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Some articles on the NT Intervention

30 September, 2008

Several articles have appeared in today’s The Australian regarding the Northern Territory intervention, and on indigenous health and welfare more generally.  Of most interest to me was a report on calls to soften some aspects of the new government regime.  The article notes that while there have been some reported positive outcomes of the new paternalism in the NT, such as an increase in the amount of fresh food being eaten.  I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from an anthro working in Arnhem Land that the quarantining of welfare payments and the introduction of stamps for certain products has certainly had an effect on consumption patterns.  For example, kids are claiming “not to like” lollies anymore but to prefer fruit-based snacks like Roll-ups because the latter can be bought with stamps.  This allows them to continue to spend their free cash on cigarettes and other products not covered by the stamps.  It would seem that the new system has introduced new hierarchies of need where people have to make choices about which pleasures to keep and which to modify.  This is all interesting stuff and it would be great to see more reporting by anthropologists about what they’re seeing in the communities that they work with. All contributions are welcome and we are happy to reproduce them on this blog.

One area on which the Intervention doesn’t seem to be having an impact, and might even be making matters worse in some ways, is child welfare and the prevention of abuse.  This was of course the issue that prompted the Intervention in the first place.  According to a report by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care,

“A major unintended consequence of the NT intervention has been to stall and delay the necessary reform of the child protection systems (and) care needed to support children at risk of abuse and neglect,” the secretariat says in its submission.

“It has not uncovered the abuse of children or resulted in any significant change in child abuse notifications.

“Ironically, the intervention seems to have swept to one side the very issues that precipitated it in the first place.”

Other related articles in today’s Oz are as follows:

Call to lock in indigenous health gains
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24422991-5013172,00.html

Action, not words, needed to close gap on indigenous health
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24422990-5013172,00.html

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