Minister Rishworth and Marion Scrymgour MP - Alice Spring Press Conference


Topics: Digital connectivity, Strengthening Families and Communities Partnership, Family and Domestic Violence funding

MARION SCRYMGOUR, MEMBER FOR LINGIARI: Thank you all for coming. It is great to be here and particularly to welcome the Minister for Social Services here in Alice Springs. She is no stranger to Central Australia, she has come a number of times – which is fantastic. And also part of the visits has been to get into some of the town camps to talk with Aboriginal people, and to talk directly with Aboriginal organisations. This morning we have had a number of meetings with those organisations that are certainly dealing with domestic and family violence and having a look at what the pathway and the solutions are moving forward. How do we work with communities to make sure that we can make inroads into this scourge of domestic and family violence that we're seeing not just in Alice Springs, but right across the Northern Territory? So it's fantastic, to have Minister Rishworth here in Alice Springs and we’re joined today – it certainly gives me great pleasure all the time to be in meetings with someone as strong as Barbara Shaw, who's a very strong advocate on the Central Land Council, but also at Tangentyere and across Alice Springs in terms of leading and lending her voice. To say to government, more needs to be done, enough is enough and we need to deal with this issue. So without further ado, I'll hand over to the Minister to say a few words.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you Marion. I'm really pleased to be here with Marion and Barbara, to make two significant announcements on our investment – the Albanese Labor Government's investment – into Central Australia. The first is our digital capability project, which is investing $7.5 million into regions, 21 communities, to improve their Wifi and mobile internet connection. But importantly improve digital capability and capacity on the ground and provide face-to-face support and a physical location and connection point for communities to the internet. When I was last here, I heard that there was problems not having enough internet connection within the town camps or some of the town camps. And that was making it harder for young people to do their daily life and also older people to actually connect to government services. So I'm really pleased that after lobbying from Marion, we were able to ensure that there was an uplift in the capacity of the Internet and wifi, but that has been actually extended to 21 communities. This is an important investment because so much of our lives, relies on a connection from the internet. The second announcement that we're making today is the Strengthening Families and Community Partnership, which is a $30 million fund that will work with the Central Australia Leadership Group in family and domestic violence, in addressing some of those drivers in family and domestic violence. This $30 million will be made available as part of the Central Australia Fund to address three areas. The first really is strengthening and supporting parents so that children have a safe and supportive environment. The second, of course, importantly is around healthy relationships. I was just speaking to the Women's Safety Group at Tangentyere about how important it is for prevention and early intervention to promote healthy relationships between boys and girls and men and women. And importantly how important boosting self-esteem is for young people. So that part will focus on young people in youth programs, and the third is direct services and support and programs to address family and domestic violence. These programs will be community-led and the Central Australian Leadership Group will have that connection directly with community and tell us as Government what the programs are that are needed. Because of course, Central Australia is not a homogenous group of people, every community and town is different. And so we want to make sure that our responses are community-led and they meet the needs of the local community. And that's why we very much look forward to working in partnership with the Central Australia Leadership Group to deliver these really important programs. And importantly, continue to deliver our commitment to Central Australia. Now I'm just going to hand over to Barbara and then we can go to questions.

BARBARA SHAW, CENTRAL LAND COUNCIL: The only thing I could say is that Aboriginal people will welcome this extra money that's been put towards the Central Australian Aboriginal Leadership Group because they are a group of elders living in Central Australia and they know how to work with Aboriginal people living in Alice Springs and surrounding areas, especially our remote communities, which is where the help is needed the most.

JOURNALIST: Thanks Minister. Now this announcement today for $30 million for DV services will be welcomed by frontline agencies, but it hasn't addressed their requests and the NT Government's request for needs-based funding. Is your Government ruling out funding this sector using that model?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What our Government has done is clearly moved away from population-based funding. Our Government has National Partnership Agreements with the Northern Territory Government as well as other state and territory governments where we've funded a range of extra support. Indeed, I put an extra $10 million into the Partnership Agreement with the Northern Territory, recognising that they required extra need. But our Government doesn't just provide funding directly to the Northern Territory Government. We also directly fund service provision on the ground, frontline services that deliver support. So in total at the moment before this $30 million has been allocated, our Government has contributed $147 million to family and domestic violence services, as well as programs that go to the drivers of family and domestic violence. So I look forward to continuing to work with the Northern Territory Government and governments right across Australia. We have launched our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan which has significant funding attached to it. There'll be programs that will be rolled out and I have no doubt that speaking with some community organisations today they are very interested in accessing that funding. So I'll continue to work with the Territory Government, along with other governments, to make sure that together in partnership, we are addressing the needs of people on the ground and this $30 million that I've announced today as part of the Central Australia Plan is very much a part of listening to community, working with community and funding community directly.

JOURNALIST: And last month, you accused the NT Government of blame shifting when it comes to domestic violence. What concerns do you have about the NT Government's ability to spend money effectively in this space?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Oh, look, I have a good working relationship with the Northern Territory Government. We have been very clear that we want to work in partnership with the Northern Territory Government. As I said, we've moved away from a purely population-based funding model for states and territories. Indeed, the Northern Territory receives approximately $28 million for the National Partnerships, but that is not all the money the Commonwealth delivers, obviously, as part of Closing the Gap and the agreements there, our priority is to deliver money through Indigenous-led organisations and Aboriginal-controlled organisations, as well as other service deliverers on the ground. So we will continue to work right across the board. But to be clear, we don't fund based on population. It's much broader than that. And I look forward to continuing to work with the Northern Territory Government to deliver programs including this extra funding. And through the partnership that I've announced today.

JOURNALIST: In this release, it’s kind of broken down the funding into things like supporting those impacted, prevention, strengthening families and parents. Are you able to kind of break down a bit further? Where is this money actually going? What are going to organisations? What services or programs is funding for?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think that's the key is that we are going to be led by community on this. So we've put some broad areas that community have told us that they believe need to be addressed, but we want to make sure that these services and supports are culturally appropriate, that they are needed in communities. As I said communities do differ right across the board. Not one community is the same. So we want to make sure that we're working with communities about what that looks like. But already I know that communities have a strong idea about what type of programs can support respectful relationships in their community. So we look forward to working with those community members in delivering that, but when we think about self-esteem programs, there are a number out there that community have developed and it will be what fits their community.

JOURNALIST: So one final question. The Northern Territory Coroner has just finished the longest, most in-depth series of coronial inquests examining domestic family and sexual violence in the NT. She's uncovered distressing evidence about the sector and it's been described as woefully inadequate. Obviously, any recommendations made by the Coroner is going to cost money. Will the Federal Government commit to funding any of the recommendations or all of the recommendations when they are made?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Let's be really clear. This was a Northern Territory Coroner's investigation. I followed that and there was some very distressing pieces of evidence in there. The Commonwealth is putting into family domestic violence – a record $2.3 billion. Just in terms of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, this is to going to deliver services on the ground and support on the ground. And that didn't exist before we came into Government. The National Partnerships Agreement was due to end on the 30th of June this year, with the previous government having not put any funding in. So we have continually, through different mechanisms, put more funding in and as you can see with this announcement today, our Central Australia money.  We are, on an ongoing basis, looking at how we can provide more money but it is a partnership between the Territory Government and the Commonwealth Government. There are some systems that the Commonwealth just doesn't run, like police systems and policing, but we look forward to working with the Territory Government and all governments. We have a National Plan to end Violence against Women. We now have two Action Plans. We've got record funding and we need to work together to deliver that. Thank you.