The Northern Territory child protection system is routinely failing to investigate serious cases of child neglect. Repeated notifications from doctors, teachers and social workers are being ignored, and the cases of more than 1000 children at risk are sitting unexamined. The "overwhelming failure" of the Territory's child protection system was laid bare in more than 700 pages of a report released yesterday that detailed the "tsunami of need" among Aboriginal children in remote communities. The report, the result of an 11-month inquiry by former NT children's commissioner Howard Bath, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency chief executive Muriel Bamblett, and pediatrician Rob Roseby, described a critically overstretched child protection system struggling under the weight of an "enormous and chronic backlog of investigations".
Julia Gillard has dramatically altered the government's policy on asylum-seekers, opening two more detention centres to house 2000 would-be refugees. The PM has bowed to pressure to release children and their families into the community. As Australia's detention centre network nears breaking point, with more than 5200 asylum-seekers and crew currently under guard, the Prime Minister yesterday announced plans for new centres in Northam, northeast of Perth, and Inverbrackie, in the Adelaide Hills. Ms Gillard denied the plans indicated the government had ditched its regional approach to processing asylum-seekers. She said the new centres represented a short-term solution and would allow the closure of temporary detention housing currently being used, including tents and motels.
Infectious disease experts have called for more funding to prevent sexually transmitted infections after Australia reported its highest number of new HIV diagnoses since the 1990s. A report from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research yesterday showed that 1050 people were diagnosed with HIV last year, up from 718 cases in 1999. It is the highest number to be recorded since a similar total in 1994. In Victoria, infections have decreased slightly from 5.5 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.2 per 100,000 people last year. While most new infections were still among gay men, the proportion of infections among heterosexuals has increased from about 10 per cent of all new diagnoses in 2000 to about 29 per cent last year.
The fight to close the gap in Northern Territory indigenous communities has had dramatic results, with a 46 per cent increase in job placements in just six months, according to the latest Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Report. In the six months to June, 849 Aborigines had been placed in jobs in the 73 communities targeted by the NT emergency response, compared with 582 in the previous half-year. The report also says the presence of extra police in the remote communities led to a 17 per cent increase in assault convictions since the federal intervention was launched in 2007. In the first six months of this year the mobile child protection team had visited 56 communities and investigated and provided follow-up services on 666 matters of child abuse or neglect.
Driving along the Hume Highway, motorists encounter billboards designed to save their lives. But now, among the road safety messages, is a new billboard that champions the right to die. After some legal arm-wrestling, Exit International has succeeded in erecting the six-metre by three-metre billboard on the highway at Yagoona. It says that ''85 per cent of Australians support voluntary euthanasia. Our government doesn't. Make them listen.'' More billboards are proposed, and the director of Exit International, Philip Nitschke, is considering using similar wording in redrafted television advertisements after a more emotive commercial was cancelled two days before it was due to screen. Advertisers had feared the TV ad breached laws against aiding or abetting suicide or attempted suicide. Billboards Australia baulked at the Hume Highway ad for the same reason but eventually agreed there was no legal impediment.
The Vatican has put its seal on a great contributor to this nation. Yesterday Mary MacKillop was canonised at St Peter's Basilica here in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI as St Mary of the Cross, the first Australian-born saint in the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church. We are delighted and grateful. The Australia of today that welcomes this canonisation is very different from the separate British colonies where Mary spent most of her life before the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. In most ways Australia is now a better society because of the wisdom and hard work of our predecessors, women and men like Sister Mary. The Australia that was and is Protestant or irreligious has made room for Catholics and we are grateful for this, too.
Confused travellers unsure about what sort of porn they’re allowed to bring into Australia have prompted a re-working of incoming passenger cards. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said he had asked to change the wording on the declaration cards travellers must fill out when they fly into Australia. “The previous card stated that travellers needed to disclose any ‘pornography’ they were carrying,’’ Mr O’Connor said. ‘‘That has now been amended to read ‘illegal pornography’.’’
Lawyers will campaign against perceived injustices in bail, sentencing and personal injury laws as the state election approaches. The Law Society of NSW said yesterday it would lobby both sides of politics to repeal section 22A of the Bail Act for juveniles, which was designed to limit repeat applications for bail but has led to more people, especially children, being held on remand. ''The Bail Act is just too tough. The average time juveniles are spending on remand has gone up from 15 days to 30 days between 2008 and 2009,'' the president of the Law Society, Mary Macken, said.
Prison officials have done nothing to overcome discrimination against non-English-speaking women prisoners five years after the problem was first raised, according to research to be released today. The report by the Centre for Human Rights of Imprisoned People suggests Corrections Victoria paid only lip service to the need to better accommodate women from minority populations, having ''adopted a language of cultural inclusiveness and respect for diversity [which has] an overwhelming lack of substance''. It also takes aim at the state Equal Opportunity Commission for failing to press for reforms affecting non-English-speaking female prisoners.
They can be a fickle bunch the Liberals. Late last month, some Victorian Liberal MPs were backgrounding the media that their leader Ted Baillieu was "sleepwalking" to defeat. They were cutting words that stung even more because they came from within the tent. A few weeks and one decent opinion poll result later, and the criticism has disappeared quicker than witnesses to a Jeff Kennett assassination attempt. Tentatively upbeat Liberal MPs are now talking about an election that is there for the taking.
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February 15, 2019
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