Press conference in Darwin


NATASHA FYLES: Natasha Fyles, Chief Minister and I welcome Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth to the Territory. Today, the Albanese Labor Government is announcing that $10.7 million in funding will be brought forward around the prevention of domestic and family violence. We know the prevalence in the Northern Territory is far too high. We've been doing a significant amount of work in this space. We have got a 10 year action plan, which we have broken down into phases and we've finished the work that's in phase one and we're working through an action plan too. So this announcement today will see funding based on need go to community organisations to help provide support in this space.

It is extremely important and we welcome this announcement from the Commonwealth Government. We are working together and this is a positive step forward for funding based on needs which as we know, the threats of domestic and family violence are far too high. But also the factors that we have in delivering services are equally show that we need those resources. So we're very excited today at this announcement as I said is a positive step forward working together. We do have other Federal Representatives and NT Ministers here that can come onto camera if you wish. Thank you.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's really wonderful to be here with Natasha and I just like to say congratulations, I think it's the first time I've seen you since you become Chief Minister. Great outcome for the Northern Territory. Now of course, my parliamentary colleagues Malarndirri, Luke Gosling and Territory Ministers here as well.

I'm really pleased to be here today. After just a couple of months in Government as Social Services Minister I've made it a priority to make sure we bring forward and fast track $10.7 million extra dollars for the Northern Territory in response to preventing family and domestic violence. We know some of the challenges that the Northern Territory has in tackling this challenging problem. We want to make sure that we partner with the Territory Government in tackling this. Of course, this is in addition to yesterday in Alice Springs, I announced $3 million to go to local Aboriginal Corporations to actually help them deliver services, some family and domestic violence services and some youth services.

We know that ending family and domestic violence is not going to be easy. We know that this is a challenge that will take some time. But as the new Minister for Social Services and women's safety, we are absolutely committed to tackling this and we do want to do it in partnership. We do want to do it in partnership with the Territory Government with other States and Territories as well. And so that's why also, I've made it a priority to sit down with my State and Territory colleagues to develop and finalise the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and also get on with the work of developing the two action plans. Under the new National Plan that will be two action plans. One particularly focused on tackling domestic violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that has been developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to actually deliver the response that they may. So this is critically important work and I really look forward in addition to delivering this money, which will go to a range of different services that the Northern Territory wants to deliver and see the need for - I look forward to continuing to work on a national 10 year plan to tackle this.

NATASHA FYLES: Thank you. Any questions as we've disclosed?

JOURNALIST: Can we start with Minister Rishworth. Why now?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Why now? Well, I have to be very clear that meeting and hearing from the Territory Government, including Minister Kate Ward, she's made it very clear that the issues faced in the Northern Territory are significant. And so it's very clear that based on the requests and discussions with the Northern Territory, I have made it an absolute priority to make this money available so that planning and delivery can start happening. And so that is exactly as a result of the advocacy by the Territory Government. That's what I'm doing here today.

JOURNALIST: And is it available all at once or over a number of years?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is an injection as the Territory Government makes its plan its injection until the end of the National Partnerships.

JOURNALIST: Okay and you said that it was on the basis of the advocacy by the NTG did the Territory Government asked for more than you've made available?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: At the moment, this is the money that is being made available immediately. We will continue to work with States and Territories, including the Territory Government looking at what comes after we deliver the National Plan. The National Plan expired on the 30th of June. I'm working very quickly because the previous government didn't really do the work to put the next National Plan in place. So I'm working very quickly to deliver that plan along with the action plans that will be the next phase in directing where investment goes.

JOURNALIST: Do you know how need was calculated? This is needs based funding and you know how that came about?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This was a request based on immediate an immediate request from the Northern Territory Government about what was needed right now.

JOURNALIST: And you've recognised the need for ongoing funding rather than a one off arrangement. Why are you not committing now to ongoing funding?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're delivering a new National Plan. That's a new National 10 Year Plan, which will have a standalone First Nations action plan to direct States and Territories as well as the Commonwealth of where to do the investment. In addition, we've made another a number of other commitments that will be new money, including a boost of frontline workers. We're putting that through the budget process at the moment from a Commonwealth perspective. So we will be delivering on a range of new initiatives through the October budget when it comes to family and domestic violence and I look forward to working with the Territory Government and how that's delivered.

JOURNALIST: Under that national plan, will the Territory get needs based funding ongoing?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Under that National Plan provides a framework of where investment gets delivered, and as I said, for the first time, there will be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander plan so we will be working in terms of funding, in terms of programs about all driving investment towards that goal on what works and what makes a difference. And so I very much look forward to working in partnership and we've had a first great meeting of women's safety Ministers and we'll continue to do that but I've been in the job two months. And already we've been very clear that we want to deliver and partner with the Territory Government. Our $3 million announced yesterday, our $10.7 million announced today we are starting to deliver and it's really important we continue to do so.

JOURNALIST: Considering the scale of the crisis in the Territory, you recognise the need. Do you agree that needs based funding is the model that we need?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What I'm going to do is work with the States and Territories on a range of different funding models. For example, there is not only the National Partnerships, there's also for example, safer secure housing and as I said a new National Plan. New National Plan is going to push us in the direction that we need to take to end violence against women and children. Obviously, First Nations women and children face a significant, significant impact and require culturally sensitive service delivery and a range of other options that will continue to do that.

JOURNALIST: In terms of being able to access that $10.7 million, you know, what's the process for organisations in having immediate access to that money?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: All this money is going actually to the Northern Territory Government, so I'll hand over to Natasha.

NATASHA FYLES: Thank you. So it's anticipated that this money will go we've got an interagency working group that looks on where the needs and what this funding can provide support to so it might be program based, it could range from education to non-government organisations, Aboriginal organizations. So we have those processes there. As I said, we've got strong plans in this phase. We've got action plans, so this funding is much needed and very welcomed,

JOURNALIST: And how would the funding be broken up between urban and remote areas?

NATASHA FYLES: So that can be guided by that interagency working group.

JOURNALIST: Is that the same in terms of you say priority and how priorities will be assessed? Will there be a priority given to Indigenous women and children facing domestic violence?

NATASHA FYLES: So I would suggest looking at the figures, sadly, that Aboriginal women and children in the Territory face rates of domestic and family violence at far higher rates than non-Indigenous women. So that would indicate that the funding yes would be across to Aboriginal women.

JOURNALIST: Just getting a bit specific the ABC reported this week on Timber Creek, obviously a hub center, hundreds of kilometers and no safe house there. Victims are taking sorry, residents are taking victims into their own homes overnight. Do you find that acceptable?

NATASHA FYLES: So in terms of the Northern Territory, we have a vast territory we have different contexts. We need to make sure that we focus on that early intervention and prevention of family domestic violence, but we do need to make sure that there are other support services. We need to make sure that when we invest in infrastructure that it is in the right location, and that it has the programs to provide that support. So I'm certainly across the situation in Timber Creek, but we need to make sure that in addressing these issues that we follow those plans and we don't simply do something reactively that might not be to the full benefit of the community.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that Tim Creek in that region will get a share of the money that's being announced today?

NATASHA FYLES: So as I just explained, we have got strong frameworks around how we allocate both our resources and the Commonwealth resources. And this will go through that process, but it will absolutely go to where the need is required.

JOURNALIST: Domestic violence rates are 40% higher in the Territory now than they were when you came to power. Why is that?

NATASHA FYLES: Tragically, there's a number of factors that drive domestic and family violence and we have been focused around the generational change and there's a number of organisations and programs that look at change programs and giving our young people the skills and the resilience, but it's not good enough and that is why we have got the Territories First Minister in his portfolio space for the prevention of family domestic and sexual violence and you will see us working in this space with the Commonwealth to advocate that we get the funding that we need in the Territory to overcome these issues.

JOURNALIST: When will action plan to be made public?

NATASHA FYLES: I would have to refer that to the Minister but I'm happy to provide that off camera.

JOURNALIST: Great. But that action plan to will guide the distribution of the funding?

NATASHA FYLES: So we've just completed the work in action plan one, we're now entering that phase or an action plan two there is a third phase as well. And this is detailed work that took some time and I acknowledge the former Minister Wakefields in this space. So we certainly will use that to guide this but as I said there is also an interagency working group that will oversee the allocation of resources.

JOURNALIST: So the rates of violence in Alice that anecdotally people were saying police were saying increased after the end of the stronger future legislation. Are they decreasing now? Or are they steady?

NATASHA FYLES: So let me be clear, when I answer these questions, the rates of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory, the alcohol related harm statistics are far too high, whether it's emergency department presentations, whether it is alcohol related harm with policing crime statistics, but we need to be careful and we saw the end of a piece of legislation that was race face that disempowered Aboriginal Territorians. What we did see that first weekend of stronger features was a number of factors. We saw a football game school holidays, we've recently had the show and we did see rates quite high around alcohol related presentations. I have early anecdotally advice that things have gone back to the previous figures but they are still far too high. And as a government we have committed to a range of alcohol policy measures and we will continue to work in this space. But the measures we put in must be across our whole community they cannot be biased on race.

JOURNALIST: And actually what's the Territory Government or your position on the compulsory income management continuing in the Territory when it's being abolished elsewhere?

NATASHA FYLES: So I think that it's important that we empower people and that we understand these issues. It is something that you can't simply have a you know, a headline grab, we need to understand the complexities and I can point to the banned drink register, which does have a self-referral pathway and some people do want to place themselves on that so that they don't have to deal with humbug but we need to be made sure when we have these policies. Their overarching for our community not race based and that they don't disempower people.

JOURNALIST: Well at the moment that the principle sort of the same, so the strong futures legislation was brought on a population base affecting Aboriginal people and disempower as say, the same things I said about the cashless debit card and compulsory Income Management. Do you support the legislation that the Federal Government has at the moment which leaves the basics card in place?

NATASHA FYLES: So from conversations I've had with community members, there are some community members that do like being able to use the basics card, but we need to make sure that and that was, you know, one of the issues with the cashless debit card was people were placed on that measure, and it was extremely difficult for them to take control of their lives and the income that they receive. So these are incredibly complex, but as I said, they need to make sure overarching that they empower people to change their lives and keep them safe.

JOURNALIST: But you support the Federal Government's current approach and abolishing the CDC and not the basics card?

NATASHA FYLES: Yes we’ve been on the record with that.

JOURNALIST: Chief Minister can you confirm if a conflict of interest was declared by your Fannie Bay Labor candidate Brent Potter before your Government went ahead and signed the deal to build an amphibian manufacturing base here in Darwin?

NATASHA FYLES: Brent Potter is a candidate of the highest integrity. The CLP are desperate in the dying days of a by-election to run a smear campaign. We have appropriate mechanisms here in the Northern Territory; it was a Territory Labor Government that established an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption. And we have processes that can be followed. And yes, I'm confident that those processes were followed.

JOURNALIST: Can you confirm that a conflict of interest was declared by Brent Porter? Did you see it?

NATASHA FYLES:  So as I've just said, Brent is a candidate of the highest integrity and it is disappointing to see a project that will bring millions and also significant jobs to the Northern Territory being put in the dying days of an election campaign, putting a smear over this exciting project and as I said, Brent has declared appropriately as do any staff members, as do we as Members of Parliament. We have established processes and they are in place.

JOURNALIST: Was that conflict of interest declared before the Government went ahead with a deal?

NATASHA FYLES:  So in terms of this, we have an exciting project and it’s a project that will bring aircraft being build back to Australia, and we have got a CLP opposition desperate to smear it, and it’s incredibly disappointing, because it always sends a message about doing business in the Northern Territory. The CLP were dragged to an Independent Commission Against Corruption, they did not do it under their leadership. It is something that we have put in place so that when decisions are made Territorians can know they are in the long term benefit of the Territory, not the short term interest of a view and I can absolutely assure Territorians that Brent is of the highest integrity and that all processes have been followed. There was a rigorous process around to the AAI announcement. And so it is disappointing to see this being run as a smear campaign a couple of days before a by-election.

JOURNALIST: With all due respect. You haven’t answered the question. Was the conflict of interest declared before the Government signed this deal?

NATASHA FYLES:  So let me be clear Brent is the Candidate of the highest integrity. As a Government we operate at the highest integrity. We are the Government that have put mechanisms in place so that Territorians can refer any questions they have to a Commissioner Against Corruption, but in this situation, it is a decision that had hours and hours of integrity around it. And it is exciting announcement for Australia and the Northern Territory, the aircraft being built here in the territory, and it's something that I am extremely proud of, and I will not let two days before a by-election the CLP smear because it sends a strong message to other businesses that are looking to come to the Territory that you could be subjected to a frivolous smear campaigns.

JOURNALIST: But you can see why there could be a perceived conflict of interest here.

NATASHA FYLES:  I've answered the questions and I won't be answering any further questions on that topic.

JOURNALIST: Isn't it hypocritical to support an opt in approach to the alcohol restrictions going forward and not apply the same approach to compulsory Income Management? So have communities opt in if that's what they want, rather than continuing to consult with all Territorians around the basics card, especially considering the evidence that we're hearing from Aboriginal organisations to the latest inquiry into the card?

NATASHA FYLES: I don't believe it is. 


NATASHA FYLES: Okay, next question.



JOURNALIST: Question for the Chief Minister. Are you supportive and will you cooperate with the Royal Commission into the country's pandemic response?

NATASHA FYLES: So I think that we do need to be careful here in the Territory we've seen a number of Royal Commissions and we need to be careful we don't spend millions of dollars on a witch hunt. We went through unprecedented times during the pandemic. I think there are lessons that we do need to make sure that we have understood and if we were to ever be in that situation again, so I would be cautious ahead of supporting a Royal Commission.

JOURNALIST: So then to Government plans to build an art gallery on ANZAC oval in Alice Springs. You've got the land, what's next?

NATASHA FYLES: So this is an exciting step forward. The National Indigenous Art Gallery is a game changer for Central Australia and Alice Springs, it will become iconic and it will attract tourists from around Australia and around the world. So we have a strong working relationship with Alice Springs Town Council, and we're pleased that we've been able to take this step forward in this project.

JOURNALIST: I have a question for Kate Worden, if that's okay. Thank you, Kate. Just a question in regards to a pretty concerning situation. That's kind of evolving in regards to the missing five year old child Grace Hughes. Police have come out today they've, you know, dedicated a specific taskforce and have you know, have some pretty strong words about the group they say, could be holding that child kind of captive or involved in her abduction. Is that a situation that's concerning to you?

KATE WORDEN: Of course, it's concerning when anybody in particular a child is missing. It's of great concern. And I think you can see that reflected in the actions being taken by the police. They are pulling out all the stops and following every single lead, we get regular briefings on the situation and it's critical, and it's about the safety of a child. So yes, I am obviously is of great concern, but I have every confidence that the Northern Territory Police are taking every step to try and bring Grace back to her legal guardian.

JOURNALIST: Any message for the group out there that police themselves say are spreading, you know, some pretty wild accusations or ideologies around that could be harmful for that child or her legal guardian?

KATE WORDEN: I think anybody that's out there that knows where Grace is, has any information whatsoever, then please let the Northern Territory Police know. They are looking for anybody in the community that has that information, somebody in the Northern Territory or perhaps interstate, given the amount of time that Grace has now been missing, knows where Grace is there are would be indicators, so please anybody out there that knows where Grace is, please come forward with that information. It's critically important not just for Grace's safety, but also, you know, there's other family members that are, you know, missing Grace and she needs to come home to her family.

JOURNALIST: Are there any suggestions that she could be in the state?

KATE WORDEN: Today the Northern Territory Police have announced that they are collaborating interstate. I think the amount of time that she's now been missing could indicate that she could have gone across the border. But I think that's indicative that the police are just pulling out every stop that they can to try and locate her.

JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm that the compulsory Income Management will become voluntary and will that happen by the end of the year except for communities that want to continue restrictions?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: When it comes to the cashless debit card we’re making good on our election commitment to abolish the cashless debit card. There is currently legislation before the Parliament. It will be up to the Senate to decide whether or not that legislation goes through but it is our intention that that legislation does abolish the cashless debit card but of course it's not going to abolish it overnight. We need to then work with individuals on that card to work out what comes next for them. And so we've got a very careful process with Services Australia about how we manage that in the different trial sites around the country. When it comes to border Income Management, we've been very clear that our first point is to abolish the cashless debit card. This was a privatised card that had no connection with Services Australia, the card was connected with a private organisation, which was effectively the privatisation of Social Security payments in this country. When it comes to border Income Management. We are going to have a conversation. It's a different piece of legislation. We will have a conversation with communities about what they want into the future. That might be communities wanting to opt in, that might be about referral processes and referral pathways. And we will have that conversation going forward and work out what the future is going forward.

JOURNALIST: A number of territory based Aboriginal groups have made submissions to the latest inquiry that's happening and they say that they've said the same thing repeatedly when they've told you that they don't support compulsory Income Management. They weren't scrapped. Now, just as they weren't scrapped as part of the CDC Bill. Why aren't you listening?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There has been a lot of views passed on CDC and Income Management, a lot of confusion out there. This requires a careful approach first to transition people off the cashless debit card onto other forms, whether it's Income Management or into managing their own money. I'm not going to do that recklessly and I'm not going to do it in a way that doesn't involve some sort of support in transition. So that is the first point that I need to be really clear. There's over 17,000 people on Income Management and on the cashless debit card that need that support. When it comes to the future of Income Management more broadly, we're going to consult have a conversation, talk with communities about what maybe community opt in looks like, perhaps what individual opt in looks like, what do those referral processes look like? So I'm going go through that process and consult with people and work out where we go forward, but I'm not going to be reckless and turn off the Income Management System overnight. We need to support people through this but ultimately, we are listening to communities. We will work with communities about what the future of Income Management looks like here in the territory and right across the country.

JOURNALIST: Is it reckless of the territory government to be switching things overnight turning on and off overnight? The alcohol restrictions stopped overnight. Can't you see the contradiction?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Territory Government has been working very hard on a range of different Alcohol Management Strategies for a long time, and I disagree with the premise of your question.