Partnerships With Indigenous Communities Needed To Tackle Child Abuse

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 1 2007 3:07 PM

Sustainable solutions planned in partnership with Indigenous leaders are needed if the Government’s interventions to tackle child abuse in Indigenous communities are to have any lasting effect, according to an article published online by the Medical Journal of Australia.

Professor Ian Ring, Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Health Service Development at the University of Wollongong, and his colleague, Dr Mark Wenitong, Senior Lecturer at James Cook University, say any interventions to tackle these problems must reflect the long-term goals of Indigenous people and communities.

“The Government measures involve considerable reliance on uniformed services and coercive intervention, and limited consultation with the Aboriginal communities and leaders concerned,” Prof Ring says.

“We urge that, at the earliest possible stage, the Government consider enlisting the support and involvement of Indigenous leaders in the health field, and give much more serious consideration to community-engagement strategies.”

Prof Ring and Dr Wenitong also emphasise the need to tackle the broader social and health issues that underpin child abuse.

“The abuse of children cannot be dealt with effectively as a separate issue without also addressing the related health, social, education, and economic issues,” Prof Ring says.

He lists a number of long-standing problems including environmental and housing issues, deficiencies in mental and other health services, law enforcement, social services and the criminal justice system.

“The federal government’s intervention is a chance to make real gains in eliminating child abuse and the health, social, economic and other problems associated with it, but this requires bipartisan commitment for sustained, long-term interventions.

“We must do whatever it takes to save these children from sexual abuse today, but we must also ensure safe, healthy communities and a meaningful life for the children born into these communities in the years to come.”

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.