Culture being used as 'political football' when it comes to protecting neglected children, says NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner
CHIEF Minister Michael Gunner says culture has been used as a “political football” when it comes to protecting neglected children, vowing his government will step in when required to keep children safe.
Mr Gunner said removing a child who was at risk was not “attacking culture”, comments that appeared at odds with those made by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in Katherine this month.
“If a child is not safe in a home, if a two-year-old is at risk or a four-year-old or a six-year-old, that’s not a positive culture. That’s not a positive environment. That child should be saved, and governments have to sometimes step in and make those hard decisions,” Mr Gunner told Sky News.
“This is something that’s emotional for many Territorians and I don’t like that argument about culture in some respects because we do want strong culture but I think it gets used as part of a blame game or a political football.”
During a visit to Katherine earlier this month Mr Shorten said too many Aboriginal children were being removed from their families and stressed the need for them to remain connected to culture.
Mr Shorten criticised “know-it-all whitefellas” who had “come in all paternalistic”, saying they knew how to fix these issues.
But Mr Gunner said his government’s top priority was keeping children safe.
“If a child is at risk in a home you are not attacking a culture. That’s not a positive culture, that’s not a positive environment and no traditional owner I’ve spoken with thinks that. They want strong culture they want positive culture and they want a child to be in a safe place.”
“There are protocols around looking after a child, where when you look for an alternative placement you look for family, you look for kin, you look for culture, but the overriding instinct, impulse, direction from government is to find a safe place for that child.
“If that child is at risk in that home, that’s not a positive culture.”
He said communities and families needed to show leadership to help fix this crisis.
“We need the leadership of these communities to be part of the solution, we need the families to be part of the solution.
“We actually have to have families stand up. We can’t be in those homes at 2am, the family is, we need the family unit to be strong, we need the family unit to be setting standards.”
Mr Gunner also called on the Prime Minister to visit Tennant Creek and other remote communities during his planned visit in early August.
The timing of the trip has many suspecting he will again attend the Garma Festival in Northeast Arnhem Land.
“I hope he goes again ....it’s a very important national conference .... but I do hope he also gets out from Garma, gets to Tennant Creek or any other remote community to see some of the complex problems that we are dealing with in the Northern Territory,” Mr Gunner said.
“We’re willing to throw every door open and provide every government resource to the Prime Minister while he’s here.”