Mullighan Inquiry: State Government’s Full Response

First posted on 29 November 2008 under Mullighan Inquiry.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: child protection & key reports

Summary

On 30 October 2008, the South Australian Government released its Full Response to the 46 recommendations contained in the report of the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands.

The Paper Tracker already tracks State and Federal Government responses to a number of the Inquiry’s specific recommendations.

The following piece examines some overarching issues, including the establishment of timeframes for specific actions; the allocation of new funding; and the steps that the Government is taking to ensure Anangu stay informed and involved.

The Paper Trail

Background

In mid 2007, State Parliament established an Inquiry into the incidence of child sexual abuse on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. In the course of its deliberations, Parliament instituted a clear process for monitoring the Government’s ongoing response to the Inquiry’s report and recommendations.[i]

In short, Parliament decided that after receiving the Inquiry’s report, the Government must provide:

  • a Preliminary Response to its recommendations within three months
  • a Full Response within six months
  • five annual reports outlining the progress that has been made in implementing the recommendations.[ii]

The Inquiry’s report was completed on 30 April 2008 and tabled in Parliament the following week.[iii]

On 24 July 2008, the Preliminary Response was tabled in State Parliament by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP). In an accompanying speech, the Minister told Parliament that particular recommendations required “further consideration before a detailed response” could be given.[iv]

On 30 October 2008, the Minister for Families and Communities (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP) tabled the Full Response.[v] The Minister did not directly address Parliament on the content of the report or provide any commentary on the government’s efforts to respond to specific recommendations.

Projected timeframes and clear statements

When the Preliminary Response was released, the Paper Tracker concluded, after examining it closely, that the inclusion of projected timeframes for specific actions would have strengthened the report. To that end, on 7 August 2008, we advised Minister Rankine of our hope that the Full Response would “be far more comprehensive” and include “the necessary detail to appropriately address the report’s recommendations.”[vi]

The Paper Tracker is pleased to report that the Full Response does include projected timeframes for certain actions, including some anticipated completion dates. For example, the report indicates that three additional social workers and two child protection officers should start work “in December 2008”[vii] and that a safe house at Umuwa is expected to “be operational by the end of 2010.”[viii]

The Paper Tracker is disappointed, however, that this level of information is not provided consistently across all 46 recommendations. For example, as part of its response to Recommendation 3 – regarding the funding and expansion of child sexual abuse prevention programs – the Government reports:

The Department for Families and Communities is working with the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the establishment of 20 traineeships for Anangu on the APY lands.[ix]

The Paper Tracker believes that some indication of when the government expects the Memorandum of Understanding to be completed and when the traineeships might commence would have enabled Parliament to better assess the appropriateness of this response.

Similarly, a clear indication of timeframes for an investigation of strategies “to restrict access to pornographic material, by children in particular” (Recommendation 32) would provide a better insight into any progress made. Instead, the Full Response states:

…SAPOL is undertaking an intelligence probe to identify the depth of pornography in the APY Lands. It is also coordinating a review of computer filtering to ensure inappropriate access is not gained to the internet through computers funded or located within public or government buildings… Awareness training about the dangers of exposing children to pornography is being developed through SAPOL’s Sexual Crime Investigations Branch for delivery to communities throughout the APY Lands.[x]

The Paper Tracker considers that such broad statements, devoid of any specific timeframes, may undermine public confidence; particularly in light on the Premier’s earlier statement that investigating ways “to restrict pornography” would be “one of the first tasks of the Taskforce established to respond to the recommendations of this report.”[xi]

At other points within the Full Response, some indication of an anticipated timeframe or funding allocation would have strengthened the Government’s commitment to address an area of identified need.

For example, the Mullighan Inquiry highlighted substantial, systemic shortcomings in the provision of treatment, and support services to children who had been removed from the APY Lands and brought to Adelaide.[xii] In response to a recommendation aimed at addressing this problem (Recommendation 11), the Full Response states:

The Department for Families and Communities and the Department of Health are continuing to provide treatment and services, accommodation, supervision, and support for children removed from the Lands to Adelaide for child protection reasons and to their parents or carers as required. The departments are also exploring opportunities to streamline processes to support the adequate treatment and services, accommodation, supervision, and support for children removed from the Lands to Adelaide for child protection reasons.[xiii] (emphasis added)

The Paper Tracker is concerned that this statement fails to address the Mullighan Inquiry’s finding that existing treatment and services were inadequate. Moreover, while “exploring opportunities to streamline processes” may be a useful first step, the Paper Tracker does not consider this to be an adequate long term response. It is disappointed that the government’s response makes no mention of the possibility of the allocation of any additional resources.

State Funding

In July 2008, the Paper Tracker concluded, on the basis of our examination of the Preliminary Response that while the State Government had:

reorganised funding to focus more attention on the APY Lands, to date, it does not appear to have allocated any new funding in response to the report and its recommendations. In contrast, the Federal Government has committed an additional $19 million.

The lack of new funding at a State level is at odds with the Inquiry’s finding that addressing “fundamental problems” on the APY Lands will “require significant resources.” It also sits uneasily with those recommendations that called for the provision of “sufficient funds,” “adequate resources” and “the necessary long-term funding.”[xiv]

On 14 November 2008, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) advised the Paper Tracker that her Government’s financial response to the report and recommendations of the Mullighan Inquiry had increased from the aforementioned $19 million to $22.3 million. The Minister noted that this funding is in addition to the $25 million for community housing and $7.5 million “previously approved for police stations and accommodation at Amata and Pukatja.”[xv]

Neither the Preliminary Response, nor the Full Response contain a clear statement on the total amount of new funding that the State Government has allocated in response to the Inquiry’s recommendations. While the Responses do highlight five State funding allocations, some of these are long-standing and/or pre-existing commitments. The five allocations are as follows:

  • $270,000 to Nganampa Health Council “to employ two mental health practitioners.”[xvi]
  • $1.49 million recurrent funding for the operation of the Amata Drug Rehabilitation Centre.[xvii] (This commitment dates back till at least October 2004)[xviii]
  • $36,000 to APY schools to support primary school students “in the lower [literacy and numeracy] skills bands.” (This commitment dates back to January 2008).[xix]
  • $120,000 for “the continued training of Aboriginal interpreters.”[xx]
  • $520,000 over four years to improve Aboriginal interpreter services in South Australian Courts.[xxi] (This commitment was previously announced on 2 June 2008).[xxii]

Informing and engaging Anangu

The Mullighan Inquiry emphasised the importance of empowering Anangu to “participate in the solutions”[xxiii] and stated:

It is fundamental to the success of any measures 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.[xxiv]

The Paper Tracker considers that such statements may ring hollow if Anangu do not have access to clear and accurate information about the findings of the Mullighan Inquiry and the Government’s response to its recommendations.

On 22 September 2008, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) advised the Paper Tracker that a “short explanation” on the Inquiry’s report and findings had been provided to PY Media and that this explanation had been broadcast “in language approximately twenty times” on the local radio station.[xxv]

The Minister also advised the Paper Tracker that a “strategy” was “being developed to communicate the findings of the report and the recommendations to Anangu” and that this strategy would 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.[xxvi]

The Minister’s letter indicated that this strategy would:

be used as the foundation for an education strategy about sexual abuse on the Lands as recommended by the Inquiry.[xxvii]

Although the Full Response refers to this “communication education strategy” six times, it does not provide any detailed information on the timeframe for this work.[xxviii] For example, the Full Response states:

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.[xxix]

On 14 October 2008, a fortnight prior to the release of the Full Response, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government when it expected the communication strategy to begin. As of 29 November 2008, a response to this request had not been provided.[xxx]

The Paper Tracker notes that a copy of the Full Response does not appear to have been posted on any government websites and that the Preliminary Response was only posted online in response to a suggestion from the Paper Tracker.[xxxi] By way of contrast, the Government’s Preliminary and Full Responses to the Children in State Care Inquiry are both readily available on the Service SA website.[xxxii]

The Paper Tracker remains concerned that Anangu have not been properly informed about either the Preliminary Response or the Full Response and that this lack of information is making it difficult for them to engage with the Government from a position of knowledge and strength.

The Paper Tracker concurs with the Mullighan Inquiry that problems on the APY Lands “cannot be solved overnight” and that “it will take time to find and implement solutions.”[xxxiii] At the same time, we endorse its advice to Government that “unnecessary delay must be avoided” and that “Anangu must be empowered and resourced so that they provide the solutions.[xxxiv] The Paper Tracker believes that, as of November 2008, the Government had not done this as well as it should have.

The timeframe for the next report (updated 7 August 2009)

Under Section 11A of the Commission of Inquiry (Children in State Care and Children on APY Lands) Act 2004, the Minister for Families and Communities must make an annual report to Parliament, for five years, on how the 46 recommendations have or have not been implemented and “if a decision has been made not to carry out a particular recommendation the reasons behind that decision.”[xxxv]

Under the timeframe specified in the Act, the first of those annual reports must be completed within 15 months of the release of the Full Response and then tabled in Parliament “within 3 sitting days”.

This means that the first of the five annual reports must be made by 30 January 2010.

On 16 February 2009, the Paper Tracker noted that the 2010 State Election was “likely to delay the release of the report until late April 2010 at the earliest.”[xxxvi] The Paper Tracker contended “that the State’s electoral cycles should not unreasonably delay Anangu and the broader public from being informed on what progress the State Government has made in responding to the Mullighan Inquiry’s recommendations.”[xxxvii]

On 6 July 2009, the Paper Tracker asked the Minister for Families and Communities (Hon Jennifer Rankine MP):

  • when she expected to receive the first annual report,
  • when she expected to table it in Parliament, and
  • whether she would arrange for the report to be “published out-of-session” if Parliament was not scheduled to sit within a month of it having been provided to her.[xxxviii]

On 4 August 2009, the Minister replied that “in order to avoid publishing out-of-session,” she intends to table the report “on or before 3 December 2009, which is the last parliamentary sitting day for 2009.”[xxxix]

On 2 December 2009, Minister Rankine tabled the first annual report in State Parliament.[xl]

The Paper Tracker will continue to monitor the Government’s response to individual recommendations of the Mullighan Inquiry. A dedicated section has been added to our website to assist that work. As additional information become available, it will be posted in that section.

This article 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] The ongoing monitoring requirements were established at the instigation of Hon Sandra Kanck MLC (see: Kanck, S. 20 June 2007, Hansard, Legislative Council, Parliament of South Australia, p390).

[ii] See Section 11A, Commission of Inquiry (Children in State Care and Children on APY Lands) Act 2004.

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

[iv] The Minister stated: “We are placing significant additional resources on the lands to tackle child sexual abuse and changing the way in which agencies respond. The increased resources and changed practices will themselves affect the nature of the other services which are required and the level of need for those services. Decisions about how existing services are able to accommodate these needs and appropriate new ways of addressing them will require careful analysis. The government will provide a further response to those recommendations in its six-month response” (Weatherill, J. 24 July 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3990).

[v] 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.”

[vi] McDonald, P. 7 August 2008. Letter to Hon J. Rankine MP.

[vii] 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,” p9 & 55.

[viii] 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,” p54.

[ix] 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,” p6.

[x] 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,” p52.

[xi] Rann. M. 6 May 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Ministerial Statement, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3149.

[xii] See: Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p146-148.

[xiii] 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,” p20.

[xiv] This statement appeared in a piece that the Paper Tracker posted on 30 July 2008, entitled: “The State Government’s Preliminary Response to the Mullighan Inquiry.” Click here to access that page.

[xv] Macklin, J. 14 November 2008, Letter to Rev P. McDonald.

[xvi] 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,” p27 & p28.

[xvii] 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,” p29.

[xviii] Although a commitment to build this facility was first made in December 1986, the State Government first allocated funding for the ongoing operations of the centre in October 2004. At that time, the annual operating costs were estimated to be $1.0m (see: “Taskforce funded projects on the APY Lands,” Department of the Premier and Cabinet, as tabled at a public meeting of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, on 1 December 2004; also Mazel, J. 11 November 2004, Statement to Coroner, paragraph 75 (Exhibit C10).

[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,” p45. In December 2008, the Department of Education and Children’s Services advised the Paper Tracker that the $36,000 funding has been approved in January 2008; that is, three months prior to the completion of the Mullighan Inquiry’s report (Lines, B. 12 December 2008. Letter to Rev P McDonald).

[xx] 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,” p69.

[xxi] 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,” p69.

[xxii] Atkinson, M. 2 June 2008, “Faster and Fairer Courts,” news release.

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

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

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

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

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

[xxviii] 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.

[xxix] 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.

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

[xxxi] On 27 August 2008, a month after the Preliminary Response was tabled in State Parliament, the Paper Tracker contacted the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and suggested that an electronic copy of the report could be posted on its “Government Initiatives on the APY Lands” webpage. This was done within a matter of days. (Nicholls, J, 27 August 2008, Email to S. Wallace (DPC/AARD).) As of 29 November 2008, a copy of the Full Response had not been posted to that page.

[xxxii] On the Service SA website, these reports are entitled “SA Government Response (June 2005)” and “Implementation Statement (September 2008).” http://www.service.sa.gov.au/ContentPages/sagovt/mullighaninquiry_cisc.aspx. Accessed: 29 November 2008. Note: the equivalent Service SA webpage for the APY Lands inquiry did not, as of late November 2008, provide links to copies of either the Preliminary or Full Response. http://www.service.sa.gov.au/ContentPages/sagovt/mullighaninquiry_apy.aspx. Accessed 29 November 2008.

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

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

[xxxv] Section 11A (c), Commission of Inquiry (Children in State Care and Children on APY Lands) Act 2004.

[xxxvi] This conclusion is based on what happened at the last State election (held in 2006) when Parliament did not sit for almost five months. Prior to the 18 March 2006 election, Parliament last sat on 1 December 2005. Post election, Parliament first sat on 27 April 2006.

[xxxvii] See: UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide. 16 February 2009. Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities, p5.

[xxxviii] McDonald, P. 9 July 2009. Letter to Hon J. Rankine.

[xxxix] Rankine, J. 4 August 2009. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald.

[xl] See: Parliament of South Australia. 2 December 2009. “Papers,” Hansard, House of Assembly, p4952.

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.