More punitive measures for Aboriginal communities won’t get results: Greens

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Collaboration and not punishment is the key to getting positive results when it comes to school attendance in the Northern Territory, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

Responding to the reported details of the Government’s Strong Futures Consultation report, Senator Siewert said she was deeply concerned about the expansion of top-down, punitive measures aimed at improving school attendance.

"The School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM) trial is a sanctions-based approach which causes further harm to families and doesn't address the underlying causes of alienation from the education system," Senator Siewert said.

"Minister Jenny Macklin would do better to commit to the principles outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, to guide a better approach to education. There needs to be significant reform to the education system to meet Aboriginal needs, including working with parents and ensuring a commitment to bi-lingual approach to education.

"Under the UN Declaration, which Australia has endorsed, Indigenous people have the right to free, prior informed consent, self determination, participation and the right to be different and therefore the education system must accommodation this and meet peoples' needs.

"The Minister is eager to convince the public of the validity of her consultations, but I have heard a different story -people in the Northern Territory have spoken out against selective consultation and argued that the consultations had a foregone conclusion.

"Since the Intervention began, the Government has been unable to demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach, but despite this they keep pursuing it.

"It’s time for the Government to stop trying to demonstrate they can be tougher on Aboriginal communities than the Opposition, and start investigating community controlled and evidence-based measures to improve the lives of Aboriginal Australians," Senator Siewert concluded.