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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4362..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

to meeting their accommodation needs. But, of course, the task is not complete. This government and each of our successors will need to constantly monitor and respond to the challenge of ensuring that our aged people are housed in a way that reflects their dignity, standards and hopes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs

Ministerial statement

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs): Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.

Leave granted.

MR STANHOPE: I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the achievements-and proud achievements-of the government in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. First, I will address the reasons why the quarterly reporting schedule we agreed to in 2001 has changed. At the time, quarterly reporting was the mechanism identified to provide information on developments in addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, whilst this was the proposed regime at the time, developments at the national level gathered momentum when a national reporting framework called Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: key indicators 2003 was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments. This has impacted on our reporting arrangements in the ACT.

Despite the establishment of that framework and the good work that is going on around the country, the journey towards reconciliation has, I think we all agree, hit a road block. In fact, it is ironic that here in the ACT, at a time when my government has committed itself to working even more closely with the United Ngunnawal Elders Council and the Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the federal government has closed the door on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. As if that was not bad enough, there has been no effort made to create a replacement body with elected representation. This denies the basic rights of the first people of this country to self-determination of their own affairs.

ATSIC certainly was not without its problems, but what message does the abolition of that organisation send to indigenous Australians? This action has set the clock back decades and has been a monumental setback for reconciliation in Australia. The demise of ATSIC without a replacement body denies indigenous Australians the fundamental right to decisions that directly affect their lives.

It is also ironic that the ATSIC decision came on the very day of the signing of the historic COAG Shared Responsibility Agreement between ATSIC, the ACT government, the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the Commonwealth government. Despite ATSIC's demise, my government will continue to embrace the spirit of the agreement we signed. This agreement will play a significant ongoing role in addressing the causes of social exclusion, disadvantage and community dysfunction.

As a starting point, all partners agree to work together and embark on comprehensive consultations with the community. The main aim was to identify and develop culturally


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