Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 23 November 1994



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 23 November 1994

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Parliamentary Record 6


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 23 November 1994 victims o f violence and attack. While those incidents are shocking and true - and they certainly happen to a greater extent in the Territory than elsewhere - we see in the media very few positive images o f women. In this regard, I refer particularly to the NT News which I believe stands condemned. I would like to talk about the Child Protection Unit. Where children are abused, the services o f our welfare staff and the staff o f the Child Protection Unit are vital. Members will recall the motion o f censure that I moved against this government for its failure to meet its responsibility to respond within 24 hours to reports o f child maltreatment. I am pleased to say that that spurred the government into taking more action in this area. The resultant increase in staff is assisting greatly. However, I am still waiting for preventive programs to be initiated. Prevention is always better than cure. Changing attitudes on family violence is essential, but so is working to prevent abuse. I am aware that, in the lead-up to the Territory election, the minister announced a significant amount o f federal funding for child abuse protection programs which included an extensive community awareness program. I hope the minister may address what has happened with that in his reply to this debate. Accidents are certainly an enormous problem in the Northern Territory in respect o f child safety. However, the greatest threat to the safety o f our children in the Northern Territory is ill health. It may not necessarily show up in mortality statistics, but certainly we have major problems in relation to ill health among the young members o f our community. Most importantly, this ill health contributes to continual and grinding poverty because it affects the entire life of an individual. Poverty brings with it the social disasters o f poor educational outcomes, alcohol abuse, family violence etc, going around in a vicious circle. Breaking that circle o f poverty-induced social disintegration will be the most effective way o f protecting our childrens safety. The Territory is an extremely unhealthy society and sadly, in many areas, that is becoming worse. Aboriginal children spend significantly more time in hospital in their first 5 years than other Territory children do. Sexually-transmitted diseases in mothers o f babies is also a continuingly high and alarming statistic in the Northern Territory. The Aboriginal Territorian family from the rural areas is twice as likely to have an underweight baby than other Territory families. The average weight overall is much lower and this has a considerable effect on the future development o f the child. Nutrition is poor on many communities and this means that many preventable illnesses are able to take hold and become endemic among the people living in them. Some 50% o f all Aboriginal children attending school in the rural areas o f the Territory have a level o f hearing loss that is educationally significant. We do not enhance their educational opportunities by boxing them up in Silver Bullets and expecting them to be able to hear their teachers adequately in a language which, in their early years, they are not familiar with. This is a matter that the Minister for Education and Training needs to address as a matter o f urgency. For years, opposition members have talked about the need for a program o f replacement o f Silver Bullets in the bush. I believe Barkly has more of them than any other electorate. These conditions are not conducive to good education. With airconditioners running in these classrooms, even somebody with good hearing has to strain to hear what is being said. I believe it is past time that we looked at replacing these Silver Bullets. They have a finite life and many o f them are extremely old. They are dilapidated, they leak and they are not conducive to good educational outcomes. 1803