The Stronger Futures legislation was tabled in the Federal Parliament on 23 November 2011, and referred to the Senate Community Affairs Committee for inquiry. The Committee conducted public hearings including in remote communities in the Northern Territory, and reported on 14 March 2012.
The legislation was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and received Royal Assent on 29 June 2012.  The Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 came into effect on 16 July 2012 and the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 ended on the same day.

In summary, the provisions in the legislation are:

  • The Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTNER Act) has been repealed in full
    • Any previous provisions that are being continued are re-enacted under the Stronger Futures legislation.
  • Improvement and expansion of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM). SEAM was trialled in six communities in the Northern Territory from January 2009 until 30 June 2012. Under Stronger Futures, an improved model of SEAM is being put into an additional 16 communities.
    • SEAM is about trying to help families in the community with getting their children enrolled in school and attending school every day, so they can benefit from a better education;
    • SEAM promotes greater parental responsibility around a child’s school enrolment and attendance.  Working together through SEAM, the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments will support parents to meet these responsibilities;
    • SEAM is being introduced to towns and communities that have low levels of school attendance. It will be for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people;
    • Every effort will be made to help people meet their responsibilities to send their child to school. As a last resort, if a parent is not working towards ensuring their child attends school regularly, their income support payments may be suspended until they meet their responsibilities.
  • Measures to tackle alcohol abuse
    • Continuation of alcohol restrictions in communities;
    • Stronger penalties for people involved in grog running; 
    • Strengthening local Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) by introducing minimum standards; alcohol management plans provide a pathway out of the restrictions to more sustainable ways of managing alcohol in communities;
    • Provision to allow the Northern Territory alcohol tribunal to refer problem drinkers for income management;
    • Provision for the Commonwealth to request that the Northern Territory Government appoint an assessor to examine the trading practices of  licensed premises that may be causing significant alcohol-related harm to the community; 
    • An independent review within three years of the effectiveness of current Northern Territory alcohol regulation arrangements; and
    • Provision for signs about alcohol restrictions to be made more respectful, with direct community input into their wording and design.
  • Continuing measures to improve community safety and child protection
    • Continuation of restrictions on sexually explicit or very violent material (prohibited material) in communities, including the provision whereby communities can apply to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to lift the prohibited material restrictions if certain criteria are met;
    • Continuation of the existing prohibition on consideration of customary law or cultural practice in bail and sentencing decisions – but with an exemption for offences relating to the protection of cultural heritage and cultural objects.
  • Improvements to food security through community stores licensing
    • All stores outside the major centres that are an important source of food and groceries for remote Aboriginal communities come within the scope of licensing;
    • Licensing is no longer linked to stores being able to accept income managed funds;
    • Compliance arrangements are more flexible – so that stores that consistently  perform well will face less monitoring; and
    • A wider range of penalties is available to deal with compliance breaches – whereas previously the only available sanctions were to revoke or refuse to grant a licence.
  • New land reform provisions - enabling the Commonwealth to make amendments to Northern Territory legislation relating to Community Living Areas and towns camps
    • This will enable Aboriginal land owners to negotiate voluntary long term leasing arrangements to facilitate economic development and private home ownership on these lands.
    • There will be no more compulsory leases.  The Government is working with communities and land owners to negotiate voluntary leases to support service delivery and to continue property and tenancy management over public housing.
Content Updated: 26 September 2013