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Issue #1684      May 13, 2015

Concern at Alice threat

The Northern Territory government has threatened to take children away from their parents if anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs continues. During and after the recent Easter holidays there were several incidents in Alice Springs, including rocks thrown at police officers, Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

“I’m giving the parents of the children responsible for this spate of violence a very clear message. Get your kids off the streets. Get them back to communities and back into school,” he said. “Otherwise, these children will be regarded as requiring protection and we will take immediate action. Parents should not doubt our resolve to do this.”

NT Children and Families Minister John Elferink said the government was taking a “zero-tolerance approach”.

“I have directed my department to take strong action and take children into care where the legal grounds are met,” he said. “Normally the department would see this as a last resort and be willing to work with parents, but these are not normal circumstances.

“Our advice is that many of the children throwing rocks and committing anti-social acts are from communities. If parents don’t want to see their children in care then they need to get off the grog and head back to their home community.”

But legal and Aboriginal organisations have slammed the government’s approach, saying that threatening to take children away is inflammatory, punitive and against its own guidelines.

Punitive

Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) chief executive Mark O’Reilly told the Koori Mail that child protection measures had not been designed as a punitive measure.

“Basically, the government is saying, if kids don’t behave we’ll put them into care, which completely ignores the legislation that talks about when care and protection orders can be made,” he said.

“In this situation, the government seems to be circumventing that legal process and holding out threats for behaviours that nobody has any insight into yet.

“It does a lot to undermine the whole regime of care and protection.”

Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT spokesperson Priscilla Collins said the current rate of removal of Aboriginal children from their families is higher than at any other time in the NT’s history.

“Placing children into care is never a justified punishment,” Ms Collins said. “The proposed response reveals a government that is too ready to place all blame on Aboriginal parents but take no responsibility for its own failures in Aboriginal policy.”

Making Justice Work (MJW) coalition spokesperson Antoinette Carroll said the government had defunded a number of youth programs in Alice Springs, including vital after-hours initiatives, and slammed Mr Elferink for his approach.

“These comments are disturbing and disgraceful. They are clearly directed at Aboriginal people and are dangerously generalised, reinforcing negative and untrue stereotypes,” she said.

Koori Mail

Next article – Million Cubans march on May Day

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