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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 13 Hansard (31 October) . . Page.. 4144..


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (4.25): Tonight I want to highlight the contrast between how the ACT Labor government has engaged with and sought advice from the ACT's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's picking of favourites for his newly created Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Elected Body is a ground-breaking initiative of the local community and this government. The elected body has an essential role in Canberra in representing the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, gathering their views, consulting, and then putting forward those views and interests of the community to government. The body is elected in free and fair elections and represents a cross-section of the local community.

The elected body suggested to this government the creation of the ACT employment strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and it worked with the government to achieve it. It pushed for the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice agreement established in 2010. The agreement has been a success. It has seen arrests and charges brought against members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the ACT fall.

Mr Rod Little, the chair of the elected body, notes in his introduction to the latest ACT Closing the gap report the value of the estimates-type hearings the elected body holds to grill ACT public servants. Mr Little is also a director of the national board of the elected National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. The congress advises the federal government in a similar way as the ACT elected body. Its co-chairs, Kristie Parker and Les Malezer, are both elected, and they are both well-respected members of the first peoples with a long involvement in national affairs.

I suspect there has been little engagement between the new government and the national congress, given that Tony Abbott has already picked Warren Mundine as his chief adviser and chair of the new Indigenous advisory council. Mr Abbott's announcement on 25 September stated:

The Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council will meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and senior government Ministers. The Chairman of the Council will meet with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs each month.

It also added:

The Chairman will be a part-time position and supported by a secretariat seconded from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It called for people to apply to join the council. The contrast is stark—stark between the Prime Minister's hand-picked Indigenous advisory council and the ACT government's commitment to working with Canberra's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through their elected body.


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