Sunday Territorian : 2020-08-02

OPINION : 40 : 40


40 SUNDAY AUGUST 2 2020 Stretch age to 21 There’s an easy way to improve young NT lives, writes CHERYL SCHMIDT and PAMELA MARWOOD THE Northern Territory has the chance to implement the single most effective long-term measure to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens — young people in out-of-home care. The measure has the bonus of saving money, rather than being a cost. It is time for the Territory to join the rest of the world and move towards extending outof-home care support for young people by three years to age 21. All major political parties should commit to this reform before the August election. We need to do better than promises to “consider” the reform. Extending out-of-home care support to age 21 is a logical, proven and undeniable way to make young Territoria­ns’ lives better. It is a nobrainer. Under Territory law, young people in kinship care, foster care or residentia­l care are “aged out” by the government when support ceases on their 18th birthday. This is an outdated system that fails to recognise that these days 85 per cent of young Australian­s remain in their family homes until they are 21 or older. Young people brought into the care of the Territory deserve this opportunit­y too. All major political parties should commit to this reform before the August election Landlords seeking pledge over pets ANY Territoria­n who has struggled to get enough money to put into an investment property will be looking closely at the election promises made by the Country Liberal Party and the Territory Alliance Party in relation to pets and the rights of property owners. When the Gunner government passed legislativ­e changes to the Residentia­l Tenancies Act that included a controvers­ial new clause presuming tenants had a right to keep a pet by providing written notice to a landlord, there was instant anger. More than 8000 people signed a petition opposing the government’s legislatio­n. And for good reason. They felt they had lost the right to determine who does what inside the investment they have paid a small fortune for. Both CLP leader Lia Finocchiar­o and Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills have promised to scrap the legislatio­n. It has to be remembered that most investment property owners in the Northern Territory are not rich land barons. They are ordinary mums and dads, fireys, policemen, nurses and constructi­on workers and small business people, who have worked hard to make a little extra cash which they have put into real estate for when they retire. It’s their form of superannua­tion and, understand­ably, they want to be able to protect their property. This includes the damage and costs that can be caused by a tenant’s pets. Research in Australia and overseas shows that young people thrive when care is extended by just three years. They have dramatical­ly better outcomes in education and employment, physical and mental health and are more likely to form positive relationsh­ips. They suffer less homelessne­ss, hospitalis­ations, unwanted pregnancie­s, substance abuse and interactio­ns with police and the courts. Across Australia, within the first 12 months of leaving care at 18, 39 per cent of young people are homeless and 46 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls are in the criminal justice system. The research shows that for every $1 spent on extending out-of-home care to 21, there is a saving of $2 in decreased welfare, health costs and other costs. South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland have all moved to extend out-of-home care beyond 18 on a permanent or trial basis. The case for reform in the Territory is especially strong. Organisati­ons such as Larrakia Nation, Foster and Kinship Carers Associatio­n NT, Tangentyer­e Council, Create Foundation, Life Without Barriers, NTCOSS and Anglicare NT say the time for the Territory to make this change is now. There are more than 1000 young people in out-of-home care in the Territory, double the rate of other jurisdicti­ons. Ninety per cent of children in care are Aboriginal. The number in care is increasing by 10 per cent a year. The Home Stretch proposal offers the option of the extension period for all young people in care. Based on overseas experience, we believe the take-up rate will be 50 per cent. That means that only 40 young people will reach 18 each year. The cost of extending care for 40 people a year is tiny compared with the benefits that will flow. Did I say no-brainer? The political parties contesting the August election must commit to change the legislatio­n so all young people in care have the right to stay in care, if they choose. Cheryl Schmidt is co-chair of the NT Home Stretch Campaign Committee and CEO of Foster & Kinship Care Associatio­n NT. Pamela Marwood is co-chair of the NT Home Stretch Campaign Committee and Family Finding and Kinship Program Manager, Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporatio­n. 15 19 TOUCHEDBY THIS YEAR LAST YEAR THE ROAD TOLL NTNE01Z01M­A - V1 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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