What is the ITCG?
The Katherine Interagency Tasking and Coordination Group (ITCG) aims to promote community safety through cross-sector cooperation. The Group is chaired by the police and attended by representatives from Commonwealth, territory and local government departments and agencies, and some non-government organisations.
The ITCG’s core business is to:
- identify and prioritise local community safety issues
- provide coordinated responses and resolutions to issues
- provide advocacy, intelligence and advice on issues relating to community safety.The ITCG’s focus is on operational issues. It is overseen by a Community Safety Working Group (CSWG), to which the ITCG refers issues of a more strategic nature.
The ITCG does not focus strictly on the safety of rural and remote professionals, rather it considers the issue of community safety more generally.
Why was it set up?
The Katherine ITCG was set up in 2007, after similar groups had been successfully established in Darwin and Alice Springs. At the time, a number of community issues were being referred to police, but the resolution of these issues required more than a law enforcement response. Police played a key role in establishing and promoting the group, so that the community could develop a holistic approach to managing safety issues.
How is it implemented? What are its key activities?
As noted above, the ITCG is chaired by the police. It is managed by a Secretariat within the Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Services. The Group meets monthly for approximately two hours, although meetings can be called more frequently if specific community issues need to be addressed. The Group is attended by a range of community stakeholders, including representatives from:
- NT Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Services
- NT Police
- NT Department of Health
- NT Department of Education and Training
- NT Department of Construction and Infrastructure
- NT Office of Children and Families
- NT Licensing Commission
- Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
- Binjari Community Government Council
- Kalano Community Association Inc
- Katherine Town Council
- Mission Australia
- Women’s Crisis Centre
The group provides a forum for key stakeholders to share information, raise community safety issues, and develop holistic responses to safety issues. ITCG members say the Group facilitates better coordination of resources, and greater accountability to peers at the local level.
As an example of the ITCG’s activities, the Group developed a problem-solving plan for the Binjari community following an increase in violence and police call-outs to that community. The ITCG arranged for individuals to consult with Binjari community members on how to address some of the safety issues identified. After this consultation, ITCG members mapped what services their departments/ agencies already provided, and what additional services they could provide to meet the growing need. By sharing this information with the Group, the ITCG was able to formulate a comprehensive plan for the delivery of services to the Binjari community. This plan outlined which services would be provided and who would provide them. After developing the plan, the ITCG played a critical role in ensuring it was implemented as envisaged.
The ITCG recently became aware of incidents of violence in a particular housing complex in Katherine. The Group responded by inviting representatives from key services within Katherine as well as people living in the housing complex to a BBQ. The purpose of the event was to inform those in the housing complex of the different services available to them, and to encourage them to contact these services before situations reach ‘crisis point’. In addition to informing the community about services available, the BBQ provided a useful opportunity for community members to build rapport with service workers in the community.
The ITCG will also put in place measures to minimise the risk of violence at community events, such as the Katherine Show or large sporting events. For example, the ITCG may agree with licensed venues in Katherine that alcohol will not be served at certain times to minimise the risk of anti-social behaviour, and to reduce pressure on police and health services.
As demonstrated above, the ITCG focuses on broad community safety issues, rather than specifically focusing on the safety of rural and remote professionals. Notwithstanding this, as suggested by some ITCG members, if there was a problem with violence against professionals in Katherine, the issue could be raised at the ITCG and the ITCG would ensure the issue was effectively dealt with.
What impact has the campaign had?
ITCG members report that the group has led to greater information sharing, and a more holistic approach to community safety issues. The ITCG provides an opportunity for services to pool skills and resources, and to deal with community safety issues more collaboratively. As one stakeholder said, in the past clients were serviced by a number of different agencies individually, whereas through the ITCG clients can be serviced in a coordinated way which is more time and cost efficient.
The ITCG has also facilitated networks and positive relationships across different services. There is a view that the ITCG has broken down barriers, changed perceptions about some departments and agencies, and led to increased awareness within Katherine that departments and agencies are often working towards the same objective.
Several stakeholders said they believe the ITCG is having an impact on community safety, but that it is difficult to quantitatively measure this because the ITCG does not formally evaluate the impact of its activities. There is a view that the Group is having a flow-on effect through the establishment of other groups, such as the Youth ITCG which was set up to focus specifically on issues relating to Katherine youth.
What are the limitations/areas for improvement?
While stakeholders are generally positive about the ITCG and its achievements, the points below highlight some of the limitations and areas for improvement identified by ITCG members.
- Celebrating ITCG successes is difficult because most representatives are from government departments which have strict protocols around speaking to the media. Stakeholders said if the Group could more easily promote its successes it would lead to greater enthusiasm in the group. As one stakeholder said, success is a great motivator.
- It can still be difficult to get agencies to report violence against professionals because there remains a view among some that violence is ‘part of the job’.
- There are varied understandings in the group on what constitutes a breach of confidentiality which can sometimes limit the information ITCG members are prepared to share at meetings.
- Some organisations, particularly Indigenous organisations, have declined to participate in the group because they see it as a government rather than community group. The fact that police chair the group has led to a perception amongst some that the group is punitive.
- Communication and coordination between the ITCG and CSWG could be improved to give the ITCG greater strategic direction.
- Some ITCG members do not have delegation to allocate funding and other resources to the group. These members need to seek approval from supervisors to allocate resources which can slow ITCG processes down.
- The high turn-over of staff in Katherine can impact negatively on continuity within the group.
What are the critical success factors?
ITCG members consulted for this case study identified the following factors as critical to the success of the ITCG, and cross-sector approaches to improving community a safety more generally:
- appoint a senior and respected Chair, and a dedicated Secretariat
- obtain support for the group from senior officers within all agencies represented on the group
- ensure all key stakeholders in the community are represented on the group
- ensure members of the group are willing participants and have authority to make decisions
- ensure meetings happens consistently, and that the day and time of meetings are convenient
- allow stakeholders to dial-in to the meeting from remote locations