Mullighan Inquiry: informing and empowering Anangu

First posted on 27 October 2008 under Mullighan Inquiry.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: accountability & communication

Summary

On 30 April 2008, the Mullighan Inquiry highlighted the critical importance of making communities on the APY Lands safe and of empowering Anangu to address the problem of child sexual abuse. For Commissioner Mullighan these two goals needed to be addressed concurrently and as “first priorities.”[i]

More than fifteen months later, in August 2009, the South Australian Government released a two-page “Mullighan Inquiry Update” and noted that it would “soon” hold meetings in APY communities to “talk about what it is doing” in response to the Inquiry’s recommendations.[ii]

The Paper Trail

Introduction

On 30 April 2008, Commissioner Ted Mullighan provided the South Australian Government with the final report of an Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands.

The Inquiry concluded that the incidence of child sexual abuse was “widespread” and that children on the APY Lands lived “in dysfunctional communities where there is considerable violence and fear, drug and alcohol abuse and a sense of hopelessness.”[iii]

In all, the Inquiry made 46 recommendations aimed at addressing this situation. At the same time, it emphasised the critical importance of empowering Anangu to “participate in the solutions.”[iv]

For example, the report states:

It is fundamental to the success of any measure to prevent sexual abuse of children on the Lands that Anangu, particularly the women, be consulted and assisted so that they are empowered to make decisions about their children and keep them safe. No strategy or program can achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating or even reducing child sexual abuse without Anangu having a real sense of hope and relevance … The problems on the Lands cannot be solved overnight. It will take time to find and implement solutions, but unnecessary delay must be avoided. Anangu must be empowered and resourced so that they provide the solutions.[v]

The Inquiry’s emphasis on the need for the Government to work in partnership with Anangu is consistent with the findings of other key reports including: the Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2007[vi] and the Little Children are Sacred report.[vii]

Partnership, empowerment and TKP

On 6 May 2008, the Premier of South Australia (Hon Mike Rann MP) tabled the report of the Mullighan Inquiry in Parliament. In doing so, the Premier emphasised the importance of his government working “in partnership with the APY community wherever possible,” adding that, “dealing immediately and decisively with these issues need not and must not preclude the involvement of Aboriginal people.”[viii] The Premier also drew attention to the Inquiry’s endorsement of the work of Tjungungku Kuranyukutu Palyantjaku (TKP), the peak consultative body for service planning and provision on the APY Lands.[ix]

Established in 2005, TKP comprises representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments and Anangu organisations. It aims to enable:

all organisations delivering services [to the APY Lands] to plan and work together to provide better outcomes in law and order, health, education, employment, housing, and to create greater opportunities for young people.[x]

TKP had been scheduled to receive a presentation on the Mullighan Inquiry from State and Federal Government representatives on 14 August 2008.[xi] The presentation did not go ahead as the meeting was postponed at short notice, until early November 2008.[xii] The reason given for postponing the meeting was “significant staffing changes across the South Australian State Government.”[xiii]

As a result, the State Government’s official response to the Mullighan Inquiry was prepared without any input from TKP.[xiv]

Informing Anangu

Shortly after the report of the Mullighan Inquiry was released, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government for some information on how it intended to communicate its findings and recommendations to Anangu. On 22 September 2008, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) advised the Paper Tracker that:

after the report was released a short explanation of the report and its findings was provided to PY Media where it was read in language approximately twenty times.[xv]

The Minister’s letter continued:

A strategy is being developed to communicate the findings of the report and the recommendations to Anangu. This strategy will be broad based engaging all the relevant groups and stakeholders in the Lands and ensuring that information is provided in an appropriate manner and by appropriate people to Anangu men, women and children. This communication strategy will be used as the foundation for an education strategy about sexual abuse on the Lands as recommended by the Inquiry.[xvi]

On 30 October 2008, the Minister for Families and Communities (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) tabled the Government’s Full Response to the Mullighan Inquiry in State Parliament.[xvii]

Although this document referred to the Government’s “community education strategy” six times, it did not contain any detailed information on the timeframe for this work.[xviii]

For example, the Full Response stated:

the Government is leading the development of a whole-of-government community education strategy regarding child protection in Aboriginal communities … A focus of this work is to develop appropriate community education for delivery on the APY Lands, which will include key messages about the care and protection of children, appropriate sexual behaviours and the law.[xix]

In October 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government when it expected the communication strategy to begin.[xx] As of late August 2009, a response to this request had not been provided.

Additional information (added 28 August 2009)

On 28 April 2009, the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet advised the Paper Tracker that it was organising a series of community meetings – scheduled to be held from 18 May 2009 onwards – to discuss the findings of the Mullighan Inquiry with Anangu.[xxi] The Paper Tracker understands that these meetings did not go ahead as planned.[xxii]

On 26 August 2009, the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) released a two-page “Mullighan Inquiry Update.”[xxiii]

Information contained in the Update was provided in Pitjantjatjara/ Yankunytjatjara and English.

Click here to download a copy of the Update (file size: 108KB)

The Update includes the following statement:

Kuwari Kamanta kutjupa tjuta APY community tjutakutu ananyi anangu tjutangka miitingi wangkantjikitja munuya kunyu nyurala tjakultjunkuku uwankara tjana palyantjatjanungku tjitji tjuta atunymankunytjaku, panya Mullighantu wangkanyangka.

The Government will be visiting communities soon to hold meetings and talk about what it is doing about the things Commissioner Mullighan recommended.[xxiv]

This article was last updated in August 2009. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pv.

[ii] Government of South Australia, August 2009, “Mullighan Inquiry Update”.

[iii] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxiii.

[iv] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pv.

[v] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxv11 & pxviii

[vi] Productivity Commission, 2007. Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2007, p9.

[vii] Northern Territory Government, 2007, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle: ‘Little Children Are Sacred’, Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, p21.

[viii] Rann. M. 6 May 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Ministerial Statement, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3148.

[ix] Rann. M. 6 May 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Ministerial Statement, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3148; see also: Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p97-99.

[x] Government of South Australia, October 2008, “Progress on the Lands:  Update on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands,” p1 & 2.

[xi] TKP, 2008, Draft Agenda for meeting to be held on 14 & 15 August 2008.

[xii] The meeting was postponed, on 8 August 2008 (see: Warren, M. 8 August 2008. Email to TKP members).

[xiii] Warren, M. 8 August 2008. Email to TKP members.

[xiv] The Paper Tracker acknowledges that the State and Federal Government did endeavor to discuss follow-up to the Mullighan Inquiry with some of the organisations represented on TKP. For example, the Paper Tracker understands that in mid October 2008 State and Federal Government representatives attended the annual general meeting of the NPY Women’s council for this purpose (Gillick, V. 26 October 2008. Email to J. Nicholls).

[xv] Weatherill, J. 22 September 2008. Letter to J. Nicholls

[xvi] Weatherill, J. 22 September 2008. Letter to J. Nicholls

[xvii] See: “Papers”, 30 October 2008, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p753. The Government’s Full Response is entitled: “A Report into Sexual Abuse-Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry-Implementation Statement by the Minister for Families and Communities.”

[xviii] Government of South Australia, 30 October 2008, “Implementation Statement by the Minister for Families and Communities to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry,” p10, 18, 32, 38, 47 & 49.

[xix] Government of South Australia, 30 October 2008, “Implementation Statement by the Minister for Families and Communities to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry,” p49.

[xx] Nicholls, J. 14 October 2008. Email to J. Cranney.

[xxi] Richards, S. (DPC-AARD). 28 April 2009. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxii] On 26 June 2009, the Paper Tracker asked AARD for an update on the proposed meetings (Nicholls, J. 26 June 2009. Email to S. Richards). As of late August 2009, this information had not been provided.

[xxiii] Kereskeny, L. (DPC-AARD). 26 August 2009. Email and attachments sent to J. Nicholls and other recipients.

[xxiv] Government of South Australia, August 2009, “Mullighan Inquiry Update”.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.