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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
21/02/2012

LOW, Ms Susie, Chief Executive Officer, Mt Theo Program, Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation

[15.06]

Ms Low : I would just like to lend my views to some of the points that were raised today and perhaps note just a few more. It has been said today that funding is finishing at the end of this financial year. There is one that we would like particular attention paid to. It was a wonderful initiative from FaHCSIA called Youth in Communities. That came out of the Closing the Gap strategy. We have been able to do a massive amount of work using that funding in all of our Warlpiri communities. I would like to table a discussion paper for the information of the committee. I have been told variously that of course it will continue or that I will hear in the May budget. I have the same constraints. I do not want to close down programs and I do not want to fire people. And I do not like to think about what will happen in those communities if we do not have some sort of assurance, at the very least to plan. Another issue that has been raised today in terms of policing in communities. All of WYDAC is very grateful for the increase in policing for the last five years. But we have a real problem in that for several months now we have had to ring 000 if we have a local problem, and that is a massive issue. We have actually written to the NT commissioner. A lot of people in our communities find it quite difficult talking on phones to start with. The emergency call can take five minutes. We are very concerned. There is a very slow response time now to police matters. Local police know who is ringing, what the issue is, what the level of risk is and what the danger is, and they can be there within moments. Our local police are quite prepared to respond, but they are not permitted to, because of this 000 system. I know this has been raised in other forums. I just want to add that. The letter we got from the NT commissioner was not particularly helpful.

I apologise—I should have mentioned that I bring greetings from my WYDAC board. There is a lot of community business going on at the moment, but I come with their blessings. We also express our complete support for paying for sites that WYDAC is using across all the Warlpiri communities in this leasing agreement. We absolutely support that. In fact, most of the negotiations currently underway allow for a two-year period, and then renegotiation. We are concerned about what will happen after that two years. We do not have money. We are looking at about 20 sites, and I do not know where that money will come from, but we want it to be a fair negotiation with traditional owners. I would just like to put that on the table.

There was a bit of discussion before about cannabis use and suicide attempts. There is definitely a correlation there, in our experience. We also found that suicide attempts in our Warlpiri communities went from zero, two years ago, to 12 in the six-month period between June and December last year. The good news is that none of them were completed suicides. That was specifically due to the WYDAC Counselling Service. But it is still, I think, indicative of a psyche in the community which definitely needs to be addressed. I do hope that this legislation will allow enough resources to enable that to be continued in a very real way. That is all I have to say today. Thank you for allowing me to speak.

Senator SIEWERT: The calling of 000—we heard about this yesterday, but we understood it was for after hours. Are you saying you have to phone 000 all the time?

Ms Low : No.

Senator SIEWERT: It is after hours.

Ms Low : That is when emergencies mostly happen.