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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2595..


MR MOORE (continuing):

There is something else that I think is fundamental-and I am very pleased Mr Wood has come back in for this-to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health: that it be done on a non-partisan basis. For that reason I hope that this blueprint from the committee is taken extraordinarily seriously by health. I hope that whoever takes over the health and other ministries involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health will work on it. It is something we should constantly be sharing with each other.

There was a time when Ms Follett, as Chief Minister, said to other members, "What we have to do is be very careful not to get involved in Aboriginal politics. We know there are factions there, just as there are factions in this Assembly or in any group, club or society. That is what Strictly Ballroom is about. But we have to make sure that we do not get involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander politics because that would exacerbate problems rather than help us find the solutions." I would encourage members to continue with that. I think some may have forgotten that that was largely agreed-Mr Wood would remember, two or three Assemblies ago, when Ms Follett was the Chief Minister. It was a sensible idea, and we should carry it through.

In a non-partisan approach to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health every one of us can make a significant contribution. That means that the listening you apply to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people you have to apply, if you happen to be in government, to the opposition and the crossbenches. It means that those on the crossbenches and in the opposition, instead of taking the opportunity to take pot shots, will be able to deal with this area in a more considered manner with the minister and the government.

There are great challenges for us. Over the last 31/2 years we have made significant progress, and I am very proud of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander regional health plan. But it is only a first step. We do have to be able to achieve much more.

I appreciate the fact that, when Mr Wood chaired this committee-and Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, among others-there would have been many opportunities for them to make political mileage out of the issues you were discovering. You did not do that. And I think that is the tone that we need to continue with. Particularly for that reason-not just for that reason, but for many others-I am very happy to accept this report. It will not be able to have a response during this Assembly. The department of health and the other areas of my portfolio are now looking at that and are beginning to prepare a response ready for the fifth ACT Assembly.

It may well be, Mr Wood, that you are the health minister and are dealing with your own report-a situation that I found myself in when I first became minister. If that is the case, I look forward to everything we can do to reduce the rates of morbidity and mortality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Physical action is important, but it is not just a case of respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have to do more. We have to value very highly the contribution they make to our community. If we, as leaders in the community, show that we value their culture and them as individuals very highly, that will also have a major impact on their health. That in itself is also an important thing. We have already begun doing it. I have been at many occasions where members have recognised that we are on Ngunnawal land, and I think that is a very good start.


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