Hardcore pornography was found to be pervasive in the Aboriginal communities and easily accessible by children, who were then desensitized to sexual behavior by being exposed to explicit materials. Planned regulations call for a ban on adult materials, including monitoring of publicly funded computers to ensure no sexual content was downloaded or stored on them.
“This is a national emergency,” Howard told the Australian Parliament on Thursday. “We're dealing with a group of young Australians for whom the concept of childhood innocence has never been present.”
An Associated Press article reported that Howard was responding to a commissioned report released last week that said there is rampant child abuse in indigenous communities in the Northern territories, including juvenile prostitution. The report blamed alcoholism, unemployment and poverty as causes behind the abuse.
Howard said that the Commonwealth was intervening in reaction to the Northern Territories’ government failure to address the situation.
Northern Territories Chief Minister Clare Martin said she was happy to work with the federal government but said it was “utter rubbish” that her government had been slow to act.
In addition, the report stated that alcohol abuse helps to create an environment of neglect and opportunity for pedophiles to take advantage of children. A ban on the sale, transportation and possession of alcohol on Aboriginal land would be in effect and reviewed after six months.
Tighter control over welfare assistance to the Aborigines would also be implemented, according to Howard. He announced increased numbers of police, mandatory health screenings for Aboriginal children and changes to a permit system controlling access to Aboriginal land.
Restrictions on welfare funding would require at least half of welfare payments given to Aborigines to be spent on food and other necessities, and welfare funding given to families would be tied to children’s school attendance.
In order to enact the new policy, Howard would need an act of Parliament; he controls a majority of Parliament and is expected to implement the new laws. Under the control of Australia’s federal government, the new regulations would apply to half of the Northern territories where 60,000 indigenous people live.
Howard urged leaders in six other Australian states to institute similar restrictions.
Aboriginal leaders quickly denounced the plan as “paternalistic” and warned that it could potentially violate federal laws against discrimination. Other leaders and activists accused the regulations of being governmental action that would further disenfranchise indigenous communities.
“I'm absolutely disgusted by this patronizing government control,” said Mitch, who was quoted in the AP article under one name. She is a member of a government board that helps Aborigines taken from their parents under previous assimilation laws.
“If they're going to do that, they're going to have to do that with every single person in Australia, not just black people,” she said.