Evaluation of the Bringing them home and Indigenous mental health programs
1.6 Government responses to the BTH Report
1.6.1 Implementation of recommendations from the BTH ReportThe Australian Government set aside $62.85 million over the period 1998-2001 to address the needs identified in the BTH Report, which included:
- $16 million devoted to the BTH Program (managed by OATSIH)
- $17 million for education and training, including the SEWB RC Program (managed by OATSIH)
- $11.25 million to establish a national network of Link-Up services (this was initially managed by the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission between 1998-2003, but then transferred to OATSIH)
- $5.9 million to be spent on parenting support programs (management of most of these funds was subsequently transferred to the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs)
- $9 million had already been allocated to support Indigenous languages and culture
- small additional sums for archiving, preservation of records and oral history recordings.
In addition, in 2001-2002 the Australian Government allocated $53.8 million over four years (to June 2006) to continue the Link-Up services and the education and training, counselling and parenting elements of the original package of measures. This brought the total package of expenditure to $116.65 million for the period to June 2006.
The programs that are subject to this evaluation therefore represent the primary government response to the Bringing Them Home Report.
1.6.2 Adequacy of the response to the BTH ReportReports which have examined the adequacy of the government's response to the BTH Report have concluded that there is inadequate information on this issue, and the response has been poorly coordinated and insufficiently targeted to meet the needs of the Stolen Generations.
For instance, in November 1999 the Senate's Legal and Constitutional References Committee undertook an Inquiry into the Federal Government's implementation of the recommendations in the BTH Report. The Inquiry was asked to determine, amongst other matters:
- whether the Australian Government's response had been adequate and effective
- ways for governments to establish an alternative dispute resolution tribunal
- ways for the Australian Government to set up adequately funded mechanisms for counselling and recording testimonies of the Stolen Generations
- effective ways of implementing the recommendations
- the consistency of the Australian Government's response with the hopes, aspirations and needs of the Stolen Generations and their descendants.
The Inquiry found that the lack of effective coordination and monitoring of implementation meant that there was insufficient current and accurate information and data on the progress of programs (p3), and that there was insufficient consultation on a range of issues.
The Inquiry observed that it was not entirely clear from the BTH Report who was to be included in the target group of various recommendations relating to reparation and compensation, which may have created some confusion in terms of the implementation of recommendations from the report.
Findings from the Inquiry included that:
- considerable progress could be made towards reconciliation and progress if the Commonwealth and NT parliaments (and to a lesser extent, police forces other than that of NSW) apologised for their role in the past policies and practice of forcible removal
- the Government's response did not indicate attitudes and policies which reflect an awareness of the past, and that limited change had occurred since the release of the BTH Report
- the failure to develop an effective monitoring and evaluation system for implementation of recommendations from the BTH Report was an example of an inability to provide effective leadership, or evidence of disinterest in demonstrating changes that may be occurring
- there was a serious lack of accurate and up to date information regarding implementation readily available in a user-friendly format
- establishment of an efficient and objective clearing-house was required to provide information on progress of implementation of recommendations. Top of page
There are many problems with the extent and nature of the response by the Commonwealth and others. The problems reflect an under-funded and badly directed response [which]… relate to the Indigenous community in general rather than to the Stolen Generations.
(SLCC 2000, p281)
The Stolen Generations of the NT asserted that current services do not meet the needs of the Stolen Generations people, and that those most in need are denied access to current services. Thus, 'the allocated $63 million in 1997, and the allocated $54 million in 2001, are funds that have been misdirected' (CASG&FAC 2002, p4).
The Canadian organisation the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) compared the Australian experience to that of other colonised nations with similar histories. It concluded that this experience has demonstrated:
failures on the part of governments to formally recognise and affirm Indigenous rights and to accept responsibility for past policies aimed at assimilating Indigenous people is an impediment to healing, both symbolically and with respect to the development of policies and programs that support individual and community healing.
(AHF 2006, p51)