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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 8 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 2604..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The second community progress report by the organising committee of the Journey of Healing on ACT action towards the 1997 Bringing them home report gives some indication of the length of the road we have yet to travel here in the ACT in relation to the recommendations of that report. The same can still be said to some extent in relation to the government's response to the black deaths in custody report. There are still aspects of each of those reports that have not been satisfactorily dealt with.

According to the Journey of Healing's second community report, for instance, the health and wellbeing of indigenous people within the ACT remains a matter of significant concern. I quote from the report:

Substance abuse has been raised as an escalating problem within local Indigenous communities, as in the wider community. However, the only Indigenous worker in this area is a youth worker who cannot meet the demand. There is no equivalent worker for adults. We urgently need treatment and rehabilitation programs that are Indigenous controlled, because people are more likely to complete programs which are culturally appropriate.

In relation to self-determination, the report goes on to state:

The ACT government has a number of Indigenous consultative committees. However we are concerned that it appears to be unwilling to move beyond consultation and towards self-management to empower Indigenous people.

The protection of indigenous cultural heritage is another key issue raised by the report, and I quote again from that report:

An area that needs urgent attention is the active protection of local Indigenous sites. While these are theoretically protected by legislation, we understand that this does not always occur in practice and that some sites have been damaged or destroyed.

The report is also highly critical of the government's strategic planning and program development processes, and I quote again:

It seems that program development, and in particular strategic planning, is not a priority for the ACT government. In our first progress report last year, we noted that the government was developing a number of strategic documents. Only one of those has been released-the Indigenous Employment Strategy, which contains only generalised intentions.

In summing up the report's findings, the Journey of Healing network asked the question, "Are we bringing them home?" Their conclusion was: "Not yet."

Having regard to the depth of the issues that we as a community need to deal with in relation to reconciliation and indigenous disadvantage, I believe it would be appropriate to initiate a gesture of good faith in indicating this Assembly's ongoing support for the reconciliation process. Whilst the importance of addressing all of these key concerns cannot be down-played, a gesture of goodwill, publicly acknowledging the importance of Canberra's indigenous cultural heritage, would go a long way towards fostering the community partnerships that will be required to address the systemic problems facing indigenous people in the ACT.


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