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Anti-Intervention campaigners speak out over sacking of Olga Havnen

STICS                                              Media Release                                    12 October 2012


*Anti-Intervention campaigners speak out over

sacking of Olga Havnen*

Campaigners working to stop the NT Intervention have spoken out against the sacking of NT Co-ordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services Olga Havnen, ahead of a community briefing on her new report in Alice Springs today.

Central Australian Aboriginal leader Rosalie Kunoth Monks says the sacking has been a shocking mistake and that Ms Havnen should be reinstated.

Stop the Intervention Collective (STICS) spokesperson Paddy Gibson will attend the community briefing. He says that the report delivered a damning indictment of the NT Intervention and showed an urgent need for funds to be redirected from bureaucracies to Aboriginal community controlled organisations.

In particular, Mr Gibson says the report's explosive revelations about government approaches child welfare must be urgently addressed.

"With Olga working in her position we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. She was a voice, not only of eloquence, but of truth", said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

"We desperately need Aboriginal people in prominent positions like Olga who will speak up about the way we are suffering out here in the remote areas. A voice was there momentarily. She uncovered so many of the unknowns that we were feeling, but were unable to express. She put our pain into words."

"We need her back", concluded Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

"In the five years since the NT Intervention, no report has pulled together such a comprehensive and clear account of where the untold millions are going - and it's not to Aboriginal communities. We've seen unbelievable investment in bureaucrats and punitive programs rather than desperately needed employment and infrastructure", said Paddy Gibson.

"Particularly shocking are the revelations in this report about spending on child welfare."

"Firstly, it demolishes the myth that child sexual abuse is rampant in NT Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal men in the NT need an apology right now from government leaders who accused them of being pedophiles. As a proportion of substantiated child welfare incidents, child sex abuse is
lower in the NT than anywhere in the country. And in absolute terms, the child sex abuse rate in the NT is far lower than NSW".

"The spotlight on abuse has helped fuel a child protection regime almost entirely focussed on investigation and removal. But the real crises is the lack of opportunity and basic infrastructure faced by Aboriginal communities, which is contributing to shockingly high rates of neglect."

"In 2010-11 $31 million was spent on child protection workers, $47.8 million was spent on keeping children in out-of-home care, yet only half a million dollars was spent on intensive family support services. This is simply obscene".

"The strategy for addressing the high instance of neglect should not be removal of more Aboriginal children, which is increasing at an alarming rate. It requires investment at the community level - in local people and local centres that can provide early childhood programs and support for struggling families".

"Currently, the plan is for continuation of this unacceptable, top-heavy funding regime for the next decade under Stronger Futures. Olga Havnen should be reinstated to continue her monitoring work and both levels of government must take urgent action to put control of Aboriginal money in
the hands of communities", concluded Mr Gibson.

Paddy Gibson 0415 800 586