Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017
Parliamentary Record 8
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2740 right investment to support those families, help them succeed and ensure the child is nurtured, then they thrive and hit their critical developmental milestones. That child will then be on a far better trajectory for the rest of their life. They are more likely to finish school, be employed, have stable and happy relationships around them, have a happy and fulfilling life, and be a part of society. Too many children are failing in the Northern Territory, which means they are more likely to end up not finishing school, have chronic health conditions, be unemployed, end up in our criminal justice system, and be in a life where they are subject to substance abuse and unhappy relationships. The evidence is stark. It is clear. That is why we have made a commitment that, as part of this governments work, we will invest in a 10-year plan for our children and a better future for the Northern Territory. This plan will go across political cycles. It will go across terms of government. There has to be sustained investment in this area. The biggest change that we can make as members of this parliament is this investment in kids. This is the potential game changer. We can help tackle the issue of generational disadvantage in the Northern Territory if we get that investment right. I thank members who have contributed to this debate. The Member for Johnston pointed out in his contribution that there is an important need to support the parents, families and carers around these children. We need to take a whole-of-government approach, breaking down those silos. It has to be a long-term focus if we are to see these better outcomes for our children. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said she supported a long-term plan for early childhood development. She called on the government to show leadership and not outsource this res ponsibility. Let me assure her, that is something we will do. She called for specific performance measures and wanted to see greater financial investment in this space. She pointed out that ongoing evaluation and interim reporting is an important part of this. I wholeheartedly agree. That is why we had Professor Sven Silburn , somebody with great expertise in research, on the Early Childhood Expert Reference Panel. He has been working across the Northern Territory, looking at those critical areas of data and evaluation. This work must be done with regular checks and evidence gathering. One of the points we set out to do in this draft report was to make an annual report to this parliament on the progress of this plan to ensure that we are continuing the investment, monitor whether targets are being reached, and keep it at the forefront of the governments mind. It is critical that we do this. It is important that the government is accoun table. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to this and we agree. The Member for Barkly, the Minister for Housing and Community Development, who sits on the early childhood or the childrens sub-committee of the Cabinet, spoke about the impact of housing on children. That is why we are making such a large investment in Indigenous housing. Having shelter and a good home will help many of these children with their health, education and wellbeing, and will address the terrible effects of homelessness on children. That is why we put the Housing minister on the childrens sub-committee of Cabinet. To other jurisdictions this might look a bit odd; in the Territory we fully appreciate the critical role housing plays in the development of and outcomes for these kids. We felt it was important, knowing the housing challenges we have in the Territory, to have the Housing minister there. The Member for Arnhem, with her background as an educator, spoke about the concept of family in an Aboriginal construct and how everybody is responsible for children. That is a really important message in this early childhood plan; everybody has a role to play as part of the Territory community. If we get this right everybody in the Territory will benefit. We will not see the disadvantage or social issues that we see now. She gave the example of her godson Dwaynes visit to Numbulwar and how all the family looked after him. She spoke about seeing her students turn into young adults and then parents. She also spoke about the importance of putting the right support structures around them, and investing in kids from conception to school. The Member for Casuarina spoke about the fact that we need opportunities for our children in the Northern Territory. Beyond that early childhood space, we are looking at their education journey through school, sports, recreation and ensuring we have great spaces for them.
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