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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1437

Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (16:48): I rise to speak on today's MPI and do so to agree with the statement, particularly in reference to ensuring children from any postcode in Australia, city or country, can get a quality education. I point to commentary last week—hurtful commentary by government ministers, members, candidates and the media—in which those opposite have been advocating for a one-size-fits-all approach to the adoption of children in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It is frightening and it is ill informed. I understand some of their concerns. Indeed, I share some of their concerns in regard to the safety, wellbeing and future of our children, which we know is absolutely paramount for any child, in any postcode, in any city, in any bush country town.

Sexual violence is a terrible crime and is even more horrifying when committed against a child. It's tragic and it's awful, but our responses should not become a competition of outrage, of who is more outraged than the next person. It is actually about humanity rising above—transcending—the differences that we have, and knowing that it is about caring. It does not mean that we should revert to removing children from their homes, their families and their culture.

As part of educating and protecting our children, the Territory government has already taken substantive steps to reform youth justice and child protection, investing in new bail support services, accommodation facilities and family and youth supports. This demonstrates the absolute seriousness with which the Territory government has taken the royal commission's findings and its understanding of the need for wholesale reform of a broken youth justice system. I urge the Turnbull government to take responsibility and negotiate in good faith and work collaboratively with Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the Northern Territory government so that the royal commission's findings can be implemented and so that every child, everywhere, has a solid future.

First-nations people and organisations must be front and centre in developing solutions. Governments must work with first nations people in the co-design and delivery of programs. It's absolutely unhelpful to take the advice of ill-informed commentators—for example, the commentators on the Channel 7 Sunrise program, who have yet to include first nations people in their conversations. Safe, secure housing has to feature in keeping children safe. It will also play a critical role in addressing the cost-of-living pressures for the parents and/or guardians of vulnerable children.

Unfortunately the Turnbull government has walked away from investing in remote housing. We know of the high rates of homelessness. Katherine has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the Northern Territory. We have families who are living with 15 people in their homes because these houses cannot be built. There are no commitments to SA, WA and Queensland. The minister has backflipped on his original commitment to match the NT's $1.1 billion investment in regional and remote housing. We desperately need this funding so our communities can thrive. Closing remote communities, calling for another NT intervention and calling for the removal of more Indigenous children from their families is a knee-jerk response to complex, deep-rooted issues.

We know widespread child removal is not a panacea. We know culture and child safety are not mutually exclusive. The safety of the child is always paramount. Unlike those opposite, Labor will do something positive to ensure our children have the best chance in life. In our first 100 days in office, Labor will convene a national summit on first nations children. The summit will bring governments and experts together to help find solutions to this crisis, working with first nations people.

Every child has a right to grow up healthy, happy and safe. Every child has a right to a roof over their head. Every child has a right to world-class education, no matter where they live. Kids in the Northern Territory don't deserve to have their future stifled. They don't deserve the $15 million in funding cuts from the Northern Territory's premier university, Charles Darwin University. They deserve to be more than safe; they deserve to have a roof over their heads; they deserve proper access to medical facilities— (Time expired)