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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
20/05/2010
Involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system

CHAIR —Welcome. I think a lot of you around the table have heard how things have been going through the day, and that is a benefit. Many of you will have heard the kind of discussion that has been going on. During the day we had a meeting with the Youth Justice Aboriginal Advisory Committee, then we had a meeting with people representing various departments of the Australian government and we have just had a meeting with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement.

Our idea here is that all of you as people representing the community can tell us whatever you want to tell us about how we might do better. In the end, I am interested in what the Commonwealth government can do but it is really what all government can do better to reduce the rate of imprisonment of young Aboriginal people. As you heard in a discussion with the legal service, they have a big emphasis on aspects of policing and ways in which you can change some kind of laws about bail and other court procedures to reduce the number of people that are put in prison. Obviously, behind that kind of consideration, you have the issues that make people prone to offending behaviour in the first place, and that is what a lot of our discussion this morning was about.

I am open to any way you may want to take the discussion. I am not sure where would be the best place to begin, but one or other of the organisations is best. Do Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council feel like starting?

Mr Scott Wilson —Thanks for inviting us along to the inquiry. Obviously, from our point of view it is good—and sad in one way, considering that 17 years ago the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council was set up as a community response as a result of the royal commission into black deaths in custody recommendations—that seventeen years later we are at an inquiry that is looking at Indigenous juvenile justice and issues like that.

When we were contacted we thought—and this is the reason why there are a number of us here—that some of the projects that we operate are clearly within the ambit of the inquiry’s terms of reference, particularly when it comes down to looking at what government could perhaps do and what it could do better. That is why, for example, we have asked Katie from the Young Nungas Yarning Together project to come along, because she is clearly an example of how government funding is stop-start funding. I think this might be the second time in the 4½ years that we have gone to terminate Katie, not because she has done a bad job but because the funding cycle for her project is on an ad hoc basis—you get a $20,000 grant here and a $20,000 grant there. That just keeps her employed and doing some of the things that she does, and that is why we thought that she could talk about Young Nungas Yarning Together and some of the projects that they have been trying to deliver in engaging with Indigenous youth, who tend to be the ones who are disengaged from either school or other aspects of society.

Jimmy from ADAC, the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council, is part of a mobile team that responds to issues—more so in the rural and remote communities. For example, if there is an attempted suicide of a young person over at Yalata, they tend to ring the Makin’ Tracks team. One of the good things about that team is that they do not have to sit around waiting until next week or for a month before they write a submission; they tend to leave that day to get to the community the next day. So they cover an area that is bigger than Europe, from here to Alice Springs and over to Kalgoorlie, covering all of the remote and rural Aboriginal communities in between.

Byron has been running our police drug diversion project for the last seven years. When young folk here in South Australia are picked up with small quantities of cannabis or other illicit substances, if they go through a diversionary-type activity with Byron rather than go through to the correctional or juvenile justice system then they do not end up with a record and things like that. He must be doing something right, because over the last seven years I think that he has had about 10 people that have come back. The people that he deals with are as young as 11, 12 or 13, and he deals with adult divertees as well. That is one of the reasons why there are a few of us: we obviously do projects that are down the area that you guys are looking at. I will just leave it there for other people to have a bit of a go.

Mr Butler —Kumangka is a youth service in Adelaide that looks after the metropolitan area. We are one of the largest, but in essence we are a very small organisation; we have about five staff. We provide services late at night—Friday and Saturday nights. We are very much at the early intervention end. When I read the terms of reference and thought about coming here today to talk about the issues that are facing youth, I looked at two parts. One was the bits about governance. In my previous work life, which was not too long ago, I worked within government at the national level and in states, for different departments. Getting to the non-government sector, I was amazed. I looked at the work that I was doing around data collection. What that translated to in the community really did not make much difference. There were things like national data reports around the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, which looked at a range of issues. When it came to service agreements, there was not a mention. I looked at cultural inclusion in terms of key platform strategies within government. I looked at that service agreement—nothing.

I then started to say, ‘All right; let’s look at the translation.’ In our master agreement within South Australia, we have nothing Aboriginal. We are clumped in with non-English-speaking new refugees in Australia, and that sets the agenda. I think it starts off on a very bad foot. Look at the measurement of that. Our organisation is under review, as are all organisations, around our performance. It is totally devoid of focus on Aboriginal issues. It is about governance and the overburdening component of that. When I looked at workforce, the measures that they were looking at included, ‘How many staff do you have with degrees?’ I do not need to delve into the issue about literacy and numeracy and how that translates to university degrees. We do not have a lot of Aboriginal people with those.

From Kumangka’s perspective, we really struggle in our youth service. One of the most alarming things that I see is that early intervention is really a lost cause. We are the only funded youth service in the metro area. Our focus has been forced more and more towards the child protection arena. An example of that from our street service is that there have been reports of young children on the street, and I am talking as young as four and six and nine, and the need to provide a service to that. The statutory response is very limited. Crisis care is underresourced, so the effort is with safeholding. Kumangka is trying to respond to that, but what can we do? We do not have the statutory power. We also think it is wrong to just take a nine-year-old home at one o’clock in the morning from down on Hindley Street to a house that we do not know and to leave them there without intervention.

CHAIR —What relationship do you have with the state welfare agency?

Mr Butler —We are a non-government organisation. We are funded by the Department of Families and Communities—

CHAIR —But when it comes to children of this age, what relationship do you have with the state agency that has responsibility for looking after children?

Mr Butler —They are our service partner. In our agreement it says that we must build partnerships with providers. Families SA is one of those partners. In terms of our linkage, that is it. It is up to me, I guess, as the manager to find those linkages, which I do, but the statutory response to vulnerable youths should not be a response from us. It should be from the statutory providers, but the essence of how that translates to our service is that we are moving more and more towards that and that is being driven by our agreement. Hence, we lobby, we raise the issues, we lobby through our partnerships. So in that sense, we talk to SAPOL, the police in South Australia. With the manager of the crisis response unit, we looked at how we can go about doing that, and the responses were horrific. SAPOL talks about putting kids in taxis because the statutory services are not able to visit, to come out at one in the morning. So it is those types of issues that we are facing. As an early intervention service, we are really struggling to maintain our focus in that area, our focus on being Aboriginal specific, which is the broader work. Being put in with a whole range of other populations, the expectation is to service non-Aboriginal groups. I guess some of our cultural differences are the differences between Aboriginal youths and Sudanese and Vietnamese youths. You have one car; how do you transport a group like that late at night? They are the challenges.

I sit back and I laugh with disdain when I am told that with harsh talk you can control youth. And this is coming from our contract managers, which I find appalling. But in terms of the issues, my main concern is the move away from early intervention and the loss of focus and seeing transport out of the city as a taxi service that is not warranted. The numbers that we moved out in the last quarter was 450. We had 450 youths who were moved out two nights a week for three months. Of that, an emerging trend is females. Two-thirds of those were young women, and one-third were boys. The issues they were predominantly moved for were drugs and alcohol. There were some issues around anger and conflict within the CBD, but predominantly it was about substance issues—that is, being extremely drunk—and being removed after contact with SAPOL.

Looking at the issues, one of the things that I thought about was that it is fine to raise issues but you have to have some type of response. One of the key things that Kumangka focuses on is a continued engagement with community. Within government there were a lot of Aboriginal units that had specific Aboriginal staff focused on those areas, and the loss of that in downturns within government departments has been, in my view, quite devastating. The core focus of Aboriginal business has been lost through the loss of the knowledge of Aboriginal people and the changeover to non-Aboriginal staff who are not aware of Aboriginal business. They do not know the strategies, so the evidence in terms of over representation is lost and therefore the service planning is gone. Clearly, issues about engagement with community are resoundingly important.

The issue about focusing on an early intervention model is quite clear within the youth sector. One of things that we think is important is positive engagements, so we are including in our work—which is unfunded and which we will take on ourselves—the involving of young people who are not involved in the justice system but who are in crisis. We think that linking them to leadership programs and exposure to elders and positive lifestyles is a large investment for the future. So it is not just about the justice system and engaging youths in that sector.

From an organisational perspective, when building our partnerships with Aboriginal groups, peak bodies are something that we do not have in the youth sector. An Aboriginal body in a state sense and in a national sense to lead the agenda for research that comes from community-driven organisations is something that I think is badly needed in the area around data analysis, measurements and developing new strategies built around community engagement, with community people providing the evidence and the input.

Ms Miers —I will say a little bit about NOFASARD for those who do not who we are. We were established and incorporated in Adelaide in 1998. We do not receive any funding of any kind; our only income is from donations resulting from presentation of workshops, keynote speeches and that sort of thing. Our operations are dependent on the donation of time, transport and a portion of its operating costs by executive membership.

Approximately 300 individuals currently make up the network, many of whom disseminate FASD information widely through their own networks. The people who make up NOFASARD come from within families—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—who are living with FASD, and there is also a wide range of professionals involved with the health, disability, education, justice, social services and community-based organisations.

Several international studies now confirm that individuals with FASD are frequently involved in the criminal justice system. About 60 per cent of those with FASD get into trouble with the law and about 50 per cent are confined in a prison, drug treatment facility or psychiatric hospital at some point in their lives. This information comes from secondary disability studies undertaken in the US of about 1,400 individuals who had been diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome. Unfortunately, in Australia the disorder is poorly understood. It is invisible in public policy and practice, and affected children, adolescents and adults are slipping through the cracks. Behavioural impairments due to FASD make affected individuals more likely to get in trouble with the law.

Many of them will never socially mature, irrespective of their IQ. Other factors that may place them at risk of being involved in the criminal justice system include: they do not learn from their mistakes, they have difficulties with impulse control, they may or may not have intellectual deficits, they have far better expressive language skills than receptive language so they appear to understand more than they actually do, they are easily manipulated, they have poor judgment skills, and they often have a history of abuse and neglect as well.

The latest international studies estimate that the current prevalence rate of FASD in populations of younger school children may be as high as two to five per cent in the United States and some European countries; however, there have been no population based studies in Australia. I would just like to point out that this is not just an Indigenous issue. I get it all the time that this is an Indigenous issue.

There are no cultural, social or economic barriers and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder will be found wherever alcohol is part of the culture. In fact, some of the studies in Australia show that those women most likely to drink are non-Aboriginal and have higher incomes as well, which is interesting. Unfortunately, though, some of our Aboriginal communities, because of historical factors, have the economic risk factors for being more susceptible to getting FASD.

CHAIR —In Fitzroy Crossing, where we had some hearings a little while ago, some people may be aware that there has been an astoundingly successful change of policy regarding the consumption of alcohol, which was initiated by some Grannies and women from several of the Aboriginal organisations and the health centre in Fitzroy Crossing.

Ms Miers —They are doing great work there and in Kununurra as well.

CHAIR —The change was so effective that a film has been made about it and shown at the United Nations but when we went to see them only a few weeks ago they did not want to talk about that at all. They only wanted to talk about foetal alcohol syndrome. It might help if I mention that my colleagues and I are already essentially determined that we should make a recommendation to the federal government about the development of diagnostic interventions.

Ms Miers —That would be really great. My next point was that there are a number of reasons why FASD is currently invisible in Australia. It does not appear on the government list of registered disabilities. There is no Medicare number for rebate for diagnosis. There are no Australian clinical guidelines for diagnosing. There are no specially trained multidisciplinary diagnostic teams. The medical profession has received very little information about the disorder in their medical school training.

Fewer than half of Australian health professionals routinely ask women about alcohol consumption in pregnancy or routinely provide information to pregnant women about the effects of alcohol use in pregnancy. And less than 20 per cent of Australian health professionals, including paediatricians, know the four essential criteria for the diagnosis of foetal alcohol syndrome and over half are concerned about stigmatising the child or the family, so that is why they do not make a diagnosis.

A tiny proportion—less than five per cent—of health professionals actually felt very prepared to deal with FASD, so we have got a lot of education to do. Also, it does not appear in most policy or discussion documents where it should be receiving attention. I found it really interesting that it was still not being addressed in most of the submissions to this particular inquiry, even though it could be a root cause not for all offending but for a lot of offending.

I asked for feedback from some of our members about what were some of the things that might be done in the justice system. I got a response from Professor Carol Bower, who is a senior principal research fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, and she suggested that maybe we needed to have a look at a survey to find out what the knowledge, attitudes and practices are in the justice system in relation to FASD in Australia. They have done a similar Canadian study.

Also, I got something back from a chief executive officer from Extra Edge Community Services in Western Australia. She said her staff work in the young offender prisons in Western Australia where 70 per cent are Indigenous and most of them are repeat offenders, and many of them have alcohol issues in their families. She said: ‘I guess a simple but no doubt impossible recommendation would be to undertake research similar to that which was done in a Manitoba juvenile facility to ascertain the level of undiagnosed FASD among the young offenders’.

So this is looking at FASD in not just Indigenous offenders but non-Indigenous offenders as well. It is really important that this is not seen just as an Indigenous problem. It is really important there is not a stigma attached to this. By the doctors and the health profession refusing to accept FASD, they are stigmatising it. They are causing the stigma. It is the birth parents who are standing up and being counted and saying, ‘We don’t want this to go on any longer. It isn’t helping us that you don’t want to diagnose because you are frightened of causing guilt and shame.’

CHAIR —I am not sure that everyone around the table is entirely familiar with the issue that you are speaking of. It might be worth explaining what it is.

Ms Miers —Basically, it is brain damage. That is the easiest way of saying it. Alcohol is an agent that can affect the developing foetus. When it is consumed in pregnancy it goes straight through to the foetus. The foetus has exactly the same blood alcohol content as the mother. It is known as a neurobehavioural teratagen. It is a big word, but what that means is that one of its greatest effect is on the developing brain. It can affect the developing brain at any time throughout the pregnancy. One of the most risky times is often before a woman know she is pregnant, so that makes it difficult. But the third trimester in pregnancy is also an at-risk time. It affects the developing brain. It affects the developing neural pathways, so they do not join up where they are meant to. These are children who think and learn differently from other people, and it lasts for their life. They think and learn differently from the way other people do.

CHAIR —So some kids who act crazy are actually—

Ms Miers —They can be very hyperactive. They find learning difficult. I think a lot of children are misdiagnosed with ADD, if their doctors have not been trained in diagnosing FASD. A lot of doctors think they are doing the right thing by diagnosing ADHD or autism spectrum disorder because then they are not stigmatising the child or the family. But I know families where two or three children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and where there is alcohol use in those families. Had the doctor addressed that alcohol use in the first pregnancy, intervention and support might have gone in to prevent further affected pregnancies and further children being born with a disability. So this is all about thinking about the children who are affected. Some of my greatest advocates are mums who have been proud enough and brave enough to stand up and be counted and talk about their stories. Our Indigenous representative thinks she has 22 family members who are affected. There is also a mum up in Queensland who is not Indigenous who has written the only Australian book on the disability.

CHAIR —Thank you. Would the Grannies Group like to comment?

Mrs Welch —Yes. I work as an Aboriginal justice officer for the Courts Administration Authority. Because of that, I was invited to the Grannies Group, where I go and tell them about the processes of the courts. I also go to the women’s prison and speak to them. Women in prison need to have more care six months prior to being released from prison. They need someone to go and see them and help them with their housing or whatever they need when they come out. I go there to help them with their fines, because they do not need to have fines to worry about. That is the least of their worries. I also went up last Thursday because some of the ladies wrote a letter to one member of parliament and they did not get a reply. Unfortunately, I did not get the letter so that I could bring up some of the issues here, but these are issues that to us might seem small but to the women in the prison they are big issues.

I was also interested in what you were saying about people who have been in custody because of bail conditions. One of the big things I have heard about is the curfew. I attend the Nunga Court at Port Adelaide. Last Tuesday I had a worker from ASG and a gentleman from the drug court. They came down and spoke to the magistrate because the magistrate was going to put a curfew on this gentleman. He was a traditional gentleman who had come to live in Adelaide for a while. He had a wife and four children. The condition was that he was supposed to have a curfew so that he was inside by eight o’clock until seven o’clock the next morning. He would have broken that curfew if any of his children had got sick and he had got in the car and gone out. So members from an Aboriginal organisation came down to speak on his behalf, to say that they would help him and follow through with him so that he did not get that curfew. It is things like that that get people locked up.

Also when they are talking about the AP Lands in remote areas, some of them come down to Adelaide to attend hospitals for health reasons or maybe just visiting families. They might get a speeding ticket, on-the-spot fine, expiation notice. They go back up on the lands and, if they do not do anything about their fine within 28 days to, say, about six weeks, they get their licence taken away. They get their driving disqualified without them knowing, so that is where they might need to have something different for different postcodes.

CHAIR —You might have heard our earlier discussion because we keep finding in all parts of remote Australia there a just dreadful troubles with the flow out of people losing their licences and either not understanding what to do about it, not knowing that it has happened or giving up trying.

Mrs Welch —Also, they were talking about people who never had a licence. If they get picked up three times as an unauthorised person driving a car, they can get their licence taken away for three years or they could be looking at a prison sentence. My job is to go out and educate the community about some of the changes in the law and especially with—

CHAIR —My committee thinks that we ought to be saying to the federal government that we should be assisting programs to help Aboriginal people get driver’s licences. Some people talk about having a remote area licence but that has a lot of difficulties as well. If you have got a remote area licence and you drive to Adelaide, you are buggered. Anyway, we have identified this as a problem. Here and there all around the country, people are doing good things about it but there is nothing systematic about it.

Mrs Welch —Also, most of the people who live in the cities or country towns, they forget that up in the AP Lands where I go on a court circuit—I used to go; I gave it up. They had people up there to teach them how to drive but they had to get their licences back from the courts because of their fines. By the time they got that, they might not have time to fit in with when the person went up there to help them with their licences. That is all I need to say.

Mrs Williams —I jus wanted to say that Grannies Group is a not-for-profit group. We have been going for 10 years now. We try and deal with service delivery. Service delivery is all over the place. Sometimes it is not the fault of the people that are responsible for it but what the government expects of them. There has got to be change for Aboriginal people. If they want to see things happening, they are going to do it how they want to.

The social inclusion got all this money recently and Families SA got something like four point something million dollars out of that. They work with you. I want to know what they are doing with all that money. I want to know what different organisations—you have got Aboriginal people out here who want to do their jobs. I always say Aboriginal people should be proactive within the community. At least once a week: go out of their little towers—I think they are locked up by their staff, you know. They need to be taken out of these places, go and see what is going on on the ground out there. They have got the knowledge. They know what is going on, but the government is not listening and they do not seem to want to. When it comes to funding, we dip out every time. We have ‘multicultural’ now. Our culture is going down the tubes. We have not got the numbers to play the numbers games with them to get the funding, so that is another issue for me.

Remand issues came up here. With a lot of our guys in prison—I have worked in the prisons for 11 years; I only finished working in the prisons in the last two years—a lot of it is because our lawyers do not turn up for our guys when they go to court. They keep remanding and remanding because the lawyers do not turn up, and there are a lot of people in there. We have the largest remand rates in Australia in South Australia. I worked in the women’s prison. The numbers are just going sky high in the women’s prison.

I just want to make a comment on foetal alcohol. Our old people—and a lot of you fellows here would remember this—recognised this stuff years and years and years ago, but when they spoke to them they thought they were speaking a lot of nonsense. But as soon as a professor from America or somewhere else comes along it is all a brand new thing. They do not listen to us about our stuff.

The Grannies Group had a kinship program. We went to Stephanie Key. She gave us workers for our kinship program. That was to deal with a through-care process when people, women and men, come out of prison, where we can go in three months prior to them coming out and start dealing with their issues about housing, employment, education and counselling. At this stage, the health team has taken away our kinship program just recently, so we have not got that program. I am a bit cheesed off about that because Health also has funding for prisoner health, but I do not know what they are doing about it. I want some answers for that, if they are getting funding and then they want to take our little program away from us where we deal with our guys when they come out and we set these things. Through-care does work, because we have proved that it works, but now we have not got that program because they have taken it away, taken all our works, and put it into health.

CHAIR —When you say ‘our’, is it the Grannies Group in particular that had the through-care money?

Mrs Williams —Yes, we did have it, and it was granted to us through Stephanie Key.

CHAIR —I should know this, but is she a minister?

Mrs Williams —She was at the time. We had two workers down in the southern area. We had two workers out in the western area. In the northern area we had workers. Also, those workers were linked up with community corrections officers. They could work alongside them. They could work alongside the health people, because we all have the same clients. When you put it in a basket, we all have the same thing. But I am very angry about our program being taken away from us. The Grannies Group is in the process of setting up MOUs with other organisations so that we can work together. Because we have no funding we have to work with people to achieve what we need to achieve. We could do with a lot of resources that we just do not have.

CHAIR —Can I ask that Wiltanendi gets to say something, and then we will go into a discussion. What you are doing, Lorraine, is drawing attention to issues that keep coming up all day—not just all day here; they keep coming up all over the country. Is it okay if someone has a go there, and then we can all join in.

Mr Teo —Wiltanendi is a bit of an anomaly in this group. We are a state government program with Commonwealth funding from the AERF, which is the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation. In 2006 a partnership was signed up with the AERF and the state to have a demonstration pilot of a substance abuse program. I think I have two program outlines there, if you want to have a look at them. That outline was written in 2006 at the start of the demonstration pilot. The program has now grown, and it would be useful if you then looked at the website to see the growth and the changes. It is more up to date.

All of us have been talking about young people and their interface with the law. The fundamental theory is whether it would work if you sent a group of workers into the community to build some community partnerships, have an assertive approach with these young people, work alongside them, do a lot of the problem solving on a live domain approach so that we fix some of the issues that these young people face, and at the end of the process have the young people do better. We are currently going through an evaluation of that three years of work which should report within six weeks. If the committee is interested in that, in about six weeks we will have a report on those things.

Notwithstanding the evaluation, though, we on the ground and some of our partners here came today—and I apologise if we are in the wrong spot in terms of being a state government program—at the invite of ADAC and other community people who thought that we should tell the story of what appears to be succeeding quite well for a small number of kids. I think we need to reiterate here for other people that we are not a service; we are a demonstration pilot to take 36 kids at any one time to see whether some of these things can work. A lot of community support helps in terms of engagement. Phillip Graham leads our team on community engagement with the workers so there is support from the other organisations, the community and the kids’ families. We emphasise very much the live domains.

At the heart of most kids’ troubles are huge deficits in literacy and numeracy and quite large deficits in health, be they in mental health, general health et cetera. You have to fix those basics. Even if their lifestyles and circumstances do not change enormously, the kids build some resilience. They certainly improve their life skills to face circumstances similar to what they have. In addition to that, I think the review would point to a very methodological approach to some of these issues so there is some evidence upon which to base what you do and so it is backed up with rigour in persistence. When I say assertive it is not easy being assertive with a kid who is quite chaotic, transient and vulnerable. When we say assertive it also means consistency and persistence. Those are the sorts of issues that are currently being evaluated in the program. Like I said, in six weeks it will be published.

CHAIR —Rebecca will give you her card so we can be sure that you will send that straight to our committee.

Mr Teo —Sure.

CHAIR —I know you from somewhere, don’t I, Peter?

Mr Peter Smith —I do not know.

CHAIR —Probably not, then! But that is very interesting. You are rather clear about the kids you are dealing with. It is not all that hard for you to identify the hole in the kid’s life and what to do to fill it.

Mr Teo —Yes. The culmination of what we are saying is this: everybody here has pointed out some of the issues that we face. It is no different from what we face. We have picked up a small group of kids. It is not easy to succeed with these kids in every instance, but we have enough success in the sorts of things that we do with them to be pleased about the intervention. The only way to solve some of these problems is to build on the partnership strengths that are in the community and in the agencies. One of the difficulties people keep talking about is partnerships from government. It does not work well when it is top down. Some of the partnership work has to be around the worker level, and it also has to be bottom up. Partnerships that come from the top usually fail—and you would know that—

CHAIR —So would the grannies.

Mr Teo —The other thing about the Grannies Group and so on is they do not get enough support to give voice to what they think are the essentials.

CHAIR —We have had a lot of meetings like this where we have had state government officials—we had one is morning—and these days some of the state government officials are actually Aboriginal people. I get the impression that they know a lot about what you are saying, Ken. The people we talked to actually know that what you are saying is mostly true. But there is a big difference between them knowing what is true and them actually being able to put programs and policies into effect that reflect the kind of thing you are saying. Tell me if I am wrong, but I think that what everyone around this table is saying is that you have not got enough money—in some cases you have not got any money—but you think that, if Aboriginal organisations were able to take more responsibility for actually dealing with Aboriginal people with problems, then you would be much more effective than a government program that is delivered through officials who change from time to time and who cannot possibly have the same engagement in the community as you can.

Mr Scott Wilson —You might be right there, to a certain extent. A lot of us here receive Commonwealth funding. The kinship project, for example, was initially funded by the Commonwealth under the Strengthening Families initiative, and it is the same with police drug diversion. They are Commonwealth funded projects which then come to the state government—and state government priorities change, which is what happened recently around the Aboriginal Kinship Program. The state government decided that they would reorganise or restructure the way they did that, so that program has disappeared to a certain extent. Police drug diversion is the same. It was Commonwealth funded, it hit the state government, and then the state government had different priorities than perhaps what the initial funding was for.

As you would know, Chair, it costs $270 to keep somebody in either a juvenile centre or an adult jail, versus about $90 to provide somebody with treatment. We still do not have here in Adelaide, for example, a residential treatment service for Indigenous folk, whether young people, old people, females or males. The Grannies Group, as Colleen and Lorraine said, go down to the Nunga Court, ‘Nunga’ being another term for ‘Aboriginal’ here in South Australia. The problem is that the magistrate there really has no alternative but eventually to give that sort of client a good behaviour bond, a fine or incarceration, so we need these alternatives—a treatment centre or something like that—that they could refer them to.

A lot of the folk that come through the correctional system do so as a result of drugs and alcohol. At the moment we people here are the front line, really. We can deal with young folk or older folk, but we can only go so far, because there are not the add-on type services to refer those people to. To me, that is part of the major issue here. We are bandaids really. The South Australian government has not been prepared to invest in the Grannies Group, Wiltanendi or others that have been spoken about today.

CHAIR —People seem to be saying quite particularly that they think that services would be more effective if Aboriginal groups had control of them.

Mr Scott Wilson —Yes.

Mr Graham —I will speak for Wiltanendi. My work is with the operational stuff of case-managing our kids with my staff. One of the key things that happen is that we have many Aboriginal youth here in the metropolitan area—and, it is fair to say, probably in regional and remote areas as well—that do not have suitable accommodation. There is a big issue here with couch circling, and I think it has been happening for quite some time, whether in this city or any other city. There is no suitable agency—and we work in partnership with many of them—to take on the responsibility of saying, ‘Let’s give these kids a safe place to reside. If it means alternatives and thinking outside the square then we have to decide how we are going to do that. We need to do that, because our kids are getting into situations where there is abuse, there are drugs and alcohol and many other issues are happening. There are too many situations with that, and it gets pushed under the table. It is too hard. The accommodation stuff for youth Australia-wide, I would suggest, is too hard and no-one is prepared to bite the bullet and say, ‘This is what we’re going to bloody do about it.’ This agency will not take responsibility, nor will that. There will come a time when our kids are going to continue to suffer and we are going to have younger and younger kids out there on the streets at God knows what time when they should be at home in a safe house or environment. It is going to continue. So at some point someone has to make the decision, ‘Let’s start looking after kids, because they’re our future.’ If we do not start looking after our bloody kids, we will be lost.

Mrs Williams —It has to be working 24 hours, with places open after hours, because that is when everything starts—after five o’clock—and everything is shut. We need something that goes around the clock, 24/7. That is what we need for our kids—somewhere where they know they can identify them and where they can go. We need a one-stop shop place, not one where they can palm you off to the next one or the next one or the next one. We want a one-stop shop where they can go and get all the services together without someone saying, ‘You’ve got to go over to so-and-so.’ It makes it harder for those workers too. They need to be all in one building, a 24/7 place.

Ms Miers —I will just comment on two of those points. What you were talking about, Ken, is exactly what children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders need—those programs that have structure, routine and consistency, helping with all those things. The one problem is that a lot of those programs stop, and children and adults with foetal alcohol disorder need that forever. So they go really well while the program is going, but the minute the program stops they are back to square one, because they do not take a lot of that with them. They do really well while it is there and you have that prompting all the time and you are going over it and doing repetition and all that sort of thing, but the minute you take all that away it stops. This is where I think the Grannies Group and those sorts of organisations come in: they can go, and whatever you have done with them continues in a community area where they can keep on having that support role, modelling, structure, routine, consistency and all the things they need to do well.

The other thing is that what we are talking about here as well is stuff like early intervention, diagnosis, appropriate management and appropriate services before the age of six. A lot of alcohol affected kids will not go on to have these secondary disabilities. They are not born with the disabilities that make them offend, drop out of school early or not do well at school. They can do all of those things really well if they have diagnosis, early intervention and appropriate management before the age of six. So we need to start looking at that too.

CHAIR —You may have put this in something in writing, Sue, but what is the best statistical analysis that you can make of the incidence of FASD now?

Ms Miers —In Australia?

CHAIR —Yes.

Ms Miers —We have not had the studies, but if you look internationally they are saying one in 100. Seeing that we have not had really good education here about alcohol and pregnancy until quite recently, it could be even more. We are in a big wine-drinking, alcohol-drinking culture. Who knows?

Mr Scott Wilson —There is evidence in some of the Indian communities in Canada, for example, where they have an incidence of 189 per 1,000 live births. When you consider, if you have a look at Fitzroy Crossing and some of those other communities, that Aboriginal people—or Australians—drink at the same level as Canadians, where it is estimated that 300,000 people have foetal alcohol syndrome, you have to assume that we have the same issue here. We do not even put warning labels our alcohol containers, as you probably know, whereas if I bought a bottle of Jacob’s Creek in Vancouver or Los Angeles that comes from Adelaide, it would have had a warning label put on here before it is exported.

CHAIR —You South Australians just cannot avoid plugging the state! But we do take that seriously.

Mr Scott Wilson —It is about early intervention; it is about education. But the thing is, we are an Aboriginal community controlled organisation and we do not receive any additional funding from our funder, which is the Commonwealth, to actually produce health promotional type educational resources unless we are lucky enough to go out and find some other grant.

CHAIR —If you from ADAC or from Kumangka had your fondest wish fulfilled and you thought about how many more resources you would need before you could deal with the group who are your clients or potentially your clients, how much more do you think you would need? What sort of unmet need do you think there is in the areas in which you work? I know it is not a question you can answer with precision, but you would have a feeling.

Mrs Williams —That depends on the conditions that they put on that funding, too. We made a video that we use and take into prisons. People funded us, and they wanted to have all the say in it. We refused to have their funding because they wanted to do it their way, so we got funding elsewhere rather than have them take away what we wanted to do our way. That is the fear I have: if you get funding, are they going to keep putting conditions on it?

Mr Scott Wilson —From our point of view, we would like to see, obviously, a 24-hour residential rehabilitation centre for Indigenous folk here in Adelaide. The facility in the Pit Lands costs about a million and a half a year to operate. You would assume that it might not be as expensive here in Adelaide. We would like to see that available here, and I will give you a classic reason. We did research, as I said, in 2002 with 307 current injecting drug users in the Aboriginal community. The sad thing is that those people had 450 kids in their care. We said at the South Australian drug summit: ‘If you do nothing for those 300 people, we know who the next generation of drug users will be.’ Eight years later, I would guarantee you that those 450 kids—now a little bit older—are involved in the criminal justice system and are probably costing the government a hell of a lot more than if they had had the rehabilitation centre in the first place. And the court is a classic—the courts could actually defer people rather than send them to a rehab. So we are talking about a few million dollars.

We would also like to see projects like police drug diversion. Byron is a male; there are no female Indigenous diverters out there. We would like to see projects like Katie’s, which does deal with young people in its self-esteem programs and the like, but her project comes to an end in June because it gets that stop-start funding. Part of the issue, as we have said all along, is that government tends to operate on an electoral cycle. Even though we are one of the largest community organisations in this state we still only get annual funding, and actually monthly funding. You do not have the capacity to think: what are we going to do three years down the track that actually might stop young people from getting into drugs or alcohol? There are all those sorts of issues. I will leave it to Stan.

CHAIR —Katie, your program would have to run for some years with any individual before you could be sure that they were okay?

Ms Perry —At the moment it has been running for 4½ years. It will finish in June, which will make four years and nine months. I have had 30 young people come through accredited training. These are young people anywhere from the age of 11 to 17 and sometimes older. They have not completed year 7, or have trouble with sporadic attendance. Some of them are excluded from school for 10 weeks at a time because of various issues, yet I can help them achieve; they learn and get certificate 2 and 3 level in TAFE accreditation. But a teacher cannot teach them.

There are 30 young people who have gone through and received that accreditation. Not only that, we do informal self-esteem programs, one-off events here and there and drug diversionary activities like learning to surf, where we take 10 young boys down to Moana for five weeks and do stuff. They learn to surf, they have fun and we also talk about what is happening in their lives and how we can fix that so that at the end of the five weeks we can have some steps in place so they do not end up back in court or back in trouble.

Every single one of those young people has problems with literacy and numeracy, and attendance in mainstream schooling is just not for them. My program is set up as an alternative learning program. The referral list from schools is this long. I cannot take them; I am one person doing one program, and I am a female—it would be great to have a male worker as well in my team, but that has not happened yet. And these young people are going to have nothing after June.

Mr Bromley —What is that program you run down at Kura Yerlo there?

Ms Perry —I am working with the ICAN program. It is a flexible learning option program. Young people who for whatever reason are not allowed to be at school can still receive SOSE units towards their future. They are all within the juvenile justice system and they are in and out of court for various reasons as well.

CHAIR —But it sounds as if you think you are not even touching the sides of the possible client pool that you might have?

Ms Perry —No, I cannot do it.

CHAIR —I realise that Jimmy and Byron have been maintaining a patient silence, and I wonder whether you want to say anything before we get to the end of things?

Mr Perry —As you know, I work on a program called Makin’ Tracks, which is a unique project as well. We can do rapid responses to Aboriginal communities dealing with any crisis which happens around drug and alcohol and also other issues.

CHAIR —Petrol sniffing?

Mr Perry —Petrol sniffing is one of our main ones as well. We go out and support communities around petrol-sniffing issues. There are other issues coming up; it is not only just the funding, it is also the male and female. I work with a team in which there are two males and, like Scott said, we cover the whole state and cross over the borders. Having a female team to deal with this as well would be very helpful. Again, it comes down to funding.

CHAIR —Another funding need.

Mr Wright —Mine are the same issues that Scott Wilson mentioned. For the last four years, I think, I have been asking for a female diversion worker because you cannot deal with the opposite sex. It makes it so much harder. I have been fortunate; I have had no one deny to speak with me or work with me. But I think that denies the woman the chance to speak, just in case there is something there that she cannot speak to me about. That is a real pitfall.

There is also the fact that we only see them once and there is no extended time to work with these children. Like many of the people here, you do not get the time to work with them and that makes it really hard. I do not understand why the government has not—for want of a better word—fired up and put a female in there to work with the women. That is denying them access to any sort of help. It confuses me why they have not reacted to that. I would say that I have had it in my report for the last five or six years, saying to them directly, ‘I need a female to be able to give the women the opportunity to say something that they cannot say to me’.

CHAIR —Stan—sorry, we cut you off before.

Mr Butler —Thinking about the resource issue, for Kumangka it is very much in two parts. There is the volume of work that is out there—and we are never going to get the resource to meet the need, but, for us, a dedicated resource that has long-term commitment is a major focus. And the focus on early intervention and non-statutory intervention is a key area that needs to be accepted as a priority that needs to be built into agreements and measured in different ways as a key piece of work. Clearly within current agreements nothing is happening in that regard.

When I look at the Closing the Gap initiative, it is a long-term strategy around improving the life expectancy of Aboriginal people. What I have not seen so far is dedicated money for the non-government sector. Almost all of that funding is being consumed within state bureaucracy. There are things that are happening in terms of building the statutory areas of response, but in terms of early intervention there is almost nothing. I stand to be corrected, but the biggest fund of stimulus money in South Australia has gone to a non-Aboriginal organisation. I think that speaks volumes for the level of commitment and the lack of—

CHAIR —That is a non-Aboriginal organisation delivering services to Aboriginal people?

Mr Butler —Yes. It flies in the face. When we talk about self-determination, it just undermines the principle. It is almost a dead concept within government. I think we are still carrying the deficits, I suppose, and perceptions of ATSIC and misappropriation, because the organisations that are operating now are very much—in the level of governance and the expectations in terms of audit.

CHAIR —We had this conversation this morning at some length with the Youth Justice Aboriginal Advisory Committee. They made the point eloquently.

Mr Butler —In terms of Kumangka’s position and support for what I am saying, in 2009 we received a figure of about $300,000. Since then it has gradually declined, so our funding is getting smaller and our focus is moving away, off into totally another direction and pushing more towards a mainstream agenda.

CHAIR —Simply because you have to regard children at risk as being more urgent—and you cannot help that; it is true; they are. It is the definition of bandaid.

Mrs Williams —Can I just say one thing?

CHAIR —Absolutely, Lorraine. I would not try and stop you, but can I just say this. I will have to leave in five minutes, just because there is a plane. I am sorry about that. I want to say how grateful I am that you have all been prepared to come and give us your time and be so sensible. It is really very valuable, and do not forget it is all being recorded and we are not going to lose all of this. But at a certain moment I am going to have to just jump up and go. I hope that you have a good weekend. Lorraine, I know you want to say something.

Mrs Williams —I just want to say that we badly need counsellors—for guys in prison, for people outside prison, for parents that have never dealt with their problems and cannot help their kids. We badly need counsellors.

CHAIR —This morning we were talking a lot about the kinds of programs—which exist a little bit—that we know from around the world work; that is to say programs of quite intensive family counselling and therapy and what have you. They are expensive to do because they often take a few people to do them, but if they are successful then there is a whole family of kids that benefit. We talked about that.

Mrs Williams —But when you look at the money they have wasted and nothing has been gained—

CHAIR —I know, but this afternoon you have been just reminding me over and over again that you cannot possibly meet the need that you see around you for dealing with kids who are dropping out of school, boys that are leaving prison. There are just not the facilities that you need—

Mr Wright —Long term.

CHAIR —to deal with them over the longer term. This morning’s conversation—just to be explicit for you—was also about the stuff that Scott has been raising, that such a lot of funding for non-government organisations is really short term. Such a lot of it is for programs that are called pilot programs. I suppose we all have to accept that you have to be able to have evaluation of a program and you have to be able to change it from time to time, but I think you would all say too that you want programs that, even if they have to change somewhat, have got a long-term life and some kind of a chance to work.

Mr Bromley —I have been sitting here all the time. I am not with this mob. I am from Kura Yerlo an Aboriginal organisation down at Largs Bay. You have been talking about all your programs, youth programs and all that kind of thing. I am the chair of Kura Yerlo. The person who is supposed to be here is down in Mount Gambier and I have taken his position today. The Grannies Group is part of our organisation down at Kura Yerlo, Katie’s program is—all these programs are run through this one place. Everybody else has been talking but you have missed me. You are talking about youth programs and helping young people. Kura Yerlo does that. It has a youth program which has run for the last couple of years. The program that Katie has been talking about has been running for the last year helping young people who have never liked going to school and this organisation has been helping them. We have a driver’s education program down there, so anybody who has someone who wants to learn to drive can just ring up Kura Yerlo.

CHAIR —How is Kura Yerlo funded?

Mr Bromley —It is a non-funded organisation. The CEO down there, Tania King, has been there for the last seven years. Before she took over the place was in the red. She got it out of the red and into the black. There are all those programs happening down there, the youth programs, drivers education, first aid programs and all of that.

CHAIR —You are a bit of Lorraine’s idea of a one-stop shop in Largs Bay.

Mr Bromley —You are talking about accommodation for youth. I know the Aboriginal hostels have got young people in them but they should have hostels for young people too. It is all for adults, there is nothing for youth. When Luprina Hostel first started up at Dudley Park it was mainly built for people coming out of jail. It is the same with the one outside of town in the Payneham Road area. They were built specially for people coming out jails and for youth and that kind of stuff. Now they house people coming from the bush. They have nothing for youth. I think they should have hostels for youth. You have been talking about it here today. We had a program out there years ago where I went out and talked to the young people. Don Hayward who I am representing today works at Kura Yerlo with the drug and alcohol program down there. He has been talking to me about starting this program out at Cavan Youth Centre where elders can go out and talk to the young people. All these pilot programs have been going. Kumangka was a part of Kura Yerlo. Tania King was on that board too. She has been on the board of a lot of programs. Kura Yerlo is for everybody around the whole metro area. Anybody can go there.

CHAIR —Where it is located?

Mr Bromley —It is at 208 Lady Gowrie Drive, Largs Bay. It is right on the beachfront. It is in the western region. It is one of the best places that ever happened around that area, with all the programs they run down there.

CHAIR —Such things exist in other parts of Australia, too: a coordinating Aboriginal organisation which draws together many services and does mean that there is a central place for people to relate to.

Mr Bromley —Yes.

CHAIR —Thank you. I am glad you got in at the last minute. I thought, Trevor, you were grandpa with the Grannies Group!

Mr Bromley —No, no, no. I am with a different elders program.

CHAIR —I am going to have to run, I apologise. It is really fantastic that you all came. Thank you. You have helped crystallise some of our thoughts a lot. You will see, I hope, some of what you say in our recommendations.

Subcommittee adjourned at 4.22 pm