Solutions offered for struggling NT communities
Jobs, alcohol plans and justice reforms will be key to reducing violence and helping to lift remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities out of poverty, a parliamentary inquiry says.
A report released on Wednesday made nine recommendations for the federal and territory governments following the end of the Stronger Futures Act last year.
Alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs were implemented under the legislation which was allowed to lapse by the former Morrison government, with the NT replacing them with opt-in measures.
This allowed town camps and smaller Indigenous communities to choose if they wanted to remain dry.
The NT government had to reverse its decision last month and reinstate opt-out grog bans following alcohol-fuelled violence and national scrutiny.
The parliament's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee recommended a review into the "inadequate preparations" for the sunsetting of the legislation by the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the territory's Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet.
The report calls for the NT to properly resource communities to help develop alcohol plans.
It says the federal government should investigate how it can stimulate the economies of remote communities and report back by the end of February next year.
Community-led justice reinvestment initiatives should be implemented across Australia, but as soon as possible in Alice Springs and Katherine, the committee says.
The Commonwealth should develop policy by mid-2024 that ensures large businesses in remote communities employ local Indigenous people and contract their businesses for work.
A submission from the Alice Springs Hospital says alcohol-related violence was much bigger than a health issue.
"We really need to start looking at housing, meaningful employment, education, hope and despair," it says.
"That's what this is all about. It's not about alcohol, because the more you focus down on the narrow thing of alcohol the more I think you miss a real opportunity."
Committee chair and Labor senator Pat Dodson said investment in support services and programs will be essential to improving socio-economic outcomes, particularly for remote communities.
"Governments need to listen and acting on what communities say will work best for them," he said.
In a statement released ahead of the report, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney announced the government will consult on the National Justice Reinvestment Program, and establishing a National Justice Reinvestment Unit.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented at every point in the justice system," it says.
"Turning the tide on the unacceptably high rate of incarceration and deaths in custody is a key priority for the Albanese government."
Justice reinvestment works with Indigenous communities to identify the best way to prevent and reduce contact with the criminal justice system.
The Commonwealth will be seeking joint funding and data sharing with the states and territories as part of the national justice reinvestment program.