In May 2006, Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers stunned Australia with allegations that child sexual abuse and neglect were widespread in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Her allegations led to the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ investigation in 2007, which found sexual abuse was serious, widespread, and often under-reported in towns and communities across the Territory.
A decade later, co-chair of the report, Rex Wild QC says Canberra largely ignored the report’s key recommendations and instead used it as a political tool to push for the intervention.
“I think that Canberra seized upon it [the report] for political reasons and that precipitated the invasion of the Northern Territory, it was a poor response; the wrong response,” Mr Wild told NITV News.
He said while the inquiry was originally set up to investigate child abuse, the report discovered much larger social problems within Aboriginal communities that needed to be addressed.
It highlighted a 'breakdown' of Aboriginal culture and society, and recommended that the government support and empower Aboriginal people to address abuse within their communities.
However, this key part of the report seemed to be “totally missed by the parliament," Mr Wild said.
“What I've learnt is that it doesn’t matter how many times you say it, people don’t listen properly,” he said.
“One of the threshold items of the report is that community consultation is needed to be able to best implement the report, and that clearly didn’t happen.”
The report recommended better education for Indigenous children, alcohol reform, and improved employment prospects for Aboriginal communities.
Instead, the Federal Government instigated the Northern Territory National Emergency Response and suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, sent the army into communities, demanded health tests for all Indigenous children, and banned alcohol, pornography, and gambling.
“One of the threshold items of the report is that community consultation is needed to be able to best implement the report and that clearly didn’t happen.”
“The Intervention right away got community members off side, so that of course would cause delays in the following on from the report’s findings.”
It has now been 10 years since the influential document was released, but Indigenous communities still struggle with many of the issues outlined in the report.
Rates of Indigenous incarceration have doubled since 2007; the number of children in out-of-home care has gone up three times, and there has been a spike in youth suicide and self-harm.
“...the Little Children report actually follows a 15-year implementation plan, so that’s how long it should take for things to turn around, and we can safely say that it hasn’t been implemented and that it's still years away,” Mr Wild said.
“Politicians just keep paying lip service to it.”