Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016

Other title

Parliamentary Record 2


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 503 to 561


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





Publisher name

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES Thursday 24 November 2016 516 Protection we were still implementing all the recommendations of the Growing them strong, together report which were originally implemented by the former Labor government. It was tough; there were not enough funds to do the things we needed to the satisfaction of any of us. You have to make the best with what you have. Sometimes that means making some very difficult decisions, which the government has already had to face this week in regard to deciding to prioritise one project over another or one non-government organisation over another. You have to constantly make these difficult decisions, which are not met favourably by the sector, community or population at large, but that is the reality of being in government. In regard to child protection, it is a bottomless pit in respect to how much is needed and how much you could spend; it is infinite in its demands. Listening to the ABC radio this morning, and possibly every other radio station in Darwin, we heard about the Childrens Commissioners report that has just been released, outlining a record number of child protection notifications that have been received in the Northern Territory over the last 12 months. It is staggering and overwhelming. At the bottom of this is a huge demand for resources to address this problem; that will be the very first challenge faced by the Minister for Children and the Minister for Territory Families in trying to implement the well-intended policies we have heard this morning. The other incredibly challenging situation we have within child protection, and possibly other areas, in the Northern Territory is finding and keeping good, professional and experienced staff; it is an ongoing challenge. As the minister, it eternally struck me how it was one step forward, two steps back. You felt you had a stable workforce in the Katherine office of Children and Families, but the next week it would all change because four or five people decided to go back to Ireland or where they were recruited from. The reality of providing child protection services on the ground is very challenging, with the high turnover of staff, the fact that a lot of our professional staff we have had in child protection over the last five years have come from overseas, they have been recruited from New Zealand, Ireland and various other places. Inevitably a lot of them want to go back there. They come from different backgrounds in training and education in social work and child protection. All those things remain enormous challenges. The other issue this government will face is the intention to break down the silos of government, to make the provision of services to children and families across government seamless. This is a wonderful idea. I attempted to embark on this myself, but I realised it did not have the support of my colleagues. It is extremely difficult to create a seamless service between health, education, child protection and possibly other related portfolios too in providing investments into early years and services for children and families. This government, like most throughout Australia and the Commonwealth, has departments. We have the Department of Health and the department responsible for child protection, which have their own budgets. To remove that separation is incredibly difficult. A couple of weeks ago the Select Committee for Opening the Parliament to the People went to the Queensland parliament and we were told the same story by some bureaucrats. It is incredibly difficult to merge departments and create a mega-department due to resistances within the bureaucracy and the fact budgets, mechanisms and systems are separate. That will be very difficult, but not impossible. I do not want to sound negative about anything I heard from the ministers for Territory Families and Children this morning. I am very optimistic and positive. A fresh approach is exactly what is needed. I do not feel any sense of criticism of what I have heard this morning. I just feel an obligation to put a few of the challenges I can foresee on the table. It is wonderful that this government has good relationships with the non-government sector. This sector has possibly been neglected over the last few years. The former CLP government did not have a lot of time for many of these organisations. This is the business that Labor governments do well, providing welfare, health and education services. These are your strengths. I look forward, over the next four years, to seeing how this plays out and the people of the Northern Territory truly benefit from a Labor government in this sense. I also look forward to seeing how remote housing rolls out. That is of great interest to me. It all connects. Without good housing much of this stuff will fall flat, as we have seen for many decades. I congratulate the Minister for Children on her statement today. I have great confidence in her and the Member for Braitling. I know they can turn this around and make some really positive changes for children and families in the Northern Territory.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain the names, voices and images of people who have died, as well as other culturally sensitive content. Please be aware that some collection items may use outdated phrases or words which reflect the attitude of the creator at the time, and are now considered offensive.

We use temporary cookies on this site to provide functionality.
By continuing to use this site without changing your settings, you consent to our use of cookies.