Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin claims the legislation aims to build ‘a stronger future which sees a substantial and significant change for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory’.
The legislation was introduced in Parliament following six weeks of consultation with indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It includes:
- Measures for tackling alcohol abuse, including increased penalties for possession of alcohol in Alcohol Protected Areas as well as new powers conferred on the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to modify conditions on licensed premises, to approve Alcohol Management Plans and to prescribe new Alcohol Protected Areas.
- The expansion of the School Attendance and Enrolment Measures, including provisions for the development of individual school attendance plans, increased penalties on parents whose children fail to meet certain standards of attendance, including suspension of welfare payments. Welfare payments will only be reinstated once ‘parents begin complying with their responsibilities under the attendance plan and children re-engage with school’.
- Food security measures, including new licensing procedures for community stores, imposing a range of penalties for licence breaches.
- A jobs package, including 50 new ranger positions, 100 new traineeships and the introduction of Jobs Brokers to assist indigenous jobseekers. The legislation also provides for increased micro-enterprise support.
- Measures relating to land use and access, including the continued suspension of the permit system, and the removal of barriers to the leasing of town camps and community living areas.
- Provisions banning access to X18+ material in ‘prohibited material areas’.
- Continued prohibition of consideration of customary law in bail and sentencing decisions.
The legislation provides for a legislative review to commence no later than seven years its commencement and includes a sunset clause after 10 years.
ALISTAIR WEBSTER is a Melbourne lawyer and researcher with the Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project at the University of Melbourne.