NT intervention unlikely to improve long-term health of Aboriginal people


The intended health outcomes of the Northern Territory intervention – improved health and wellbeing and, ultimately, longer life expectancy – are unlikely to be fully achieved, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

A health impact assessment undertaken by the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA), using methods endorsed by the World Health Organization, predicts potential health outcomes for Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). The NTER was introduced by the Howard Government in 2007 to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

AIDA President, Professor Peter O’Mara, said the Association chose to undertake the assessment in response to the deep concern among Aboriginal communities about the lack of community consultation on the introduction of the NTER.

“The health impact assessment findings speak for themselves and show that the intervention does more harm than good,” Prof O’Mara said.

“The report’s disturbing prediction – that the intervention will cause profound long-term damage to our Indigenous communities – should be of concern to all Australians, including medical practitioners.”

The report found that any possible benefits to physical health were largely outweighed by negative impacts on psychological health, social health and wellbeing, and cultural integrity; that the increasing levels of mistrust caused by the Howard Government’s implementation of the intervention will continue to compromise the Rudd Government’s ability to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to achieve shared objectives; and that the potential negative impacts of the intervention may be minimised, but only if governments commit to working in respectful partnerships with Indigenous people.

“With great generosity of spirit, communities spoke about their willingness to work with governments to show them how to get things right,” Prof O’Mara said.

“However, the longer a centralist-style of intervention continues, the more the creeping mistrust of governments will become entrenched.”

The health impact assessment of the NTER is available at www.aida.org.au/hia.aspx

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


The statements or opinions that are expressed in the MJA  reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA unless that is so stated.


CONTACT:     Prof Peter O’Mara                               02 6273 5013